American food

American Food: 20 Most Popular Dishes in the USA

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Updated on February 4, 2024

Burgers and hot dogs have always dominated the food scene when it comes to most American food around the world. Well, although this is undeniable, there is actually more to the United States than just these two sandwiches, and we would love to introduce you to each one of them. 

One thing that is quite true about most American food is that they can be fattening or unhealthy in some ways. However, eating them in moderation won’t do any harm. So, walk us through this delectable list of American dishes and embark on a culinary trip to the States. 

1. Nashville Hot Chicken

Spicy food happens to be a thing in the two Americas, and the United States is not an exception. The Nashville hot chicken is definitely one of the spiciest dishes you can ever taste. Not all-American food is known to be extremely hot, but this one is scorching, offering a different level of spiciness. 

This dish consists of fried chicken, drenched in tongue-numbing sauces to add the fiery nature, with French fries and pickles on the sides. It originated in Nashville, Tennessee, yet it is popular in several states where you can find slight variations. Besides, it has some sweet notes that make its vehement heat quite bearable.

2. S’mores

S’mores is one of the most loveable desserts worldwide, and many well-known brands use it to make something new, offering a brand-new product. There is something dreamy about mixing marshmallow fluff with chocolate and having them compressed between two crunchy crackers. In the early ’20s, this typical American food went by the name “Graham Cracker Sandwich.”

The origins of this little sweet goodness may be shrouded in mystery. However, this circulating story came into being at a campfire that Girl Scout troop leaders held. The oldest recipe of s’mores found belongs to Loretta Scott Crew, who was the leader of the scouts. Its name is a contraction of “Some more,” which implies that you could never get enough of it.  

3. Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese are so delightful to stare at, not to mention how tasteful it is when you grab a fork and gulp it down. This mouthwatering casserole features a generous amount of cheesy sauce intertwined with macaroni, creating this appetising goodness. Although we are not really sure where this marvellous recipe comes from, some believe Northern Europe somehow spread it across the world. 

Yet, it is among the food that pops into your mind when it comes to American food. A bowl of mac and cheese became part of American culture during the Great Depression. That is because it was pretty affordable during those times. Ever since it travelled all the way from Britain to the American lands, the Americans seemed to have a real appetite for it, and it stayed.

4. Pancakes

Pancakes are one of the most famous American food that is known to be a daily breakfast staple. Some refer to it as the American version of crepes. However, pancakes are known to have a thicker batter than crepes. Anyhow, we cannot deny the effect of having pancakes first thing in the morning. The best part is that you get to fill it with either sweet or savoury ingredients. 

Although pancakes are usually associated with American food, they actually originated in ancient Greece. We know how surprising this may sound to you, for we were dazzled as well as we’ve never heard of any Greek intervention when it comes to pancakes. The story of which the pancakes were birthed is delightful, and that’s relatively easy to believe since they effortlessly add joy to our lives.

5. Cronut

Cronut is one of the most legendary desserts in New York City that has dominated the American food scene. Doesn’t its name ring a bell? Well, it is known to be a hybrid dessert that infuses the properties of croissants and doughnuts together, hence the name. It is basically a pastry that you get to fill with flavoured cream, and they fry it until it’s crunchy and golden. 

Dominique Ansel Bakery is the most famous bakery that sells cronuts all over NYC. You can actually wait in a line as long as the Nile River to get your little slice of heavenly goodness. The bakery owner, chef Dominique, is also the inventor of this fantastic dessert. He decided to make use of two already existing desserts, creating a brand new one and introducing it to the world in 2013. 

6. Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is no doubt that cookies are American food. Well, this time, there are no surprises because cookies were really born in the United States. Now that we are shedding light on the chocolate chip cookies, in particular, it is safe to say that chefs Sue Brides and Ruth Graves were the inventors of this tasteful delight. They were both Americans and brought these cookies into being in 1938.

Chewing on this little crisp and coming across melted chunks of chocolate feels like finding treasure in the middle of a happy land where unicorns and fluffy things exist. It is a great feeling that takes you back to your childhood when cookies were the best meal you could ever get. Even better, when chocolate chip cookies were made, they were supposed to be paired with ice cream for a top-notch sweet bite.

7. Jambalaya

Jambalaya is one of the most famous American food rich in protein, along with some cooked vegetables, rice, and lots of seasonings. Staring at this mouthwatering dish is sufficient to make your taste buds scream, begging for a bite or two. This dish was probably birthed in the state of Louisiana, for it is one of its most traditional dishes. It kind of resembles the famous Spanish dish, Paella, yet the existence of meat elements set the differences between both dishes.

Jambalaya is known to be a seafood dish. And while it consists of a generous amount of seafood ingredients, it also comes with any type of meat on the side, either pork, rabbit, or chicken. If you prefer adding more than one meat option, you are free to do it. However, we must warn you that the seafood side is full of crawfish, crab, and shrimp.

8. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (Authentic American Food)

This one is an absolute favourite, and there is no way it was not going to make it on this list. Because if the peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn’t the most American food the world has known, then we don’t know what is. The first recipe of PB & J was found in the Boston Cooking School Magazine in 1901, written by Julia Davis Chandler.

While these two items make up the original recipe, new variations emerged, upgrading the taste of this already-succulent sandwich. New pairings were tried, and some of them managed to have great success. These pairings include Nutella and Raspberry jam, Cookie butter and apple jelly, and fresh fruit and cashew butter.

9. Chicago-style Pizza

Pizza is undoubtedly an authentic Italian food, but it also happens to be one of the most consumed foods in America, tricking some people into believing it to be American food. Well, there is no debate over the origins of pizzas; however, some new variations were actually birthed in America, becoming embedded in the American culture. This paves the way for us to introduce Chicago-style pizza. 

Apparently, this pizza is prepared in a way different from the original Italian pizzas. Its other method of cooking was developed in Chicago, hence the name. Another name that this pizza goes by is the deep-dish pizza. This name was given to it as it is made into several layers, making the pizza relatively thicker than what we are used to. 

10. Philly Cheesesteak

Philly cheesesteak is a popular street food in America, being native to the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and that’s what Philly actually stands for. This sandwich is one of the most famous American foods, like hotdogs and cheeseburgers. It made it across all states of America, becoming a lunch staple for meat lovers. 

You can recognise the sandwich as soon as you lay eyes on it, for it has a unique appearance that also happens to be mouthwatering, and that just adds to its actual succulent taste. Philly cheesesteak consists of beefsteak sliced into tiny and thin pieces, drizzled with a generous amount of melted cheese and served in a long hoagie roll. 

11. Tater Tots

Tater tots are another version of hash browns. They both are based on mashed potatoes moulded into a specific shape and fried to golden perfection. However, hash browns are popular in the United Kingdom, yet they refer to the very same American food, the tater tots. The only difference is that tater tots are smaller in size, looking like little cylinders.

At first, you may mistake tater tots for fried chicken pops; they bear a remarkable resemblance to one another. They came into being back in 1953 as means of making use of the excess potato shavings, turning out into a traditional American food, thanks to F. Nephi Grigg, the owner of Ore-Ida and the inventor of these little heavenly goods. 

12. Country Fried Steak

This dish is a typical American food you would expect to see upon entering a Chilli’s restaurant, with a Tex-Mex origin. Country fried steak is also sometimes referred to as Chicken-fried steak, given that it looks a lot like chicken. Yet, this dish mainly consists of either round steak or cube steak, and you can easily make it at home. 

This succulent plate originated in West Texas and is quite popular as a traditional dish in the Southern cuisine of the United States. What makes this piece of steak different from any other is how it is cooked to tenderness and seasoned and drenched in flour. Creamy gravy drizzles all over the golden steak, taking the taste to places where happiness exists. 

13. Maryland Crabcakes

Crabcakes are authentic American food that historians believe was among the very first dishes in the American lands, originating in the Chesapeake region. This protein-rich meal is made by removing meat from the shells of crabs. They are now prevalent across different European countries, and it is believed that European colonists adopted the dish. 

More than a few ingredients make up this dish, and crab meat is only one of them. It is made by mixing this meat with mayonnaise, mustard, breadcrumbs for a crunchy texture, eggs, and lots of seasonings to spruce up the flavour. It is pretty healthy and beneficial for diabetics and athletes, for it is an excellent source of high protein and lots of vitamins and minerals.

14. Cheese Curd

Cheese curd is widely consumed as a snack and is believed to be a traditional American food, yet it actually originated in Ancient Rome. Those moist little pieces of curdled milk were known as Globuli before they made it to the American continents. They consist of little pieces of cheddar cheese that haven’t aged at all and can be either white or orange. 

The most common cooking method for cheese curd is frying them. You have to first create a batter by mixing eggs, milk, flour, beer, and salt. Once your mixture is ready, cheese curds pieces are added until they blend together. The curds are then placed in oil to deep fry until they turn golden brown. 

15. Apple Pie

There is a saying that goes, “As American as apple pie.” This quote is used when you are describing something that represents American culture. And while Americans are so fond of pies in general, to our surprise, apple pie is not even an authentic American food. In fact, apple trees were not even native to North America before the arrival of the European colonists.

Now that you have gotten a glimpse into the un-American history of apple pie, that won’t stop you from baking one this Thanksgiving. After all, apple pie is an iconic dish despite its origin; it is an excellent addition to any celebratory setting.

16. Buffalo Wings

Just uttering the name is sufficient to make you feel the extreme hotness of this dish. Buffalo wings have always been a staple in American cuisine. It is served in different restaurants as an appetiser or even as your main dish. Whether you have it as a starter before your main course or as part of it, you can never get enough of this hot sauce-dipped drumette. 

Buffalo wings are among the popular American food that originated within the borders of the States. These delicious chicken pieces made their first appearance at Anchor Bar restaurant, which is a small family-owned restaurant. The restaurant was located in Buffalo, New York, where the dish got its name. 

17. Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a typical American food that puts ground beef to great use. Although the original recipe is of German origin, Americans have managed to put their spin on the dish, Americanising it. The version we see today is an American invention, which is why it is deemed one of the American foods despite its origin.

It first came to America in the 18th century by the Dutch settlers and was meant to stay and undergo several variations. Meatloaf is ground beef mixed with many other ingredients that give it its flavour and moist texture and then put into the shape of a loaf. 

18. New York Cheesecake 

depositphotos 40032291 stock photo cheesecake

New York Cheesecake is basically cheesecake but with some differences. It is much heavier and richer when it comes to cream cheese. You can feel how dense and flavour-rich it is after the first bite. The classic New York Cheesecake goes back to the 1920s when Arnold Reuben decided to add his magical touch to the cheesecake and turn it into a typical American food. 

The story goes as follows: Reuben experimented with a cheese pie. A couple of attempts in, the New York-style cheesecake was out to the public. It received a lot of positive reactions when it was served for the first time at its own restaurants, The Turf Restaurant and Reuben’s Restaurants. This brings us to one of his top creations as well, the Reuben Sandwich.

19. Reuben Sandwich

depositphotos 52017951 stock photo homemade reuben sandwich

Since we are still at that cheesecake story of Arnold Reuben, it is safe to say he was a real inventor. Reuben became popular thanks to the signature sandwiches that he created and served. Just like playing around with cheesecake got him somewhere, attempting brand-new sandwiches was also his thing. He created what we know today as the Reuben Sandwich. 

The Reuben sandwich is among the most traditional American food. It is composed of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and Thousand Island Dressing. All these ingredients are embraced together between two slices of rye bread and grilled under the cheese melts, turning the sandwich into the juicy delicacy it is. 

20. Biscuits and Gravy

depositphotos 309611150 stock photo southern biscuits and sausage gravy

Biscuits and gravy is a typical American food that you can have for breakfast. This popular dish is said to be birthed in Southern Appalachia and has become a breakfast staple ever since the late 1800s. It is a mouthwatering dish that seems to be consisting of just bread and sauce, yet it is very satiating.

This dish features a couple of soft dough biscuits with a gravy sauce made from the drippings of some cooked meat. These meats could be a mix of pork, sausage, ground beef, bacon, or even chicken. The presence of these little meat varieties is what makes the meal quite satisfying and sufficient to curb your hunger.

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