Merriam-Webster adds 9 new food words in September 2022


The day before yesterday, every time you said “pumpkin spice” or “oat milk” in a sentence, you weren’t saying the actual words. At least not according to Merriam-Webster, America’s nearly two-century-old guardian of the English language. On Wednesday, these phrases, along with 368 others, were officially added to the dictionary. Nine terms on this list — which deliciously includes “yeet” and “janky” — are food-related.

To decide what makes the cut, Merriam-Webster editors monitor social media, national newspapers and major media sites, according to a dictionary explainer. Of course, these are just words. But they are also the mirror of our cultural fascinations. The addition of “sessionable” speaks to a low-alcohol beverage boom while “plant-based” speaks to…everyone on the West Coast. And terms like “ras el hanout” and “mojo” represent a diner-focused shift to ancestral cuisine.

Here is the complete list of phrases and some recipes to cook at home.

The definition: “A blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and often allspice commonly used in pumpkin pie.”

The scoop: All I can say here is: Starbucks Dunnit. Since the drink’s inception in 2003, the coffee chain’s smooth, harmless, and daringly delicious pumpkin spice latte has iconized the spice blend and made it a curious cultural phenomenon. Both a comforting drink and an emblem of our anxieties around capitalism, this seasonal frenzy is here to stay.

The recipes : Channel your inner autumnal earth angel and bake a batch of toasted, buttered, pumpkin-spiced chocolate chip cookies. Go the extra mile and dunk them in a (gasping) homemade pumpkin spice latte.

Pumpkin Pecan Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

“The Holiday Triple Threat Cookie” by Amanda Mack of Crust by Mack in Baltimore.

See the recipe


The definition: “A series of small portions or dishes (such as sushi) offered at a fixed price and the selection of which is left to the discretion of the chef.

The scoop: The American upscale sushi scene has, to use an objective measure, exploded over the past decade. And omakase, the style of sushi chef-guided tasting menus popularized in the cult 2013 film, Jiro dreams of sushihas become a top prize for the restaurant elite (by which I mean the brothers).

The recipes : If a $500 per person omakase experience seems like overkill in this economy, try making your own at home. Think: spicy tuna rolls, umeboshi-stuffed onigiri, and buttery salted mushroom omusubi.

Soy Butter Mushroom Omusubi Recipe
Soy Butter Mushroom Omusubi

These adorable Japanese stuffed rice balls just might be the most perfect snack.

See the recipe


The definition: “A mixture of ground spices used in North African cooking and including coriander, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper and others spices.”

The scoop: According to Pinterest’s 2022 Trends Report, ancestral foods — basically, “someone’s grandparents’ recipe,” as the site puts it — are outpacing over-the-top dining experiences. And in 2019, the site reportedly reported a 311% increase in searches for African recipes. Luckily for us, a proliferation of direct-to-consumer American spice companies means getting your hands on ras el hanout has never been easier.


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