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25 Must-try American Foods

American food tells a story. It’s a story of many different people, places, and flavors that all come together to make something amazing. But which dishes really show what American food is all about?

In this article, we’ll travel across the U.S. to find out. We’ll visit places like Chicago, known for its deep-dish pizza, Texas with its spicy chili, and the South where fried chicken rules the roost. We’ll uncover the most loved American dishes and what makes each one so special.

So, get ready for a fun food adventure. Whether you’re a food lover who wants to learn more about your favorite American meals or you’re simply curious about what people across the U.S. love to eat, this trip through American food is sure to be tasty and exciting. Let’s dig in!

Once done here, you’ll be able to go out and get something to eat. The mouth-watering discussion is sure to get your belly rumbling. Hopefully, you can find something to satisfy your craving.


Burgers

cheeseburger

You really must indulge in the iconic American burger experience. Envision this: a tender, juicy patty grilled to perfection, sandwiched between two soft, lightly toasted buns.

Layered on this are slices of melt-in-your-mouth cheese, fresh, crisp lettuce, tangy pickles, juicy tomatoes, and finely sliced onion. And let’s remember the classic ketchup and mustard duo that gives the burger its tangy zest.

But the true beauty of the American burger lies in its immense versatility. The options are limitless, from the simple yet ever-satisfying cheeseburger to the more extravagant versions topped with everything from avocado to gourmet cheeses and bacon.

Whether you’re savoring it at a bustling city diner, a suburban barbecue, or a sophisticated eatery, the burger embodies American culinary diversity and innovation. This isn’t just a meal; it’s a flavor-packed journey that every food lover should embark on.


Apple Pie

Apple Pie

You must try apple pie, my friend. It’s not just a dessert; it’s a slice of American culinary tradition and cultural heritage. Imagine biting into a flaky, golden crust and savoring the warm, spiced apple filling within.

That unmistakable aroma will likely spark a sense of nostalgia, reminding you of home and family gatherings. It’s an essential part of American holidays like Thanksgiving and Independence Day, making it a shared experience for many. While you’ll find regional twists on the recipe, the soul of apple pie – its hearty, simple flavors – remains the same.

Next time you’re in the mood for a dessert that’s as American as it gets, remember the phrase “as American as apple pie” and treat yourself to a slice.


French Fries

French Fries

Even though they are called French fries, they have become a popular food in the United States. These golden, deep-fried potato strips are no longer just a side dish; they have become an unmistakable sign of American fast food.

Everyone likes them, whether they are served with a juicy hamburger, on top of a Philly sandwich, or as a meal with cheese and bacon. Many people can’t avoid them because they have a crispy outside and a fluffy inside, and they are perfectly seasoned with just a hint of salt.

French fries are a popular choice not only at fast food restaurants and diners, but also at backyard parties and family get-togethers. This makes them an important part of the way Americans eat.

People in the United States love french fries so much that they now have a special day for them every year on July 13. This day is called National French Fry Day.


Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs

If you’re ever craving an authentic taste of American culinary tradition, I can’t recommend hot dogs enough. These are more than just a quick meal; they’re a staple at summer barbecues, city street carts, and iconic sporting events.

Picture this: a soft bun cradling a juicy, grilled, or steamed sausage topped with a stripe of mustard and ketchup. It’s a classic combination that never fails to satisfy. And what’s more, hot dogs come in various regional styles, like the unique versions you’ll find in Chicago and New York.

So wherever you are, you can experience a local twist on this American favorite. Trust me, a hot dog isn’t just a quick bite—it’s a flavorful, adaptable piece of America’s food culture worth trying.

And don’t forget; there’s a whole day dedicated to them—the third Wednesday in July is National Hot Dog Day!


Barbecue

Barbecue Ribs

BBQ, which is short for barbecue, is one of the most important parts of American food culture. BBQ is more than just a way to cook.

It is a deeply rooted part of American culture, especially in the Southern states. In traditional American BBQ, the meat is generally cooked slowly over a wood or charcoal fire until it is tender and smokey. Meats like pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken, and sausages are used. Each one is basted with a tasty sauce that varies by area.

For example, Kansas City BBQ is known for its thick, sweet sauce, while Carolina BBQ is known for its spicy sauce made with vinegar. In addition to the main meats, BBQ meals have a wide range of sides, such as buns, coleslaw, and baked beans.

Whether it’s in someone’s backyard or at a community event, BBQ is an American food tradition that brings people together and celebrates good food.


Potato Chips

Crispy potato chips in a wicker bowl

Potato chips, or “chips” as they’re usually called in the U.S., are a popular snack food that’s an important part of American food culture.

They are thinly sliced potatoes that have been fried until crisp and seasoned with salt. Other tastes, like barbecue, sour cream and onion, and salt and vinegar, are becoming more popular. Potato chips were first made in the 19th century, and since then they have become a staple at all kinds of American events, from casual parties and picnics to sports events.

Because of how satisfyingly crunchy they are and how many different tastes they have, they are also a popular addition to sandwiches and burgers. Also, they are a popular American snack because they are easy to get and keep for a long time.

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They can be eaten right out of the bag or with a homemade dip. Potato chips show how much Americans like simple, tasty snacks that are easy to share.


Biscuits and Gravy

biscuits and gravy with sausage on plate

Biscuits and gravy are a well-known American dish, especially in the South, where they are considered a signature dish.

This hearty and cozy dish comprises soft, flaky biscuits covered in rich, creamy sausage gravy. Biscuits are traditionally made with flour, baking powder, and fat. They have a soft, buttery base that soaks up the gravy nicely.

The crumbled pork in the gravy and the dash of cayenne pepper that is often added to it give it a strong, meaty flavor that goes well with the creamy texture. Biscuits and gravy is a dish that shows the soulful, homey side of American comfort food.

It is usually served for breakfast or lunch. It’s not just popular in the South; you can now find different versions of this dish all over the U.S., and each one pays homage to this beloved culinary practice.


Meatloaf

meatloaf

Meatloaf is a classic American meal that is easy to make and makes you feel warm and cozy. Meatloaf is usually made with a mix of ground beef, pork, and veal, along with ingredients like bread crumbs, onions, and spices.

This mixture is then shaped into a loaf and cooked until it tastes great. Often, a tangy ketchup or barbecue sauce glaze is added to give the meaty flavors a sweet contrast. During the Great Depression, when people were trying to save money and save time, they came up with meatloaf.

It has stayed a staple in American home food because it is easy to make and everyone likes it. Whether it’s served with mashed potatoes for dinner on a weeknight or as a cold sandwich the next day, meatloaf has a sense of warmth and nostalgia that has made it one of the most popular American foods.


Buffalo Wings

buffalo chicken wings

Buffalo wings, which are spicy and full of flavor, are a staple of American food and must be on any list of must-try American foods.

This dish comes from Buffalo, New York, and is made with chicken wings that are deep-fried until they are crispy and then covered in a spicy, tangy sauce that is usually made by mixing hot sauce, vinegar, and melted butter.

Most of the time, blue cheese or ranch dressing are given on the side with celery and carrot sticks to cool down the heat of the wings. Buffalo wings are a popular choice for a casual meal. They are especially popular at sports bars and during big sporting events like the Super Bowl. Their success has led to many different kinds of sauces, from sweet BBQ to so hot that it hurts to eat.

The popularity of Buffalo wings, which have just the right amount of heat, crunch, and tang, shows that Americans like food that is not only tasty but also fun and brings people together.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

You must treat yourself to an American classic – the chocolate chip cookie. This isn’t just a cookie; it’s a quintessential slice of American culinary history.

Imagine biting into a cookie with a slightly crispy exterior that gives way to a soft, chewy center studded with melting chocolate chips. It’s a comfort food, often enjoyed fresh from the oven, filling the house with an irresistible aroma.

They’re perfect for any occasion, whether you’re hosting a party, preparing a treat for your kids, or simply indulging yourself. Chocolate chip cookies vary from recipe to recipe, so you can experience the joy of finding your favorite.

Once you’ve tasted the warmth and sweetness of a homemade chocolate chip cookie, you’ll understand why this dessert holds such a special place in the hearts of Americans.


Grits

bowl of buttered grits and toast

Grits, a standard dish with deep roots in Southern American cooking, give any list of famous American foods a unique touch.

This dish starts with ground corn, which is then cooked on low heat until it has the consistency of creamy mush. Even though you serve grits with just a pat of butter, salt, and pepper, they often serve as a base for other tastes, like cheese, gravy, or shrimp in the popular Southern dish shrimp and grits.

Because they are so flexible, they can be a breakfast staple, like when served with eggs and bacon or a dinner side dish. Grits are a big part of the culture, especially in the Southern states, where they represent warmth, home, and community.

They are a simple but loved food that is an excellent example of the simple, soothing style of American home cooking.


Pizza

cheese pizza

You need to indulge in a slice of American pizza – a culinary experience far beyond its Italian origins.

Imagine biting into a slice with a perfectly baked crust, rich tomato sauce, and a generous layer of melted cheese. The beauty of American pizza lies in its diverse regional interpretations. Whether it’s the thin, foldable New York-style slices, the deep-dish marvels of Chicago, or the unique toppings of California-style pizza, there’s a version to cater to every palate.

Pizza in America is a social food that brings people together, perfect for a casual hangout with friends, a family dinner, or a late-night snack.

It’s versatility and universal appeal have made it an iconic favorite, and trust me, once you’ve had a taste, you’ll understand why pizza is a beloved staple in American food culture.


Fried Chicken

KFC Fast food Breaded fried chicken

You’ve got to try American-style fried chicken. It’s a comfort food classic that’s more than a meal—a cultural experience.

Imagine a tender, juicy piece of chicken encased in a crunchy, seasoned crust, deep-fried to golden perfection. It’s served in a bucket at a family gathering or enjoyed as a sandwich at a summer picnic; fried chicken has a universal appeal that cuts across the diverse American culinary landscape.

From the peppery Nashville hot version to the savory buttermilk Southern style, the regional variations are a joy to explore. Its unique blend of textures and flavors and its rich historical roots have made fried chicken a beloved American staple.

Once you’ve tasted it, you’ll understand why it’s highly regarded in American food culture.


Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheddar Cheese Sandwich on White Plate

If you have any picky eaters, a grilled cheese sandwich is a great choice. It’s one of the most popular American foods, especially for children.

But more sophisticated grilled cheese options are available and can be made at home with care or purchased at restaurants.

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Grilled cheese is a sandwich that consists of two slices of bread on the outside filled with your favorite melty cheese and cooked until crisp with some butter. The classic grilled cheese uses simple white bread and American cheese.

Advanced grilled cheese lovers will use different bread, like sourdough, and go for a more flavorful cheese, like an extra sharp cheddar.

I get even more creative by adding a spread of mustard and a few slices of pickles to mine. The acidity of the pickle goes well with the sharpness of the cheddar. 


Tater Tots

Tater Tots

It’s no surprise that another way to cook potatoes is showing up on this list of the most popular American foods.

Tater tots are similar to french fries but not identical. And they’re also not quite as popular. You’re more likely to find them in the frozen food section of a grocery store than in a restaurant.

Tater toes are shredded potatoes formed into small bite-sized pieces shaped like small barrels. They can be fried or baked and are often dipped in ketchup.

Most people take the easy route for tater tots and buy them already made and frozen.

Then, toss the desired amount onto a baking sheet and put them in the oven until warm. Simple, quick, and delicious.


Baked Beans

baked beans in cast iron skillet

Baked beans, a comforting and filling dish, have a place among the most famous foods in the United States.

This classic dish is made by slowly cooking navy beans in a sweet and tangy sauce that usually includes molasses or brown sugar, ketchup or tomato sauce, and different spices. Pieces of bacon or other pig products are often added to give the sauce a smoky, savory flavor that balances out the sweetness.

Baked beans are usually served as a side dish with grilled meats and cornbread at American cookouts and picnics. They are also essential to a traditional Saturday meal in New England.

The fact that baked beans are still popular all over the country, from picnics to family dinners, shows that they are a comfort food deeply rooted in American cuisine.


Cornbread

Piece of freshly baked cornbread with creamy butter on top.

Cornbread is a staple food, especially in the South, and it gets a special place in the list of popular American foods. This traditional bread is made by mixing flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and baking powder together.

The result is a deliciously thick, moist, slightly sweet, and golden crusted loaf of bread. Its beauty comes from how useful it is. You can eat cornbread by itself, spread with butter or honey, or as a side dish with chili, barbecue, or collard greens. It’s also a key part of Thanksgiving stuffing made in the Southern way.

There are different ways to make them, like adding cheese, jalapeos, or corn kernels to the batter to make them taste and feel different. Cornbread has a long history that goes back to Native American cooking, and it is still a popular food in modern kitchens.

It is an important part of the American culinary culture.


Popcorn

Kettle Corn Popcorn in a bag

Popcorn is a tasty snack that is often associated with American free time. It deserves to be in the spotlight when talking about popular American foods.

This snack starts out as a special kind of corn kernel that, when cooked, pops into a white, fluffy piece that is both crunchy and chewy. Even though simple salted and buttered popcorn is still a favorite, there are many creative ways to taste it, such as with sweet caramel, sharp cheese, and spicy jalapeo.

Popcorn is often linked with movie theaters, but it is also a staple at fairs, sporting events, and home movie nights. This shows how important popcorn is in both public and private life in the United States. Popcorn is more than just a snack, though.

It’s a culture symbol that’s linked to favorite activities and shared experiences. Popcorn has been a favorite American snack for a long time because it is easy to make and has a classic taste.


Ice Cream

Ice Cream

For some people, there’s nothing better than ice cream on a hot summer day.

They’re popular in beach areas and summer vacation destinations but can also be scattered everywhere.

Once again, you can find various ice cream flavors and recipes. But the main ingredients in almost every traditional ice cream include milk or cream and sugar that’s frozen in a specific way to create a soft consistency you can sink a spoon in.

Vanilla and chocolate are two of the absolute most popular flavors, but you can find ice cream with cookies, syrup swirled throughout, and tons of other candies inside.

You can also skip the lactose and use coconut milk or other milk alternatives.


Chili

Chili, or chili con carne, is a famous American dish known for its strong, spicy flavors and hearty ingredients. This food is a mix of different cooking styles, especially Mexican and Texan.

It is usually a meaty stew with chili peppers, tomatoes, beans, and ground or diced beef. Chili is a great example of how flexible American food is because there are so many different ways to make it from region to region.

For example, Texas chili often doesn’t have beans, while Cincinnati chili uses cinnamon and is served over spaghetti. Chili has become a staple in the American food scene. It is eaten as a warm meal in the winter, as a topping for hot dogs or fries, and as the main dish in cook-offs.

Its many uses and wide fame show how many different parts of American food culture there are.


Donuts

Donuts

While this isn’t the healthiest option on this list, it might be one of the most famous American foods.

You can find donuts in many settings, from offices to churches, in tiny corner stores and supermarkets.

Donuts are circular-shaped dough with a hole in the center, fried or baked, and then covered in sugary coatings like plain sugar icing, chocolate, or other flavors.

My favorite donut is a classic cake donut with a simple glaze or sugar coating. 

Some people can get carried away with donut toppings, and specialty shops will go nuts. You can also find other types of donuts and different shapes, like the rectangular long john and the spherical donut hole.


Philly Cheesesteak

philly cheesesteak with onions

The cheesesteak is a famous sandwich from Philadelphia that is both tasty and well-known. It has a special place in the American food scene.

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Usually, a cheesesteak is a big portion of thinly sliced, sautéed ribeye meat and melted cheese, usually provolone or Cheez Whiz, all wrapped up in a long, crusty roll. Additions like onions, mushrooms, and peppers can make it different.

This delicious sandwich came from the City of Brotherly Love in the early 20th century. It’s a great example of the simple, rich flavors that Americans love in their food. Over time, the cheesesteak has become popular all over the United States, not just in Pennsylvania.

Each part of the country adds its own twist to the dish. The cheesesteak is a must-try for anyone who wants to try popular American foods. It can be a quick lunch, a late-night snack, or a mainstay at sports events.


Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob

A summer cookout isn’t complete without corn on the cob. It’s one of the most popular American dishes. And it’s easy to make.

Corn on the cob is an entire husk of corn that is cooked, seasoned, and eaten directly off the cob. It’s not the cleanest part of any meal, but it can be delicious when done correctly.

I cook corn on the cob in many ways. Some people go for a large pot of boiling water. I prefer to have them grilled with the husk on.

However, regardless of the method, you’re probably going to want to top with some butter, salt, and pepper. Then dig in.


Potato Salad

bowl of potato salad at a picnic

Potato salad is a common dish at American barbecues and parties, so it should be mentioned when talking about well-known American foods.

This hearty and flexible side dish is usually made with boiled potatoes that are mixed with a variety of ingredients, like diced celery, onions, pickles, and hard-boiled eggs. The blend is then covered in a dressing, which can be made with a creamy base like mayonnaise or a tangy base like vinegar.

There are many regional and family variations, which makes it easy to change the dish to suit your tastes. From the creamy, mustard-flavored style popular in the South to the bacon-and-vinegar version with German roots, potato salad shows how many different cultures have influenced American food.

Potato salad is a comforting, crowd-pleasing staple in American food culture. It is very popular and is often served at family and community events.


Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

A list of the most famous American cuisine would be incomplete without mac and cheese.

Of course, Mac and cheese is a household favorite for many children, but it’s also a common restaurant offering for both children and adults.

The basic recipe for mac and cheese is macaroni pasta covered in melty cheese and served similar to a casserole.

You can buy prepared versions in a box or purchase high-quality pasta and cheeses. There are lots of different cheeses you can use in mac and cheese!

To take your mac and cheese recipe up to the next level, add in some bread crumbs or throw the entire cooked dish in the oven or broiler for a few minutes to make it a bit crispy.


Clam Chowder

clam chowder in a bowl

Clam chowder, a thick and hearty soup, is one of the most famous foods in the United States. This popular food comes from the northeastern part of the United States.

It is usually made with clams, diced potatoes, onions, and celery that have been cooked in a creamy broth that has been thickened with a roux and flavored with a bit of bacon or salt pork. There are many different kinds, but the most well-known are New England clam chowder, which has a creamy base, and Manhattan clam chowder, which has a tomato-based soup with a tangy flavor.

The food has a strong connection to Massachusetts and the San Francisco Bay Area, where it is often served in a round of hollowed-out sourdough bread.

Clam chowder is a classic American dish that has a strong connection to the country’s coastal areas. It can be enjoyed as a warm bowl on a cold day or as part of a summer vacation at the beach.


Bacon and Eggs

pancake breakfast plate featuring over easy eggs and strips of bacon in a Rochester restaurant

We haven’t gone over many breakfast foods, but that’s for a good reason. The most popular American foods for breakfast must be bacon and eggs.

It’s a delicious combination of densely-packed food that will keep you full throughout the day.

The bacon is usually cut from pork belly or sides, then baked to crispy goodness and eaten alone.

Some people will put a bit of maple syrup on their bacon. Other times it is infused into the smoky meat.

The eggs served with bacon are usually prepared as fried or scrambled. Fried eggs retain the yolk hole and can be cooked just on one side (sunny side up), turned over for a quick second (over easy), or left turned over until the yolk is hard (over hard).


Lobster Rolls

mouthwatering lobster rolls prepared in boston

Lobster rolls, a favorite of New Englanders, are one of the most famous foods in the United States. This famous sandwich has chunks of fresh lobster meat tucked into a split-top roll that has been buttered and lightly baked.

It is both simple and luxurious. Most of the time, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and a little bit of seasoning are used to lightly dress the lobster. This lets the delicate tastes of the seafood take center stage. Lobster rolls are a perfect example of what it’s like to live near the coast.

They make you think of seaside towns and summer holidays. Lobster rolls are a luxurious taste of the sea that represents the best of American culinary indulgence. They can be eaten on a beautiful waterfront, at a casual seafood shack, or at home with love.


And there you have it—a nice list of the most popular American foods. So next time you think about a backyard barbeque, visiting a grocery store, or going out to a restaurant in the United States, you know what to expect.

Hot dogs and hamburgers everywhere! Ice cream on every corner. And potatoes and pizza wherever you turn next. So order your steak and eggs the way you like them, and have some napkins around if you order ribs.

Yield: 1

27 Famous American Foods and Dishes

popular american foods
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Select your favorite American food.
  2. Arrange all the needed ingredients.
  3. Prepare a tasty recipe in 30 minutes or less!

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

Follow him on LinkedIn, Instagram, Quora, Google Guide and Facebook.