Social media has come a long way: from simple platforms that allowed us to connect with each other to communities of influencers with millions of followers that drive trends across industries. Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have also become drivers in the food industry, turning amateur cooks into veritable superstars who have their videos liked by millions across the world.
Since 2021, we have looked at Instagram to see which are the most popular and most hashtagged foods and cuisines in the world. In February that year, we reported that the hashtag #food was featured in a whopping 430 million Instagram posts. Two years later that number has reached 498 million, and it keeps climbing.
In our latest report for 2023, we have also included TikTok, which has emerged as one of the most popular platforms out there with more than 1 billion users. The short-form video social app has conquered the food space and countless recipe and food videos have gone viral and reached a massive audience way beyond the TikTok crowd.
How to read the chart labels: the popularity share associated with a cuisine represents the percentage of Instagram tags or TikTok shorts views relative to the total number of Instagram tags/TikTok views for the most popular 15 international cuisines (e.g. #Koreanfood-related shorts were responsible for 22.1% of the views for the top 15 international cuisines on TikTok).
There’s no denying the power and influence of social media on trends in the food and restaurant industries. But we’ve learned that what’s trending on one social media platform is not always popular on the other.
Korean food is the absolute all-time darling of the TikTok crowd, totaling 15 billion views. But while Korean cuisine takes the all time 4th most popular position on Instagram (and 5th over the past 12 months), it’s no match for Italian and Indian food popularity on that platform.
The most popular Instagram cuisines over the past 12 months
Whether you’re an amateur cook trying to get your recipes out there for the world to see, a well known chef highlighting innovative new techniques or an established restaurateur, you’ll want to be on Instagram.
This social media platform is all about visual appeal, so it’s the best way to showcase gorgeous dishes. However, since it introduced reels, Instagram has also become a great place to watch chefs and foodies in action and discover new dishes, or learn new recipes and cooking tricks.
#Food has been mentioned close to 500 million times on Instagram, so people’s appetites are high when it comes to scrolling food pics and reels online. But zooming in on specific cuisines, we see that the three top contenders grabbing everyone’s attention are the same each year, albeit in a different order: Italian, Indian, and Japanese.
Italian food topped 20.8 million hashtags in the past year – 16% more than the previous year
Italian is the ultimate comfort food, so it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular cuisine on Instagram. Just think about it: what do you crave when you’re stressed, having a bad day, or want to treat yourself? We think it’s likely that your answer will include either pizza, pasta, gelato, risotto, and other popular Italian foods. And what is more comforting and uplifting than a delicious Italian espresso?
Given that the world has had a rough few years, it’s easy to see why people gravitate towards their favorite comfort foods, and, as a result, #Italianfood has amassed 20.8 million hashtags over the past 12 months. That’s 2.9 million more hashtags than the previous year, which goes to show that there is absolutely no slowdown in popularity for Italian dishes – quite the contrary.
#Pizza is the third most popular food on Instagram, collecting 66 million total mentions on the platform, 9 million of which were in the past year alone. And don’t dismiss pasta, either; this dish was featured close to 5 million times in the past 12 months on Instagram, making it the 5th most popular dish on the platform.
Indian and Japanese follow close, both landing over 2 million hashtags in the past 12 months
In absolute numbers, Indian food is currently the second most popular cuisine on Instagram, with roughly 13 million hashtags as of March 2023. It was also the second most popular cuisine in the past 12 months, with 2.2 million new mentions on Instagram, following behind Italian food.
It’s easy to see why. Last year, we noted how Indian dishes were starting to compete with Italian on the platform due to their rich flavors, warmth, and complexity. A true festival of flavors and spices, Indian cuisine is incredibly popular across the globe, and as a bonus, most of it is also vegetarian-friendly and highly nutritious. The proof is in the numbers: #curry was mentioned in a total of 10 million posts on Instagram, and its popularity continues to grow.
But let’s not forget Japanese food, which reached a staggering 20.2 million hashtags on Instagram in 2023. The hashtag #Japanesefood also appeared 2.2 million times on the platform over the past 12 months, proving that its popularity is not dwindling, not even a little.
#Sushi alone has been featured in a total of 35 million Instagram posts, and was the 9th most popular food of the past year, with 3.2 million new mentions.
Greek, Jamaican, Turkish, and Lebanese cuisines are rising in popularity on Instagram
Besides the usual suspects such as Indian food, other cuisines have been climbing the most-popular ladder in 2023, at speed.
Greek food has enjoyed quite a surge in popularity over the past year, becoming the 8th most hashtagged international cuisine with 321,000 new mentions – a 17% growth compared to the previous year.
Greek cuisine is the quintessential Mediterranean diet, a diet that has been repeatedly ranked the best in the world. Not only is Greek food healthy, but it’s also visually appealing and incredibly delicious. The record number of tourists that Greece enjoyed in 2022 have most certainly also contributed to the increased popularity of the local cuisine.
Lebanese food is another cuisine which is rising fast in popularity on Instagram, with 194,000 mentions in the past 12 months – 18% more than the previous year. This growth makes it the cuisine with the second fastest growth on Instagram in 2023 and 13th most popular cuisine of the past year, trailing right behind French food.
If you haven’t yet tried Lebanese food, please head to the nearest Lebanese restaurant as the food is simply amazing.
#Jamaicanfood continues its fantastic story on Instagram. Last year, Jamaican was the cuisine with the second highest growth rate on Instagram and it continues to share the podium in 2023. Not a small feat for this Caribbean cuisine that doesn’t have the huge cultural weight nor the diaspora of Italy, India or China.
Other cuisines that are becoming more popular on Instagram include #Turkishfood, with 222,000 new mentions in the past year, #Americanfood, featured in 127,000 new posts, or Colombian food.
The Most Popular Cuisines on TikTok
Now that we’ve looked at what foods people are interested in when scrolling on Instagram, it’s time to move on to another incredibly popular platform for foodies: TikTok.
The short-form video platform was created in 2017, and in a short time has grown to be one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. With 672 million downloads in 2022 and roughly 1 billion users, TikTok is clearly the place to be for food lovers.
Comparing the rankings to Instagram, there are some key similarities and some interesting differences. Given that TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, and with a big chunk of its active users based in China, it’s no surprise that Chinese food is incredibly popular on the platform.
The #Chinesefood hashtag has collected more than 13 billion views in the past year, making Chinese one of the top most popular cuisines on TikTok. But it’s not the most popular.
From K-pop and K-drama to K-food and TikTok stardom
The top spot in our ranking of the most popular cuisines on TikTok is reserved for Korean food. With a staggering total of 15 billion views on the platform, #Koreanfood is the clear winner.
Italian, Japanese, and Indian, the top cuisines on Instagram, don’t even come close in popularity on TikTok. Dishes such as bibimbap and kimchi have been making the rounds on TikTok – more than pizza, pasta, or sushi. But why are the rankings so different, and why is Korean food so massively popular on TikTok?
It might have something to do with the rise of Korean culture in the media in recent years. From K-pop music like BTS to insane Netflix hits like Squid Game, Korean culture has been taking over the internet, a phenomenon that some like to call Hallyu, or ‘the Korean wave.’
Whenever parts of a certain culture start to gain popularity online, the food culture is soon to follow, and that’s exactly what’s been happening with Korean food on TikTok. Korean dishes are inserting themselves into our vocabularies, and Korean chefs are getting the recognition they deserve – and social media has definitely played a part in all that.
The differences in age demographics between the two platforms could explain the differences. TikTok is primarily favored by Gen Zs, a younger generation that’s been more heavily exposed to the Korean cultural exports.
Coming up third to Korean and Chinese food in popularity on TikTok is Mexican food. It’s not a huge surprise, given that Mexican food is the most popular ethnic cuisine in most American states, and next to China, the US is the country with the highest number of TikTok users.
Mexican food is followed closely by Indian food, which boasts 7.4 billion views, and Italian, with 7.1 billion views. The top 10 is rounded out by Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, and African food.
Chef’s Pencil analyzed Instagram data from February 2022 through March 2023. The number of tags reported are rounded down to the nearest thousand. Instagram rankings are based on the number of tags from the prior 12 months.
TikTok rankings are based on the number of all-time views reported on the platform in March 2023.
How to read the chart labels: the popularity share score associated with a cuisine represents the percentage of Instagram tags or TikTok shorts views relative to the total number of Instagram tags/TikTok views for the most popular 15 international cuisines (e.g. the 22.1% of views for the top 15 international cuisines on TikTok were for #Koreanfood-related shorts).
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