The history and origins of American cuisine are fascinating and varied. Americans have an eclectic taste, from hamburgers, grilled food, hot dogs, steak served with cheese, salad, sauce, and much more.
We've created this guide to American cuisine so you can learn in just a few minutes of reading about the history, the cooks, the dishes, the easy recipes, and more.
In this guide, you will find information about the origins of American cuisine, some of the most popular dishes and desserts like Thanksgiving dinner, fast-food culture, some of the popular restaurants (not exactly restaurants with three Michelin stars), and the food in the different regions of the country.
Keep in mind that learning about culinary traditions isn't always an easy topic, which is why this guide is separated into different sections for your better understanding.
Continue reading for just a couple of minutes to wrap your head around all the diverse backgrounds of the culinary world in America.
Origins of USA Cuisine
There are three major influences in the American cuisine style, the Native American ways of eating, new ways introduced by the English cooking during the colonial period, and immigrant influences during the modern era.
The base of Native American food was based on three ingredients, corn, beans, and squash. As for meat, the Native American diet was based on deer, elk, bison, rabbits, and hare of every kind. Many of their recipes are still cooked and eaten across the United States.
During the colonial time, the foods that the English liked to cook and eat were almost always a recipe from their nation. Whenever they couldn't replicate recipes they would work out a way to adapt their food as much as possible.
For example, bread was a big part of the English diet, but wheat was hard to find and impossible to produce in America so they replaced it with corn and cornmeal.
The same happened with recipes that needed an oven to cook a meal (like meat or pies), so they figured to heat of rock and cook the food on the heated rocks.
The post-colonial period was marked by the creation of famous American dishes and foods such as peanut butter, popcorn, hamburgers, pancakes, hot dogs, cola, fried chicken, cornbread, muffins, pie, and brownies.
With globalization, many of the regional restaurants and recipes started to spread and get served in different places in the country. Immigrants also played a big role in creating modern American cuisine.
After World War I, as the United States became a world power, people from around the world strived to come to America and fulfill their "American dream".
This resulted in the opening of many restaurants and the immigration of many chefs especially to city hubs like New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and so on.
Ever wondered what are the roots of American food? Read about it the origins of American cuisine.
Top USA Dishes and Desserts
Americans have an eclectic and varied style and taste in food and their most popular dishes are the perfect examples of this.
The most common American dish has to be Thanksgiving dinner (we are aware it is not a dish but it is so popular that we had to mention it).
The dinner usually consists of turkey (roasted, deep-fried, or grilled), served with dressing (bread or cornbread, onion, and celery, sausage, fruit, chestnuts), cranberry sauce, corn, mashed and sweet potatoes, that funky green bean casserole with the French-fried onion rings on top, salad, and of course, pumpkin pie.
Americans usually have a very salty tooth, therefore salt is an important part of all of their cooking process.
Another famous and popular dish, one you can find on the street market or at a chef's table, is the cheeseburger. Cooks from all over the world have learned to cook this American staple and we should thank its existence for a happy accident.
The chef who created the cheeseburger accidentally burned a side of the meat he was cooking and decided to cover it up with a piece of cheese, without knowing that he had just created one of the world's most famous dishes.
Another iconic dish is the Philly cheesesteak, a greasy and tasty sandwich that has steak and cheese inside a locally made bun with a staple sauce.
The best desserts that people love are those that include chocolate, cream, a crunchy crust, or a fruity taste. That's why the most popular desserts beloved not only by Americans are: the blueberry cobbler, the chocolate chip cookie, and the campfire favorite, s'mores.
You will be able to find most of this food in any American restaurant, and if you're looking for more formal and high-end food you should research renowned chefs with Michelin stars.
Feel like cooking? Learn more about the top USA dishes and desserts.
Fast Food Culture
When you hear fast food you probably think of hamburgers, maybe McDonald's, and fast-food restaurant chains.
However, there is more to the fast-food culture and history than just the burger places. Fast food is "mass-produced food" designed to satisfy the urgent needs of the life and work of corporate America through the use of "speed service".
The concept of "on the go" is the basis that helped build the fast-food industry. Fast food chains would market their services for corporate America.
Restaurants saw an opportunity to offer food to those who were "too busy to eat" by making the prime asset of their service offering a "time-saving meal".
However, there are a lot of critics around fast-food and fast-food culture due to health concerns and some other issues. Americans have grown accustomed to eating easy meals which are prepared fast, but now people are starting to pay attention to all these concerns.
Obesity is one of the health issues that get more attention when it comes to criticism of fast food because it is the most visible way these foods hurt the human body.
Learn more about American cuisine and fast food culture.
Famous restaurants with Local Dishes in the US
Whether you are looking for chefs and restaurants with Michelin stars, popular places to eat, or delicious food you can try, you should continue reading and check out these famous restaurants with local dishes in the US and work on crossing them off your list of places to visit.
You can find the most delicious fried chicken, original forms of eating pizza, lift a rock and find a grill house, a steakhouse, a burger served with french fries, a restaurant opened 24/7, or a bar-restaurant, and find the most diverse menu, all in any one city and one country.
There are many fast-food chains like Taco Bell, Chipotle, Subway, Pizza Hut, KFC, Arby's, Sbarro's, and much more. All of these (and many others) are very successful across the United States due to their ability to mix great foods and fast serving.
Many American restaurant chains offer full-table sitting like T.G.I Friday's, Applebee's, The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, Hard Rock Cafe, Johnny Rockets, and more.
As for hamburger restaurants, the list is endless but you could try In-N-Out on the west coast, Five Guys, White Castle, Sonic, Big Boy, Jack in the Box, and more.
Whether you like your food served at a formal three Michelin start restaurant or through a drive-through, there are plenty of options for restaurants in the US.
USA Regions and Their Dishes
American culinary diversity became what we know today due to many different factors.
The size of the country, the different indigenous tribes of Native Americans that lived in the country, how it got colonized, and the influence of human movement and immigrants are some of the factors that contribute to the food diversity in the country.
American food tends to vary in each region. It is hard to expect one type of traditional meal to dominate in the entire territory due to its size.
This is why the different types of dishes are spread out and divided into the country's different regions. Read and learn about US regions and their dishes.