When one thinks of classic American cuisine, the first dishes that may come to mind are hamburgers, hotdogs, and apple pie. But America is also a melting pot, and in the 2000s, there are even more types of cuisines and dishes that we now think of as classic all-American foods, like pizza, fried chicken, Tex-Mex tacos and burritos, Southern barbecue, and much more…
Meat and Potato Recipes
America is a meat and potatoes, comfort food country. That is proven every time you’re in a restaurant and see columns of foods with red meat, poultry, pork (hello, bacon!). And then wander over to the sides and see French fries, baked potatoes, potato salad, au gratin, and much more. The most classic meat and potatoes meal is a burger and fries. Whether the patty is broiled, grilled, or barbecued, Americans don’t care. Just as long as it’s big and juicy, smothered in Cheddar or American cheese, and sits on a soft roll. The most popular side dish in American cuisine is French fries. Sure, there’s “French” in the name, but these spuds are as American as apple pie.
Americans also love ground beef casseroles, like shepherd’s pie, which is mildly spiced ground beef with peas or green beans and topped with crusty mashed potatoes and gravy. This is a classic dish that’s originally from the U.K., but these days it’s a family-friendly recipe that can serve lots of hungry mouths.
Ground beef or chicken taco casseroles are also very popular across many Southern states and California – especially states that share a border with Mexico, especially Texas, Arizona, and California. You can argue that these are classic Mexican dishes, but in reality, the families that have originated the tacos and burritos, and fajita dishes popular in the States were living in America before many Americans lived here.
Americans love chicken. In fact, it’s the meat that nearly every other meat is compared to. (Ever hear the saying, “Tastes just like chicken?”) Some favorite American chicken dishes include Southern fried chicken, often served with fries, mashed potatoes, baked potato, or potato salad. In recent years, Americans have taken calling it “crispy” chicken, especially when served on a salad. It might sound healthier than fried chicken, but we won’t argue because it’s delicious! Americans have also co-opted many chicken-based Italian dishes, like chicken Parmesan – a fried chicken fillet smothered in cheese and topped with savory marina sauce. Are you sensing a trend? Meat, check, potato, check, and cheese, check!
Soups and Salad Recipes
Soups and salads are an American cuisine? They are now! If you look at cooking and food trends since the 1950s – the introduction of canned and processed foods to American families – the country has been moving toward a healthy-eating crescendo, and that means soups and salads galore! Of course, the most popular salad is the modest house salad. It contains lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and croutons. It’s often made as a substitute for starchy or fatty side dishes, like rice or French fries. But for a heartier meal, toss some protein over that little garden salad, and suddenly you have a satisfying meal. And while you’re at the salad bar, be sure to throw on toppings like chickpeas, red onions, mushrooms, and tons of other pickens’ (we know you’re eyeing those bacon bits! In moderation, anything is considered healthy, right?)
Something else that’s as American as apple pie is chicken noodle soup. Not only is it a favorite American recipe, but it’s also the cure for a cold, the flu, and almost anything else that ails the soul.
Chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, and s'mores -- they're all American favorites, but it's not the most American dessert ever. That would be apple pie! Apples originally came to the States from Europe and Asia. But various types of apple seeds came to the new country with the Pilgrims on the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. There’s nothing more American than Thanksgiving dinner prepared by the Pilgrims. And some food historians are certain there was some early pie served at that meal, though we wouldn’t recognize it as a relative to today’s classic American pies today. Back in those days, crusts helped to preserve meat fillings, like fowl and venison. When fruit was added to these early pies, it was always accompanied by savory meat. Crusts also were not the flaky, buttery pie shell we crave today. We didn’t even have butter yet. So the crusts were mostly rock hard and inedible. Oh well. At least we have apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato, and cherry pie today. Our holidays would not be the same if we were eating burgers and venison-apple pie with hard crusts.