Top 18 American Foods to Try From an American Living in the UK

GUEST POST: Looking for a list of some of the best American foods to try? From an American living in the UK, discover what USA foods Lyssa misses most…

These people are sharing a load of American food on a table

When you think of the United States of America, what foods come to mind? Is it a greasy New York Style pizza or classic Buffalo wings drenched in some type of sweet or spicy sauce? Whatever it is, you can’t go wrong!

The US is known for some amazing types of food! If the recipe calls for a pound of butter and a bag of sugar… it’s probably American!

Today, we’re talking all things American food, by discussing the top 18 famous food choices based on regions of the USA. These are not specific regions, like the North East or South West, but these regions are based on popular foods among several states, or even one city itself. So, to hear Lyssa’s top 18 popular foods in different regions of the US, you came to the right place…

1. Pizza

Imagine this… you’re walking down the bustling streets of NYC, and you smell the delicious aroma of pizza. You find yourself walking into a corner shop and looking at what they have to offer, and choose a classic pepperoni slice. You hand over your money, and the person behind the counter hands you a thin crust, cheese filled, pepperoni slice bigger than the size of your head and dripping with grease.

You examine this piece and its size, trying to figure out the best possible way to eat it. Finally, you decide to fold it in half and try a bite. Your eyes light up with joy as you eat this massive slice of pizza and think to yourself, “Is this what life in America is like?” Yes, yes it is! We pride ourselves on greasy, fat filled food.

Pizza is one of those dishes that is a staple in most countries. Whether you are ordering from a chain or a family owned restaurant; pizza is a classic! If the thought of a New York style pizza slice is stuck in your head, you should meet its sister city and pizza lover: Chicago!

Chicago pizza is just as delicious, but has a different take on it; the deep dish pizza. If you’re in the city and you want pizza, you will get a slice half the size of the one in NYC but with double the crust. Chicago style pizza is baked in a deep dish so that the crust covers the bottom and side of the pizza. Whatever your preference may be, you cannot go wrong with a slice of pizza in either city.

2. Hot Dogs

Oh my! Where do I begin with a hotdog? A hot dog is a classic meal in the US, but what we do best is toppings. If it is edible, it can be a topping.

The most classic of hot dogs are the dog and bun with ketchup, mustard and relish on it. If you’re in the north east, it wouldn’t be wrong to stop and get yourself a Coney dog, which is filled with chilli, mustard, chopped onions, and sometimes a cheese sauce.

If you’re back in the city of Chicago, you can stop off and get a Chicago dog made with yellow mustard, chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, and celery salt. We like to call all of this… “dragged through the garden”. Basically, if it is savoury it can be put on top of a hot dog!

3. Corn Dogs

Another popular dog is the corn dog. You are probably like what in the heck is a corn dog. Well… as an American, I can safely say we love our fair foods. There is nothing more delicious than a hot dog on a stick, battered in cornmeal batter and fried. That, my friend, is exactly what a corn dog is; a deep fried hot dog on a stick!

It is usually served with mustard or ketchup, and varies in size from an average hot dog to a foot-long hot dog! We believe you can fry anything, and yes I mean anything (anything that is edible).

A corn dog being held up in front of a background of a fair

4. Pasties

Pasties are very popular in the Midwest, especially the upper peninsula of Michigan. You can find a pasty shop on almost every corner.

I’m sure you know what a pasty is, as it was originally an English pastry made in the southwest of England. So yes, pasties have been around longer than the US itself, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love an amazing meat filled pastry.

5. Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky is one of those amazing things that mostly everyone loves. It is very popular all over America, especially amongst campers and hikers, as it stays good for ages.

If you have never had beef jerky, it is dehydrated and seasoned meat strips. It may sound gross but it is a delicacy in itself, as you can have jerky from several types of game. Essentially, you could have any type of jerky as long as it’s legal.

I, myself, have tried venison, beef, alligator, bear, buffalo, ostrich and many more. It stays fresh for a long time, which makes it easier to take on a trip camping, plus it is an excellent source of protein.

6. BBQ Pulled Pork

BBQ pulled pork is a mouth-watering, sweet and savoury dish. The pork is from the shoulder of a hog, and smoked for several hours until fully cooked. It is then pulled into shredded pieces and smothered in a sweet and sticky BBQ sauce, and is usually served on a brioche bun.

Honestly, you haven’t been to the south if you haven’t had a nice pulled pork sandwich.

7. Biscuits and Gravy

Okay, okay! If you are from the UK, or even most places in the world, the sound of a biscuit with some gravy on it sounds disgusting! In the US, we like to change things up while completely confusing the rest of the world…

Our biscuits are similar to a savoury and buttery scone, and we top it with a sausage or sawmill gravy. It is basically flour and milk mixed with meat. It still may sound and look gross, but I assure you that you have to try it. It is very popular all over the states, but especially in the southern states.

A BBQ pulled pork on a table full of other delicious American food

8. Shrimp and Grits

Another classic southern dish! It’s very popular in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia. It is a traditional savoury breakfast dish, although some people prefer it for lunch or dinner.

Grits are made from boiled cornmeal. Most people add a lot of cream and cheese into the grits. These are served in a bowl with shrimp, andouille sausage and a sauce.

The sauce will vary depending on where you get it. Some will be more spicy and others will be savoury, but not have the classic cajun kick to it.

9. Chicken and Waffles

This is personally one of my favorite dishes. It is very popular in the south, and becoming increasingly popular up the eastern coast. This is usually a Belgian waffle with a fried chicken breast or fried chicken strips on it.

It is served with syrup to cover the waffle, and most of the time some type of gravy or sauce to compliment the fried chicken. This is by far the perfect combination of sweet and savoury in one dish. Over the last few years, it’s become more popular to have mini chicken and waffles on a kebab stick in a snack-like bite-size form, perfect for weddings and other events.

10. Low Country Boil/Beaufort Stew

Another popular dish from the low country of South Carolina is this one pot dish that comes with many names, including Beaufort stew, Frogmore stew/boil, or Tidewater boil. Whatever people may call it, it’s a popular meal made in one pot.

Low country boil is made with red potatoes, sweet onions, Louisiana shrimp, smoked pork sausage, corn on the cob, and shrimp and crab boil seasoning. The seasoning may differ from person to person, depending on who makes it.

It’s an easy recipe, because everything goes into the pot with some water. and is boiled until cooked. In my family, we like to eat it like a stew with bowls. The more common way is to drain the water out and put the boil on the table and everyone sits around and picks from it. If you visit South Carolina, you simply have to try this!

11. Tacos

Most of you should know what a taco is, but if you don’t it is a very common food across the states, from Mexican restaurants and drive arounds, to a nice home cooked meal. Essentially, any type of meat can go into a taco, but the most common is beef.

A classic taco would be a hard tortilla shell with minced beef, flavoured with seasoning, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. On the west coast, a plate of fish tacos are quite popular with a topping of pico de gallo, cheese and some type of sauce. You can get tacos everywhere in the states.

A juicy burger filled with meat, lettuce, and burger sauce

12. Burgers

After a short poll on twitter of what people think of when they think of food from America, burgers were my number one answer. Popular across the world, burgers can be made from many things. The most popular is a classic beef burger with salad and condiments on it. Many places now serve chicken burgers, veggie burgers, tofu burgers and much more. If it is between a bun, then it can be a burger.

13. Buffalo Wings

Only in the US do we make a big deal about watching American Football with a plate of buffalo wings. We have several restaurants that serve mostly wings; they mostly happen to be sports bars but that doesn’t matter.

Buffalo wings are not buffalo, just in case you are curious, but are chicken wings that are usually tossed in a spicy buffalo sauce. If you find yourself sitting down in a sports bar, you’ll usually get a menu that has a scale of the sweetest to spiciest sauces for wings. Not everyone likes spicy sauces, so most places offer a sweet BBQ sauce, to a savoury garlic and herb sauce, to the spiciest sauce you can get legally.

Wings are served in two ways; the drums and the flats. You can get a mixture of both on your plate or, if you prefer one over the other, you can get just one kind. Wings are served with celery and dipping sauce, which will be ranch or blue cheese dressing.

14. Pancakes

As an American living in the UK, when it came to Shrove Tuesday I was blown away that it is called pancake day. Of course, the US is not very old on the spectrum of countries, so it is not that surprising that I did not know this.

I was also shocked at how thin pancakes are in the UK. Everyone needs to get to the US and have a hearty stack of thick buttermilk pancakes at the local diner. Our pancakes are a favourite among tourists, as they are so light, fluffy and thick. We love to cover our pancakes in sticky maple syrup or plain syrup, and add a side of bacon with it.

15. Philly Cheese Steak

Just like pizza in New York and Chicago is popular, a Philly cheese steak was created and most popular in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A cheese steak is a sandwich, of sorts, made from shredded, thinly sliced steak.

The steak is grilled on a flat top, with mushrooms, peppers, and onions, then placed onto a hoagie roll and covered with a cheese sauce. Some people choose to put mayo in the sandwich as well. You can get a philly cheese steak in any state, but it means so much more if you get a philly from Philly.

This is a thick stack of American pancakes covered in syrup and fruit

16. PBJ

It has been pointed out to me how weird peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are in every other country. In the US, it is popular to have a PBJ for school lunch or at home with your family.

You can purchase PBJs from the store premade by Uncrustables. For those of you that think it is weird, don’t knock it until you try it. I would like to point out that we call it jelly, but it’s more like a jam. We don’t call jelly the same thing in the states, we call it jello.

Either way, make yourself a peanut butter and jam sandwich and let me know what you think of it! If you like that, also try a PBB; peanut butter and banana sandwich.

17. Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes are a loose meat sandwich on a bun. You can make this with minced beef or turkey. A sloppy joe recipe will change from family to family. My family uses a recipe that calls for half a bottle of ketchup and some coke (yes the soft drink) that boils up into a sauce.

Basically, the sauce of a sloppy joe is a tomato based and sugary recipe. It may sound gross but let me assure you it is delicious. The name is true though, it is very sloppy, but worth it.

18. Mac and Cheese

Most of you will know what mac and cheese is; a cheesy pasta dish usually made with elbow macaroni. In the states, you can have mac and cheese as an appetiser, side dish, snack or even a whole meal.

All over the US you can find mac and cheese dishes; from one cheese and five cheese, to dishes with meat or vegetables mixed in with it. On the northeast shore, lobster mac and cheese is very popular on the coast. In the south, we put bacon and/or chicken on our mac and cheese, sometimes with jalapenos.

Basically, if you make your way to the US, make sure to grab yourself a dish of mac and cheese. Now I am not talking that ready-made, just add water and powdered cheese stuff. I am talking about a nice, freshly cooked mac and cheese that is super saucy and hits the spot every time!

A wooden table with a black bowl of mac and cheese

Ready to Try These Tasty American Foods?

So, those are Lyssa’s top American food picks, as an american living in the UK. If you have tried any of these when you’ve visited the US, or have other suggestions of popular foods in America, drop them in the comments below! We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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