The 11 Absolute Worst Foods in America

The 11 Absolute Worst Foods in America

There is, as they say, no accounting for taste. And that’s especially true when it comes to literal tasting — to what people eat, and enjoy eating, in various parts of the world.

Virtually every cuisine includes dishes — often, though not always, involving offal or organ meats — that will seem weird or maybe even inedible to anyone who’s not used to consuming them. Consider andouillette, the funky-smelling tripe sausage of France; drisheen, the congealed blood serum that’s a specialty of Cork in Ireland; espardenyes, the squeaky, chewy sea slugs that are beloved in Spain’s Catalan region; balut, duck embryos boiled in the shell and eaten with gusto in China and much of Southeast Asia; shirako, the sperm sacs of various varieties of fish, considered a sushi bar delicacy in Japan…. The list could go on and on.

It’s all relative, of course. Most Americans might turn up their noses (and turn down their forks) at the thought of all or most of the specialties mentioned above. At the same time, though, observers from other parts of the world sometimes thing we’re crazy for eating things that seem like everyday innocuous fare to us, like peanut butter, breakfast cereal, Jell-O, or corn on the cob.

To come up with a list of what some people, at least, consider to be the worst American foods, 24/7 reviewed “100 Worst Rated Foods in the World,” published by TasteAtlas, the international food encyclopedia site, and extracted the 11 examples that come from the United States.

TasteAtlas polled their audience, employing “a series of mechanisms that recognize real users and that ignore bot, nationalist, or local patriotic ratings, and give additional value to the ratings of users that the system recognizes as knowledgeable.” Their survey, which closed on Dec. 14, 2023, included results from 273,250 respondents, all of them recognized as legitimate.

The American foods here include an interesting mix of familiar comfort food, regional specialties, and innovative mashups. (Consider the entries on this list of the strangest food from every state.)

In reference to all the “worsts,” not just our own, TasteAtlas cautions that the “Rankings should not be seen as the final global conclusion about food,” adding that “Their purpose is to promote excellent local foods, instill pride in traditional dishes, and arouse curiosity about dishes you haven’t tried.”

11. Bourbon ball

Chocolate bourbon balls on white plate.
Source: Sara Cozolino / Shutterstock.com

Source: Sara Cozolino / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 93

It’s difficult to imagine anyone not liking this Southern confection — chocolate-truffle-like spheres of bourbon-infused dark chocolate, sometimes with chopped pecans added and a coating of powdered sugar. Invented by Ruth Hanly Booe at her candy shop in Frankfort, KY, in 1936, reportedly at the suggestion of Eleanor Hume Offutt, daughter of Frankfort’s former mayor, they are one of America’s great regional candies. Nonetheless, they found a place near the bottom of this list:

10. Frog eye salad

Frogeye Salad by Jeffrey Beall
Source: Jeffrey Beall / flickr

  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 85

This curiosity, especially popular in the Mormon community, is a pasta salad meant for dessert. The pasta is the tiny, round kind known in Italy as acini di pepe (peppercorns) — said to resemble frogs’ eyes. It’s combined with a teeth-aching mixture of whipped cream, eggs yolks, and various kinds of fruit (usually pineapple, mandarin oranges, and coconut), with marshmallows on top.

9. Chicken riggies

Chicken riggies - Italian-American pasta dish.area of New York State.consisting of chicken, rigatoni and hot or sweet peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce.
Source: Fanfo / Shutterstock.com

Source: Fanfo / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 79

“Riggies” is what they call rigatoni in the Utica area of upstate New York. This particular preparation tosses the pasta with a spicy tomato-cream sauce, bits of chicken breast, and sliced cherry peppers. Sounds pretty good, actually.

8. Chicken à la king

Chicken à la King ('chicken in the style of King') is a dish consisting of diced chicken in a cream sauce, often with sherry, mushrooms, and vegetables, generally served over rice, noodles, or bread.
Source: Sandhujames / Shutterstock.com

Source: Sandhujames / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 76

Once a standard of tearoom lunches and country club buffets, this dish of chicken pieces in a cream sauce with mushrooms, bell peppers, sometimes peas and carrots, and (originally) truffles, probably invented by a Philadelphia hotel cook named William King in the 1890s, has a certain comfort-food appeal, but not much else can be said for it.

7. Fortune cookie

Source: nicolesy / Getty Images

Source: nicolesy / Getty Images
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 65

Unknown in China but hard to avoid at any Chinese restaurant (or in any Chinese takeout bag) in the U.S., these bland, faintly vanilla-flavored butterfly-shaped cookies, with the consistency of cardboard and a paper “fortune” inside, were introduced at a Japanese tea garden in San Francisco around the turn of the 20th century. 

6. Pittsburgh salad

Pittsburgh steak salad consist a lettuce salad with cheese, chicken breast, French fries, and ranch dressing on top closeup on the bowl on the table. Horizontal
Source: AS Foodstudio / Shutterstock.com

Source: AS Foodstudio / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 61

Invented sometime in the mid-1960s in western Pennsylvania, this is a kind of chef’s salad — lettuce with pieces of ham, chicken, steak, and cheese — to which French fries are added and ranch dressing is usually applied. Several restaurants in the region claim to have invented it, not that it’s necessarily anything to brag about.

5. Pork and beans

A wooden bowl of Baked Beans also known as Pork Beans on a wooden background with copy space
Source: DnDavis / Shutterstock.com

Source: DnDavis / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 55

The combination of pork (sometimes pork sausage) and beans of various kinds is known all over the world, and can be delicious. Presumably the variation that found disfavor in the TasteAtlas survey, however, is the canned kind commonly found in this country, in which the beans swim in sweet, starchy tomato sauce and the bits of meat, typically fatty salt pork, are few and far between.

4. Poi

Source: the808 / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 54

This traditional staple in Polynesia, and most particularly in Hawaii, is the puréed pulp of the taro root or corm. Easily digestible, it is high in carbs and low in fat, and a good source of vitamin A. It is also an unappetizing brownish-purple color and goopy and usually thick in consistency. Important though it may be in the Pacific, it is definitely an acquired taste for most Americans.

3. Chocolate-covered bacon

Chocolate Covered Bacon with Caramel
Source: Carrie's Camera / Shutterstock.com

Source: Carrie’s Camera / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 31

Pretty much everything goes better with bacon, but whether or not that applies to chocolate is obviously a matter of personal taste. Crisp bacon dipped in molten chocolate probably originated as a state fair food (it has been known to be served on a stick), and then social media ran with it.

2. Spaghetti pie

Italian pasta spaghetti omelet with tomato sauce
Source: denio109 / Shutterstock.com

Source: denio109 / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 20

“Spaghetti pie” can mean several different things, all of them based around long-cooked spaghetti in tomato sauce. One version bakes the spaghetti, along with cheese and other ingredients, in an actual pastry pie shell. Another version is a construction of spaghetti out of a can layered with mashed potatoes and cheese. The variation referred to here, however, is apparently an iconic dish in Colorado, made with spaghetti, ground beef, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, butter, beaten eggs, and mozzarella, ricotta, or parmesan, baked in a casserole dish, then cut into wedges to serve. It’s not clear what they’d think of this in Italy, but it’s pretty much definitive of Italian-American cuisine.

1. Ramen burger

Homemade Ramen Cheese Burger with Lettuce and Tomato
Source: Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com

Source: Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com
  • Position on the World’s 100 Worst-Rated Foods list: 2

One of the most notorious of the junk-food “mash-ups” that hit America in the 2010s (see the donut-bun burger, KFC’s Double Down, and of course the famous Cronut), this ground beef patty with soy sauce, between two rounds of crisp-fried ramen instead of buns, was invented by ramen-loving blogger Keizo Shimamoto in 2013. It was originally sold only at the Smorgasburg food mart in Brooklyn. According to TasteAtlas, “The ramen burger was so popular that it had been voted by Time Magazine as one of the 17 most influential burgers ever created.” Today there are numerous purveyors and recipes are everywhere. There’s even a Spam ramen burger. Despite obviously having a large number of fans, the TasteAtlas survey placed it as the second-worst food in the world — after hákarl, the highly ammoniated fermented shark meat considered the national dish of Iceland. (Here is a list of American foods foreigners just don’t understand.)

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