Vegetable Democracy

With such a saturated market within food services, your dish of the day can’t just taste great, it needs to look the part too. Diners demand food that is not only full
of nutrition and nourishment, they want it to look aesthetically interesting – and vegetables might be the answer.


Veg allows cooking to become an artform, with chefs able to create vibrant and picturesque plates that excite diners and leave them feeling inspired. It can transform a dish from something lackluster and beige, to bright and brilliant, like Chef Dana Cohen’s Hot Honey Caramelized Butternut Squash Tostada with Whipped Feta. Vegetables have long been overlooked, it’s time for them to be front and center.


Words by

Lauren Kemp

There’s a debate on the plate about whether the cheap and cheerful veg at the back of the class could ever truly take center stage on the table. Let’s take two veg treasures that don’t see enough of the limelight and also support good health.

“A 100g portion of butternut squash provides you Vitamin A, C and E. It’s the fiber-rich, low-calorie king of autumn.”

All hail the butternut squash
Is there a more autumnal sight than the sturdy and versatile butternut squash, waiting patiently for the right moment to make your plates golden and your heart warm? Fantastic stuffed full of cheese, stirred into a risotto, or blitzed into a seasonal soup, the wallet-friendly squash delivers on all counts: it’s pretty, versatile and chock-full of vitamins and minerals. A 100g portion of butternut squash provides you Vitamin A, C and E. It’s the fiber-rich, low-calorie king of autumn.


From zero to hero
Thanks to a wave of ingenious chefs and a surge in demand for imaginative sides, cabbage is experiencing a renaissance. Half a cup of cooked cabbage also contains fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. When it’s fermented it provides natural probiotics which are good for your gut health. Both of these awesome veggies have a long shelf-life and a low price point, and they provide the body with a wealth of goodness. So put them on the menu!

For related articles, click here.



What’s hot? Hot honey! This recipe shows how to keep vegetables trendy and exciting in flavor and appearance – caramelizing and frying of seasonal, inexpensive yet appealing ingredients, giving it a wow factor that you can charge a premium for. It provides a good serving of vegetables that deliver taste and essential nutrients, as well as protein to round out the dish.

Chef Dana Cohen, Northe America

For Full Service Restaurants
Cost (€) per portion: 2-3


Caramelized Butternut Squash

  • 1.3kg butternut squash, 1” cubes
  • 48g extra virgin olive oil
  • 2g thyme, chopped
  • 5g Knorr Caldo de Vegetales
  • 15ml hot honey
  • 8g garlic powder
  • 1g cinnamon
  • 5g Knorr Caldo de Vegetales
  • salt and pepper, as needed

Fried Sage and Kale

  • 20 pcs sage leaves
  • 1 bunch Dinosaur (lacinato) kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 120g Pepitas, roasted and chopped
  • salsa macha, as needed
  • oil for frying, as needed

Whipped Feta

  • 1 cup Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
  • 225g feta cheese
  • 1 pc lemon, zested
  • cracked black pepper, as needed


  • 10 pcs ancient grain pitas, toasted until crisp
  • 175g green apples, brunoise
For more information on these ingredients, click here.


Caramelized Butternut Squash

  • Toss the butternut squash with hot honey, then add the oil, thyme, Knorr Caldo de Vegetales, garlic, cinnamon, and smoked paprika.
  • Spread on a parchment-lined sheet pan and roast at 230°C until golden brown and caramelized – about 25 mins – tossing occasionally.

Whipped Feta Cheese

  • Blend all ingredients until smooth and whipped. Refrigerate until needed.

Fried Sage and Kale

  • Fry the sage and kale leaves. Remove from oil and season with salt.
  • In a medium bowl, toss together the sage, kale and pepitas then break up to a crumble texture. Add enough salsa macha to coat.

Tostada Assembly

  • To assemble the tostadas, spread the whipped feta on the toasted pita. Top each with butternut squash.
  • Sprinkle the sage crumble on top. Garnish with brunoised apples.

Tips and Substitutions:

This flavor profile is perfect for autumn/holiday season, but the vegetables can easily be swapped for other seasons, like tomatoes in summer, or artichokes in spring.

“Diners will be more likely to try something new if it is tied to familiar dishes like a taco enhanced with simple, yet flavor-packed ingredients.”
Chef Dana Cohen

For Central Production Kitchens:

The packaging can be similar to a salad with the pita and whipped feta on the side.


A creative way of substituting meat with accessible and affordable vegetables, recreating the flavor profile of a classic grilled Turkish kebab by combining umami-rich and stable sauces with kebab spices.

Chef Pinar Balpinar, Turkey

For Casual Chain Restaurants
Cost (€) per portion: 1-2


Molasses Glazed Cabbage

  • 100g Knorr Noodle and Wok Sauce
  • 50g Hellmann’s BBQ Sauce
  • 75g grape molasses
  • 25g pomegranate molasses
  • 10g vegetable oil
  • 80g onion

Spice Mix

  • 10g Knorr Vegetable Seasoning
  • 20g Isot pepper (smoked chili flakes)
  • 7g sumac
  • 7g cumin
  • 2g dry oregano

Crispy Onion Strings

  • 200g onions
  • 100g wheat starch
  • 5g Knorr Vegetable Seasoning


  • 100g butter
  • 1700g white cabbage

Spicy Bulgur Rice with Pickled Cabbage

  • 20g vegetable oil
  • 60g green bell pepper, brunoise
  • 400g Knorr Arrabbiata Sos
  • 15g Knorr Vegetable Seasoning
  • 900g water
  • 250g bulgur rice
  • 150g pickled cabbage
  • 60g butter
  • 50g watercress stems, sliced

Walnut Mayonnaise

  • 100g walnuts
  • 300g Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
  • 5g Knorr Garlic Seasoning
  • 100g water

Creamy Baba Ganoush Puree

  • 350g red bell peppers
  • 185g eggplants
  • 10g tomato paste
  • 5g Knorr Garlic Seasoning
  • 25g olive oil
  • 2g salt
  • 10g white wine vinegar
  • 60g plain Greek yogurt

For more information on these ingredients, click here.


Molasses Glazed Cabbage

  • For Molasses Glaze: In a blender mix Knorr Noodle & Wok Sauce, Hellmann’s BBQ Sauce, grape molasses, pomegranate molasses, vegetable oil, and onions together until the sauce is smooth.

For Spice Mix

  • Mix Knorr Vegetable Seasoning and all other spices together.
  • Slice the cabbage into wedges. Include the stalk to keep it intact and prevent waste. Secure the leaves with a wooden skewer.
  • Brush the cabbages with molasses sauce.
  • Sear the cabbage with butter in a pan. While searing, use a heavy meat hammer to press.
  • Once all sides are seared, cover the cabbage with spice mix and brush with more molasses glaze. Place the cabbage in a 250°C oven for 4 mins.
  • Remove the cabbage from the oven. Brush with more molasses glaze.
  • Remove the skewers before serving.

Walnut Mayonnaise

  • Roast Walnuts at 180°C for 8 mins.
  • Blend roasted walnuts until smooth and create a walnut praline
  • Blend walnut praline with water, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Knorr Garlic Seasoning until smooth.
  • Strain it.

Creamy Babe Ghanoush Puree

  • Roast bell peppers and eggplants in the oven or grill. Place red bell peppers and eggplant on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 mins or until peppers are charred.
  • Remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover and let it steam for about 15-20 mins. Peel and deseed peppers. Peel eggplants.
  • Place the peppers and eggplant to a food processor, add tomato paste, Knorr Garlic Seasoning, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. Blend until smooth.
  • Transfer to a saucepan. Simmer over very low heat for 20-30 mins, or until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Spicy Bulgur Rice With Pickled Cabbage

  • Heat oil in a saucepan, add bell peppers and sauté for 30 seconds.
  • Add Knorr Arrabbiata Sauce and Knorr Vegetable Seasoning and stir. strips.
  • Add water and bring to the boil.
  • Once the stock starts to simmer, add bulgur rice and pickled cabbage. Cover the pan.
  • When all the water has evaporated, the rice is ready.
  • Add some butter and mix it until the rice becomes sticky but pourable.


  • Plate all components. Drizzle over some walnut mayonnaise then top with watercress.
“The sauces and seasonings add umami, meaty, and smoky flavors that are expected from traditional Turkish meat skewers. Unlike traditional kebab, the recipe can be prepared without any special grill equipment.”
Chef Pinar Balpinar

Crispy Onion Strings

  • In a bowl, mix wheat starch and Knorr Vegetable Seasoning.
  • Slice onions thinly with a peeler or mandolin. Take the excess juice from the onions with a kitchen towel.
  • Mix onions with the seasoned starch.
  • Heat the oil to 160°C and deep-fry the onions until golden brown and crisp.

Tips and Substitutions:

İsot is one of the protected food products in Turkey which means it is registered and protected by legislation. If not available, you can use smoked spicy chili flakes or smoked paprika.



A dish comprising of the different parts of a sunflower using various techniques to create a unique combination of flavors and textures, with a low-cost yet healthy chia caviar.

Chef Stefan Furrer, Switzerland

For Casual Independent Restaurants
Cost (€) per portion: 4-5


Sunflower Puree and Cubes

  • 2kg organic sunflower
  • 2 pcs lemon
  • 200g milk
  • 20g Knorr Vegetable Broth Liquid Concentrate
  • 100g Knorr Stock Flakes
  • 500g egg
  • 20g sunflower oil
  • 2g salt and pepper

Vegan Caviar

  • 4 pcs nori
  • 300g water
  • 80g soy sauce
  • 150g chia seeds
  • 30g sunflower oil

Earth Potato

  • 500g potatoes, small, washed
  • 100g egg white
  • 100g healing earth clay
  • 2g salt and pepper
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 100g mountain hay


  • 2 pcs organic sunflower
  • 100g sunflower oil
  • 2g salt and pepper
  • 150g crème fraîche
  • 20g chervil
  • 20g garden cress
For more information on these ingredients, click here.


Sunflower Puree and Cubes

  • Clean and prepare the sunflower heads then soak in lemon water. Cover and add salt.
  • Blanch in salted water.
  • Cook 400g sunflower heads with milk and concentrated Knorr Vegetable Broth until soft, then puree.
  • Mix the puree with Knorr Stocki Flakes. Season to taste.
  • Cut the remaining sunflower heads into cubes and sauté in hot fat and season.
  • Put 200g puree into a piping bag. Keep it warm.

Sunflower Flan

  • Mix 500g sunflower puree with the same amount of whole egg. Season to taste.
  • Cut the remaining sunflower heads into cubes.
  • Place half of the cubes in the serving dish and fill with the flan.
  • Cover with cling film.
  • Poach in the oven at 100% steam for 30 mins.
“Inexpensive, local and seasonal vegetables can be prepared in different facets, all of which highlight different aspects of the plant and thus offer an everchanging taste experience!”
Chef Stefan Furrer

Vegan Caviar

  • Cut nori into pieces.
  • Soak leaves in water and soy sauce.
  • Blend finely.
  • Stir in the chia seeds and sunflower oil and chill for 1 hour.

Earth Potatoes

  • Wash and dry the potatoes.
  • Beat the egg whites and carefully stir in the healing earth. Season to taste.
  • Roughly chop half of the sunflower seeds.
  • Mix the chopped seeds and hay with the egg white mixture.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the potatoes to the mixture.
  • Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in the oven at 180°C for 50 mins.


  • Cut the leaves into julienne and deep-fry together with the flowers.
  • Peel the stems and cut them into 4cm long sticks, then cut in half, lengthwise.
  • Sauté the stalks in the sunflower oil and season.


  • Arrange the garnishes on top of the flan.
  • Arrange the caviar in a tin, smoothly spread with a spoon, topped with crème fraîche.
  • Serve the baked potato with the remaining ingredients.

Tips and Substitutions:

This flavor profile is perfect for autumn. The vegetables can easily be swapped for tomatoes in summer, or artichokes in spring.



Chef Sam Kass

Renowned chef and food policy expert Sam Kass shines a light on the power and urgency of regenerative agriculture.
When it comes to regenerative agriculture, the first thing to focus on is soil health – the biological health of the ecosystems that are producing our food. We’ve been reliant on insecticides and herbicides and mono crop agriculture for a long time, and it’s killed much of the vitality of the biology of our soil in the broader environment.

“I care about our ability to source good food, which is under grave threat.”

The science tells us that we have to change course urgently, because it’s having a devastating impact on what underpins our ability to feed ourselves, not to mention life on planet Earth as we know it.


I care about our ability to source good food, which is under grave threat. I care about my kids’ ability to eat well in the future. So when we talk about ‘quality’ in the foodservice industry, the new version of that has to take into account the impact that that plate has not just on the health of the person eating it, but also the health of the land producing the ingredients.


If we adopt the right practices and continue to innovate and use technology to drive solutions, we can take some of that carbon out of the air and put it back into the soil. By supporting producers who are using regenerative practices, we in the foodservice community can start to enable a broader shift in our food and agriculture ecosystem. Chefs can make a difference, by putting more sustainable crops on their menus, and promoting these on social media to influence other chefs and educate younger generations.


Two practices that are fundamental to us shifting towards a more regenerative system are cover cropping and no-till farming. But it’s also important to look at what’s surrounding your farm in terms of other foliage; what life are you hoping to bring back into the environment from, say, a pollinator standpoint.


I hope everyone in the foodservice industry understands just how important their work is to shifting how we’re feeding ourselves. Because making good decisions and telling the right stories can have a huge collective impact. It’s an exciting opportunity and a major responsibility that we all have to embrace and put our talents towards.


Sana Minhas, Nutritionist

Written by
Ryan Cahill

  1. Soils
    Because it takes between 100 and 400 years to form, good soil management is critical to increase productivity, enhance resilience and help lower emissions. Unilever is working together with suppliers and farmers to keeping living roots in the ground, using cover crops to prevent erosion, and rotating shallow and deep rooting crops to increase soil health.
  2. Water
    Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of drought and flooding incidents. Improving floodwater defences and drainage on farms, minimizing water pollution from farm run-off, and using water more efficiently will help protect global water supplies.
  3. Biodiversity
    Farmers can help slow the current mass decline in biodiversity by introducing land on the land margins that support pollinators like bees and butterflies, and predatory insects, or by planting trees that provide shade cover for crops, while sequestering carbon and maintaining soil stability. In the Knorr tomato project in Spain in 2022, there was a 179% increase in pollinators and a 27% increase in wildflower diversity where farmers had put in wildflower borders.
  4. Livelihoods
    Education in regenerative agricultural practices and better access to finance and technology have the potential to boost livelihoods while improving land management as well as helping to build farmers’ resilience to climate-related events such as drought and flooding.


Flavor Shock
1. Google Keyword Planner, Mar 2018-Feb 2022

Local Abundance
2. Q4443 Trendsetter March 2022, UFS e-panel plus d-hoc, 19 countries, Base n=1,303

Low-Waste Menus
3. 4. Q4443 Trendsetter March 2022, UFS e-panel plus ad-hoc, 19 countries, Base n=1,303

Modernized Comfort Food
5. Q4443 Trendsetter March 2022, UFS e-panel plus ad-hoc, 19 countries, Base n=1,303
6. What’s new on your menu?. April 2023. Kantar for Global UFS e-panel.

Plant-Powered Protein
7. Nielsen IQ Panelview, 2022

Irresistible Vegetables
9. Unilever Regenerati


Created by TCO London

Photography: Remko Kraaijeveld (food), Charmaine Wu (chefs) Recipes: Unilever Food Solutions Chefs 

Food Styling: Chef Maurits van Vroenhoven 

Recipe Editing: Chef Thais Gimenez, Chef Michael Yamashita

Research Studies: Daniel Quinn, Elspeth Edwards, and Charlotte McDonald of The Forge London, Unilever Food Solutions Consumer Marketing Insights, Kantar 

Expert Insights: Chef Sam Kass, Patrick Chan, Sana Minhas, Christian Weij, Unilever Food Solution Chefs 

Special thanks to: Chef Eric Chua, Unilever Food Solutions Singapore


The Future Menus 2024 Trend Report by Unilever Food Solutions was compiled from robust global data and extensive chef inputs, including industry reports of leading third-party sources (Kantar, Firmenich, Symrise, IFF, The Forge, CMJ-PDC), social media analytics using 77,000 keywords representing 69 million searches across more than 21 countries, perspectives from UFS’ 250 professional chefs and in-depth feedback of more than 1,600 chef professionals located in 21 markets worldwide via UFS e-panels. These insights have been translated into practical, action-driven solutions for foodservice operators globally, including recipe ideas, techniques, and ingredient solutions that operators can use on their menus.