2015 may well be remembered as the year we reached peak avocado toast, not to mention apex kale and juicing — but rest assured the world is still hungry for novelty foods galore. This year, fast food chains, independent restaurants, and big food manufacturers alike set their sights on one-upping one another with weird and wacky creations, from bizarro burgers and deep-fried sports stadium absurdities to strangely flavored beers and UV-reactive ice cream.
While this year didn’t produce any hysteria-inducing novelty foods quite like the Cronut craze of 2014, there were plenty of hybrid foods clearly hoping to strike gold a la Dominique Ansel — such as Frenagels (a French donut + bagel hybrid filled with scallion cream cheese), Fruffles (fries + chocolate truffles, brought to you by casual dining chain Red Robin) and IHOP’s waffle croissants (uh, self-explanatory). Another impossible-to-ignore trend this year was the onslaught of Star Wars branded foods to coincide with the long-awaited release of The Force Awakens: Chewbacca coffee creamer and Darth Vader foie gras, anyone?
Here now, a look at the most memorable novelty foods of 2015.
FREAKISH FAST FOOD
While fast food chains may be making some progressive moves like switching to cage-free eggs and phasing out meat treated with antibiotics, the burger and taco slingers are still up to their old tricks dreaming up eyebrow-raising new menu items. Here are the weirdest new offerings of the year:
How could the Bell possibly match last year’s waffle tacos? With croissant tacos, natch. Scrambled eggs and sausage shoved into a flaky pastry may seem to the innocent bystander like a mere breakfast sandwich, but rest assured if you hold your head at just the right angle it does resemble a taco. Sadly, these beauts are only a limited test market menu item for now. And further expanding on Taco Bell’s hunger for taco shells made from things other than tortillas was the chain’s fried chicken taco shells, another test item that popped up on menus in California. Will fried chicken tacos be the new Doritos Locos tacos in 2016?
Speaking of Doritos, this year Burger King unveiled Doritos-crusted cheese triangles at a handful of (un)lucky locations. It’s not quite clear why BK is now taking 7-Eleven’s sloppy seconds, but we’ll stick to fries with our Whopper thankyouverymuch.
And Taco Bell wasn’t the only chain that had the bright idea to wrap foods in croissants this year. Drive-in limeade hawker Sonic debuted hot dogs served in croissant buns over the summer, thoroughly thumbing their noses at the idea of bikini bodies.
Another chain that introduced a terrifying hot dog creation in 2015 was KFC: They followed up the fearsome Double Down — the sandwich with slabs of fried chicken instead of a bun — with a Double Down dog, which is exactly what it sounds like: a hot dog with a fried chicken patty wrapped around it. Thankfully, this creation is available only in the Philippines. The Colonel clearly has it in for the tiny islands, as the chain also introduced fried chicken crust pizza (called the KFChizza, of course) there this year. Meanwhile, an evil extra-spicy version of the Double Down was inflicted on Korea.
Not to be outdone by a chicken chain, Pizza Hut put its own weirdo twist on the pizza pie this year with its ridiculously American hot dog crust pizza. With a crust made from 28 individually dough-wrapped mini-sausages and a side of mustard for dipping (why), legend has it that every time you eat a hot dog bites pizza, a bald eagle gets its wings.
This Detroit-based pizza chain got inventive this year, too, introducing a bacon wrapped deep dish pizza with a whopping 450 calories per slice. Yikes.
Another great place to calorie-load this year was definitely Carl’s Jr. The chain famous for its slutburger commercials went heavy on the Americana this year with its hot dog and potato chip stuffed Thickburger. The obvious accompaniment for such a menu item? Pepperoni fries and the Ding Dong ice cream sandwich, of course.
Bizarre Burger Buns
Fast food chains were also laser-focused on forcing people to eat weird-colored burger buns this year, too, particularly in Asia. McDonald’s China recently unveiled Snoopy-themed burgers served on black or white buns — the obvious followup to its gray-bunned "Modern China burger" that looks not unlike a burger patty smashed between two slabs of granite. Meanwhile, KFC China pushed chicken sandwiches served on rosy pink and black buns, and Burger King Japan tested the waters with alarmingly red burger buns accompanied with miso hot sauce. Weird buns weren’t relegated only to fast food this year, either: An enterprising London burger joint unveiled a protein-heavy burger with Scotch eggs standing in for bread, and an American blogger got creative with an admittedly delicious-looking french fry bun. A Japanese restaurant called Mos Burger went considerably healthier, serving up a 230-calorie burger with giant tomato halves standing in for a bun.
General Burger Mania
This year saw plenty of other weird burger creations, too, from a deep-fried Big Mac on a stick (don’t worry, it was a one-off creation) to a Halloween-appropriate peanut butter cup-topped burger from a Canadian burger joint. The UK created some serious cultural fusion with a proper roast dinner burger, topped with Yorkshire pudding, brisket, and gravy; meanwhile in America, the inimitable Zombie Burger in Des Moines, Iowa revealed a terrifying "Freakshow" sandwich with a funnel cake bun, fried bacon, and fried cheese curds. And further proving we’ve reached apex pumpkin spice was this pumpkin spice doughnut fried chicken sandwich from a California juice bar, of all the unlikely venues. Fed up with weird burgers? How about Japan’s puzzling burgerless burger served with only a bun, lettuce, and sauce?
The Grocery Store
Of course, not all novelty foods require a trip to the drive-thru window. Plenty of wacky new foods this year found their way to your local grocery store, including:
limited-edition rainbow Doritos, proceeds from which helped fund an LGBT rights group
the unholy breakfast mashup known as maple bacon Pop Tarts
ZOMG Oreo churros, conveniently located in the frozen foods section
cinnamon sugar-dusted Cheetos called — what else — Sweetos
marshmallow-only Lucky Charms, tragically limited to just 10 boxes
American cheese-style slices of chocolate that cry out for a dessert sandwich (only in Japan, unfortunately — but they’d probably make a pretty killer sandwich combined with the caffeinated peanut butter that’s currently under investigation by the FDA)
official Sriracha-brand snacks such as hummus, tortilla chips, and popcorn
Peeps-flavored milk (who says milk should be healthy?)
As always, sports stadiums across the country remained a hotbed for ridiculous — and often, gut-busting — novelty food items. One of the year’s most notable introductions was the New York Jets’ $50 breakfast sandwich: a beastly 10-inch everything bagel piled high with two pounds of sausage, four slices of ‘Merican cheese, potato hash, and four glistening fried eggs. It seems appropriate that it’s served at MetLife Stadium, because you’ll want to ensure you have good health insurance before tussling with this beast. Another new item worth making a sports pilgrimage to check out this year included the Arizona Diamondbacks’ churro dog — that’s a churro perched in a bun and topped with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauces. Even the minor leagues got in on the novelty foods game, with Delaware’s Wilmington Blue Rocks unveiling a pretty luscious-looking Krispy Kreme hot dog.
State Fair Ridiculousness
Not to be outdone by sports stadiums, state and county fairs presented more than their fair share of ridiculous food novelties this year (as per usual). This year millions flocked to the nation’s biggest fair, the State Fair of Texas, to feast on chicken-fried lobster with Champagne gravy, bacon margaritas, and deep-fried carrot cake. A vendor at California’s Orange County Fair decided to get fancy, too, serving a caviar-covered Twinkie for a mere $125. Meanwhile, the Iowa State Fair kept things a little more approachable with Doritos-crusted fried nacho balls and apple pie on a stick, and the San Diego Fair embraced its basic side with deep-fried Starbucks coffee.
The beer industry is currently facing down its largest merger in history, but rest assured the world isn't doomed to a future of Bud Light and other characterless swill. Plenty of breweries out there have committed themselves to producing wild and wacky beers. Some of the year's highlights include a beer for dogs (it tastes like broth), Pop Tarts-flavored beer, and a hummus beer made with chickpeas. If you prefer your beer a little more cultured, how about beer that's been infused with the Wu Tang Clan by wearing headphones for six months? For something even more out-of-this-world, there's outer space beer from an Oregon brewery, fermented with an ale yeast that literally survived a trip to space and back. And for those who dream of drinking like their favorite cartoon character, Simpsons-approved Duff beer is on the way — sadly, it will only be available in South America and Europe.
THE DOWNRIGHT WEIRD AND/OR GROSS
2015 also had plenty of weird new treasures to offer culinary thrillseekers who delight in eating things just to gross out their friends: Salmon-flavored chewy candy, anyone? (Ask your Japanese penpal to send you some.) The insect-eating trend forged ahead with protein-packed cricket milkshakes, debuted by a bold Connecticut burger joint. At any rate, at least either of those would be less embarassing to eat in public than the rather phallic J-shaped ice cream cone that took New York City by storm this year courtesy of a Korean ice cream truck. Speaking of eyebrow-raising ice cream: In 2015 Coolhaus unveiled both pizza ice cream and a bizarro Jewish deli ice cream sandwich featuring pastrami ice cream on marbled rye cookies, although that still wasn't as weird as the breast milk ice cream sold by the pint to brave Londoners.