See PEOPLE's 50 Food Faves of 2021: Rachael Ray, All-Star Recipes, Top Celebrity Liquors, Best Snacks & More!

A celebration of the year's biggest culinary stars, products and pop culture moments that made us feel inspired, connected and hungry for more

01 of 50

Celebrity Chef: Rachael Ray

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Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Most people would like to forget 2020. Not Rachael Ray—she wrote a book about it. In her upcoming memoir-meets-cookbook This Must Be the Place, the TV chef, 53, chronicles the ups and downs she had during the first year of the pandemic, including her decision to film her self-titled talk show from her home in Lake Luzerne, N.Y., after production shut down in Manhattan. "Our home was a light switch where we would turn off from work and deal with our lives," she says of the secluded cabin she helped design and build with husband John Cusimano, 54. "We curated it as a quiet, special space. Then all of a sudden we had to let everyone in." Doing so became "more of a medicine for us than a difficult pill to swallow," Ray says, especially when the audience encircled her with love after that home burned down last August (the result of a chimney ember landing on the roof). "A hole in the ground was all that was left," she says. "People have been so thoughtful, sending everything from food to blankets to memories of what they've been through. It's been very cathartic." Food also helped, and many of the dishes she cooked to heal appear in the book. "I write recipes every single day. I wake up in the middle of the night and do it. John is a musician, and he thinks in music. I think in food," she says. Their home is now rebuilt, but the process of settling in is ongoing. Despite all she's been through, she feels grateful. "You can get tunnel vision and think, 'Everything's revolving around us and our little problems.' But there are so much worse positions we could be in," she says. "I'm alive. I have a roof over my head. I have a job. There are people all over the food industry who have suffered and don't know what to do. John and I, we're like Moonstruck over here. We just keep saying, 'Stop your whining and snap out of it!' "

02 of 50

Cooking Show: Magnolia Table With Joanna Gaines

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Magnolia Network

"If you're looking to learn how to cut things, this is not the show for you," Gaines jokes on her Magnolia Network series, as she chops away at a cucumber. It's that accessibility that draws viewers in. Her recipes are easy to follow, her kitchen is gorgeous to look at and, with cameos by husband Chip and their kids, it feels like you're cooking with family.

03 of 50

Cocktail: Espresso Martini

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Whipped Dalgona coffee may have been a favorite early in the pandemic, but 2021 has people reaching for something decidedly stronger. As bars reopened, the popular '90s-era martini—made with freshly brewed espresso, coffee liqueur and vodka and garnished with exactly three coffee beans floating in a layer of foam—came roaring back and became the ultimate symbol of reawakening.

04 of 50

The Storyteller: Stanley Tucci

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Brett D. Cove/Splash

With a new memoir, Taste (out in October), the star once again has us under his spell, this time as he reveals what food has meant to him throughout his life. At 60, Tucci—an Emmy winner for his food-travel series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy—also became a viral sensation with a video of him making a Negroni for his wife, Felicity Blunt, during quarantine. His dry wit carries over to his book, where he laments seeing "a full-grown adult cutting their spaghetti" and shares his recipe for spaghetti with lentils, a dish he brings on film sets "as an antidote to the usually horrid food served off a truck . . . by beleaguered caterers."

05 of 50

Viral Recipe: Baked Feta Pasta

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This one-pan meal—essentially an entire block of feta baked with cherry tomatoes and olive oil and then tossed with cooked pasta, garlic, basil and red pepper flakes—became a TikTok phenomenon in February and caused supermarkets around the country to sell out of the hunks of cheese. But unlike other social media-famous hacks, which are often more stunt than substance, this recipe lives up to the hype. Get the full recipe and our tips for making it by clicking here.

06 of 50

Wellness Travel: Sensei Lanai

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Courtesy of Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

On Hawaii's smallest inhabited island off the coast of Maui, the luxurious retreat serves exquisite, nourishing food with ingredients picked from its own sustainable, Tesla battery-powered, hydroponic farm. At the pampering-meets-wellness resort, chef Nobu Matsuhisa's dining program represents feel-good food in every way. At Sensei by Nobu restaurant—a glass pavilion surrounded by a serene reflecting pond—feast on delicious and thoughtful dishes like roasted local Kona lobster, island tacos with wagyu beef, and sweet coffee hazelnut millefuille with candied hazelnuts and bitter chocolate sorbet while relishing a piece of Hawaiian paradise.

07 of 50

Cooking Basic: Chefs Life Oils

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Olive, canola, avocado, vegetable, grapeseed . . . it's not always clear which oil you should be using and when. This line makes it simple. Created by celeb chef Brian Malarkey, each of the three bottles is specifically designed for either cooking (won't break down over high heat), mixing into dressings (flavorless so it won't overpower), or drizzling over dishes (bright and fruity). $8 to $10 each or as a 3-pack;

08 of 50

Fast Food: McDonald's Star Meals

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For the first time since Michael Jordan's McJordan combo in 1992, McDonald's added a celebrity special to its menu. The Travis Scott Meal (for the rapper's go-to Quarter Pounder with bacon, fries with barbecue sauce and Sprite) was so popular that many locations ran out of ingredients. The chain has since collaborated with K-pop supergroup BTS—who included sweet chili and cajun dipping sauces inspired by McDonald's South Korean menu—J.Balvin and, most recently, Saweetie to curate meals as unique as their music.

09 of 50

Social Media Star: Tabitha Brown

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Marcus Owens

She encouraged millions of cooks to try their hands at her Southern, homespun style of attainable vegan cooking thanks to her charming instructional videos, which took off at the height of the pandemic (TikTok named her a top creator in 2020). But the North Carolina native and mother of two's real secret sauce: her inspirational messages of hope and affirmations of self-love. "During a time where a lot of people were struggling, I could see the soul needed to be fed more than our stomachs," says Brown, 42, who has collected her wisdom—and a few of her recipes—in her new book Feeding the Soul. "I needed to share my stories with people on how I've gotten through the toughest times in life. I call those recipes as well, but it's just a recipe for life."

10 of 50

Airline Food: JetBlue

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This is quite the upgrade. In JetBlue's premium Mint cabin, passengers pick from a rotating menu of restaurant-style small plates—like baby lettuce salad with pickled pears, lamb shoulder with Brussels sprouts and potato crumble, and flat iron steak with squash caponata—by chef Ryan Hardy and Delicious Hospitality Group, the team behind New York City hot spots Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones. The group also created a menu of exclusive craft cocktails, which are shaken right on board before serving.

Thanks to a partnership with DIG, transatlantic fliers can choose a healthy by building custom grain or salad bowls with all the fixings from the seat-back entertainment system.

11 of 50

Celebrity Cook: Courteney Cox

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Courteney Cox/Instagram

The Friends alum hasn't strayed far from the culinary talents of her character, Monica Geller. On Instagram, Cox films herself making Alabama rolls (the "sushi" of her youth, with turkey, mayo and Fritos), gluten-free biscotti, and "the best" turkey burgers—which get a rave review from Laura Dern. The star even recreated a famous Friends Thanksgiving scene where she dances with a giant raw turkey on her head. Fans include pal Jennifer Aniston, who commented on a recent post with a sweet reference to their show: "Could you BE any cuter . . . ???"

12 of 50

Chinese Chili Crisp: Boon Sauce

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Daniel Nguyen

Inspired by chef Max Boonthanakit's Thai and Chinese upbringing, it's packed with crispy shallots, garlic and anchovies in a pool of sunflower oil. $18,

13 of 50

Chinese Chili Crisp: Milu Chili Crisp

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Alex Stein

The excellent mixture—which includes umami-rich mushroom powder and toasted soy nuts for extra crunch—is more savory than spicy. $12,

14 of 50

Chinese Chili Crisp: Su Chili Crisp

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Made in small batches in Taipei, Taiwan, it's full of bright chili flavor with a hint of tingly Sichuan peppercorns. $14,

15 of 50

Chinese Chili Crisp: Junzi Chili Oil

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A little goes a long way with this fiery, mouth-numbing combo of Tianjin chilis, Sichuan peppercorns and cayenne pepper. $12,

16 of 50

Mobile App: Too Good To Go

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The online service helps reduce waste by allowing bakeries, cafes and restaurants to sell their fresh leftover foods to nearby customers at the end of each day. The "surprise bags," which cost between $4 and $6, can include anything from pastries to produce to fully assembled pizzas depending on sales that day. It's a win-win for everyone: Diners receive items at a significant discount and restaurants throw away less food each day.

17 of 50

Theme Park: Avengers Campus

At Pym Test Kitchen in Avengers Campus inside Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California
David Nguyen

At the new Marvel-themed land at Disney California Adventure, power up with Ant-Man's blue Pym Particle-speckled peanut butter, banana, bacon and jam sandwich (right); the Hulk's bright green Pingo Doce soda; or just a warm chicken shawarma—a playful nod to the meal the superheroes share during the credits scene in the original Avengers movie.

18 of 50

The Rising Star: Dawn Burrell

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Jenn Duncan

The former Olympic long jumper competed with the world's top athletes at the 2000 Summer Games. But trading in her track spikes for a chef's coat and going on Top Chef: Portland is where the Philadelphia native tested her limits. "Being a chef is far more challenging and Top Chef is hands down the most difficult thing I've ever done," says Burrell, 47, who placed in the Top 3 of the Emmy-winning Bravo series. Now she's working on opening her own restaurant in Houston called Late August, where she can showcase her global comfort food with touches of the African diaspora. "This is a male-dominated industry, and I'm happy to be one of the people who broke the mold to help women of color," she says. "We're often passed up and sometimes not taught—but that will change."

19 of 50

Pantry Shortcuts: Doña Maria Mole

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Mexican mole can take days and dozens of ingredients to develop its complex flavor. This concentrated paste, made with chiles, spices and nuts, gets it done in 15 minutes. $4, at grocery stores

20 of 50

Pantry Shortcuts: Fly By Jing Fire Hot Pot Base

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Cook your choice of vegetables and meat in simmering broth at the table using this starter, deeply flavored with ginger, star anise, cloves and tingly Sichuan peppercorns. $20 for 2,

21 of 50

Pantry Shortcuts: Brooklyn Delhi Cashew Butter Masala

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The classic north Indian curry is usually made with cream and butter or ghee, but this luscious vegan version uses cashew butter and coconut cream. Add vegetables, tofu or your favorite meat to the simmer sauce—a blend of tomatoes, garlic, ginger and sweet paprika— and serve with hot basmati rice. $8, at Whole Foods stores or

22 of 50

Pantry Shortcuts: Yolélé Jollof Fonio Pilaf

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Perfectly preseasoned with tomato, onions bell pepper and hot chilis, the West African grain cooks up like fine couscous—in just five minutes $7,

23 of 50

Pantry Shortcuts: Momofuku Noodle Kit

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Fast food never tasted this good. Simply boil the air-dried noodles—which are not fried like other instant ramen—and toss with the enclosed sauce for a fast, restaurant-like meal. Choose from three flavors: Soy & Scallion, Spicy Soy and Tingly Chili. $30 for 3 packs (each pack serves 5);

24 of 50

Pantry Shortcuts: King Arthur Chocolate Babka Bread Mix

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Just add butter and water—everything else you need is included in the pre-measured kit. The loaf bakes up moist and fluffy with a swirl of rich, fudgy chocolate inside. $9,

25 of 50

The Humanitarian: José Andrés

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Courtesy of World Central Kitchen

Through his organization World Central Kitchen, the chef quickly mobilizes emergency field kitchens to feed people healthful food in areas struck by disaster—like the recent earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Ida in Louisiana. "By providing meals to people in dire and desperate situations, he not only ends their hunger—he offers them a powerful sense of hope for the future," said chef Emeril Lagasse.

26 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

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Michael Kovac/Getty

Launched in the U.K., Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag Edinburgh Gin bottle features illustrations and handwritten dialogue from the show: "I love you," she wrote. "It'll pass," penned her costar "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott. $65

27 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Bruno Mars

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Bruno Mars released four varieties of SelvaRey Rum: white, chocolate, coconut and an owner's reserve—each made with sugarcane from Panama. $36

28 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Mariah Carey

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Jamie Mccarthy/Getty

"I have been putting my heart into this project for almost two years," said Mariah Carey, who named Black Irish Irish Cream after her Black and Irish lineage. $30

29 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Adam Levine & Behati Prinsloo

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Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo's fruity, agave-forward Calirosa Tequila gets its pink tint from being aged in red wine barrels for 30 days. "Tequila brings people together," she tells PEOPLE. $50

30 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Jamie Foxx

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Gregg Deguire/Getty

Brown Sugar Bourbon from Jamie Foxx is flavored with hints of cinnamon and brown sugar: "Anyone who tries BSB is going to love it just like I do." $24

31 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Eva Longoria

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Michael Kovac/Getty

"Having tequila at the end of the day is like a high five," said Eva Longoria, whose Casa Del Sol line is produced in Mexico by a mostly female team. $60

32 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: LeBron James

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Kevin Winter/Getty

NBA superstar LeBron James partnered with Diego Osorio on Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal—using the same oak and wine barrel-aging that's been a tradition in Osorio's family since the 16th century. $45

33 of 50

New Celebrity Liquor: Ian Somerhalder & Paul Wesley

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TV brothers and real-life best friends Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley worked on their Brother's Bond Bourbon line for a decade—and now give a portion of proceeds from its sale to support regenerative farming practices to help reverse climate change. "Our soul is in this bottle," said Wesley. $40

34 of 50

Food Competition Show: Great British Baking Show

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Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions

Nothing soothes the soul more than an episode of the Netflix series, back for a new season on Sept. 24. The show effortlessly introduced kindness into the reality format without an ounce of artificiality. It's scrumptious and as satisfying as a Paul Hollywood handshake.

35 of 50

Kitchen Gadget: Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fry Oven

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The unit has an extra-large cooking surface for accurate baking, air-frying and toasting, but it won't hog up counter space. When not in use, it can be flipped up and stored on its side—ideal for the smallest kitchens. $230,

36 of 50

Snacks Worth Craving: Benton's Coconut Cookie Thins

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Thin and impossibly crunchy, the cookies are bursting with sweet, buttery coconut flavor. $3; at Aldi stores

37 of 50

Snacks Worth Craving: Trader Joe's Everything and the Elote Greek Style Yogurt Dip

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Based on Mexican street corn, it's a creamy blend of sweet kernels, garlic, Parmesan and chipotle. $3.50, at Trader Joe's stores

38 of 50

Snacks Worth Craving: Goldfish Flavor Blasted Cheddar Jack'd

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The crunchy crackers get kicked up a notch with the addition of Monterey Jack cheese and a subtle pop of jalapeño. $2.50,

39 of 50

Snacks Worth Craving: Twix Salted Caramel

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Paired with milk chocolate and shortbread cookie, the gooey salted caramel elevates the candy into something extra special. $1.50,

40 of 50

Snacks Worth Craving: Cape Cod Sour Cream & Onion Chips

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Gloriously crispy, tangy and sturdy enough for dipping, this is the kettle-cooked potato chip at its best. $3,

41 of 50

Ice Cream: Malai

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Morgan Ione Photography

With 30 flavors—like rose with cinnamon-roasted almonds, pumpkin garam masala crumble and golden turmeric—founder Pooja Bavishi creates decadent ice creams inspired by South Asian ingredients. Her method includes churning the ice cream base with very little air, which creates a creamier, lighter texture with a more robust taste. $12 a pint,

42 of 50

Food Artist: Alissa Teo at @friedriceart

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The Texas-based occupational therapist (@friedriceart) is the queen of "air art" on Instagram and TikTok. Teo meticulously dyes and assembles rice kernels on a board and tosses them into the air to reveal a surprise image—which only lasts a few seconds. She's created designs of celebrity faces, emojis, baby Yoda, and even her own sonogram announcing her third pregnancy.

43 of 50

Community: Krispy Kreme

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In March the chain became one of the first businesses to offer a sweet incentive to get the COVID-19 vaccine: free donuts. Customers who show a valid vaccination card can receive one glazed donut each day through the end of 2021. The enthusiastic response inspired other spots, like Shake Shack and White Castle, to also give freebies to the inoculated.

44 of 50

Online Cooking Class: Goldbelly Live!

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Have your cake and learn to decorate it too! The gourmet-food site lets home cooks virtually interact and prepare recipes in real time with top chefs—from Carla Hall's Nashville hot chicken and Mimi Cheng's dumplings to Buddy Valastro's cake designs to Chris Bianco's famous pizza. And it gets even better: They ship all the ingredients right to your door, so no last-minute shopping trips. $89 and up,

45 of 50

Top Celebrity Cookware: Ayesha Curry

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Aaron Poole/E! Entertainment/Getty

A rubberized base prevents sliding, and the deep-set shape keeps splashes in the container and not all over the counter. Plus, the silicone grips make holding the bowls a no-slip cinch. Ayesha Curry Stainless Steel 3-Piece Mixing Bowls, $50,

46 of 50

Top Celebrity Cookware: Drew Barrymore

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Michael Loccisano/Getty

The sleek kettle with light-up, touch-screen buttons has presets for brewing white, green, oolong and black teas—and boils water in minutes. The unit also allows you to create your own settings to create your ideal cup. Beautiful by Drew Barrymore One-Touch Electric Kettle, $40,

47 of 50

Top Celebrity Cookware: Chrissy Teigen

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Kevin Mazur/Getty

The star calls it her "go-to" knife for a reason. The wood handle feels great in the hand, and the 7" serrated blade easily slices slippery onions and glides through tomatoes and bread without squishing. Chrissy's Go-To Santoku knife, $24,

48 of 50

Top Celebrity Cookware: Curtis Stone

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Paul Archuleta/Getty

It looks and cooks like cast iron, but it's significantly lighter, heats up faster and is nonstick. Plus, the see-through lid has a snug, removable silicone rim to hold in moisture and heat when cooking—and prevent clangs and bangs when its placed on the pan. Curtis Stone 4-Quart Cast Aluminum Pan with Glass Lid, $52,

49 of 50

Mail-Order Grocer: Misfits Market

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The company ships delicious but "ugly" or misshapen organic produce—which is more difficult to sell in stores—from small farms at a discount. Let them put together a box of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, or order your essentials to be delivered anytime.

50 of 50

Food on Film: Ted Lasso's Biscuits

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On the Emmy-winning Apple TV+ series, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) devours a box of Ted Lasso's (Jason Sudeikis) homemade buttery, crumbly shortbread cookies each morning with her tea. Turns out the treats (get the full recipe here) are just as sweet and hard to resist as the show itself.

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