Global diets vary greatly depending on cultural preferences, cooking techniques, climate, and the availability of ingredients. Yet some foods and drinks seem to transcend these borders and are ubiquitously adored the world over. Here, we discover the 19 most consumed foods across the globe and explore what makes each one so universally popular.
This dietary staple has been feeding humans for thousands of years. The World Population Review states, “Over 50% of the world’s population relies on rice in their daily diet—providing roughly 20% of the world’s calories.” From basmati rice with Indian curry to sticky rice in Japanese sushi, this tiny grain is the world’s most significant source of carbohydrates.
As any celiac will sadly tell you, wheat flour is in almost everything—bread, pasta, cake, biscuits, breakfast cereals, and more! Statista says that super-versatile wheat is the second most produced grain in the world (after rice), with global production reaching over 778 million metric tons in 2022.
Recent research shows that corn, or maize, is eaten in 160 countries worldwide and is particularly popular in the Americas. Native Americans have been cultivating corn on the plains for centuries, and today, it remains an essential ingredient in many foods, including Mexican tortillas, Italian polenta, and cornbread from the southern U.S.
More carbohydrates! These root vegetables are a type of tuber grown and loved all over the world. Renowned for being hearty and versatile, potatoes are a staple of many global diets, particularly in cooler, wetter climates like northern Europe (Ikisan). Whether mashed, baked, fried, or roasted, they feature in many different dishes worldwide.
It’s not hard to see why bananas are one of the world’s most eaten fruits—they’re sweet, filling, and perfectly packaged. Plus, EatingWell says, “They’re a good source of potassium, antioxidants, and fiber.” A favorite lunch-box item, bananas are also made into desserts and smoothies or dried to create a long-lasting snack.
These versatile red fruits originated in South America but have since become a popular ingredient in almost every cuisine worldwide, including Italian, Indian, and Mexican recipes. Used in sauces for curries, pizzas, and pasta, as well as salads and condiments, they bring vibrant color and a tangy, robust flavor to every dish.
Apples are a sweet and easy snack and a key ingredient in pies, salads, and various desserts. According to Healthline, they’re also highly nutritious, with high levels of soluble fiber and vitamins. No wonder, then, that several varieties are popular globally, including Gala, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Bramley.
Any cook will tell you that many great recipes start by frying onions, serving as a flavorful and cheap way to bulk out any meal. Despite their often overpowering savory flavor and propensity to generate tears when cut, they remain popular both cooked and raw in foods such as sauces, salads, and soups.
A significant source of protein the world over, beef is meat derived from cattle farming that is made into all kinds of products, from steak and burgers to mince and stew. Beef2live reports that the U.S. is the highest consumer of beef worldwide, closely followed by China, Brazil, the E.U., and India.
Eggs are a bit like wheat—many people don’t realize how many food products they’re in until they check. Predominantly harvested from poultry hens, eggs are a nutritious, high-protein food used as a breakfast staple and a versatile ingredient in everything from cakes and cookies to mayonnaise and salad.
Milk from cattle is a dietary staple in many parts of the world, particularly in cooler climates with grasslands suitable for dairy farming. It is enjoyed fresh, in various drinks, or fermented to make other products like cheese and yogurt. It is also an ingredient in many sweet treats, including milk chocolate, ice cream, cakes, and cheesecake.
SOSFaim states that chicken is the second most eaten meat on the planet, after beef. It’s not only relatively cheap to produce but also versatile and lean—frequently considered the healthiest meat due to its low-fat content. Chicken features in thousands of recipes, from pies and casseroles to fajitas and burgers.
Soybeans are a protein-rich legume used to make tofu, soy sauce, and other soy-based products. Unsurprisingly, they’re most popular in traditional Asian cuisines but have since gained worldwide popularity as an alternative to meat and are being processed into products such as plant-based burgers, no-chicken nuggets, and soya mince.
Despite being shunned by certain religions, meat from pigs remains the third most popular meat worldwide. Pork is found in dishes like sausages, burgers, minced meat, ham, chops, and bacon and has a regional variation in almost every country it’s eaten in, from German bratwurst to Chinese char siu.
Whether grilled, fried, or served raw as sushi, fish is a dietary staple for many coastal regions and island nations worldwide, including Europe, Japan, and China. Most fish is low in fat but high in protein and highly nutritious, so it’s an excellent health food. The wide variety, from Scandinavian salmon to Pacific tuna, also makes fish a popular choice.
Tea in multiple varieties (like green, black, rooibos, or herbal) are hot-water infusions, particularly popular in Turkey, the U.K., and Ireland (Yahoo Finance). Although not strictly a food, it holds cultural significance in countries like China and the United Kingdom, where it is claimed to bring health benefits and emotional comfort, as well as refreshment.
This deliciously sweet treat made from cacao beans is a beloved indulgence worldwide—used in candy bars, confectionaries, desserts, and beverages. While it’s most popular in and around countries with dairy cows, its flavor is so well-loved that chocolate is now eaten in every country in the world, although it’s less prevalent in Asian countries like China and India.
Originating in South America, the cherished coffee bean is revered for its rich, dark, bitter flavor coupled with an addictive caffeine boost. For many Americans, coffee is an integral part of daily life, and many U.S. citizens own their own coffee machines. It’s also enjoyed in European countries such as Italy and Greece as espressos, lattes, frappes, and more!
This much-adored food comes in many forms, from mild rubbery mozzarella to creamy edam and tangy cheddar. For regions with a history of dairy farming, cheese appears in many national dishes, including Swiss fondue, Italian pizza, American mac ‘n’ cheese, and Greek cheese pies. Yum!
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