What does apple pie have in common with hot dogs, hamburgers, turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy? While there’s no official national dish of America, most attribute these popular foods as such.
Aside from a country claiming a national food, a dish may be considered as such because it’s a staple food, contains local ingredient(s), or is served as a festive culinary tradition that forms part of a cultural heritage or as part of a religious practice.
The U.S. isn’t the only country that lacks an official national food. There’s also no national dish of India, though it was rumored that the government planned to designate khichdi, a plate of rice and lentils, as a national dish—though it was later denied by the government.
Still, 315 countries have official national foods. Among many seemingly different ones like Albania’s Tavë kosi lamb dish or Pastel de Belem in Portugal are commonalities. Meat dishes, along with desserts, are among the most common. Additionally, many countries boast multiple national dishes (Russia has 14!) as the map below shows.
View National Dish of America, India, and 315 Others in a full screen map
Three meat-based national foods come from Argentina: asado, empanada, and matambre. Asado, much like a barbecue, usually consists of various grilled meat, often beef, pork, and chicken. On the other hand, empanadas, which translates to “enbreaded,” are a baked or fried turnover containing fillings such as meat. Meanwhile, a thin cut of beef known as matambre or fly shaker is the muscle a steer twitches to repel flies.
Additionally, both of Guam’s national dishes are meat-based: Spam and Kelaguen, as are Taiwan’s beef noodle soup and minced pork rice. At the same time, Australia and New Zealand are each home to the same two meat-based national foods: meat pie and roast lamb. France is also home to two popular meat dishes, among six others, including desserts.
Sweets make up two of France’s eight national foods. The first, a crêpe, originated in the country and is now popular around the world. There are both sweet and savory types. The second popular dessert in France is a custard with clear caramel sauce, called crème caramel.
It should be no surprise that Canada, with 22% French speakers, has an equal number of national desserts. Butter tarts are baked pastry shells filled with butter, sugar, syrup, and egg. Another sweet treat is the Nanaimo bar, named for Nanaimo, British Columbia. This no-bake dessert has three layers: a base (made of wafers, nuts, and coconut), custard icing; and chocolate ganache.
Among national meat and desserts are soups, stews, and noodle dishes (including a Kraft macaroni dinner in Canada), among many others. However, Canada isn’t the only country with multiple national foods of very different varieties: two desserts and one noodle dish.
As you’ve seen with Argentina, France, Canada, and many others, countries struggle to choose just one national dish. Whether it’s due to diverse populations or other reasons, a single country is often represented by multiple dishes (up to 14!): some meat, grain, or dessert—others national dishes of the same variety.
- Russia – 14 national foods
- France – 8
- China – 8
- Greece – 7
- Germany – 7
- Switzerland – 6
- Indonesia – 6
- South Korea – 5
- Serbia – 5
- Portugal – 5
- Philippines – 5
- Japan – 5
While a single Russian national drink is easier to pinpoint (vodka), the country has 14 foods that represent it. Four are types of bread: baranki, bublik, karavai, and pirozhki. Baranki and bublik are similar to bagels in their shape; the rings are boiled in water and then baked.
Meanwhile, karavai is a traditional bread most often eaten at weddings and pirozhki are Russian boat-shaped buns full of a variety of fillings sold by street merchants.
Soups made of vegetables like beetroots, cabbage, and pickled cucumbers are also popular in Russia: borscht is a sour, bright red soup made of beetroots. Meanwhile, shchi is a soup made of cabbage and rassolnik comes from pickled cucumbers, among other ingredients. Russian national foods also include two types of dumplings, though it doesn’t end there. The map contains information about Russia’s other five national dishes.
You already know four of France’s eight national foods: two types of meat and two desserts. Check out the rest on the map, along with the other countries with quite a few national dishes.