18 Popular Dishes That Were Invented in America

It may break your heart to know that mac and cheese isn’t really American or that the ketchup you’ve grown to love is actually Chinese. But fear not, because here are 18 popular foods that were definitely invented in the United States.

Lobster Rolls

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This northeastern seafood delicacy traces its roots back to Connecticut in 1929. It was whipped up in a restaurant called Perry’s in Milford, where it found fame and spread across the New England region. There are, however, disputes that they originated in Maine, with the lobster rolls here being less creamy than their Connecticut counterpart.

Buffalo Wings

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We start with buffalo wings. Made in 1964 at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, these chicken wings were once treated like outcasts for being too bony. After whipping up a quick snack out of them for some visiting friends, Dominic Bellisimo and his mother, Teresa Bellisimo, created a secret recipe that has made buffalo wings a main menu item today.

Caesar Salads

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From San Diego to Mexico and back to Los Angeles, Caesar salads have a bit of history to them. Italian chef Caesar Cardini moved his restaurant from San Diego, California, to Tijuana, Mexico, to avoid limitations on alcohol during the prohibition era, as Brittanica shares. Although he had already put together unique dressings while in Mexico, it wasn’t until his move back to Los Angeles, California, that he trademarked his new dressings with secret spices and herbal ingredients.

Ranch Dressing

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It’ll be comforting to know that your favorite creamy, herbal, and spicy salad dressing originated from within the US—California, to be exact. They were made by Steve Henson in 1949 after years of working as a contractor and perfecting his buttermilk recipes during cooking sessions for his coworkers.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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You wouldn’t have had your favorite afternoon snacks if chef Ruth Wakefield hadn’t brought them to life in Massachusetts in 1938. Although they originally weren’t as soft as they are today, chocolate chip cookies were invented by chef Ruth as one of her desserts to eat with ice cream in her very popular Toll House Inn.

Cheese Burgers

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The first time hamburgers served with cheese appeared on a menu was in Pasadena, California, in 1924. We don’t credit its invention to a culinary sensei or seasoned chef, but instead to the curiosity of a teenager, Lionel Sternberger. He had the idea of putting a slice of American cheese over burgers while helping his father out in his sandwich shop, The Rite Spot.

Philly Cheesesteaks

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In the 1930s, brothers Pat and Harry Olivierri needed to find something unique to compete against other stands in the nearby South Philadelphia Italian Market. They threw some grilled beef and onions into toasted rolls and invented the Philly cheesesteak delight. It was so delicious that they grew their stand into a full-blown restaurant, Pat’s King of Steaks.

California Rolls

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Hidekazu Tojo invented California Rolls in the 1970s. It was his solution for American diners who didn’t feel comfortable with the seaweed and tuna found in regular sushi. Despite its origin ingrained in its name, California rolls have also been argued to come from Vancouver in Canada and even Japan, understandably.

Banana Splits

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Bananasplitfest shares the story of David Strickler, a “soda jerk” who loved his desserts and began experimenting with combinations of ice cream in 1904. The 23-year-old came up with splitting bananas in half and using them as sides with ice cream, and, from that day in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, ice cream history has never been the same.


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Yes, fajitas may be more of a superstar in Mexican cuisine than their American counterparts. Some Americans even consider Mexico-made fajitas more authentic. Nonetheless, they originated from ranches in the Rio Grande Valley, a region that spans the southern parts of Texas and the northern parts of Mexico.

Corn Bread

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Cornbread was American before the United States even existed. The Institute of Culinary Education shares that Native Americans used corn to make a lot of their food—and even alcohol—and it was from this curious experimentation that cornbread was born. Today, variants of cornbread dishes have popped up from South and Southwest American recipes.


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Just like cornbread, grits are American delicacies that existed before the United States. Your favorite dried-maize porridge dishes were another corn-based food popular with the Native Americans—this time, the 16th-century Muskogee tribe who lived in today’s regions of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Corn Dogs

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We owe the existence of our modern corn dogs to German Texans who decided to fry sausages covered in buttered cornbread in the 1920s. Years later, variations with sticks in them emerged to make the corn dogs easier to hold, and our favorite beef snacks have kept this form ever since.


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Originally called “Some More” in 1927 in a Girl’s Scout Guidebook, the popular camping treats took their final name, “S’Mores,” in a Willian Gibson summer camp guide in 1938. Even though they have been around for almost a century, the process of preparing them has generally remained unchanged, as AllRecipes shares.

Tater Tots

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Nephi and Golden Griggs put their minds together to get their factory, Ore-Ida, started along the Oregon-Idaho border. Just two years later, in 1953, the Tater Tots were repurposed from being wasted frozen french fry shavings into another form of delicacy for human consumption.

Cobb Salads

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According to the Institute of Culinary Education’s narrative, the history of the Cobb salad is more straightforward than that of Caesars. After a long day of work at his Hollywood restaurant in 1937, hungry Robert Cobb decided to put together some lettuce, egg, cheese, tomato, and avocado remnants from the refrigerator. On this day in the Brown Derby, another Hollywood star was born.


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Jambalayas are America’s own rice dish that emerged from rather gloomy circumstances. When Africans were brought in from their homeland, they had to use whatever they could find to recreate the meals they had grown to love. It’s from this that they created the Jambalayas in South Louisiana.

Chicken-Fried Steak

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German and Austrian migrants wanted to recreate the wiener schnitzel, a piece of veal covered in breadcrumbs, and they came up with a tenderized beef-filled version. This was in the town of Lamesa in Texas, and the chicken-fried steak has spread its immense popularity to Oklahoma and Arkansas.

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