Popular Foods You Didn't Know Native Americans Invented

From drying meat to popping corn, the Native Americans are responsible for perfecting many food-making processes that we still use today.

The first Native American banquet any of us ever heard of was almost certainly that legendary "first Thanksgiving" — details of whose menu have been endlessly debated. The truth is that, other than the fact that there were probably several kinds of wild fowl involved (goose, duck, crane, yes, even maybe turkey), we don't know a lot about what was consumed.

Popular Foods You Didn't Know Were Invented by Native Americans (Slideshow)

We do know, however, that those who inhabited this continent before the Europeans came over ate — and invented — a number of popular foods that we still eat today.

Not everything our predecessors on the continent ate made it onto modern menus, of course. Take akutaq, for example, a western Alaskan staple also known as "Eskimo ice cream," made up of moose fat and meat, seal oil, berries, and occasionally fish, whipped together with snow. Then there were such variously enjoyed delicacies as walrus flipper soup, bird brain stew, and acorn mush. 

Some Native American foods have stood the test of time, though, and you may not realize as you're eating them that they were first developed by the original Americans. Read on to learn about eight of these foods.

Beef Jerky

In the days before refrigeration, fresh meat needed to be preserved by various methods. The best way to accomplish this? Salt it and dry it out! The very word jerky derives from the word ch'arki, in the South American Quechua language. Its meaning? "Dried, salted meat."


Corn (or maize), as we learned in elementary school, was a staple crop of the Native Americans, both in Mexico, where it was probably first domesticated, and to the north and south. There were hundreds of uses for it, and baking it into a kind of hearth bread was one of them.