20 American foods you have to try

Eleanor Aldridge

written by
Eleanor Aldridge

updated 30.07.2019

Deep pan pizza, Illinois

Banish ideas of the soggy deep-dish pizzas that crop up in the UK. A Chicago original is a different thing entirely. The olive oil and cornmeal crust is part-baked before being filled with cheese, tomato sauce, meats and a variety of other toppings, or rather fillings. Numerous restaurants claim to serve the Windy City’s best.

Chicago style deep dish cheese pizza with tomato sauce

Cobb salad, California

The cobb salad was reportedly invented by the catchily-named Bob Cobb, proprietor of the Brown Derby in Hollywood, in the late 1930s. This now-classic mix of lettuce, tomato, chicken, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, bacon and cheese was supposedly his late-night leftover snack. Whether or not the story is true, the salad has made its way onto menus the world over with a host of variations and extra ingredients.

Healthy Cobb salad with chicken, bacon, tomato, onions and eggs

Green Chile Stew, New Mexico

This is the best way to make New Mexico’s green chiles shine and you’ll find it served across the state, notably in the chile heartland of the Hatch Valley. The star of the dish, of course, is locally-grown and roasted fresh chile. Other additions might include tomatoes, potatoes, garlic and beef or pork.


© Solphoto/Shutterstock

Lobster Roll, Maine

Making the perfect lobster roll is a fine art. The hot-dog bun can be plain, steamed or toasted, mayo can be substituted for melted butter and then there’s the choice between tail and claw. Whatever you choose, this sandwich can’t be bettered beside the Atlantic on a summer day.


Lobster on a roll. Photo: © Margoe Edwards/Shutterstock

Maple Syrup, Vermont

Canada might lay claim to the maple leaf emblem, but Vermont produces some fine maple syrup. Produce from the state accounts for over five percent of the global market and Vermont is the largest producer in the USA. Visit in March to catch the sap being collected from hundred-year-old trees.

20 American foods you have to try: Grades Of Vermont Maple Syrup, USA.

© Eric Dale/Shutterstock

Shrimp and grits, South Carolina

Festivals don’t get much more niche than the World Grits Festival, held each spring in Saint George, South Carolina. But then this corn-based dish is part of the state’s classic recipe: shrimp and grits, traditionally eaten at breakfast. The grits are usually cooked in stock or milk, flavoured with butter then topped with the seafood.


© Diane Uhley/Shutterstock

Bourbon, Kentucky

Although it can be made anywhere in the USA, around 95 per cent of bourbon is produced in the Bluegrass State. Known as "America’s Native Spirit", this barrel-aged booze was named after Kentucky’s Bourbon County and has been made here for over two centuries. Today the Bourbon Trail attracts over half a million visitors each year.

Ready for your trip to the United States? With so many places to travel, it can be difficult to choose. Don't miss our guide to the top states to visit in the USA.

Rocky mountain oysters, Montana

Don’t get tricked into thinking you’re eating seafood. A Rocky Mountain oyster is a floured and deep-fried calf’s testicle. Sometimes going under the pseudonyms "prairie oysters" or "cowboy caviar", they’re mostly served up for tourists these days but originated as a way to use up the side products of castrating calves each spring.


© Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

Philadelphia cheesesteak, Pennsylvania

Philly’s Pat Olivieri, founder of Pat's Steaks, reportedly invented the cheesesteak in 1930. This sandwich is all about pure unadulterated gluttony: sliced browned steak and mounds of oozing provolone (or the disarmingly orange Cheez Whiz sauce) stuffed into a crusty roll, often with some onions to top it off.

Homemade Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich with Onions and Peppers

Beignets, Louisiana

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to the sticky tables of Café du Monde, the irrefutable home of these doughy, deep-fried and powdered sugar-covered treats. Officially the state doughnut of Louisiana and aped all around the world, classically they’re simple deep fried choux, but can have fillings like fruit or chocolate.

French doughnuts Beignet covered with sugar powder

Clam chowder, Massachusetts

Boston is the undisputed destination to try creamy New England clam chowder, classically made with clams, potatoes, celery, onions and cream or milk. Note that the tomatoes you might find in a New York chowder are strictly forbidden. There’s even an annual Chowderfest – now entering its 33rd year – where restaurants vie to be crowned the best.

20 American foods you have to try: Clam chowder, USA.

© Cindy Goff/Shutterstock

Iced tea, Georgia

Ordering tea in Georgia won’t get you a cuppa. Tea here comes iced, sweet and with a wedge of lemon, often in jumbo servings. Sugar is added while the tea brews, while flavourings such as peach and lemon are optional extras later on. It might rot your teeth, but it’s definitely addictive.


© Lynne Ann Mitchell/Shutterstock

Key lime pie, Florida

Making use of Florida’s glut of key limes – sometimes known as Mexican limes – key lime pie traditionally mixes lime juice, condensed milk and egg yolks. The recipe has been traced back to the 1850s and has today become an emblem of the Sunshine State. The graham cracker crust is non-negotiable, but debate still rages on toppings of whipped cream or meringue.

A slice of key lime pie

Fry bread was named the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005 and this simple dough, fried or deep-fried in oil or lard, is one of the best-known Native American foods. It can be eaten plain, as a breakfast food or turned into a "Navajo taco" with a topping of mince, salad and cheese.

navajo-fried bread-honey-arizona-shutterstock_1039076284

© Qin Xie/Shutterstock

Smoked salmon, Alaska

Alaska is famous for more than just Sarah Palin, bears and snowmobiles. The USA’s most northerly state is also known for its wild Pacific salmon (farming is prohibited). Smoking was introduced as a method of preserving the fish over winter, but today allows Alaskan lox to be shipped around the world.

20 American foods you have to try: Smoked salmon.

© Joerg Beuge/Shutterstock

Hushpuppies, Virginia

No, we’re not talking about shoes. Hushpuppies are deep-fried cornmeal and buttermilk dumplings, often served with fried chicken or catfish. They have humble origins: popular across the South since the time of the Civil War, they were supposedly invented as a cheap treat to quieten the dogs at mealtimes.

Homemade deep fried hush puppy corn fritters

Sugar-cream pie, Indiana

It’s hard to go wrong with a dessert based around these two-ingredients. The only addition might be some flour or an egg before the mix is poured into a pre-baked pie case. Also known as Hoosier pie, this specialty of Indiana even has a tourist trail named in its honour.

20 American foods you have to try: Sugar Pie.

© Tatiana Vorona/Shutterstock

Barbecue, Texas

In Texas barbecue is all about beef. Forget bibles, the Lone-Star State is home to the brisket belt of America. The cut is usually slathered in a dry rub of cayenne pepper, salt, herbs and other spices before hitting the smoker. This huge chunk of cow, which comes from the underside of the chest, needs slow cooking.

20 American foods you have to try: texas style bbq.

© Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Ahi Poke, Hawaii

If you’re a fan of ceviche and sashimi, try Hawaii’s classic starter of ahi poke (pronounced "poh-keh", meaning to cut). The recipe is simple: raw ahi (yellowfin tuna) marinated in soy sauce, salt and chilli. Variants include swapping the tuna for octopus (tako poke) or adding ingredients like ginger, spring onion and seaweed.


© bonchan/Shutterstock

Pastrami, New York

This popular cured beef sandwich filling originated in Romania and was bought to the States in the 1800s. It’s thought that "pastrami" derives from a Yiddish word appropriated with an Italian inflection. One of the best places to try it is in a sandwich from Katz’s Deli, who have a slew of awards to back up the claim that theirs is the "original and the best".


© Stocksnapper/Shutterstock

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