Food Hashtags: Optimizing Instagram

I get so many direct messages and emails from you guys about food hashtags and how to use them to your advantage on Instagram. My brand has always been travel and food, so looking at hashtags for both types of content just became second nature. Once you get the hang of hashtag searching, you will be a pro in no time.

Hashtags come with a lot of power. If you can move beyond the typical #foodie hashtag and dive into some small, more niche hashtags and re-post page hashtags, you have an opportunity to grow your account significantly. Which at the end of the day, usually means more brand deals!

Food hashtags. What are they, how to use them, best practices, which ones to skip, and how to use them to your advantage.

Food Hashtags: What are they and how to use them

The dictionary definition of hashtag: “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Keep that in mind as you read through here and before you decide to use a specific hashtag. It truly needs to embody the photo you are sharing.

Food hashtags are designed to help our photos be noticed by people who are searching for specific hashtags, related to food. For example, if I am having brunch in Washington, D.C., I did the research and found that #brunchDC is being searched and used. It is a very specific hashtag for DC brunch dining.

Of course a lot of people gravitate towards just using #brunch. Over 21 million people to be exact. Which means your photo will get buried fast since it is a global hashtag and many people may never see your photo since so many are coming in after you. You have to make the decision if a hashtag this large is going to be one of your 30, and it’s ok if it is.

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per photo posted. Use them wisely! This is thirty chances to get your image seen by people following or scrolling these hashtags. They need to fit the hashtag, otherwise you are wasting your time and the viewers time.

I recommend saving your researched and created hashtag block in the notes section of your phone, doing a copy and paste and then placing as the first comment once you upload to the gram. There has been discussion about whether placing your hashtags in the caption or in the comment is better versus the other. I see good results posting in the comments, so I will stick with that.

Tip: Only use food hashtags specific to the post. Don’t waste your allotted hashtags for something that doesn’t even work for the photo. If you are posting a picture of ice cream, don’t waste your time with food hashtags like #steakdinner. You aren’t showcasing a steak dinner, it’s misleading and you aren’t helping your case to attract new followers. The ice cream photo you posted may attract ice cream lovers, people in that area, dessert lovers, and so on.

Food Hashtags: What Not To Use

A lot of people do not realize this, but when searching out food hashtags, you should be looking for specific but also reachable hashtags. Please, do not pick 30 hashtags that have all been used millions of times. The likelihood of your photo being found in that sea of photos is slim.

Some common food hashtags that have millions of uses that you should use in very small quantity are:

#food #foodie #foods #foodstagram #foodgasm #foodies #foodlover #foodblogger #foodporn

I am not saying don’t use these food hashtags. I am saying that out of the 30 you are given, don’t use more than 5-10 of them on these big ones. If you absolutely cannot find 30 hashtags to use for a photo (which I would strongly argue is impossible) then you can use more of the big ones.

Food Hashtags: Finding Ones That Fit Your Photo

I almost always use 30 hashtags on each photo. When picking food hashtags, I look at where I am eating, what I am eating and what re-post pages the content will fit.

For example, when I shoot food content, I am looking for Instagram worthy food: colorful, over the top, weird combinations, or just beautiful food in general. My go to re-post pages that I am after are: Eater, Buzzfeedfood, Yelp, Beautifulcuisines, etc. These would be the “big” hashtag items I am using. I know its a slim chance of being seen, but in the off chance that it is AND it gets re-posted, it could reach thousands of new people.

How to find food hashtags for photos:

  1. When you are in the Instagram platform, in the search bar type # and then whatever food item you are looking for.You will see a series of tags pop up and a number of how many times it has been used.
  2. Look at what other accounts who are posting photos from the same place or style are using. I would not copy their entire hashtag list because some may not fit. Try and only use ones that are specific to your post. Some big food accounts would be @dcfoodporn or @thisisinsiderfood.
  3. Search within Instagram for tourism boards in the destination you are going to. Often they have their own hashtag AND they are usually following re-post accounts for the city and state. I always go through and see who tourism boards are following because I can find food accounts for the area, re-post pages I did not know existed, etc.

Some examples of food hashtags to use (and you will want to find up to 30 for each post):

For the overall DC diner (no specific type of food or meal):

#mydcCool #dcfoodporn #dceats #dcfoodies #bestfooddc #dcfoodsters #dcfood #dcfoodie

For the global food photo (no specifics) higher used hashtags:

#eater #forkyeah #zagat #spoonfed #buzzfeedfood #feastagram #foodiefeature #foodgawker

For the photos with ice cream:

#icecreamporn #icecreamaddict #icecreamlovers #icecreamlove #icecreamofinsta #icecreamcones #icecreamgram #icecreamislife

Scenario: You just purchased a crazy ice cream dish in Washington, D.C. that you want to upload. Here is a hashtag block you COULD use:

#mydcCool #dcfoodporn #dceats #dcfoodies #bestfooddc #dcfoodsters #dcfood #dcfoodie #eater #forkyeah #zagat #spoonfed #buzzfeedfood #feastagram #foodiefeature #foodgawker #icecreamporn #icecreamaddict #icecreamlovers #icecreamlove #icecreamofinsta #icecreamcones #icecreamgram #icecreamislife

You still have 6 available hashtags to use. You could use the hashtag for the place you got the ice cream, maybe there is a more local hashtag to the region of Washington, D.C. you got the ice cream from (ex: #shawdc), and you could also play around with creating your own haashtag or throw some of the big ones in there like #foodie or #dessertporn.

Food Hashtags: Best Tips

Since I am a travel and food photographer and writer, I spend my life on the road promoting and visiting restaurants in destinations. Which means I am sharing photos a lot and need hashtags to go with my photos so that they can be found by a wider audience that is not already following me, including major re-post pages.

Tip 1: Before I ever leave my house to go to a new destination and eat, I look up all the local hashtags that are applicable to the places I plan to eat and save a note in my phone so that I can easily copy that info and paste into Instagram when I share a photo. That may a sound a bit laborious but I promise you, I don’t spend more than 10 minutes creating food hashtags blocks.. I am not looking for 30 entirely new food hashtags because I already have a block of 10-20 I use on every photo of food that I have found success with.

What I am looking for is restaurant specific hashtags, local tourism board hashtags, destination specific hashtags, what local bloggers are using (because this is a great way to connect with new people while you are there and/or get tips for the area), local food pages that have hashtags, local magazines, and re-post hashtags.

Tip 2: When looking for the food hashtags I will be using, I look to see how many people are using it. If its in the high millions, I write it down but look for smaller ones that I can be easily found in. I don’t want to drown in a sea of photos. My goal is to find a mix of hashtags, some that are under 100K, some in the middle, and just a couple above a million. But I aim to keep a majority of the hashtags under 100K (if possible).

Tip 3: A lot of food accounts share various types of photos. What I do is keep several blocks of food hashtags in my notes section of my phone:

  • Hashtags for eating in Washington DC – this will include local DC hashtags, food hashtags for the city, global food hashtags, and so on.
  • Hashtags for Phoenix. I visit the area a lot so I keep a block of hashtags for when I visit in my phone that cover the area, the state, my standard food hashtags (below), and then a few random re-post pages.

Using Food Hashtags To Find Your People & Restaurant Photos

All hashtags are a great way to find like minded people and specific food you are after.

If a restaurant has a hashtag, use it. This may not benefit you at all OR it could lead to a re-post and tons of new followers. I like to use hashtags for restaurants because I know when I am searching Instagram for food photos from restaurants, I know what the masses share are going to be a pretty accurate representation of what I will get. Often restaurants do not have photos of all their food, and this is great for the consumer.

Furthermore, if a restaurant is lacking in photos and find your photos, they may re-post them to showcase to their followers. But at the end of the day, I use restaurant hashtags to give to the community. I know when I am looking for restaurant food that these people who tagged their photos with the restaurant specific hashtag didn’t have to, but they did.

Food Hashtags Printable:

I created a PDF printable to help you find hashtags for your food posts. There is room for 30 hashtags and a place for notes. You can use these printables for each new set of content, brainstorming hashtags for new food/recipe postings, lining up sets of food hashtags, etc. Just click the link below for the PDF:

Hashtag Planner Printable

Food hashtags. What are they, how to use them, best practices, which ones to skip, and how to use them to your advantage.

Hashtag Planner


Bottom line on food hashtags:

The food industry on Instagram is one of the more saturated hashtag blocks out there. If memory serves me correctly, a lot of people first started using the platform to share food and grew into a beast of everything. You aren’t always going to find 30 specific/relevant hashtags for your photo that are under 100K in use. THAT’S OK! Sometimes you will need to dig a bit deeper and find something in that photo that is relevant elsewhere.

Maybe you are a female traveler, in which case you could add #dametravelerfoodie to your posts. Finding good hashtags is really an art form and can take a little time – but I promise you, if you do the work, the payout can be good.


Food hashtags. What are they, how to use them, best practices, which ones to skip, and how to use them to your advantage.



  1. January 27, 2019 / 1:14 am

    Love this, Nicki! You’re a QUEEN! I’m actually starting a separate food instagram account so this is perf! XO, Kana @ Life in Wanderlust

    • eatlivetraveldrink
      February 5, 2019 / 8:03 pm

      Thanks Kana!!

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