The USA is known throughout the world for its glitzy Hollywood exports, its political influence on the world stage and its fast food culture. However, less is known globally about the truly authentic dishes that make up American cuisine.
From a big barbeque cookouts to Thanksgiving traditions, America has developed a distinct food culture with lots to explore.
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Most Popular American Dishes
The USA is known for its high consumption of meats, including chicken, pork and lamb. Potatoes, green vegetables and sweet breads also feature heavily in American cuisine.
Owing to immigration to America from a wide range of different cultures, American cuisine is also a product of diversity. Chinese, Mexican and Italian foods are popular, with distinguishable sub-cuisines emerging as a result (such as Tex Mex, Italian American or American Chinese).
So without further ado, here are some of the absolute must-try dishes of the USA along with recipes for you to try yourself.
Apple pie is the classic American dessert, so much so that it is regularly used as a synonym for Americanism. Just the words ‘apple pie’ conjure up images of white picket fences and good old fashioned home cooking.
It goes without saying that apple pie is one of the most iconic American foods.
Now you might be surprised to learn that the American hamburger started out in Germany (Hamburg specifically), where immigrants to the new world brought along with them the Hamburg steak.
It was the American’s idea, however, to put that steak in a bun and top it with cheese!
Therefore, we’re happy to say that hamburgers are 100% an American invention, one which has been exported throughout the entire globe.
A symbol of fast-food and globalization of the rapidly changing 20th century, it’s impossible to separate the hamburger from the growing influence of the USA.
Texas barbecue is world-famous, and it’s easy to see why. Texans pride themselves on cooking beautifully tender, flavorful meats that people travel all over the world to sample.
Whilst the barbecue itself isn’t an American invention, the US has no doubt taken it to new levels and the Texas Barbecue perfectly epitomises the American backyard cookout spirit.
Don’t forget the sides too – you can’t beat a good macaroni cheese or a helping of cornbread to complete a traditional American BBQ!
Mac n Cheese
Macaroni and cheese (or Mac n Cheese) is considered the ultimate comfort food that can be eaten entirely on its own or as a tasty side to a whole host of other dishes.
It is commonly bought as a frozen ready meal in grocery stores that can be prepared in no time at all, which is part of the reason for its popularity.
Fried chicken is another of example of a food that wasn’t necessarily invented in America, but boy did it take off in the States! Many people associate American fried chicken with the state of Kentucky due to the huge multinational success of KFC.
Of course, countries all over the world have their own variants of fried chicken, in Africa and South Korea there are long-standing fried chicken traditions that pre-date KFC. But there is no doubt that fried chicken is firmly rooted in American history.
Deep Fried Butter
Deep fried butter is, thankfully, not a hugely popular pastime in the USA but it’s a uniquely American dish that is well worth mentioning.
Consisting of a stick of butter deep-fried in batter, deep fried butter rose to prominence in the US when it was introduced at the 2009 State Fair of Texas and awarded the prize of “Most Creative food”.
Twinkies aren’t a traditional home cooked meal or a world-renowned export from America, but they are so deeply ingrained in day-to-day snacking habits of many Americans that it is impossible not to include them.
Twinkies are a quick creamy sponge snack that is popular with both kids and adults alike.
Scrapple is a dish prepared using scraps of pork meat, generally trimmings, mixed with cornmeal, buckwheat flour and spices (such as bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, sage, garlic, and salt). It is then shaped into a semi-solid, congealed loaf, sliced and pan-fried before being served.
Often eaten during breakfast time, scrapple can be served with eggs, pancakes, potatoes, toast and occasionally ketchup. Scrapple is a traditional dish of the southern Mid-Atlantic states (like Delaware, Maryland, South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia).
Clam chowder originated on the East Coast of America and is now enjoyed throughout the country as a hearty traditional meal.
Clam chowder is relatively unique to the USA since it isn’t a recipe popular anywhere else in the world. So it is fair to say that clam chowder is as American as apple pie!
Apparently most popular on Fridays when Catholics abstain from eating meat, clam chowder is readily available in restaurants throughout the US.
The two most well-known types of clam chowder are “red” and “white”, the main differences being whether they are made from tomatoes or milk.
Pu Pu Platter
A Pu Pu Platter is an American bar snack consisting of a range of Chinese or Hawaiian meat and seafood appetizers. These typically include egg rolls, beef teriyaki, spare ribs, chicken wings, skewered beef, fried wontons, fried shrimp, chicken fingers, crab Rangoon and other fried snacks.
A small hibachi grill usually accompanies the platter.
Gator Kebabs are a delicacy in Southern US states such as Florida and Louisiana where Alligators are more prevalent. The meat of the gators are cut into chunks, skewered and grilled on a barbecue.
Gumbo is a spicy stew from South Louisiana consisting of meats or shellfish, vegetables, herbs and spices. The stew uses a mixture of fat and flour called a Roux to thicken it.
Whilst not exactly a popular American food, Canned Bread is a uniquely American invention that we would be remiss not to mention.
Canned Bread dates back to the 20s and 30s prior to the prevalence of ovens, offering everyone the chance to eat bread by steaming it over the fire rather than needing to bake.
How can a food with a US state in the name not be included in the list? Buffalo sauce is quite distinctive in flavor and act as a popular bar snack or appetizer across the country.
Buffalo wings have experienced some success outside of the USA, particularly in Europe, but consumption is nowhere near the levels of America where it is considered a real authentic American food.
Hawaiian Ahi Poke Bowl
Of course, with the island of Hawaii being a US state, it’s important to mention a distinctly Hawaiian dish which is popular all over the world, Ahi Poke Bowl.
Poke is one of the main dishes of native Hawaiian cuisine and basically put, it’s a raw fish and tasty sauce extravaganza.
Fried Brain Sandwich
Whilst not a hugely popular dish, fried brain sandwiches are a delicacy from Indiana and the Ohio River Valley that were once a common sight but are now much rarer. There are still a few restaurants in the region who sell them, but their popularity declined due to fears of mad cow disease.
Quite simply, a fried brain sandwich consists of fried sliced calves’ brains on sliced white bread. They are typically accompanied by fried potatoes and onion rings.
Boston Cream Pie
A Boston cream pie is a cake prepared using sponge cake which originated in Boston, Massachusetts. It is filled with custard or whipped cream and topped with a chocolate glaze. It is believed to have been invented in 1856 by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian at the Parker House Hotel in Boston.
Hawaiian Saimin Noodles
Saimin noodles are a Hawaiian noodle soup dish, made with a flavorful broth, sliced pork, bean sprouts and green onions. This dish is a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino flavors adapted by the people of Hawaii.