USA & Canada | Food

Traditional American food: 10 dishes the USA do best

Recently updated on June 6th, 2022 at 02:25 pm

While you might imagine face-sized burgers, mile-high mountains of chips and salads the size of forests – (and you wouldn’t be wrong) – there’s more than meets the eye with traditional American food. From ‘bacon-egg-cheese’ bagels to creamy clam chowders and addictive apple pies, there are dishes in the mouths (and hearts) of all Americans that simply don’t get tastier anywhere else.

Traditional American foods to make your taste buds tingle

Buffalo chicken wings

Did you know 1.42 billion chicken wings are devoured every Superbowl Sunday? Chances are a large chunk come in Buffalo-style: deep-fried from raw and lathered in a cayenne pepper-type hot sauce. Deliciously addictive. Traced back to 1960’s Buffalo, New York, these gooey, sticky delights normally come with carrot and celery sticks. Plus a ranch or blue cheese dressing to dip into. Time to crack open a cold beer and enjoy?

Deep-dish ‘Chicago-style’ pizza

Back in 1943, two Chicago-based pizza lovers created a pizza like no other. The Chicago deep dish boasted a thick and deep crust hugely different from the thin-crusted Neapolitan-style pizzas of the time. The result was a taller pizza that allowed extra room for toppings and sauce. So if you’re yet to try a Chicago deep dish, know that it’s not to be rushed and gobbled up hastily on-the-go. A knife and fork are often required to tuck into this mouth-watering monster. Question is: are you up to it?

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Bacon, egg and cheese bagel

Got a busy day ahead? Or need to cure a killer hangover? Either way, the bacon egg and cheese bagel is the answer to every morning situation. This finger-licking traditional American food will inject positivity into your morning and rocket-fuel you well past lunch time. Prepare to roll your eyes back in pleasure on one bite and say ‘yes please!’ to ‘bacon-egg-cheese’.


Ahh… ‘it’s good to be home!’ This is regularly said mid-mouthful full of Mom’s homemade meatloaf at family gatherings. Tastier than it looks, it’s made of ground cold meat (usually beef), seasoned and served in slices. Amazingly, the first recorded meatloaf recipe comes from the 1870’s, and upon tasting you’ll realise why it’s never left American hearts since. An example of a traditional American food that’s stood the test of time.

Clam chowder

Born in the New England region in the 1800’s, clam chowder is a hearty favourite across the country. Full of briny flavour, it’s a creamy clam soup containing milk, salt pork, potatoes, butter onions, tomatoes and garlic. In fact: it’s so set in American food culture that regional varieties compete for the best version. For example, in New England the broth is white (cream-based), while in Manhattan it’s a red tomato broth.

Fluffy American pancakes

These fluffy pillows of deliciousness are the ultimate comfort food craving. And nowhere are they more heavenly and soft than in the USA. Why? Because American pancakes use raising flour which means pancakes pile high to the ceilings of brunch shops and home kitchens. Needless to say, they’re hugely popular and any newcomer to the USA must drizzle syrup over a pancake stack as an American food culture rite of passage. For toppings: choose between blueberries, strawberries, Nutella or lemon juice – and sink your teeth in for an unforgettable bite.

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Mac ‘N’ Cheese

Sticky, gooey, bubbly macaroni and cheese. Does it get more self-indulgent than this? USA Former President Thomas Jefferson was so awe-struck by macaroni during his visit to Paris that he brought some back to America in 1793. Today, the fascination remains for piping hot macaroni pasta coated in cheddar cheese (baked in the oven) because it leaves all with a warm glow inside. Cheese-lovers take note: this is a traditional American food you can’t skip.

The hot dog

Sausage in a bun – a ‘hot dog’ – has become a cherished part of American food culture. And different states have adapted their own version of a sausage in a long bun as a point of pride. From New York’s mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut and onions toppings to Cincinnati’s ‘chilli dog’ of chilli, onion and shredded cheddar – there’s a dog for everyone. Equally fitting for a celebration or lazy Sunday, the hot dog deserves a spot on every traveller’s finger-licking food list.

Philly’ cheese steak

Originating in Philadelphia, the ‘Philly cheese steak’ sandwich has become a traditional American food classic. Succulent slices of steak are placed in a lightly toasted roll. Then comes the American cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms and mayonnaise. What’s left is the perfect mixture of decadent and delicious, salty and creamy. Yes, you’ll need to grab a napkin because this is mouth-wateringly good. And a little messy.

Apple Pie

Heard of the phrase ‘as American as apple pie’? Hot apple pie has become an adopted symbol of America and must-try dessert. It’s made of layers of warm cooked apples and pastry, a butter crust, cinnamon and nutmeg spices and a sprinkle of sugar. Oh, and remember to add a healthy dollop of ice cream.

Have these traditional American food dishes got your tastebuds tingling? Tell us your favourite in the comments below!

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