The Favorite Foods of Trump, Obama, and 12 Other American Presidents
We all have our favorite foods. Just as our parents and our grandparents have theirs. Tastes change over decades and generations. So what modern presidents like to eat is very different from what our founding fathers had on their dinner tables. (Donald Trump, in case you didn’t know, is partial to fast food.) Living in the White House, each president has a personal chef. That chef prepares grand banquets and impressive spreads for the president to entertain visiting heads of state. But what offers a more telling portrait of the president’s taste? The things he asks the chef to make or stock for private meals and snacks.
No matter your politics, you probably want to know. Do you like any of the same foods as recent U.S. presidents? And do you eat the same snacks? Or do you have the same taste in pizza? Resources, such as Food Timeline, have some especially juicy insights into past presidents’ kitchens. Read on to check out some of the favorite foods of Trump, Barack Obama, and other American presidents.
1. Donald Trump
Trump loves fast food — so much, according to Vanity Fair, that he sometimes had it delivered to his private plane while on the campaign trail. Trump likes Burger King, McDonald’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He’s famously germaphobic and cites the standards of cleanliness as one reason he appreciates fast food franchises.
Trump has reportedly stocked the White House kitchen with snacks, including Lay’s potato chips. He also likes Doritos. The New York Times noted that Trump prefers “the bland nourishment of Americana.” That includes burgers, meatloaf, well-done steaks, Caesar salad, and spaghetti. The president also loves See’s Candies and Diet Coke.
2. Barack Obama
The New York Times reported back in May 2008 on then-Sen. Barack Obama’s likes and dislikes when it comes to food. Obama reportedly favors Planters Trail Mix: Nuts, Seeds, & Raisins; roasted almonds; pistachios; and MET-Rx chocolate roasted peanut protein bars. He also likes vegetables, particularly broccoli and spinach. And he loves handmade milk chocolates from Fran’s Chocolate in Seattle. (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer later reported that Obama specifically loves the brand’s Smoked Salt Caramels.)
Obama reportedly dislikes mayonnaise, salt and vinegar potato chips, asparagus, and soft drinks. As for Obama’s habit of snacking on almonds? A joke between Michelle Obama and personal chef Sam Kass started the story that Obama snacked on just seven almonds in the evening. The joke sparked a flurry of headlines during his presidency.
3. George W. Bush
Former President George W. Bush drew headlines — and raised eyebrows — when news broke that he loved cheeseburger pizzas. Grub Street, quoting an interview Bush’s chef gave to The Sun, explained that cheeseburger pizza is just what it sounds like: “Every ingredient of a cheeseburger … on top of a margherita pizza.” The Guardian noted cheeseburger pizza isn’t a healthy meal to whip up at home. But The Daily Beast offered up a recipe and reported that “this bizarrely constructed hodgepodge of a pie has made huge inroads” at American pizza chains.
Other Bush-era requests for the White House kitchen? He also liked a lunch of “cinnamon bread with peanut butter and organic honey, with homemade potato chips and pickles,” according to The Sun. And the Bush family was reportedly a fan of Tex-Mex. A few of their favorite foods included huevos rancheros and Tex-Mex chex.
4. Bill Clinton
According to The New York Times, then President-elect Bill Clinton “prefers the stuff with fat in it: jalapeno cheeseburgers, chicken enchiladas, barbecue, cinnamon rolls, and pies.” But one thing he didn’t eat? Chocolate chip cookies. Hillary Clinton joked, “One of the serious issues of our marriage is that Bill Clinton does not eat chocolate.” (If only.)
Clinton’s diet was reportedly “heavy on the meat, dessert at every meal, and tiny amounts of vegetables, the tinier the better.” While in office, Clinton had a “scary” appetite, according to a Washingtonian interview with the president’s pastry chef. Despite allergies to flour and chocolate, the president loved high-calorie snacks and sweets. But Clinton later had to have open heart surgery. Then, he became a vegan. According to Politico, he said his vegan diet changed his life.
5. George H.W. Bush
Former George H.W. Bush drew more headlines for disliking a food than liking one. Bush famously imposed a broccoli ban aboard Air Force One, explaining to the press, “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid, and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”
Not too surprising, then, was the comment a former aide made that “junk food is his lifestyle.” The New York Times noted that Bush also liked “beef jerky, nachos, tacos, guacamole, chili, refried beans, hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued ribs, candy, popcorn, ice cream, and cake.” All foods that, the publication aptly pointed out, “can be procured at baseball games, fast-food joints, or 7-Elevens.” But on the subject of broccoli? Bush remained unswayed.
6. Ronald Reagan
Former President Ronald Reagan famously kept a jar of jelly beans on his desk in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. According to his presidential library, Reagan began eating the candy when he ran for governor of California in 1966. (The idea was to help him give up pipe smoking.) Then, he continued eating jelly beans during and after his governorship. His 1981 inaugural festivities involved 3.5 tons of red, white, and blue jelly beans. Reagan kept the White House stocked with the candy during all eight years of his presidency. The president’s favorite flavor was reportedly licorice.
7. Richard M. Nixon
Former President Richard Nixon reportedly made a habit of eating cottage cheese. But he didn’t combine it with any of the usual suspects. Instead, he ate it with ketchup on top. Don’t believe us? Just check out the December 3, 1969, issue of the Reading Eagle. The newspaper proclaimed, “President Likes Cottage Cheese with Ketchup.”
Nixon reportedly picked up the habit from his grandmother. She lived to the age of 93 and gave Nixon the impression that he should eat cottage cheese “for health and diet reasons.” But Nixon didn’t like the taste of cottage cheese on its own. So his solution? Covering it with ketchup.
The president also enjoyed his wife’s meatloaf. And the public was so interested that, according to Food Timeline, the recipe was printed on White House stationery and sent in response to thousands of requests.
8. Lyndon B. Johnson
Food and Wine reports that former President Lyndon B. Johnson had a big appetite for Southern staples, including black-eyed peas and tapioca pudding. Slate reports that Johnson’s favorite beverage was Fresca. The president reportedly had four buttons installed in the Oval Office. These buttons enabled him to request his favorite beverages. The buttons were for coffee, tea, Coke — and Fresca. According to the Washingtonian, Johnson “entertained guests at Texas-size cookouts on the White House lawn,” where he served large Texas steaks and Pedernales River Chili.
9. John F. Kennedy
Like a true New Englander, JFK was a big fan of New England fish chowder. The Food Timeline reports that the former president preferred a lunch of “soup, sandwich, and fruit.” Seafood and baked beans numbered among his favorite foods. The Kennedy family also patronized Boston’s Union Oyster House. There, JFK reportedly “loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room.”
According to the book, Entertaining in the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy “lured René Verdon, the French expert, away from the Carlyle Hotel in New York to preside over the White House kitchens.” But according to Real Life at the White House, JFK preferred fish chowder and chocolate ice cream to Verdon’s trout and meringue shells. Nonetheless, The Washingtonian reports that JFK’s taste for French food sparked a renaissance of French dining in Washington.
10. Dwight D. Eisenhower
According to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, former President Dwight Eisenhower had a few favorite foods, including roast stuffed breast of veal, steak, quail hash, and trout. But it’s Mamie Eisenhower’s beef stew that you probably most associate with the former president. According to Food and Wine, Ike’s wife originally shared the recipe with the North Dakota Cow-Belles, an auxiliary of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. The group was surprised to see the original recipe yielded 60 portions. That’s a bit much unless you’re throwing a party of White House proportions.
Other favorite foods in Eisenhower’s White House? His vegetable soup, Mamie’s apple pie, fudge, and sugar cookies. The recipes for Ike’s vegetable soup and Mamie’s beef stew were widely requested and reprinted often.
11. Harry S. Truman
According to the book, Talking with Harry: Candid Conversations with President Harry S. Truman, the former president liked roast beef but not “raw meat of any kind.” He was partial to bacon, ham, and sausage. But he never wanted anything, even steak, cooked any way other than well-done. When asked why Midwesterners like him preferred their beef well-done, Truman answered, “The West — Midwest — furnishes the beef for the nation, and they are of the opinion that only coyotes and predatory animals eat raw beef.”
Truman’s Library and Museum has a questionnaire where Truman shared some other favorite foods. They include Mrs. Truman’s chocolate cake and her chicken and dumplings. The president also mentioned his mother’s custard pie and fried chicken.
12. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt had several favorite foods. According to his presidential library and museum, White House housekeeper Henrietta Nesbitt said FDR liked foods “he could dig into.” So what did he request from the White House kitchen? The New York-born president reportedly liked scrambled eggs, fish chowder, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and fruitcake.
Nesbitt noted FDR had uncomplicated tastes and liked simple, American foods. But Ancestry.com reports the president’s “pedestrian taste” was rarely satisfied. That’s because Eleanor “famously served terrible meals to guests. She apparently thought gourmet menus unseemly for the country during the Depression.”
13. Theodore Roosevelt
Fried chicken with white gravy was one of former President Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite foods. And the white gravy was an essential part of the meal. As Ancestry.com notes, Edmund Morris wrote in the biography Theodore Rex that “the president said that his mother had always said that it was the only way to serve fried chicken; that it gave the gravy time to soak into the meat and that if the gravy was served separately he never took it.”
14. Abraham Lincoln
One of former President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite foods was gingerbread cookies. During an 1858 debate with Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln explained the origin of his love for the dessert. According to Carl Sandburg’s In the Prairie Years, Lincoln told Douglas:
When we lived in Indiana … once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread. It wasn’t often, and it was our biggest treat. One day I smelled the gingerbread and came into the house to get my share while it was still hot. My mother had baked me three gingerbread men. I took them out under a hickory tree to eat them.
Then, along came a child from a family that was poorer than Lincoln’s. Lincoln, of course, shared his gingerbread with the boy. Years later, Lincoln reportedly repeated the story in the White House. Lincoln also liked hot coffee, apples, and bacon, as well as honey. By several accounts, Lincoln would often forget about breakfast or lunch.