The Most Iconic Breakfast Foods In America

It's important to do breakfast right, and that's pretty easy with the number of American favorites so good that they can honestly be enjoyed any time of day. Every American is familiar with a stack of pancakes or bacon and eggs paired with a slice of buttered toast, but there's a lot more to be found in various regions of the country. Reflecting a history of innovation, local culinary traditions and immigrant influences, these breakfast foods represent the many ways in which Americans start their morning.

Biscuits and gravy

A Southern dish anyone would love, biscuits and gravy consists of delicious fluffy biscuits that are covered in gravy. The gravy is often made with white flour, milk and cooked pork sausage drippings, with bits of sausage, ground beef or other meat often added in. It's the ultimate breakfast comfort dish. Looking to kick it up a notch? Try this recipe for spicy biscuits and gravy.

Hash browns

You know them and you love them, but did you know hash browns originated in New York City restaurants in the late 19th century? This tried-and-true side continues to be popular at diners and fast food chains throughout the country. Hash browns are made by cutting, dicing, ricing or shredding potatoes and then pan-frying them, sometimes even adding chopped or diced onions. Here's how to make your own restaurant-style hashbrown casserole.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is another 19th-century New York City creation and a popular brunch food to this day. Two halves of an English muffin are topped with Canadian bacon, ham or smoked salmon, among other variations. The star of any eggs Benedict is a poached egg on each English muffin, which is then drizzled with hollandaise sauce. You can even make the dish with lobster.

Coffee cake

Coffee cake isn't actually flavored with everyone's favorite morning pick-me-up, but rather it's meant to be eaten alongside a cup of joe or tea. A delicious crumb cake covered in granules of cinnamon, coffee cake can sometimes feature sour cream to give it a nice, tart taste. Test your skills by making this country apple coffee cake that won the Pillsbury Bake-Off Content in 1984.

Breakfast burrito

Originating in New Mexico but now spread throughout the country, a breakfast burrito isn't stuffed with ground beef and rice. Instead, it features some combination of scrambled eggs, potatoes, chorizo, bacon, cheese, peppers, onions, salsa and sour cream. The perfect street food, breakfast burritos have gotten so popular that they've even appeared on the menus of fast food chains such as McDonald's and Taco Bell. Here are some scrumptious breakfast burritos that are freezer-friendly for busy days. 


While johnnycakes have their roots in indigenous North American cuisine, the modern johnnycake — cornmeal batter that's been fried on a griddle or in a skillet — originated in Rhode Island. The cornmeal mixture, which is sometimes sweet, is made with yellow or white cornmeal, salt and either hot water or milk. Typically eaten like pancakes with butter and syrup, they're also often eaten for lunch or dinner with potatoes or rice. Try this easy recipe at home

Steak and eggs

You can eat a nice, juicy steak alongside some sunny side-up eggs any time of day, but it's a wonderfully American way to wake up. In 1961, Alan Shepard was served steak and eggs before the historic trip that made him the first American to travel into space. Ever since then, it's been a tradition for NASA astronauts to eat this hearty breakfast before a launch. This recipe will be done in 15 minutes.


Beignets trace their roots back to ancient Rome, but the modern French-style treat is a deep-fried choux pastry that's a popular breakfast item in New Orleans, brought to the city by French colonists in the 18th century. Best eaten fresh and hot, the New Orleans beignet is typically served with powdered sugar on top, and it's the official state doughnut of Louisiana. These tender, sugar-dusted beignets will transport you back to the French Quarter.


The classic doughnut is popular in every state, with all kinds of variations in batters, toppings, fillings and flavorings, such as glazed, powdered and jelly-filled, chocolate icing with sprinkles and Boston cream. Doughnuts are a popular accompaniment to a cup of coffee, the perfect pairing for a quick breakfast on-the-go, as seen with the success of world-famous coffee and doughnut chains such as Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme. Here are some easy doughnuts you can bake at home.

Corned beef hash

Any dish made with canned meat may be easy to poo-poo at, but then there is corned beef hash. A mix of diced potatoes, onions and salty, cured corned beef, this dish is a simple yet classic breakfast throughout the world. Topped with an egg and served with a side of toast, this seemingly lowly food turns into a chef's favorite. This recipe is great for pepper lovers.

Shrimp and grits

A staple of the Southern breakfast table, grits can be eaten with any number of foods, such as fried catfish, country ham, salmon croquettes and bacon and eggs. But it's the shrimp that is the signature pairing with grits. Traditional to the low country cuisine of the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, you can eat shrimp and grits for lunch or supper too, just be sure to top it all off with a generous pour of hot sauce. The dish even works as a dip.

Avocado toast

Avocado toast has been one of the top food trends of the past decade, but people in California's Bay Area have been eating it since at least the late 19th century. Avocado, a fruit with many benefits, is mashed and spread on toast along with some salt, pepper and a bit of lemon or lime juice. Endlessly customizable, you can top off your avocado toast with a fried egg, roasted tomatoes, microgreens, feta cheese or whatever else tickles your fancy. Add yogurt for an extra protein boost.

Bacon, egg and cheese

The bacon, egg and cheese (or BEC) sandwich is a quick and classic breakfast that features bacon, fried or scrambled eggs and cheese (typically American, cheddar or Swiss). The BEC can be eaten on regular buttered and toasted white bread, a croissant, a kaiser roll or, as is common in New York City, a bagel. Not so common: served on french toast. But hey, give it a try.

Taylor ham, egg and cheese

Taylor ham, or pork roll as some prefer to call it, is a pork-based processed meat considered an iconic New Jersey food. As such, New Jerseyians often replace the bacon in the BEC with this local meat in a sandwich that is also sometimes known as the Jersey Breakfast. A taylor ham, egg and cheese specifically features a fried egg and American cheese and is served on a bagel, English muffin or hard roll, popularly topped with ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, lettuce and tomato. Daring eats can even try pomegranate mascarpone.

English muffin

Although created by an Englishman, the English muffin is actually one of the foods you might not know was invented in America. After its introduction in 1880, it quickly became a popular alternative to toast. Baked like a regular muffin, the porous and spongy bread is typically pre-cut so that it can be pulled apart, giving each half a crispier side for toasting. English muffins can always be swapped for toast and topped with jam, honey or eggs or even used as the bread in a breakfast sandwich. Sure, you can buy them. But why not try to make some on your own?

Bagel and lox

First brought to New York City by Jewish immigrants from Poland, the bagel conquered America as a quintessential breakfast food. One of the most classic ways to enjoy a bagel, particularly in New York, is topping it with lox (brined and smoked salmon) and cream cheese. For the full experience, add on a slice of tomato, capers and red onion. If you're not a big breakfast fan, cream cheese and lox fries exist, too. 

Dutch baby pancake

The Dutch baby pancake is one of those foods that no one really makes anymore but should. Despite its name, the dish has its origins at a restaurant in Seattle. Basically a large popover, the Yorkshire pudding-like pancake is baked in a cast-iron pan in the oven. Other fruits and flavorings can be added for different variations, and Dutch baby pancakes are traditionally served with powdered sugar, lemon, fruit toppings, butter or syrup. Be the star of your next brunch with this triple berry recipe

Toaster pastries

While you could make toaster pastries at home, they're generally better from a box. Who hasn't grabbed a Kellogg's Pop-Tart or Pillsbury Toaster Strudel in the morning? These thin rectangular confections come with many different icings and can have all sorts of fillings, such as chocolate, strawberry or cinnamon. You could even fill one with pumpkin. Generally designed to be popped in a toaster or heated in the oven, they can also be eaten cold.

Chicken and waffles

A popular menu item at many of the best fried chicken joints in America, chicken and waffles are a classic soul food that is popular throughout the country, but especially so in the South. Fried chicken is enjoyed alongside waffles topped with butter and syrup, a combination that can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner too. This spin with strawberry and rosemary is sure to be a show stopper.


Originating with the Pennsylvania Dutch and known as a mid-Atlantic food, scrapple is mash made out of pork scraps and trimmings, wheat flour, cornmeal and spices, such as thyme, sage and savory. Typically cut from a loaf, slices of scrapple are then pan-fried and can be served plain or eaten with all sorts of sweet and savory condiments like jelly, ketchup, honey, mustard and apple butter. Like any other breakfast food, you can also eat your scrapple in a sandwich or deep-fried.

Bear claw

A Danish-like pastry filled with almond paste and, at times, raisins, bear claws tend to be shaped in a semicircle or rectangle, with slices along one side that make it look like its namesake. Typically found in a coffee shop, it's the perfect companion to a cup of java. With this easy recipe you won't even need to leave the house.

Cinnamon roll

Cinnamon rolls originated in Scandinavia, but Americans love this sweet, doughy cinnamon treat. The rolled pastry is filled with sugar and best served warm with icing on top for dessert or cream cheese for breakfast. Cinnamon roll retail chain Cinnabon has gained popularity throughout the world, but you can also easily make some fresh at home with the help of a ready-made tube from the grocery store. You can even try to make them from scratch. 


A regional dish you might not have heard of, goetta is a very popular breakfast sausage in Cincinnati, Ohio. Similar to scrapple and made out of either pork or a mix of pork and beef, goetta also contains oats, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and onion. Goetta typically comes in a round loaf and can be served like any other breakfast meat, although most like to eat it plain — and it's super easy to make.

Monkey bread

Also known as pull-apart bread or Hungarian coffee cake, monkey bread is a very sweet and sticky pastry made of pieces of cinnamon-sprinkled dough that are picked apart to be eaten. A popular treat at fairs and festivals, monkey bread has its roots in the Hungarian Jewish immigrant community. The smell is sure to drive you crazy when you bake the treat at home

Breakfast cereal

Americans love their breakfast cereal, with all kinds of varieties popping up over the decades. Sugary cereals such as Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms are a hallmark of childhood, with whimsical mascots, games on the box and toy surprises inside, while options like Life or Kashi are the perfect, quick meal for adults to grab before heading out the door. Although classically American, you'll also find cereal on breakfast tables around the world.

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