30 Iconic Foods You Can Only Find in America

Growing up in North Carolina, I am no stranger to classic American cuisine. Yet, the food I grew up on is unheard of elsewhere. I only realized certain foods were American once I left the States and couldn’t find them. Here are thirty iconic American foods you can’t find anywhere else but in the United States.

1.) Sweet Potato Casserole

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my Dad’s sweet potato casserole, but this creamy orange dish is bizarre to some. Often, sweet potato casserole is topped with marshmallows and cooked in sweet brown sugar.

2.) Chinese Food

Although I know there is Chinese food in other places, nobody makes Chinese Food as Americans do. After my friend studied abroad in South Korea, one of the first things he wanted was to eat American Chinese Food.

3.) North Carolina Barbecue

The debate about which state has the best barbecue is ongoing, but there is no doubt North Carolina is a top contender. North Carolina barbecue is shredded, and the sauce usually has more of a vinegar twang than other barbecues found in the United States.

4.) Jiffy Peanut Butter

For most of my life, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. When I went to Italy, I was glad I brought 6 lbs of my favorite brand of peanut butter, Jiffy. It is hard to believe I eat peanut butter almost daily, but some people have never heard of it. All I can say is before leaving the U.S., I will always grab a couple of jars of peanut butter to come with me.

When I found Peanut Butter in Italy- no Jiffy, though

5.) Chicago-style pizza

My grandparents grew up about an hour from Chicago, so I am familiar with Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Although the Italians might have invented pizza, the pizza you find in Italy differs from Chicago pizza.

Where to get deep dish pizza in Chicago- September Munchie of the Month- Deep Dish Pizza at Labriola

6.) New York City Cheesecake

It has been almost seven years since I visited New York City, but I still remember what the New York-style cheesecake tasted like. Made with heavy cream the New York-style cheesecake has a rich, dense, and smooth texture. 

7.) Tex-Mex

In my hometown, I can count the number of restaurants in the town. , Mexican restaurants always did well. Yet, this is different from Mexican Food from Mexico, but an American version of Mexican and Hispanic classics. There are slight differences in Tex-Mex that makes it unique from other foods. Tex-Mex usually has yellow cheese, which is common in America, but not common in authentic Mexican cuisine.

8.) Candy Corn

You can’t correctly celebrate Halloween without candy corn. The super sweet chalky candy is one of my favorites, but it can’t be found outside the U.S. 

9.) Gumbo in New Orleans

Gumbo is a thick soup that originated in the state of Louisiana. It usually contains meat and the New Orleans ‘holy trinity’ of vegetable celery, bell peppers, and onions.

Bourbon Street New Orleans- food only in America

10.) Chick-Fl-A fried chicken sandwiches

Other fast-food restaurants can be found in other countries, but Chick-Fl-A has yet to breach international waters. The classic fried chicken sandwich is only found in a store in the United States.

11.) The Philly Cheesesteak 

The Philly Cheesesteak originates from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is a hot beef steak sandwich with melted cheese on a hoagie roll. Fried onions and mushrooms are often a topping for extra flavor.

12.) Scrambled eggs, bacon, & pancakes 

The classic American breakfast is scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes. You can find all three of these staples at almost any restaurant serving breakfast. 

13.) French Fries

Although french fry originates in Europe, Americans cook french fries differently than other countries. The potato snack is fried twice. One to cook the potato, the other to make the extra outside crispy. Even if you are to order french fries at a McDonald’s, you will get a different crunch outside of America.

14.) Root Beer Floats

Root beer floats were a typical Saturday night dessert growing up. To make it, you take a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream in a cup and pour root beer over it.

15.) Easy Cheese 

East Cheese is often spread on crackers for a snack or squirted straight from the bottle into your mouth. The cheese spraying from a can may seem strange, but Easy Cheese isn’t real cheese, which is why we like it so much.

16.) Pop Tarts

Pop-Tarts are breakfast toaster pastries with a sugary filling. My favorites are the brown sugar cinnamon and strawberry milkshake flavor.


17.) Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are hard-boiled eggs cut in half and filled with a creamy middle. The filling comprises the hard-boiled yolk of the egg, mayonnaise, vinegar, and mustard. Hard-boiled eggs are often served with grilled eggplant and zucchini in Italy; you won’t find deviled eggs anywhere.

18.) Reeses Cups

Since peanut butter isn’t standard everywhere, neither is the peanut butter and chocolate treats Reeses Cups. The two flavors are so complementary you can go right. 

19.) White bread

Although you can buy bread in every country you visit, they are different from American bread. Classic brands such as Wonder are unique to the United States and will taste much different than bread found elsewhere. American bread is salted, flavored, and soft. White bread is so soft, don’t be surprised if the first few bites stick to the room of your mouth.

20.) Corn Dogs

Corn Dogs are sausages on a stick breaded in fried cornmeal batter. While you can buy corn dogs in almost every town in America, they are an iconic pair to ball games and state fairs.I grew up eating Tootsie Rolls. Whenever a teacher would hand out candy as a consolation prize, it usually included a Tootsie Roll. Tootsie rolls, invented in New York in the late 1800s, have been famous. While other candies have come and gone, the tootsie roll and tootsie pop have always been around. The original chewy brown flavor is caramel, but now tootsie rolls come in many other flavors, such as vanilla, orange, and lemon.

21.) Tootsie Rolls

I grew up eating Tootsie Rolls. Whenever a teacher would hand out candy as a consolation prize, it usually included a Tootsie Roll. Tootsie rolls were invented in New York in the late 1800s and have been popular ever since. While other candies have come and gone, the tootsie roll and tootsie pop have always been around. The original chewy brown flavor is caramel, but now tootsie rolls come in many other flavors, such as vanilla, orange, and lemon. 

22.) Hidden Valley Ranch

Hidden Valley Ranch is the only ranch. Use it as a veggie dipping sauce, or put it on your pizza. That’s right; we put it on pizza. Anyway, if you eat this creamy treat, you won’t be able to be enough of it.

23.) Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

If you grew up in America, you know the meaning of the Krispy Kreme hot sign. Their classic original glazed doughnuts are fresh from the oven when the hot sign is on. While you can enjoy doughnuts storebought at various locations, there is nothing quite like a hot doughnut from Krispy Kreme.

24.) Sour Patch Kids/ Watermelons

The chewy sour candy has always been one of my favorites for years. the thought of Sour Patch Kids makes my mouth salivate. It’s okay if you find a bag or two in my suitcase for my next trip.

25.) Elephant Ears/ Funnel Cakes

Elephant ear or funnel cake, whatever you call this sugary dough to treat it, is tasty. Every fall, when the State Fair came to town. A State Fair has a haunted house, Ferris wheel, and every fried food imaginable. Fried Oreos, Twinkies, and hot dogs are tasty, but funnel cakes take first place to a fan-favorite American classic.

26.) Chewing gum

Chewing gum is one of the foods only in America, but maybe not for the reason you would think. Not all countries are chewing gum friendly. I don’t blame them. It is an awful moment when you grab onto a handrail and realize you grabbed an old piece of chewing gum. Singapore banned chewing gum to ensure cleaner streets, so you never have to worry about stepping in a wad of chewing gum.

27.) Tater Tots

Tater Tots are grated potatoes deep-fried and often served as a side dish. Invented in 1953, the tater tot is best served hot.

Iconic foods in America

28.) Jolly Ranchers

Jolly Ranchers are hard candies with fun flavors like blue raspberry and green apple. Just be sure not to bite on one too hard, or you will break a tooth.

29.) Grits

Grits are a staple for the south, but they are rare in some parts of the United States, and you can guarantee you won’t find them abroad. I am from the deep south of North Carolina, so I know what grits are. If you head north yet, they might look at you funny if you try to order grits.

30.) Macaroni & Cheese

Mac & cheese is one of the classics for foods only found in America. No other country does macaroni and cheese as southern Americans do. The creamy, fatty cheese sauce pairs perfectly with shell noodles. Macaroni & cheese usually makes it to the table for major holidays celebrated in America like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Everywhere in the world has food that makes it unique to them and their culture. While traveling to the United States you need to experience every one of these iconic foods you can only find in America. I know some of them may seem gross, strange, or just downright bizarre, but I promise they are better than they look. My Mom always told me, ‘try it. You might like it’ when it comes to eating new foods. You may start eating easy cheese straight from the can too. 

Thanks for reading about foods you can only find in America!

Food only in America

2 responses to “30 Iconic Foods You Can Only Find in America”

  1. There is no Jiffy peanut butter. Choosy moms choose Jiff. But the Hidden Valley Ranch withdrawal is real. You pretend everything is okay, but…yeah. You missed Ranch Dressing more than you dog.

  2. There is no peanut butter like Jiffy. I brought my own peanut butter when I went to Italy for three months. I know. I always miss ranch while abroad. Nothing is better than pizza and ranch dressing. Thanks for reading!

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