Classics like burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, and pancakes come to mind when you think of “American food.” Like many other aspects of American culture, the cuisine has received influences from other countries. German, British, Italian, Dutch, French, and Caribbean cultures are just a few of the civilizations that have contributed to the food that is today regarded as uniquely American. Here’s a list of popular American foods that may be found around the country.
For American cuisine, the country is best recognized for what’s defined by adjectives better suited to oily, grinding industrial output: fast, junk, and processed. But Americans have a voracious hunger for excellent things as well.
Raw fish and seaweed may spring to mind when you think about Japanese food. And when you think of Italian food, you usually think of pasta, risotto, and lots of cheese. However, American food is more difficult to characterize because the country is a melting pot of culinary influences. That’s why, each year, the culinary experts, chefs, and food writers at Flavored Nation compile a list of the greatest American meals in each state. The yearly ranking, released in April, is based on research, consumer feedback via social media, and talks with state tourist boards.
American cuisine is a mash-up of cuisines from all around the world. We probably wasted our time trying to reduce them to just 9, but we gave it our best shot. Here are our favorite American meals, from breakfast to dessert, in no particular sequence.
Ground rules: Understand that simply attempting to describe American food is difficult; further accept that selecting favorite American foods implies leaving out or neglecting certain beloved regional delicacies.
Not to shatter anyone’s patriotic bubble, but it’s not an indigenous American dish.
This delicious dessert is known as “American as apple pie” for a reason: it is a national tradition. Forget anyone who tells you that pecan or key lime is superior; they’re lying. The simple mix of sugar, buttery pastry, and tart sliced apples results in a dessert so exceptional that many have dedicated their whole lives to mastering it.
You’ve probably heard the expression “as American as apple pie,” and with good reason. Apple pie, arguably the most emblematic of American food, was brought to the United States by British and Dutch immigrants. However, it has evolved into a uniquely American culinary experience throughout the years.
And you’re arguing that when we eat it, we know it’s excellent enough to be an icon, with or without the cheddar cheese or vanilla ice cream on top.
The hamburger and cheeseburger are undeniably popular in the United States. Traditional, gourmet, fast food, with bacon, sliders, with green chili, Juicy Lucy style… the possibilities for variants and toppings are endless. Burgers have to be the most American food of all foods if we were to select just one.
If we were too narrow this list down to just one iconic American meal, there’s a strong chance it’d be the simple hamburger. According to the Library of Congress, the hamburger was created in 1900 at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, by Louis Lassen, a Danish immigrant (not from Hamburg). The cheeseburger was allegedly developed 50 years later at the same eatery.
There are many various types of pizza in the United States, but Chicago has the most deviations from the original Italian version. Deep-dish pizza has a thick, doughy crust that encases a mountain of cheese and tomato sauce that would be nauseating if it weren’t so wonderful. When Americans talk about a pizza pie, they’re not talking about any pizza — they’re talking about Chicago pizza. It is not for the faint of heart and should only be tried while dressed in dark clothing or using a big napkin. Pair the pie with sweet Coke for a truly genuine dinner.
It’s practically against the law to visit Boston without tasting New England clam chowder. The aromatic soup is marketed everywhere, but it is ugly since it is white and lumpy. But all it takes is one taste to fall in love. Whoever thought of combining quahog shellfish with delicate potatoes, salty pork, rich cream, and herbs is a genius.
Anyone on the East Coast will know what you’re talking about if you say “Chowda.” This hearty soup has a thick creamy base with chopped potatoes, onion, celery, and, of course, clams. If creamy clam soup isn’t your style, remember there are other chowder variants available around the United States.
Australians may like a weekend barbeque, but Texans live and die by the tradition. Mesquite smoked meats and tenderizing rubs are popular obsessions, and it is not uncommon to attend to football games and find individuals bringing whole ranges to the parking lots that are worth thousands of dollars – a practice known as “tailgating.”
Barbecuing food is one of the country’s oldest traditions, and it has now grown into an art form, with bbq fans and enthusiasts all across the country having favored styles.
So “Thanksgiving” isn’t exactly a dish, but it’s such a famous day in the American gastronomic calendar (the fourth Thursday of November each year) that it deserves to be recognized. The holiday is officially about friends and family, but everyone knows it’s actually about turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, and bellyaches. While the recipes, like most of the items on this list, are tailor-made to cause you a heart attack or diabetes, they’re all excellent, and when combined, they form one of the most absurd and delightful feasts you could ever attend. Many restaurants have a menu, but the unique option is always a friend’s home, even if they burn the bird.
Buffalo Chicken Wings
It’s an unusual mix, but it works perfectly: chicken wings, spicy sauce, creamy dressing, and crisp vegetables. Deep-fried wings are slathered in Buffalo sauce, a concoction of spicy sauce, vinegar, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and butter, and served with celery and carrot sticks and lots of blue cheese (or ranch) dressing for dipping. Although they were invented in the 1960s, these fried chicken wings with cayenne-vinegar spicy sauce are still popular today. Buffalo chicken wings were invented in the Anchor Pub in Buffalo, New York, and have since become one of the most popular bar meals.
Deep-fried chicken wings marinated in butter and spicy sauce go well with blue cheese dip, celery sticks, and a baseball game.
Nothing beats an all-American hot dog during a summer barbeque or a baseball game. Although the invention is attributed to German Charles Feltman, who used buns to serve German sausage (therefore sometimes known as frankfurter or frank) to save on plates, it was Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker’s hot dog stand Nathan’s on Coney Island that made the hot dog a national symbol. There are regional variants, such as New York-style with ketchup and relish and Chicago-style with no ketchup served on a poppy seed bun.
Mac n Cheese
Everyone’s favorite comfort meal is said to have originated from a delicacy called “macaroni pie” that Thomas Jefferson sampled on a trip to Europe. Soon after, his cousin, Mary Randolph, released a cookbook in which she featured her own version of the meal, this time dubbed “macaroni and cheese.” Its popularity, however, did not skyrocket until packaged lunches in the 1930s and 1940s.