Top 10 American Foods Your Exchange Student Should Try

I asked 10 American friends from different parts of the country to name their top American foods. And….I got 10 different answers. 

Lesson learned: America’s food is as diverse as its people.

Food is a delicious way to explore any culture, and America is no exception. 

Encourage your exchange student to go out of his/her comfort zone by trying out some of these tasty bites. It may be a hit or miss, but it’s all part of the journey of experiencing America. 

Let’s get down to it. 


#10 Hot Dogs 

If you’re from Chicago, you might squeeze a pickle spear in between the dog and the bun. If you’re from the south, you might scoop some coleslaw on top of it all. If you’re from Texas, you might add some chili and cheese, creating the ultimate decadent dog. Regardless of how you fancy up your hot dog, this item is a fan favorite. My personal favorite variation: the deep fried corn dog. 

Pro tip: Best enjoyed at baseball games.

two girls roasing hot dogs over campfire


#9 Peanut Butter 

Peanut butter is a staple that most Americans have somewhere in their pantry. Whether you’re making a PB&J, peanut butter toast, or anything in between, peanut butter is a delicious component to any meal or snack. Today, there are lots of alternative peanut butters to explore as well including almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter, and more! 

Pro tip: Try out crunchy, smooth, and other types of peanut butter with your exchange student. 

collage of peanut butter foods


#8  Buffalo Chicken Wings 

If you don’t have buffalo sauce all over your hands and face, you’re doing it wrong. Depending where they’re from, friends from other countries may be hesitant to use their hands to eat certain foods. Reassure your exchange student that it’s not only ok to use your hands to eat wings, but encouraged and necessary! 

Pro tip: Order extra dipping sauces for the table. The sauce is almost as important as the wings. 

happy people eating buffalo wings


#7 Tater Tots 

Whether it’s mashed, baked, or in tot form, most Americans have a favorite way to eat potatoes. Tater tots are a beloved side dish to anything you might be craving. As much as I love tater tots, encourage your exchange student to also try other American potato dishes to find the one that he/she likes best! Mashed potatoes tend to be a new food for many exchange students and a fun process to make it together. 

Pro tip: Ask for your tots extra crispy.

bowl of tater tots


#6 Apple Pie 

The common expression, “as American as apple pie,” says it all. Apple pie has been gobbled up by Americans since the early 1800s and its popularity has not waned since. If you are lucky enough to share a couple American holidays with your exchange student such as Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, be sure to bring some apple pie to the table. 

Pro tip: Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

boy pointing at fresh baked apple pie


#5 Biscuits 

Your exchange student may have heard of biscuits before, but first things first, make sure they know what an American biscuit is– commonly confused with the British biscuit. A British biscuit is often considered a cookie by folks in the U.S., whereas an American biscuit is a small, fluffy piece of baked bread. If your exchange student has a sweet tooth, add some jam to sweeten it up. If your exchange student prefers more savory food, I’m sure he/she will enjoy a southern-style biscuit smothered with gravy. 

Pro tip: Put a piece of fried chicken in your biscuit. 

biscuits and gravy


#4 S’mores 

I have yet to meet a non-American friend that knows what on earth a “s’more” is, so you can bet this will be a new experience for your exchange student! As delicious as s’mores are, the best part is the process of making them with loved ones. Whether you’re gathered around a campfire or hovered around a single burner on the stove, crank some tunes and have fun with this delicious treat.

Pro tip: Aim for a golden brown color when roasting your marshmallow. 

smiling boy eating s'mores


#3 Bagels

Bagels are often overlooked as a popular American food, but they’re certainly an essential in my book. Introduce your exchange student to the classic bagel and cream cheese pairing, or be adventurous with a bacon, egg, and cheese combo. Whichever route you take, a bagel is a great way to start the day together.

Pro tip: Experiment with different bagel and cream cheese types until you find your exchange student’s favorite.

girl giving thumbs up and eating bagel

#2 Mac and Cheese 

Regardless of if it’s poured from a Kraft box or homemade with a family recipe, it’s difficult to go wrong with this one. Mac and cheese is enjoyed by Americans of all ages and commonly regarded as a comfort food item. If you’re feeling bold, add some bacon! 

Pro tip: Inquire about the lactose tolerance level of your exchange student before offering. 

Mac and cheese in cast iron pan


#1 Hamburger 

This list would not be complete without the one and only: hamburger. This American classic traditionally consists of a beef patty, tomato, lettuce, onions, and ketchup. However, over the years, burgers have evolved to accommodate various dietary preferences. Whether you’re looking for an impossible burger, turkey burger, mushroom burger, or anything in between, chances are there is something to match your exchange student’s preferences.

Pro tip: Get creative with toppings– Australians often add pineapple to their burgers. The sky’s the limit! 

girl eating big, juicy cheeseburger


Despite how different food is around the globe, it is also one of the great unifiers. Sharing a meal with others can be a very special bonding experience. Just as you may introduce these American foods to your exchange student, I encourage you to be open to trying foods from your exchange student’s home country as well. 

There are many unspoken lessons to be learned through food– be present and bon appétit.

Am I missing a food that you think deserves to be on this list? Comment below! 


Tags: Host an exchange student, Student Experience, cultural immersion

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