When a TikTok goes viral, its reach knows no bounds. Just look at the White Claw slushie or the strawberry dress or nugget after dark. The app has helped popularize everything from overnight chart-toppers to beauty trends, but this week, TikTok's main character isn't Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, or even a catchy song. It's feta cheese.
Well, specifically, it's a baked feta pasta dish. Finnish food blogger Jenni Häyrinen first shared the recipe, which she called "Uunifetapasta," on Instagram in 2019. It was an immediate hit in Finland, with Finnish grocery stores reportedly running out of feta for a period of time. The dish resurfaced on TikTok when American chef MacKenzie Smith (@grilledcheesesocial) shared her own rendition of the meal on her personal blog, TikTok, and Instagram. Several other chefs with prominent followings then tested out the recipe, and as of Thursday, some of the most popular feta pasta videos have over a million views.
“#Uunifetapasta was awarded as the phenomenon of the year in 2019 in Finland,” Häyrinen told Today. “I'm not surprised it's going viral elsewhere too. I know it has the potential to do so.”
The dish is simple: add cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a baking pan, then place a block of feta cheese in the middle. Bake the dish at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, then mix in fresh basil and cooked pasta. Some chefs have tweaked the recipe, adding different spices or substituting tomatoes with butternut squash or red peppers. But almost everyone agrees that the cheese is a crucial ingredient — and as a result, grocery stores in America are reportedly running low on feta.
One Twitter user wrote that they went to three different grocery stores before finding feta cheese at Whole Foods. Several noted that they had to improvise with crumbled feta because their local supermarkets didn't have blocks. "Sold out of feta AND basil at my local grocery store. I HATE TIK TOK!" wrote someone else.
After 3 different stores that were sold out of feta cheese, I finally found some to make the viral tiktok pasta! I was so excited I told the cashier at Whole Foods all about it & he was so hype for me he told me to bring him back some— Tαryn Μοsκε (@TarynMoske) February 6, 2021
Right now, according to a bit of digging we at Refinery29 did, there isn't a known shortage of feta, but demand for the cheese is abnormally high. "According to Instacart data, 'feta' is currently the number one trending search term on the marketplace," Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart's Trends Expert, told Refinery29. She added that the dish's other ingredients, including 'basil' and 'cherry tomatoes,' are also currently in the platform's top ten searches. "We believe the tremendous increase in searches for these ingredients is largely due to consumers eagerly wanting to try the baked feta pasta TikTok recipe for themselves."
If your nearby store is all out of feta blocks, Smith wrote that crumbled cheese works but doesn't melt as well. In another TikTok, she added that goat cheese would also "hold up baking that long while still remaining creamy." But for now, you should still be able to grab a block of feta for yourself — you might just have to try a few different stores or, of course, wait for the craze to die down. But who's to say when that will happen?