You May Have Thought These Foods Were Foreign, but They Were Actually Born in the U.S.

The United States has been a cultural melting pot for years. It’s no wonder why many of the foods we enjoy are believed to have originated elsewhere. However, some of the most popular dishes in Italian food, Chinese food, and Mexican food were actually “Americanized” by U.S. citizens and created right here. Here are a few dishes you know and love that were invented in the U.S.

German chocolate cake

Homemade Gourmet German Chocolate Cake with almonds and coconut
German chocolate is the name of the brand that used to be used. | bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

No, it’s not named after German people. German chocolate was actually named after its inventor, Sam German, who invented a sweet baking chocolate in 1852. But in 1957, a Texas homemaker sent her cake recipe into the newspaper, and it featured German chocolate. The dessert has been a fan favorite of Americans ever since.

Next: This food is typically found in your takeout orders.

Fortune cookie

fortune cookies with the fortune sticking out
Fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco. | iStock/Getty Images

Believe it or not, the fortune cookie was invented by a Japanese American named Suyeichi Okamura. He opened a Japanese confectionary store in San Francisco in 1906 and started making fortune cookies for the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park. When World War II broke out, Japanese Americans from California were sent to internment camps, and Chinese businessmen took the opportunity to start selling fortune cookies to Chinese restaurants.

Next: This popular Italian dish is not very Italian. 

Spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
The dish was invented by Italian immigrants. | HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Although the dish was invented by Italians, it did not come from Italy. During the height of immigration between the late 1800s and early 1900s, millions of Italians came through Ellis Island. Meat became a staple, and meatballs were invented (based on the Italian, golf-ball-sized meat dish called polpettes) because people had better jobs and could finally eat more. The sauce and spaghetti were add-ons that made the dish tastier.

Next: This Mexican favorite is actually from Texas. 


Though delicious, they’re actually from Texas. | iStock/Getty Images

This tasty dish is actually Tex Mex, not Mexican. It originated in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Sonny Falcon, manager of an Austin meat market, commercialized the first fajita at a Dies Y Seis celebration in Kyle, Texas in 1969. Fajitas began popping up on menus after that.

Next: The French don’t have anything to do with this dish. 

French dip sandwich

The inventor of the sandwich was French. | iStock/Getty Images

Although the French dip sandwich is not French, its inventor was. Phillipe Mathieu owned a Los Angeles deli. One day, he was making a sandwich for a police officer when he accidentally dropped it in the steak drippings from a roasting pan. The policeman liked the sandwich and eventually brought friends back to try it. Alas, the French dip sandwich was born.

Next: In Mexican culture, this dish is disgusting. 

Chili con carne

A mysterious nun published the recipe. | iStock/Getty Images

Chili con carne is the official dish of Texas. It was popularized in San Antonio, and supposedly a mysterious nun was the first person to have published a recipe in a Texas newspaper in the 1800s. Some think it was concocted by Texas cowboys around 1850. The actual origin might remain a mystery, but Texas’ love for this meaty dish definitely is not.

Next: There are a few stories behind this fried food. 


mexican chimichanga plate featuring spanish rice, refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream on a blue plate
It was invented in Arizona. | Eric Broder Van Dyke/iStock/Getty IMages

The battle for who invented the chimichanga is still ongoing. Some think it was Woody Johnson in 1946, while others think it was Monica Flin in 1922. One thing nobody questions is where it was invented: Arizona. This deep fried burrito was an accident, regardless of whose accident, and it has become so much of a staple that the state’s people have tried for years to make it the state food of Arizona.

Next: This dish was, indeed, named after a general.

General Tso’s chicken

General Tso's Chicken
They don’t really eat it in China. | iStock/Getty Images

This dish has an interesting history. It was invented by Chinese chef Peng Chang-kuei and cooked at Nationalist government banquets in China. Although it was technically invented in China, the dish did not become popular until he opened up his first restaurant in New York. In China, the dish is virtually unheard of, but in America, it’s become a staple of Chinese dinners.

Next: This food is most popular at breakfast time. 

English muffin

English muffins close up
He opened up a bakery in the United States. | iStock/Getty Images

Thomas’, the popular English muffin company, was started when Samuel Beth Thomas invented the English muffin after moving from England to the United States. He opened up a bakery in New York City in 1880, and the muffin has been a popular breakfast choice ever since. Thomas’ brand English muffins are still a household name today.

Next: This sandwich is named after its inventors. 

Cuban sandwich

An authentic cuban sandwich on pressed medianoche bread with pork, ham, cheese, pickle, and mustard.
They gave their creation an Americanized name. | Fudio/iStock/Getty Images

Something similar to a Cuban sandwich was invented centuries ago in Cuba, but the sandwich we know and love today actually originated in Tampa, Florida. The name “Cuban sandwich” started because the Cubans in Florida wanted to differentiate it from the sandwich that was actually made in Cuba, so they gave it an Americanized name.

Next: This European soup is actually soup-er American. 


leek and potato soup and ingredients on wooden cutting board
The chef wanted to offer clients a cold soup. | ClaudioVentrella/iStock/Getty IMages

While this soup may sound like it has a French origin, it was actually invented at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York City. Chef Louis Diat created the dish in the summer as a way to offer customers soup on a hot day. He based the recipe off of a soup that his mother used to make for him when he was growing up in France.

Next: This popular spread got its start in New Hampshire. 

Russian dressing

Salad with russian or thousand island dressing
The dressing was actually started in New Hampshire. | vichie81/iStock/Getty Images

The well-known salad dressing actually got its start in Nashua, New Hampshire. It consists of a ketchup and mayonnaise combination, often spiced up with horseradish or other spices to give it a kick. The creator, James E. Colburn, sold the condiment to retailers and hotels across the country, and it quickly became a fan favorite.

Next: New York City is the birthplace of this “Italian” gem. 

Pasta primavera

The dish was invented in New York City. | iStock/Getty Images

There are a few people who claim to have invented the popular pasta dish, but one thing is certain: it originated at Le Cirque, a restaurant in New York City. The dish came around in the 1970s, and once word was out, it became popular all over the U.S. It’s not as popular today but is still a choice on nearly every mediocre Italian menu in the country.

Next: This dish’s name refers to a process, not a country. 

Swiss steak

beef steak served with vegetables and potato
It was a way to make the meat softer. | sogcrt01/iStock/Getty Images

The term “swiss steak” does not refer to Switzerland. Instead, it refers to the process of swissing the steak before cooking it. Swissing means hammering or pounding the meat to soften it up. It’s a process that was created in the U.S., although its origin state is not confirmed.

Next: This Mexican favorite shares its identity between two countries.


rice and bean nachos
They were created for Americans. | iStock/Getty Images

This one is a bit confusing. Nachos were technically invented by a Mexican, Ignacio Anaya, in Mexico. However, they were originally prepared for U.S. military wives. The wives needed something to eat, and he did not know how to cook. He toasted chips, topped them with cheese and other toppings, and served them; they were a hit. His nickname, Nacho, became the name of the cheesy chip dish. While these are Mexican by origin, they were created for the American crowd. Americans brought them back to the states, so they are not a typical dish found in Mexico.

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