The Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

Photo: Emdot

When it comes to food, America gets a bad rap. It’s a common refrain that America has no cuisine to call our own. We’ve got apple pie and hot dogs, but that’s about it. (And when you really get down to it, the Germans invented hot dogs, and the British were eating apple pie like 1,000 years ago.)

But the truth is, America does have a cuisine to call it’s own. Over the past 232 years we’ve invented some of the most creative, daring, and yes, downright craziest dishes the world has ever seen. Sure, they can be overly greasy, a little too cheesy, and sometimes fried a few times too many. But they’re ours. So to celebrate Independence Day, we’ve put together this list of the best foods that only a country with just the right combination of greed, grit, and gluttony could have possibly dreamed up.

The Top Ten Foods Only America Could Have Invented:

10. Corn Dog
Photo: Intangible Arts

In 1942, at a beautiful place called the Texas State Fair, an industrious young man named Neil Fletcher came up with a way to make his hot dogs sell quicker: dip them in corn meal, deep fry ’em, and pop ’em on a stick. And so an American tradition was born. Every year, as the weather turns warmer and state fair season comes around, Americans say to themselves: what can we deep fry next? We’ve deep fried twinkies, oreos, hamburgers, even coca-cola. But all of these wondrous achievements owe a debt to the original food that really didn’t need to be battered and fried but just had to be: the corn dog.

9. Philly Cheesesteak
Photo: x-eyedblonde

Only Philadelphia, the most American of all cities, could invent an iconic sandwich and then vehemently insist that there shall be no attempts to make it good. Crappiest ingredients only, please. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell explained problems non PA-ers have when trying to make cheesesteaks: “First, they use good meat. You need the fattiest, stringiest meat to get a proper taste.” The second mistake, of course, is that you’ve got to use Cheese Whiz; no real cheese allowed. Rendell insists this is became “real cheese doesn’t melt,” which is of course a lie. But never matter. The Philly Cheesesteak is delicious. Would it be more delicious if it were made with thinly slice Kobe steak and melted Gruyere? Of course it would be. But it wouldn’t be as amazing.

8. “Chinese Food”
Photo: VirtualEm

One of the great things about American cuisine is that when we come up with something so outrageous that even we can’t stand behind it, we figure out a way to pin it on someone else. Case in point: “Chinese Food.” All across America, Chinese buffets offer endless arrays of beautiful, deep-fried, grease-soaked food. General Tso’s chicken, chop suey, egg rolls, chow mein, fortune cookies. What do all these dishes have in common? They were all invented in America. Seriously people, do you really think Chinese people eat this crap? No. They eat rice. With vegetables and maybe a little meat. And it’s not battered or fried, or double fried, or double battered, and it’s certainly not filled with cheese. I mean, crab rangoon? Come on, that stuff has imitation crab meat and cream cheese. It could only have been invented in one place, and I think you know where that is.

7. S’mores
Photo: Phil Hawksworth

It’s difficult to say exactly how s’mores became so popular throughout America. Graham crackers are not particularly well-liked, and neither are marshmallows. We generally do not enjoy eating things that were cooked on a stick our little brother just found in the dirt, nor do we usually like to burn our food to a crisp before dinnertime. Yet somehow, s’mores just work. Despite their cutesy contraction of a name, and the fact that we have to actually cook and assemble them ourselves, rather than order them from a fast food window, I’ve yet to meet a person who does not love s’mores. Except for foreigners, who will look at you like you are the craziest person ever if you try to explain what a s’more is.

6. Reuben Sandwich
Photo: kimberlykv

This fully-loaded sandwich may seem like an international delicacy, but the reuben is as American as it gets. Start with pastrami–a meat so infused with spices that it has more flavor in a single bite than most full meals. Pile this sky-high, preferably using at least a pound of meat per sandwich. Add on some “swiss” cheese–a bland, hole-y cheese that no actual Swiss person would ever touch. Top it off with “Russian dressing,” a beautiful orange mayonnaise concoction that–you guessed it–hasn’t a thing to do with Russia.

Next: Top 5 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

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  • Marsh-mellow April 13, 2009  

    Marshmallows are not “particularly well-liked?” Where did you get that from?? This is blasphemy!

  • Kyle H. May 2, 2009  

    Where’s fried chicken? Nothing wrong with whats up there, but fried chicken is very American, as well as grits.

  • christina May 7, 2009  

    that’s the faces of death!!
    look at that… all pure fatness…
    (no offense…)

  • Marcelle June 1, 2009  

    What about meat loaf? Sure it’s two words that shouldn’t really be in the same sentence, but it’s got to be American.

  • blahblah June 30, 2009  

    “Mexican food”. Combine the Chinese food entry and the salad entry = TACO SALAD.

  • Jyllian August 10, 2009  

    This article is a bit mean-spirited. America has produced some delicious cuisine. Even some of the items listed here, though obviously unhealthy, are quite delightful. Who doesn’t like buffalo wings? Seriously?

  • Sarah September 6, 2009  

    HAHAHA…looking at those pics of American food, uuhhmmm greasy. Now, Obama has to really push harder on making sure that every Americans has to have a health insurance.

  • Eloka October 1, 2009  

    God no wonder why so many of you are fat, I heard you people deep fry mars bars and butter!!! I am not surprised now. SHIT!

  • Mia October 1, 2009  

    If you deep fry it you can call it your own hey? Is that what Americans are going for? hahahahaha I hate to think what Americans arteries look like.

  • Tim October 1, 2009  

    Do you guys just put cheese on everything then wonder why you have health issues?

  • JoeHoya October 1, 2009  

    Nice try, Eloka…but deep-fried Mars Bars were invented by the Scots and perfected by the Irish long before they made their way here.

    Good luck even finding a basic Mars Bar in the US these days…

    As for all of these other “aren’t the Americans foolish” comments – I notice none of you bothered to brag about the health food options where you’re from.

    Could it be because EVERY cuisine has food items that the rest of the world can laugh at for their unhealthiness?

  • freya October 24, 2009  

    I agree with Gerald – the ‘Garbage Plate’ (although from what I remember, it involved much more greasy meat) from Rochester definitely needs to be on this list. And, there’s no question that it was invented in America =)

  • Olam November 27, 2009  

    A good article, but I must interject that they are not “Buffalo” wings. They are called chicken wings, and they were first made in Buffalo, NY. We don’t have much to be proud of, so we’ll defend that to the end of time.

  • name November 27, 2009  

    We get it. You hate America. But try and get your facts straight before you go on a moronic rant.

  • Julian December 1, 2009  

    And you wonder why most americans can’t see their own feet….
    who deep fried coca cola? what was the dish?

  • Pingback: The Top 10 ES Posts of 2009 | Endless Simmer December 30, 2009  
  • Jeff January 4, 2010  

    “The Philly Cheesesteak is delicious. Would it be more delicious if it were made with thinly slice Kobe steak and melted Gruyere? Of course it would be. But it wouldn’t be as amazing.”

    Than it wouldn’t be a Philly Cheesestake…It would be a Kobe steak and melted Gruyere, on a baguette, with a side of douche bag.

  • Kris R. January 12, 2010  

    They are totally buffalo wings. 😛

  • Kris R. January 12, 2010  

    Also, I like “American Food” but It really is bad for people! Especially in huge portions. Americans do need to get more healthy and eat better food, but its okay to have unhealthy food- just in very rarely, and if someone wants to be unhealthy, that is up to them… I won’t judge.

  • crazysquid January 30, 2010  

    What the Author has failed to mention is that almost all the items listed have some europ. heritage. Most of the fattiest foods actually derive from old slave recipes. They were only given the poorest cuts of meats and the meager of spices and flavorings. But as Americans, we just take things too damn far.

  • crazysquid January 30, 2010  

    To Kris R.
    Some people have to be over weight and unhealthy and die at a young age. I am not being cruel and sadistic in the next point, but absolutely realistic.
    The whole economy and infrastructure of the world is based on death. Would you want to get a low paying job that there is no chance of promotion for 200 years, because nobody dies for 5 or 6 hundred years? Of course not. Thomas Jefferson wrote something to the effect that slavery will never be fully dissolved without death of the for bearers. It took until almost all the “Slave Owner Minded” peoples (Old Slave Owners and Their direct Kin) to die off before Equal Rights became a full reality in the United States. So let them eat Turducken and baked Alaska chased down with a heaping bowl of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice cream so some one else can move up the corp. ladder.

  • crazysquid January 30, 2010  

    So now i find that I sort of have to defend the culinary virtues of my country.
    Asians do not eat any better off health wise than we do. I give you a good example. Freakin’ poisonous Puffer Fish. Come on. How is that anymore healthy for you than a Big Mac. At least with a Big mac, you have a fighting chance. Sure, it’ll kill you, but not until your at least done with desert.
    Now, if you still want to believe that the Asian People of the world shy away from our customary deep fried origins, then check out this tid-bit of a web site.
    then scroll down a few frames and check out the vendors wares. So much for chop suey being bad for you. I doubt that she fried all those gastronomical nightmares in some ancient Chinese secret oils.
    Let those without cholesterol cast the first cardiac arrest.

  • 'Nuff Said February 10, 2010  

    I know that we’re all lard asses, but I think we need to look at the stuff they’re making in the other fatty nations. Someone needs to set up an international gastronomic nightmares page (or at least one I’ll Stumble on in the next five seconds). Although, there’s always “This Is Why You’re Fat”. . .

  • Irene February 23, 2010  

    I’m not actually from America…I’m from Ireland and I was doing a project with my friend on America’s food so I went online to try and find something, and then, naturally, I looked at the comments. I expected to see people putting up stuff like, LOL and ROFL and stuff..but mostly it was just sour remarks. WHAT IS WRONG WITH U PEOPLE! DON’T YOU SEE THE FUNNY SIDE OF THIS WHOLE THING!? I was seriosuly laughing my head of at the food descriptions. The one about the insane Turducken seriosuly cracked me up! XD

  • cade March 9, 2010  

    i thought some of it was amusing, and I’m from the u.s.

    it wasn’t clever enough to be quite lol funny to me though. On the flip side I was not offended either, especially since the author is American. People will always make fun of other countries, but we should really take a second to get on the right side here. Stupid fat Americans (with more scientists than any country in the world I might add), Canadians with their hockey and kraft dinner, and Europeans with there bad teeth should all be comrades. There are way worse people out there that need made fun of, you know, the ones that habitually kill members of all these areas.

  • amy April 3, 2010  


  • Katy April 18, 2010  

    So… How can CHINESE food be “American” food??? It originates in CHINA and I can tell you that every Chinese restaurant I have been to, that has people so Chinese I can barely understand what they say when you order anything, and I see them eat that food. Not everyone in America eats a Turducken, you can only get them in certain places unless you make it yourself. Who the hell actually makes s’mores on a regular basis??? NO ONE. They are made when you are having a campfire and it’s cold outside… AND that’s the only Cobb Salad I have ever seen in my life that doesn’t have any lettuce under it. I could make a better list of awesome American food, in my sleep.

  • shelby May 22, 2010  

    The food is all delicious!!!!!

  • Jess June 21, 2010  

    Ha, this is great! I don’t care what the other reviewers have to say, I think this is hilarious and fits a lot of the ridiculous American-made foods to a T!

  • Sasha July 4, 2010  

    american food is the best tasting by far. it may be the unhealthiest but for most people, taste is more important anyway. my father lived on steaks, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, coffee, ice cream, sodas and some beer and he lived until the ripe old age of 92 without a wheel chair and with a smile on his face. I have also seen people who eat very healthy and exercise who died young due to health issues. live a good decent life, eat moderately and have fun, and your chances for a long life are improved.

  • Carmen July 6, 2010  

    People love to make fun of American food but they sure are gobbling it up around the globe. We have some of the best foods around and have invented lots of great dishes here. You can eat smores, turkunken, twinkies, doritos, baked alaska, etc. if you want but you can also eat grass-fed bison burgers, home-made mashed potatoes, sauteed organic vegetables and ice-cream too. That’s also American food.

  • JianYun July 7, 2010  

    Katy: I believe you missed the point about the Chinese food being invented here in the United States.
    The author is correct when he says that the Chinese food you’ll find in American Chinese restaurants has very little to do with actual Chinese cuisine. There is a great book about the subject called, ‘Chop Suey: A cultural history of Chinese Food in the United States’ which details exactly how and why Chinese immigrants to this country changed their rich and diverse cuisine to suit their ‘American’ neighbours’ tastes. Also, while you may see some Chinese workers eating the buffet food from time to time, more often than not you are not seeing the real Chinese food they are cooking for themselves after the restaurant has shut down. I would encourage you to make a few friends at one of the better Chinese restaurants and ask them if you could try some ‘authentic’ Chinese food. Depending on where you live, and how long the local Chinese have been there…you could be in for a real treat!

    I am not saying that all Chinese food is healthy, but as a rule, it is healthier than most American food. One of the saddest things I have witnessed traveling in Asia is how quickly American franchises such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken are popping up everywhere, and how quickly Asian children are growing fatter and less healthy as they gobble up all of that deep fried goodness.

    Anyway, great article.

  • Jerrod July 8, 2010  

    I remember when Chinese food was named the unhealthiest food of all because of the copious use of MSG and other flavor enhancers and all the deep frying. It was a Japanese professor who identified this fifth flavor resulting from all the flavor enhancers used in Asian cuisine. They are still widely used in Asia where it was invented and introduced to Americans by the Chinese. I remember when a study came out about it and it explained why I would often get headaches and bad dreams after eating at a Chinese restaurant. That was a kind of running joke too. Now Chinese restaurants go out of their way to advertise no MSG and some try to use less oil for frying to cater to those trying to avoid all the excess oil and flavor enhancers. Most Americans can handle small amounts of it but not the large quantities that are often used. Considering China has the highest incidence of stomach cancer in the world I wouldn’t assume that it’s healthy one way or the other.

  • LT July 25, 2010  

    Baked Alaska was invented at Delmonico’s Restaurant – opened by Swiss immigrants – in New York City in the 1870s.

  • Eloka August 8, 2010  

    Why do Americans wonder why they are fat? That Turducken? How fucking greedy are these people? FUCK!

  • Len August 13, 2010  

    It’s obvious you didn’t read any of the previous posts and chose instead to degrade an entire country based on one dish that less than 1 percent of the population eat. By the way, many countries have fat people and more greed than Americans who are the most generous people on Earth. What a racist and hateful remark. If you think so poorly of America feel free to either leave or stay out. No haters wanted here.

  • TerryAnne August 13, 2010  

    I had a teacher from Kenya who told me that the tribes there lived on cow’s blood mixed with milk. I’ll take a reuben thank you very much.

  • Mr P Mason August 21, 2010  

    The Turduken is actually a take on a tudor British dish:—really-IS-Christmas-dinner.html

    the rest looks like a heap of shit.

  • Merci August 26, 2010  

    Sorry but a heap of shit is watching snakes being cut open while they are still alive and eating their beating hearts or stabbing a lobster in the balls and drinking the juice that comes out of them or eating monkey brains while they are still alive. Now that’s what I call shitty food. Eating a smore or a corn dog is sounding better and better all the time.

  • bum bum bum August 28, 2010  

    you guys need to stop hating on americans (not all of you) im sure if other countrys had alot of money and the same food as us they wuld be fat to…

  • Tav68 September 2, 2010  

    Someone needs to set this poster straight.
    America is actually number 11 on the list of the worlds fattest nations.
    This is Directly from the UN web site.
    Not from some reporter who wants to bash America but from the UN who keeps statistics on this type of thing NOT used for the purpose of Nation Bashing.

    Australia is the world’s fattest nation, with 36.2 percent of adults being obese.

    Here are the Top 15 fattest nations according to Actual Data from the UN Web site.
    Not from some nation Hating Reporter who has an Agenda.

    Australia 36.2 percent
    Nauru 35.7 percent
    Federated States of Micronesia 35.1 percent
    Cook Islands 34.9 percent
    Kiribati 34.5 percent
    Germany 34.5 percent
    Egypt, 34.1 percent
    Bosnia-Herzegovina, 33.9 percent
    United Kingdom, 33.2 percent
    Israel, 31.9 percent
    U.S.A 31.7 percent
    Croatia 31.4 percent
    New Zealand 31.0 percent
    Cook Islands 29.9 percent
    Argentina 29.4 percent

  • Merci September 9, 2010  

    Thank you Tav68, that should put an end to all the U.S. bashing on here.

  • Kelly September 26, 2010  

    Wow this article is amazing haha! Ups to the author you should truely take your writing furthur this is genius!

  • Catarra September 27, 2010  

    stupid article. american food is great. too many haters here.

  • Shaniqua September 29, 2010  


    Did you know human breast milk is especially rich in MSG, along with sugar? If the sweetness doesn’t stimulate the baby to continue suckling, then the savory certainly will.

    MSG is also naturally /abundant/ in tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, and whole load of other vegetables. Does Italian food give you headaches and bad dreams? Cos Italian could compete with Asian cuisine for the amount of MSG present in its dishes, gram for gram. Parmesan cheese is especially rich in MSG, containing higher levels (per gram) than even Chinese soy sauce, and don’t get me started of Italian (or any other European) sausage and sliced meats.

  • the history master October 6, 2010  

    Hmmmmmmm, interesting article, but not for the right reason. To me it shows that some people do not do enough research into the subjects they wish to comment about.
    The Philli cheese steak. Not a new idea to mix cheese and bad meat together. There are references to this in Roman text as far back as 250BC.
    Chinese food. ‘NOT’ invented in America at all. Although Cop Suey is widely thought to come from America, it actually comes from Taishan in Guangdong province China. Its name in Chinese means ‘to break into many pieces’
    The Sandwich. Invented in England by The Earl of Sandwich, hence the name. But even before this, as long ago as neolithic times, bread was eaten with meats. Although theres no proof, it seems almost impossible to believe that no-one at this time or after had not at some time put the meat inside the bread. Pastrami was introduced to the US by Jewish immigrants.
    Baked Alaska. also known as ‘Omelette a la norvegienne. Invented in France.
    Turducken. Ok, they have used a Turkey that origonate from the US. But stuffing animals with animals is not new and dates back over 5000 years. the Romans use to stuff a Camel with sheep that were stuffed with ducks or geese stuffed with many other ingredients. And other animals were cooked in this manner well before the Romans did.
    Please, before you publish any more articles before you have done the research.

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