It is said that america is the melting pot of the world. When it comes to food, this shines truer than ever. We can enjoy crepes for breakfast, grab some Cuban for lunch, and finish with some Chinese for dinner.
Additionally, when someone says “let’s grab some Mexican”, you already know what to expect. Tacos, quesadillas, burritos – the list goes on.
Every culture has its mainstay courses, its core entrees and staple side dishes. Some menus feel incomplete without them.
So below, we have listed the most iconic foods for America’s most popular food cultures / cuisines.
Cheeseburger & Fries
For better or worse, American cuisine is synonymous with the Cheeseburger. Throw in some fries and you have the epitome of iconic American food.
For a time, there were very few things more American than enjoying a Hot Dog at a baseball game. From barbeques, to cookouts, to eating contests, Hot Dogs are truly an American classic.
While not technically originating in America, Pizza is certainly heavily American associated, and deserving of a spot on its list.
Technically sushi has been around since 8th century AD, however it only has gotten popular in America since the late 1980s. So popular, that it grosses over 2 billion dollars per year, and things like the California Roll are common names.
While sushi is synonomus with Japanese food, ramen comes in a very close second. Even so much that to the untrained eye, many asian noodle soups are mistaken for it.
Honorable Mentions: Teriyaki, Udon, Takoyaki
From fast food places like Taco Bell to speciality Taquerias, tacos are quintessential to any mexican establishment.
The rise of restaurants like Chipotle, Moe’s, and Willy’s have proven that burritos are here to stay.
Whether it’s the standard chicken variety or a custom creation, the quesadilla is an ever popular choice, especially with children.
Honorable Mentions: Guacamole, Salsa, Enchiladas, Fajitas
Orange Chicken / General Tso’s / Kung Pao Chicken
Considered by many to be “American” Chinese food dishes, and rightfully so, as they’re almost non-existent in actual China. Regardless, it’s hard to go to an American Chinese restaurant and not find these on the menu.
Honorable Mentions: Stir Fry, Eggrolls, Fried Rice, Lo Mein, Dumplings
Lamb(or other meats) wrapped in pita bread and tzatziki sauce, the gyro has become a hit classic.
While traditionally made of lamb, kebabs can also be made from pretty much any meat that’s skewered, sometimes with additional vegetables / ingredients.
Honorable Mentions: Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma
CARIBBEAN / JAMAICAN
It would be hard to find a Jamaican restaurant that didn’t serve Jerk Chicken. Made with pimento and habinero, Jerk Chicken is tasty with a bit of heat.
On a cold day, a nice, hot bowl of pho can hit the spot. Like any soup, the broth plays a vital role, and with pho this is no exception. Rice noodles, soy bean sprouts and thinly sliced beef are also some of the key players here.
SOUTHERN / SOUL FOOD
Although clearly not first used or invented in the South, everyone can unanimously agree that fried chicken is as about as southern as it gets.
When traveling to a state like Louisiana, Georgia, or Alabama, locating fried Okra is not a difficult task.
Honorable Mentions: Fried Green Tomatoes, Cornbread, Gumbo, Grits
Spaghetti & Meatballs
As old as 5th century AD, Spaghetti is not only an Italian staple, but has become an American one as well.
Originating in the United States by Italian immigrants, Chicken Parmesan is much, much younger than Spaghetti, as it only became popular in the 1950’s.
Honorable Mentions: Ravioli, Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo
Althought it’s not technically a “dish”, some Koreans cannot eat a meal without Kimchi. Essentially fermented cabbage marinated in spices, Kimchi is extremely healthy.
Also not quite a single “dish”, Korean BBQ has become popular enough to warrant a spot on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Bulgogi, Bibimbap
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chunks of roasted marinated chicken combined with India’s famous curry is the foundation of this orange dish. The sauce is key here, and usually consists of tomatoes, cream, coconut cream and a variety of spices.
Apparently developed in the 1950’s by three restaurant owners, Butter Chicken has become an incredibly popular Indian dish.
Whether they are coupled with syrup, whipped cream, stawberries, Nutella or more, Crepes are a welcomed and iconic French dish.
Honorable Mentions: Souffle, French Onion Soup, RataTouille
The Cuban Sandwich
From Havana Sandwich Shops to places like Jimmy John’s, it’s clear that people like Cuban Sandwiches. Although debated on what a “true” version is, most include sliced roast pork, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles, among other ingredients.
Honorable Mentions: Empanadas, Tamales, Fried Yucca, Plantains