Typical dishes from the United States | I don’t know about you, but one of our favorite activities when traveling is to taste the local food. What is on a country’s table as part of its culture helps to understand its history and opens doors to unique flavors (and delicious experiences).
And go for me: before traveling, it is always good to research the typical dishes and ingredients used in the local cuisine. Not only to find out what they are, but to increase curiosity about the new flavors, you will discover.
As we are fans of tasting local flavors, here on the blog, other posts are talking about the gastronomy of many destinations: typical dishes from Greece, Spain, and Portugal are just a few examples.
Now it’s time to talk about Uncle Sam’s land. Have you ever wondered what foods are typical in the United States? It’s not worth saying ‘hamburger,’ huh?
Yes, it is not always so easy to quote the typical dishes of the United States. For this reason, we have put together some of the traditional American dishes on this list so that you can be smart and look for places to try them on your next trip to the country.
And be careful: don’t expect to find hamburgers and hot dogs around here. We made a point of bringing together the most’ exotic’ dishes of typical United States cuisine – or at least those that are more different from our culture.
And we are going to tell you some curiosities about the origin of each dish and how it became popular because you already know that we love to mix everything with a bit of culture and history, right?
Here we go?
- 14 typical dishes from the United States
- Apple Pie
- Texas Barbecue
- Clam Chowder
- Biscuits and gravy
- Mac and cheese
- Pumpkin Pie
- Tater tots
- Reuben sandwich
- Other typical United States dishes
- Start planning your trip!
14 typical dishes from the United States
In the United States, there is a saying that says “American as an apple pie” (in free translation) for a reason: this sweet is a national institution.
The simple combination of sugar, buttery dough, and sliced apples produces the dessert that is one of the country’s symbols, leading many people to dedicate their entire lives to perfecting it.
Apple pie is so widespread as a national symbol, it is even better known as American Pie, and I bet you’ve heard that term.
Photo: David Mark from Pixabay Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the series of teen comedy films from the late 90s that had about ten sequels over the 2000s (did you know that ?!).
But the term had already become famous in pop culture with Don McLean’s song of the same name in 1971. It was a folk-rock that had enigmatic lyrics and open to different interpretations. The song was re-recorded several times, the most famous being the 2000 version of the Madonna.
Interestingly, the dish does not originate in the USA. However, it was there that it was consolidated. That’s because the country has become one of the largest apple producers globally, primarily because of a legend involving a guy named Johnny Appleseed.
Johnny would have traveled miles and miles, planting apple trees across the country, from 25 to 71 years of age.
The Apple Pie recipe is widespread from the north to the south of the country. The pie is present on several occasions and celebrations, especially on Thanksgiving Day, one of the most important holidays in the United States, celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November.
We Brazilians have a passion for barbecue. Cariocas even invent occasions to make one, and they know how to make it deliciously. They say that gauchos have the best in Brazil (I haven’t tried it yet, I accept invitations).
In the same way, it is said that Argentines and Uruguayans love their ‘roasts’ and master a peculiar and delicious technique of preparing them. I also need to know. In addition to the South Americans, another person who enjoys a barbecue is an Australian.
However, Texans are said to live and die by practice. Smoked meats in mesquite wood and ribs are almost an obsession there.
Photo: Laura Sweat from Pixabay And it is not uncommon to go to football games (American football, in this case) and see the crowd take over entire areas of the parking lots for a type of pre-game ‘heats up. This habit is called Tailgate, and despite an unauthorized practice, it is widespread and popular.
Beef brisket, pork ribs, and sausage are among the most popular dishes. The term ‘Texan barbecue‘ can also refer to the side dishes traditionally served alongside smoked meats.
European meat smoking traditions were brought to Texas by German and Czech settlers during the middle of the 19th century. Traditionally, butchers smoked the remaining meat that had not been sold, allowing it to be stored longer without spoiling.
As these leftovers became popular with migrants from the region, several meat markets began to specialize in smoked meats. And so, the Texan method of making barbecue ended up becoming a tradition and national symbol.
The clam chowder is a clam soup (clam) and shared in the New England state. There are many varieties of stews in the United States and even clam chowder.
Seafood stews probably inspired this dish in northern France and southwest England, and this dish first landed in New England in the early 1700s.
Photo: Cooker King on Unsplash in the middle of the 18th century, recipes started appearing in the colonies’ newspapers and, since then, variations from Manhattan to Seattle have become part of American cuisine.
Legend has it that it is almost illegal to visit Boston without experiencing the New England clam chowder. It is sold practically everywhere there and looks. Its appearance may not be the best, but those who proved it swear that it is delicious.
Whoever decided to mix seafood with potatoes, pork, sour cream, and herbs is a genius. Most shellfish stews are also made with onions or celery, while some even add bacon.
Biscuits and gravy
The Biscuits and gravy, a free translation, would be something like ‘biscuits and gravy, is one of the most popular dishes of real quick breakfast in the US, mainly in the southern states.
While the British created the biscuit, the characteristic sauce of this delicacy emerged as a cheaper breakfast option in early American history.
During the Revolutionary War, biscuits and gravy became a staple among the colonies without food, and thus one of the most beloved typical dishes in the United States was born.
In places like Montana, where people sweat a lot working on horse farms, cookies are eaten for breakfast, wrapped in a thick white sauce, and covered with sausage pieces.
Photo: Jeffrey via Flickr [ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) ]Some variations of the recipe include pieces of bacon or sausage and black pepper. This is a dish that brings the barbecue tradition of the Southern United States right from the first meal of the day.
Mac and cheese
The mouth-watering combination of macaroni and cheese comes from before the country’s founding several hundred years ago. However, Thomas Jefferson is widely credited for introducing the much-loved dish into American cuisine.
After a trip through Italy, Jefferson brought pasta and Parmesan cheesemaker to Virginia and served the dish at a state dinner in 1802.
Macaroni and cheese became the most popular food among American families during the Great Depression in 1929.
Photo: Ronaldo de Oliveira on UnsplashIf you watched (or watch, why not?) In the Everybody Hates Chris series, you’ve undoubtedly seen the dish there. Mac and cheese is a registered trademark of American homes and is served until Thanksgiving.
This reminds me of Chandler eating one of these prepared by Monica in Friends since he doesn’t eat anything traditional from the date.
It is effortless to make and usually takes tube noodles, eggs, and a lot of cheese.
There’s a good chance that you’ve seen a character eating pancakes and pouring syrup over a pile of them in a movie, series, or even advertising.
Photo: proviso from Pixabay They are a wonderful tradition for breakfast there. And you may have noticed that they are entirely different from what we Brazilians usually eat for lunch or dinner.
American pancakes are thick, very fluffy, have a circular shape, and are usually served with fruit or syrup. It is also quite common to come with bacon, egg, and even chocolate.
Peanut butter, another particular item in the USA, is also very popular to accompany pancakes for breakfast, as well as jams, reinforcing the preference for high-calorie dishes in the morning.
Most American families have a recipe that is their version of the traditional Meatloaf, passed down from generation to generation.
Typically, Meatloaf is made with ground meat and spices and shaped into a bread shape using a mold. They are roasted and then covered with sauce or just ketchup. It can also be served with sauces or fillings.
Photo: Rita from PixabayThis dish became famous during the Great Depression when people were no longer financially well off. The Meatloaf takes Americans to their mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen.
It is a dish made of ground corn kernels and can be varied in its preparation and presentation. It is most commonly found in savory versions but can also be sweet.
A classic dish is shrimp and grits and a popular breakfast item in place of oats. Either way, they are entirely satisfactory, according to who consumes them.
Photo: Cayobo via Flickr [ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) ]waffles
This is another widespread item to see in series and films. Eleven from Stranger Things, for example, loves it.
It is a straightforward dish. The less favored ones do it using practically just flour and water. However, in families with better purchasing power, eggs, milk, and honey are added.
Photo: Jill Wellington from Pixabay The first ‘waffle irons,’ with the characteristic honeycomb pattern, appeared in a region where Belgium is now located, around the 1200s, when an artisan designed and forged kitchen irons.
The dough was poured into them, pressed, and cooked over a fire. Upon arriving in the United States, the old French word gunfire was initially translated into Old English as wafla and later became waffles.
It is unknown precisely the origin of the dish (only that it is European); however, waffle is one of the most consumed typical dishes in the United States, especially when we talk about breakfast.
Few things are more reminiscent of family vacations and camping trips than this classic American food.
Although the name sounds strange to us, it is straightforward and typical: add a generous layer of melted marshmallow to a cream cracker.
Place a piece of chocolate on top and cover with another cookie. Wait a little while until the chocolate melts. Ready!
Photo: StockSnap from PixabayYou probably have seen some group roasting marshmallows over a campfire. I just hadn’t noticed how they are eaten. This is a delicious snack for fans of sweet and sour food.
Have you noticed that in the United States, they love pumpkins? And I’m not just talking about Halloween decorations. They use a lot of pumpkin in cooking too.
Pumpkin pie (or Pumpkin Pie), for example, is always present on Thanksgiving. Its most common ingredients are pumpkin (here in Brazil, known as the Moringa type), nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and whipped cream.
Photo: Element5 Digital on UnsplashMany people do not know, but the pumpkins used on Halloween are used in these pies. After all, Thanksgiving day occurs a few weeks later.
French fries are also widely loved in the US, but a variation of the very popular accompaniment, especially in school cafeterias, is the Tater Tots.
They are recognized for their compact cylindrical shape and crispy cover/peel.
Photo: stu_spivack via Flickr [ Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ]
The name “tater tot” is a registered trademark of the American frozen food company Ore-Ida – a subsidiary of Heinz since 1965 – but has become so widely associated with food that it is often used as a generic term. “Tater” is short for potato.
Dumplings were invented in 1953 when the founders of Ore-Ida tried to figure out what to do with the remains of sliced potato chips.
They then chopped these chips, add flour and spices, then filled the mashed holes, and cut the mixture into small pieces.
Twinkies are a kind of ‘Ana Maria cookie’ from the USA. Initially, its filling was banana cream, but it changed to vanilla when bananas became scarce during World War II.
As if they were no longer delicious enough, the Texas State Fair started the fashion of frying them. Poured into hot oil or its original shape, Twinkies are loved.
Photo: WikimediaImages by Pixabay According to Hostess Cakes, the company that owns the marketing rights for the cookies, the treat was invented by bakery manager Jimmy Dewer in 1930.
On the way to presenting his idea, Dewer saw a poster for Twinkle Toe Shoes. With that, the lovely name was born – and the tasty sweet.
They were temporarily removed from the shelves between November 2012 and July 2013 – when Hostess filed for bankruptcy. They have remained firm and strong as favorites among typical American foods for breaks and snacks since they returned.
Legend has it that Reuben Kulakofsky, a Lithuanian-born Jewish trader and resident in Omaha, was the inventor of this sandwich during a poker game held at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago between 1920 and 1935.
The sandwich first gained local fame when it entered the Blackstone Hotel’s lunch menu, and its fame spread when a former hotel employee won a national contest with the recipe.
However, another version maintains that the sandwich’s creator was Arnold Reuben, the Jewish-German owner of the Reuben Delicatessen (1908–2001) in New York City.
Photo: Patrick via Flickr [ Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ]According to an interview with Craig Claiborne, Arnold Reuben created the “Reuben Special” around 1914.
Other versions still give Alfred Scheuing, chef at Reuben’s Delicatessen, and say he created the sandwich for Reuben’s son, Arnold Jr., in the 1930s.
Everyone agrees that the grilled canned beef sandwich with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian sauce, served between slices of rye bread, is delicious!
Other typical United States dishes
As we said at the beginning of the text, it is clear that we could mention several other typically American dishes and treats.
Brownies, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Fried Chicken, Cookies, Buffalo Wings … All these typical dishes from the United States have already become internationally famous. They are consumed in many other places, even here in Brazil.
We try to talk about the typical dishes of the United States that are more curious or even unknown here. Even so, if you missed the text here of any dish or treat that fits this group, please tell us here in the comments.
And of those who are here, which ones have you eaten? What’s your favorite? And which one did you not know but felt like trying on the next trip to the United States?