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Study: Italian Cuisine Most Popular Worldwide, Edging Japanese

white ceramic plate with food, italian cuisine

Restaurant customers appear to be as intrigued as ever by exploring foreign flavors – with a specific focus on Italian cuisine.

A new study confirms as much; The Picky Eater website analyzed the world’s most popular cuisines and dishes and revealed that Italian cuisine (highlighted by pizza, pasta, and risotto) is the most popular, followed by Japanese and Indian food.

“The popularity of international cuisine is rising, with many people trying new and exotic dishes,” Anjali Shah – the nutritionist behind The Picky Eater – told The Food Institute. “The study showed that several international cuisines are growing in popularity, including Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and African cuisine. The trend towards healthier eating habits has also contributed to the rising popularity of plant-based cuisines like Mediterranean and Mexican food, which typically feature fresh produce and lean protein sources.”


Largely through analysis of social media platform Instagram, the study indicated that Chinese restaurants are the most common worldwide, representing an average of 9.5% of all restaurants in “top-visited cities,” followed by Italian cuisine concepts (roughly 8.5%) and Indian establishments (8%).

To determine the most popular international cuisines, meal types, and restaurants, The Picky Eater analyzed Instagram hashtags. Next, the website examined the 50 most-visited cities. Then, for each city, the study noted the number of restaurants serving 65 international cuisines, using data from Foursquare.

“It’s likely that social media has had a significant impact” on the growing popularity of international cuisine, explained Shah, who’s a board-certified health coach. “The rise of food bloggers, influencers, and self-proclaimed ‘foodies’ on social media platforms like Instagram has increased exposure to various international cuisines. By sharing photos of their meals and positive reviews of restaurants, these social media users have helped to create buzz and generate interest in international cuisine.”


Japanese cuisine has been tagged more than 20 million times on Instagram as of early 2023. The study noted that fresh, seasonal dishes that are low in fat and high in nutrients have helped Japanese food gain in popularity. The number of Japanese restaurants has increased significantly in the last decade.

The third most popular cuisine in the world is from India, with more than 20 million tags on Instagram. Hearty, aromatic curries, vegetarian dishes, and spicy seafood dishes from southeast Asia have made Indian food beloved, The Picky Eater noted.

Korean food, known for its spicy and fermented flavors like kimchi, was tagged nearly 10 million times on Instagram, making it the fourth most sought-after cuisine worldwide, followed by Mexican and Thai food.

“Korean barbecue and fried chicken are becoming particularly trendy of late,” Shah noted.

The Food Institute Podcast

Click the play button above to listen to the episode.

How do you measure the financial efficiency of a fan-driven food business? Dr. James Richardson, owner of Premium Growth Solutions and author of Ramping Your Brand, joins The Food Institute Podcast to define these types of businesses and how they can succeed. Dr. Richardson pulls on historical and recent examples of these types of businesses, and what common threads contribute to their success.