07/01/2014 11:11 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ranking the 50 Most American Foods


CREDIT: Dan Morris

America may be the birthplace of the airplane and the printing press, but you know what else we have? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches perfectly made throughout our childhoods, with or without crusts. Hot dogs made from a melting pot of animal parts, much like America's past, but grosser. And pizza that changes depending on where you drive, and how fat you feel like getting. From regional specialties and nostalgia-inducing oddities to Americanized renditions of some of our greatest immigrant fare, we decided to rank the top 50 best foods in America. You might want to read it with a Jell-O cup nearby.

50. Tuna melt sandwich
There are few things as beautifully American as a neon-lit diner, and greasy-spoon food is hard to top. So, while we respect the classics, this Jersey diner staple is, well... it's canned tuna with melted cheese. You kind of pick up on that in the name.

49. Scrapple
Not to be confused with that American soft drink popular in the '90s, Scrapple is actually a mixture of pork scraps, that are combined with cornmeal and flour, then fried. It is a shoutout to Pennsylvania's Dutch settlers and their money saving ways, but those scraps and trimmings also make it like the original mass-manufactured hotdog, but without any of the fun of a bun or a grill.

48. Gas station beef jerky
Remember that time you drove cross-country with your college girlfriend, and she threatened to abandon you on the highway as the smell of jerky slowly flooded the car? Nostalgia. But, also, that smell.

47. Burgoo
The Kentucky stew was traditionally made with squirrel and raccoon. Which is amazing. It's now loaded with (boring) mutton, beef, venison, and chicken, but you gotta respect (FEAR?!?!) a dish whose alternative name is roadkill soup.

46. Rattlesnake stew
It's a steaming bowl of a reptile that'd totally kill you. Pro: You can tell yourself that you're a badass/cowboy the whole time you eat. Con: You're totally wondering if there's any way you're about to die from this.

45. Rocky Mountain oysters
This is American innovation once again realizing that if you deep-fry something, it becomes infinitely more appealing. Also, giving bull balls a different name is just a good way to approach marketing, which is very American in and of itself.

44. Twinkies
Preparedness is important and we, for one, are thankful Hostess is still pumping cream into yellow cakes in case Cold War Dos strikes and a well-stocked shelter filled with things providing no nutritional benefits, but lots of empty calories are needed.

43. Reindeer sausage
We like this Alaskan specialty, because sausage, but we're also very pro-Rudolph, so this is a conflict. At least it's not wolf-shooting from a helicopter sausage.

More: These are the 16 best burritos in America


CREDIT: Carrie Dennis

42. Turducken
We love frankenfoods, and they're all the better when they provide an easier vehicle to up the protein intake/variety.

41. Fried alligator
Killing and eating a giant, almost pre-historic animal is about the closest you'll ever get to Chuck Norris-status. And Chuck Norris basically invented America with Abe Lincoln on the truck bed of a Chevy.

40. Muffuletta
American-sized immigrant fare, the Italian sandwich is typically ordered by the quarter... because even a half is too much to house, even by our super-sized standards. It'd be ranked higher if our dry cleaning bills weren't so long thanks to olive salad drippings.

39. Jell-O
They taught you how to spell with their commercials! But that tiny one-serving cup was never enough. Also, what happened to their pudding pops?

38. New England clam chowder
It's protected by law from being tainted by tomatoes, like Manhattan's chowder, and we fully support laws that protect... bowls of soup. But since the thick, creamy soup is only appealing in the Winter months, it couldn't snag a higher spot.

37. Meatloaf
HEY MA! CAN WE GET SOME MEATLOAF? They said that in a movie we liked in America.

36. Sweet tea
Since we dumped all that pricey tea in the Boston Harbor, we set about improving on British specialties, and there are few better ways to recover from a humid, deep-South day than with cold sweet tea with extra sugar and a squeeze of lemon. NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH SCRAPPLE.

35. Tenderloin sandwich
Wiener schnitzel may belong to the Bavarians, but Iowa and Indiana have the sandwich version, because we like to make sandwiches out of everything since sliced bread is the best. Also, it's deep-fried instead of pan-fried because, again, this is America. But you're also left wanting about three times the bread to take down that huge loin.

34. Soft drinks
Pop, Coke, soda -- whatever you call them, America invented most of them. And there's a reason the '50s Coke commercials make everyone feel nostalgic and chubby, simultaneously.


CREDIT: Carrie Dennis

33. Fried catfish
Catfish may be one of the uglier-looking edibles, but it's a great testament to our ability to overlook beauty, or lack thereof.

32. Movie theater popcorn
America was practically founded on corn and, later, the movie industry. And together they become the dynamic starring duo of our snacking lives while we watch that movie where Queen Latifah drives a cab with Jimmy Fallon.

31. Grits
They're damn delicious, but no one knows how to cook them above the Mason-Dixon. So they're really only delicious 30% of the time, and that's a travesty. Also, I'm from the South, so I would make this 6, but I'm trying to be fair, OKAY?

30. Cincinnati chili
While Texas wages chili war against the bean-using rest of the country, Cincinnati simply dumps its dish onto noodles, which is so peculiar. But it's the ultimate reminder of America's dedication to regional uniqueness. Or maybe laziness.

29. Frito pie
It may have the "white trash" label, but Frito pie's rumored beginnings make it a classic. Daisy Dean Doolin, the Mom of Frito's founder, supposedly created the first Southwestern casserole/Southern football concession-stand treat in her home. And what's more American than a mother-made recipe that's just happened to spread nationwide?

28. Frybread tacos
The fillings are just like the stuff your Mom used to prep to cram into Old El Paso hard shells (Hard shells: another odd creation of the US of A), but the taco fixin's are served on Navajo frybread, which comes hot and puffy out of the hot lard.

27. Raw oysters
Slurping oysters is like a whirlwind cross-country travel for your taste buds, with the unique brines from the Atlantic to Pacific and down to the Gulf.

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