From the fresh produce of sunny California to the plentiful seafood of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay – America is a country rich in resources and know-how. Food from the United States is much more than hotdogs, burgers and fries; there is a fantastic range of classic dishes from delicate crab cakes to the more hearty fare of the Deep South. Native cooking traditions, and those brought by early settlers and waves of immigration since, have developed a sophisticated cuisine that is distinctly “American”.
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28 Jan 2009 - 7:30 PM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2021 - 10:39 AM

The Mississippi Delta is rich in fish, crab and shrimp. It’s also ‘soul food’ central: The huge population of African Americans in this region has resulted in culinary delights like jambalaya, gumbo, fried chicken, collard greens, black-eyed peas and grits. African slaves were resourceful when it came to cooking; chickens were easy to keep, catching a fish was free, and collard greens grew like weeds. The South is also famed for its delicious meringue-based key lime pie.

Further north, New England is renowned for its pure maple syrup, baked beans, brown bread, clam chowder and clambakes. In Buffalo – Buffalo wings (fried chicken wings) are served with blue cheese and celery. In other parts of the mid-Atlantic, Dutch influences are prominent – particularly among the Amish community of Pennsylvania who are famed for their “Shoofly pie” (a fluffy molasses pie).

Naturally, local produce plays a role when it comes to regional favourites – from Alaska where moose-burgers are popular to Hawaii where Polynesian pit bakes and pineapples reign supreme.

A key holiday commemorated with food is Thanksgiving, which is a reminder of the first harvest feast that the new settlers celebrated with the local Indians. Native produce like cranberries, pecan nuts and turkey are all on the menu. Other more inventive Thanksgiving dishes include the turducken: originating in Louisiana, it’s an elaborate heart-stopping dish consisting of a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. The not-so-healthy but oh-so-delicious deep-fried turkey is also becoming a popular alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey roast.

The all-American “Cook Out” is a proud tradition during the summer months. For centuries, North Americans have perfected the art of barbecuing, using many different types of wood to achieve a wonderful smoky flavour and combining dry spices to make rubs for meats as well as marinating. Barbecue techniques and special sauces reach art form in the southeastern region, where national competitions are common.

 

When it comes to dessert, apple pies are still all-American, as are the cherry, pumpkin, key lime and pies that can be found in generous slabs in diners across the nation.

 

View our American recipe collection here.

American Food Safari recipes
Food Safari's southern fried chicken

Fried chicken is the traditional Sunday lunch of the southern states in the USA. Thought to have evolved during slavery as most slaves were permitted to keep poultry, the dish has become mainstream and travelled the world. This lovely recipe is from Ashley’s beloved black nanny, Blanchie, and contains her clever tip to tenderise the chicken in buttermilk. Serve with grits and southern greens.

Barbecued ribs with marinated coleslaw

A finger-lickin’ good rib recipe with layers of flavour from the spice rub, the homemade chipotle barbecue sauce and the final sizzle on the barbecue. Delicious! The sauce can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Food Safari's jambalaya

A classic Creole dish, jambalaya from New Orleans is a true one-pot wonder blending French, African, Spanish and American influences. Make sure you use parboiled or "converted" rice when making this recipe. Serve with cornbread muffins for a hearty main meal.

Southern greens

This dish is typically made from collard, which has leaves that look a bit like pale silverbeet and have a slightly bitter taste. Turnip leaves, mustard greens, kale, dandelion or Australia’s native spinach (otherwise known as warrigal greens) also work well.

Fish tacos

The key here is not to put too much filling in your fish taco so you can roll it. Then all you'll need is a pitcher of Margarita

Chesapeake Bay crab cakes with cajun remoulade

This dish is traditionally made from blue crab in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland, but crab cakes are also popular along all of America’s coasts. They are sometimes served with a sauce such as this remoulade, or with tartare sauce, mustard or ketchup.

The recipe uses Old Bay Seasoning, a traditional spice blend for crab cakes, "crab boils" and other favourite American shellfish dishes, but if you can’t find it add a large pinch of ground celery seeds, smaller pinches of pepper and ground cardamom, and extra paprika and cayenne pepper.

Cornbread muffins

Cornbread muffins are baked every day in America's South. Victor’s grandmother would have pounded the corn kernels by hand, but he says tinned creamed corn is really handy and much easier! These muffins are lovely by themselves or served with collard greens, gumbo or jambalaya.

Food Safari's pecan pie

This easy and delicious pecan pie recipe makes wonderful use of America’s native nut, which is ground and baked in the crust as well as the filling. It's traditionally served at Thanksgiving, but makes a stunning dessert for any special occasion.

Grits

Grits is a very popular dish in the American South, traditionally cheap and readily available. Made from ground dried and hulled corn kernels, it can be boiled, baked or fried. Everyone has their favourite recipe, savoury or sweet.This recipe is a tasty, savoury porridge, flavoured with cheese, but a mixture of goat’s cheese and semi-dried tomatoes would also work wonders. It's delicious served with fried chicken or other Southern dishes.

American essentials
Tips: American
These expert tips will help you achieve the perfect balance of flavours.
Utensils: American
Find out which special utensils you’ll need on hand during cooking.
Key ingredients: American
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients.
Featured businesses: American
Contact the businesses featured in the American episode of Food Safari.