Growing up in Whiteville, North Carolina I am no stranger to classic American cuisine, but anywhere else in the world much of food I grew up on is unheard of. I didn’t realize certain foods were American until I left the States and couldn’t find them. There is a lot of candy, casseroles, cuisines my international friends were baffled by. 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 to some, this creamy orange dish is just bizarre.
2.) Chinese Food
Although I know there is Chinese Food in other places in the world, nobody makes Chinese food as American’s do. After my friend studies abroad in South Korea one of the first things he wanted to eat American Chinese food.
3.) North Carolina Barbecue
The debate between which state has the best barbecue is ongoing, but there is no doubt North Carolina is a top contender. North Carolina barbecue is served shredded or chopped and the sauce usually has more of a vinegar twang than other barbecues found in the United States.
4.) Jiffy Peanut Butter
When I went to Italy I was glad I brought 6lbs my favorite brand of peanut butter, Jiffy. It is hard to believe I eat peanut butter almost every day, but some people have never heard of it. For most of my life, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. 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.
5.) Chicago-style pizza
My grandparents grew up about an hour from Chicago, so I am no novice when it comes to Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Although the Italians might have invented pizza, the pizza you find in Italy is nothing like Chicago pizza.
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.
In my hometown, I can count on my hand the number of restaurants in the town. Surprisingly, Mexican restaurants always did well. However, this isn’t Mexican food from Mexico, but an American version of Mexican and Hispanic classics. There are slight differences in Tex-Mex that makes it unique to other foods. Tex-Mex usually yellow cheese, which is common in American, but not common in authentic Mexican cuisine.
8.) Candy Corn
You can’t properly 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 think soup originated in the state of Louisiana. It usually contains meat and the New Orleans ‘holy trinity’ of vegetables celery, bell peppers, and onions.
10.) Chick-Fl-A fried chicken sandwiches
Other fast-food restaurants can be found in other countries, but Chick-Fl-A hasn’t breached internationally waters just yet. Their classic fried chicken sandwich can only be purchased at a store in the U.S.
11.) The Philly Cheesesteak
The Philly Cheesesteak originates from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is a hot beefsteak sandwich served with melted cheese on a hoagie roll. Fried onions and mushrooms are often a topping for additional 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 the french fry originates in Europe, American’s do french fries a little bit differently than other countries. The potato snack is fried twice. Once to cook the potato, the other to make the outside extra crispy. Even if you are to order french fries at a McDonald’s you won’t get the same crunch outside of America.
14.) Root Beer Floats
Root beer floats were a normal Saturday night desert when I was 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
The concept of cheese squirting from a can may seem strange, but the truth it Easy Cheese isn’t real cheese. Which is why we like it so much. East Cheese is often spread on crackers for a snack or squirted straight from the bottle into your mouth.
16.) Pop Tart’s
Pop-Tarts are breakfast toaster pastries with a sugary filling. My favorites are the brown sugar cinnamon and strawberry milkshake flavor.
17.) Deviled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are often served with a side of grilled eggplant and zucchini in Italy, you probably won’t find deviled eggs anywhere. Deviled eggs are hard-boiled eggs cut in half and filled with a creamy middle. The filling is made up of the hard-boiled yolk of the egg, mayonnaise, vinegar, and mustard.
18.) Reeses Cups
Since peanut butter isn’t a commonality everywhere, neither is the peanut butter and chocolate treat Reeses Cups. But let me be the one to tell you, there is no greater love affair than the one between chocolate and peanut butter. The two flavors are so complementary, you simply cannot go wrong.
19.) White bread
Although you can purchase bread in nearly every country you visit, none of them are quite like 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.
21.) Tootsie Rolls
I grew up eating Tootsie Rolls. Any time 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
As far as I am concerned there is no other ranch other than Hidden Valley Ranch. Use it as a dipping sauce for veggies or put it on your pizza. That right, we put it on pizza. Any way you eat it 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. When the hot sign is on it means their classic original glazed doughnuts are coming fresh out of the oven. While you can enjoy doughnuts storebought doughnuts at various locations, there is nothing quite like a hot doughnut from Krispy Kreme.
24.) Sour Patch Kids/ Watermelons
Even thinking about Sour Patch Kids or Sour Patch Watermelons makes my mouth salivate. The chewy sour candy has always been one of my favorites for years. Don’t be surprised 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. Along with a haunted house, roller coaster, and Ferris wheel is every fried food imaginable. Fried Oreos, twinkies, hot dogs, are tasty, but funnel cakes take first place to a fan-favorite American classic.
26.) Chewing gum
Not all countries are chewing gum friendly. I don’t blame them. It is a gross moment when you grab onto a handrail and realize you just grabbed an old piece of chewing gum. Singapore thinks it is gross too, which is why they banned chewing gum to have cleaner streets.
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. In my humble opinion, I believe tots to be one of the greatest inventions of all time.
28.) Jolly Ranchers
Jolly Ranchers are hard candies that come in fun flavors such as blue raspberry and green apple. Just be sure not to bite on one too hard or you will break a tooth.
I was raised in the deep south of North Carolina, so I know what grits are. If you head up north, however, they might look at you funny if you try and order grits. Grits are a staple for the south, but they aren’t common in all parts of the United States and you can guarantee you won’t find them abroad.
30.) Macaroni & Cheese
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 in American, you simply must act like an American and try these classic foods. 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 came to eating new foods. You never know maybe you will start eating easy cheese straight from the can too.