17 “American” Foods That Aren’t Actually American

The United States has a rich history of immigration, and as a result, the country’s culinary landscape has been shaped by various cultures. As immigrants brought their traditional dishes to America, the foods were adapted and evolved to suit the local palate creating a unique fusion of flavors. Let us look at 17 foods that have become American.


Although it is widely believed that the hamburger originated in America, its roots can be traced back to Germany. The first recorded instance of a meat patty being served between two pieces of bread was at a fair in Hamburg, Germany, in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, this dish became popular in the United States; today, it is a staple of American fast food culture.

Hot Dogs

Another iconic American food, the hot dog, also originates in Germany. German immigrants first introduced the sausage, and quickly gained popularity in America. The term “hot dog” is believed to have come from a cartoon by T. A. Dorgan, depicting a dachshund sausage inside a roll.


Pizza, a quintessential American food, has its roots in Italy. The dish was brought to America by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century, but it became a fast food option in the mid-20th century. Today, there are various styles of pizza across the country, from New York-style thin crust to Chicago deep-dish.

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Tacos, a staple in Mexican cuisine, have become a beloved food in America. However, the hard-shell tacos commonly found in American fast food chains are not an authentic Mexican dish. In Mexico, soft corn tortillas are used as the base for tacos.


Bagels, a popular breakfast food in America, originated in Poland. Jewish immigrants brought the dish to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, bagels are commonly associated with New York City and are often topped with cream cheese and lox.


Although sushi is now a popular food worldwide, its origins can be traced back to Japan. The dish was first introduced to America in the 1970s and has become a staple in many American cities. American versions of sushi, such as California rolls, are rare in Japan.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is an American comfort food with Italian origins. The dish is known as “macaroni pie” in Italy and was brought to America by Thomas Jefferson. It has become a popular side dish and even a main course in the United States.

Chop Suey

Chop suey, a stir-fried dish with meat and vegetables, is believed to have originated in the southern provinces of China. It was popularized in America by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century as a way to adapt their traditional cuisine to American tastes.

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken, originating in Scotland, has become a beloved comfort food in Southern cuisine. This crispy and flavorful dish is paired with biscuits, mashed potatoes, or collard greens. It gained widespread popularity in America through the efforts of Colonel Sanders and his fast-food chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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Apple Pie

With their delicious aroma and golden-brown crust, the first apple pies were lovingly baked by early European settlers who brought this delightful recipe to America. Since then, these pies have become an integral part of American cuisine, cherished for their sweet and tart flavors that perfectly complement any occasion.


Cheesecake is a rich and creamy dessert that has its roots in ancient Greece. The modern version we know today first appeared in New York City in the late 19th century when Jewish immigrants adapted their traditional cheesecake recipe using cream cheese.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic Italian-American dish that has become a favorite in America. The dish does not have its origins in Italy. Italian immigrants in America created it to use leftover bread and meat. Now, it is a popular dish in Italian restaurants across the country.

Fortune Cookies

Fortune cookies are often found at the end of a Chinese meal in America; however, they were invented in Japan. These crispy cookies with a paper fortune inside gained popularity in U.S. Chinese restaurants to provide customers with fun after their meal.

Corn Dogs

Corn dogs, also known as “hot dogs on a stick,” are believed to have originated in Germany. However, they were Americanized and popularized at the Texas State Fair after a cornbread vendor began selling hot dogs dipped in batter and fried on a stick. They quickly became a popular fair food and are still enjoyed by many Americans today.


Churros, a delicious fried dough pastry coated in cinnamon sugar, originated in Spain. They were brought to America by Spanish immigrants and quickly became a popular treat at amusement parks and fairs. Today, churros are commonly found at street festivals and theme parks nationwide.

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Irish Coffee

Irish coffee, a delicious blend of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and cream, originated in Ireland and was popularized in America by San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café in the 1950s. Today, it is a warm and comforting drink during the colder months.


Donuts, another famous American breakfast food, have their origins in Germany. German immigrants brought these sweet and fried dough treats to America in the 19th century. Over time, they evolved into the classic ring-shaped donut we know today and can be found in bakeries, coffee shops, and fast food chains nationwide.

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