19 American Foods You Have to Try Before Die

Due to its long history of colonialism and immigration, the U.S. is home to many different cultures and cuisines and has developed some quintessential foods that are so delicious everyone should experience them. From regional specialties and fusion dishes to classic comfort food, here are the 19 iconic American dishes you simply must try before it’s too late!

Apple Pie

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The sweet simplicity of this all-American fruit-based dessert is hard to resist! A buttery, flaky pastry crust is filled with cooked apples, sugar, and spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. It is traditionally served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It comes in many variations, with different regions having their own signature takes on crust type, apple variety, and spices.


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Barbecuing is more than just a cooking method in America; it’s a cultural experience, and according to QSR Magazine, 95% of adults in the U.S. enjoy grilled meats. Whether it’s smoky, slow-cooked brisket from Texas or tangy vinegar-based pulled pork from North Carolina, each region boasts its own unique style and flavors—you simply have to try one, or all, of them!

Clam Chowder

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This creamy soup originates from New England and consists of a warm broth packed with clams, potatoes, onions, and sometimes bacon or salt pork. There are two main varieties: white chowder, made with milk or cream, and red chowder, which gets its color from tomatoes. Both are typically served in a bread bowl for an extra dose of deliciousness!


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This iconic sandwich hails from Philadelphia and features thinly sliced ribeye steak, melted cheese (Cheez Whiz or provolone), and grilled onions served on a long bread roll. Some people add mushrooms, peppers, or hot sauce, but the original combination is delicious enough to be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Buy one from a street vendor in Philly for an authentic experience!


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This spicy, hearty stew of ground beef, beans (kidney, pinto, or black), tomatoes, and a blend of spices is a versatile main course or side dish. Traditionally served with cornbread or tortillas, it is frequently topped with extras like sour cream, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. You can often request a spice level that suits your palate, too.   

Fried Chicken

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The origins of this popular southern food are contested, and the BBC says both Scottish and African immigrants claim to have imported it. Either way, it was made popular by West African people living in the South and is crispy, juicy, and flavorful. Succulent meat and a crispy, savory coating are essential; enjoy it solo or with mashed potatoes or biscuits and gravy.


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A soulful stew originating in Louisiana, gumbo is prepared with a base of roux (a mixture of fat and flour cooked together). It typically includes vegetables like okra and bell peppers alongside shellfish like shrimp and crab, and sometimes even chicken or sausage meat. Heavily influenced by Creole cuisine, it’s a hearty and delicious meal that’s traditionally served over rice.


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Most people have eaten a burger in some form, but have you tried an authentic American one? No one does hamburgers like restaurants in the U.S.—high-quality, ground beef patties served on sesame buns with various toppings, including (but not limited to) cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. An all-American gourmet burger is a must-try meal for anyone!

Lobster Roll

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New England is famous for its seafood creations, and lobster rolls are one of the most decadent treats on offer. They feature large chunks of fresh lobster meat lightly tossed in mayonnaise or butter, served in a toasted hot dog roll. While keeping it simple allows the subtle flavor of the lobster to shine, additions like celery, chives, or a touch of lemon juice are also popular.

Mac and Cheese

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According to a survey by YouGov, 80% of Americans enjoy this gooey, cheesy pasta dish, which is a classic comfort food. It’s prepared by combining macaroni noodles with a creamy cheese sauce (usually made with cheddar or a combination of cheeses) and then topped with breadcrumbs. It is infinitely customizable with extra vegetables or proteins.

New York-Style Pizza

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Italy may have invented pizza, but Italian immigrants in New York made it their own. Forget deep pan; pizza in the Big Apple is served in wide slices on a thin crust with plenty of cheese and a few simple toppings (such as pepperoni). The crust is strong enough to be folded, thus making the slice easy to eat on the go without breaking apart or losing any precious cheese!

Funnel Cake

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The carnival-style atmosphere of a state fair is perfect for trying a classic fried American dessert—the funnel cake! If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat—batter is piped into hot oil to make a light, airy pastry that is cooked until crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The whole thing is covered in powdered sugar and served warm. Delicious!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

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While finding one in a tourist hotspot might not be easy, you may be offered one when you visit an American home. This unusual sandwich is a lunchbox staple in the U.S. and a childhood favorite. Creamy peanut butter and sweet jelly (usually grape or strawberry) are spread on soft, white bread for a surprisingly satisfying combination of flavors.

Reuben Sandwich

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A hot and savory delight, the Reuben is made by placing corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread, then grilling the whole thing until the cheese melts and the bread is golden. History Nebraska asserts that it was invented by a Lithuanian grocer in Omaha and has since become a beloved deli staple across the country. 

Mud Pie

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If you like rich, decadent, and chocolatey desserts, you simply must try a Mississippi Mud Pie! Made with a chocolate cookie crust filled with creamy chocolate pudding and topped with fluffy whipped cream, it isn’t the most slimming option. Nevertheless, it’s guaranteed to please a chocoholic and has a wonderful combination of crunchy, smooth, and creamy textures.

Chicken Fried Steak

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This southern comfort food features a tenderized poultry cube steak smothered in seasoned flour and pan-fried until golden brown before being covered in creamy white gravy. It’s often served with mashed potatoes, green beans, and a buttermilk biscuit. It’s a substantial, tasty meal with simple ingredients that complement each other well.

Pot Roast

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This tender, home-cooked beef dish can’t be rushed, so you may have to cook it yourself or pre-order it at a specific restaurant. Typically, chuck roast is simmered in a slow cooker for several hours alongside vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery in a flavorful broth. The meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender while the vegetables soak up all the tasty juices.

Root Beer Float

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A quintessential American beverage, the root beer float is a simple combination of sassafras-flavored root beer and vanilla ice cream. The sweet, creamy ice cream, typically served to float on top, complements the fizzy, slightly spicy flavor of root beer, creating an unusual but deliciously refreshing treat, perfect for a hot summer’s day.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

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This sandwich has spread to other countries recently, but nothing beats the original U.S. version! Slow-cooked pork shoulder is covered in a tangy barbecue sauce and loaded onto a soft bun. It’s a southern staple that perfectly matches the smoky, savory barbecue flavors with the sweet, acidic taste of BBQ sauce. Consider asking for coleslaw or pickles for extra crunch!

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