America is a melting pot of cultures, which couldn’t be more evident than in the variety of foods here. Some of these dishes have roots in other countries, but many were created in the United States. Here are 15 dishes you may have yet to learn were invented in America.
Chimichangas are a delicious and iconic dish enjoyed in America for decades. Created in Arizona, the story of its invention varies depending on who you ask. According to El Charro restaurant, it was an accident – Monica Flin accidentally dropped a burrito into a deep fryer. She exclaimed a Spanish curse word before quickly changing her words to “chimichanga.”
However, Macayo’s Mexican Table also claims their founder Woody Johnson invented this dish with a similar story. Whoever has the true story, one thing is sure: chimichangas are an iconic American dish.
Fajitas are a popular Mexican dish that has become a staple in many restaurants. While they may seem like traditional Mexican food, they originated in Texas.
The name fajita is derived from the Spanish word “faja,” meaning strip, and refers to the skirt steak used in this dish. This cut of beef was often given to Tejano cattle ranchers as trail food and has since become an iconic Tex-Mex dish. Fajitas typically include strips of skirt steak cooked with bell peppers and onions and served with freshly made tortillas.
German Chocolate Cake
German chocolate cake is a classic Southern treat that has delighted taste buds for over 160 years. Named after the American chocolatier Samuel German, this rich and decadent dessert was created in 1857 by a Texas housewife who used the new dark-baking chocolate German had invented five years prior.
A traditional German chocolate cake is layered with coconut, pecan, and maraschino cherries on top of an intensely flavorful yet not-too-sweet chocolate cake base. This misnomer of a recipe is one everyone needs to try at least once!
French dressing is a popular condiment in the United States, but it may surprise you that it has no French origins. It is an American invention made available on grocery store shelves around 1938 with Milani’s 1890 French Dressing.
Although its origin is unknown, this tangy and sweet-tasting dressing includes ketchup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and various spices such as paprika, garlic powder, and celery seed. Russian dressing also originated in America despite its name suggesting otherwise.
English muffins have been a breakfast staple since they were invented in the late 19th century. The invention of the English muffin is credited to Samuel Bath Thomas, an English immigrant who opened a bakery in New York City and started serving a twist on traditional crumpets called “toaster crumpets.”
This spongy muffin was cut in half to be more easily toasted, creating a crispy base that quickly became popular. Today, English muffins are enjoyed as part of many classic brunch dishes such as eggs Benedict and breakfast sandwiches.
The California roll is a popular sushi dish originating in the United States. While it may appear to be traditional Japanese sushi, this particular roll was invented by chefs from Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia.
According to Ken Seusa, who claims ownership of the California roll, the first documented version of the dish appeared in an Associated Press article published in 1979. The classic California roll features avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab all wrapped up with seaweed on the inside—a departure from traditional Japanese sushi, which typically has nori on the outside.
General Tso’s Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken is among the most popular dishes in Chinese takeout joints. But many people don’t know that it doesn’t have any roots in traditional Chinese cuisine.
Peng Chang-kuei, a Hunan chef, created the dish, and later adapted by New York Chef Tsung Ting Wang to suit the American palate. The General Tso’s chicken we now enjoy today is sweeter and crispier than its original version – perfect for those who love a little extra sweetness and crunch!
The Cuban sandwich, or Cubano, is a delicious and unique dish with its roots in Cuba’s history. Although it likely originated with native inhabitants of the island nation who created a type of fish sandwich using cassava bread, Spanish colonization in the 1800s brought key ingredients like cheese and wheat flour to create the modern version.
As travel between Cuba and southern Florida became more common due to the flourishing tobacco industry, cigar factory workers needed an easy lunch option that could be quickly prepared. This iconic sandwich was born in Florida through cultural exchange and combining various ingredients from both countries.
Swiss steak is a classic American dish that has been around for years but is still surprisingly underrated. It’s an economical meal that requires inexpensive cuts of meat, but the cooking process helps to make them tender and flavorful.
Preparing this dish involves pounding out the steak, then slow-cooking in a Dutch oven or slow cooker before smothering it with gravy. This old-fashioned recipe may be forgotten by many today, but its simplicity and delicious flavor make Swiss steak well worth revisiting.
Ah yes! The ‘Swiss’ in Swiss steak doesn’t refer to the country but to a technique used in its preparation – swissing.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs are a beloved dish synonymous with Italian cuisine. The combination of spaghetti and meatballs isn’t an authentic Italian recipe. Instead, it’s a fusion dish created by Italian-American immigrants in the early 20th century and first published in 1920 by the National Pasta Association.
In Italy, meatballs are served as an appetizer, while spaghetti is traditionally paired with sauces like Bolognese or pesto. Today, however, this unique fusion of flavors can be found all over America!
Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
In 1961, Reuben Mattus revolutionized the ice cream world by launching Haagen Dazs. He wanted to create an ice cream that was richer and creamier than any other brand, and he succeeded!
With its unique name inspired by Danish culture, Haagen Dazs quickly became a household name for delicious premium ice cream. While the words mean nothing in Danish, it is believed that Mattus chose this name as a tribute to the Danes who saved many Jews during World War II.
Tortilla chips are a beloved snack, enjoyed in many variations and with countless dips. Did you know that this delicious treat was discovered by accident? Rebecca Webb Carranza is credited as the inventor of tortilla chips after she needed to find a use for misshapen tortillas in the 1950s.
Instead of throwing the chips away, she cut them up into triangles, fried them, and sold them for a dime per bag – paving the way for one of the most iconic snacks ever!
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