Food is universal. Everyone has to eat, and many like to share their own recipes, which in turn can spread like wildfire. As such, some food is much more popular than others, and sometimes they can even be brought in across oceans and become international hits!
That’s the kind of food this list will be covering. What meals are statistically proven to be the most commonly eaten in the world? We’ve got eighteen lined up, and it can be a fun challenge to see if you can correctly guess each one of them!
#1 – Pizza
The culinary world owes a whole lot to Italy. Italian cuisine is definitely a contender for the strongest across the globe, and perhaps the biggest success story to ever come out of the country is pizza! It’s a good contender for the most popular food in the world because honestly, it’s very very difficult to find someone who doesn’t eat pizza. And not just eat it, but love it!
It’s delicious in classic form with traditional toppings like pepperoni, sausage and black olives, but a real strength of pizza is how malleable it is. That is to say, how easily you can alter it to suit your tastes. It’s a big round circle of cheese, dough and sauce that can go well with just about anything.
With it’s flat surface, you have plenty of space to top it with whatever you might fancy and there’s room to get creative. People like getting daring and weird with pizza, putting anything on it from calamari to nachos to green peas – and yes, we’re serious! Pineapple doesn’t seem so exotic now, huh? And since it can be used with almost anything, that means anybody can enjoy it no matter what they’re into!
What’s more, pizza is among the foods that we as a society are just absurdly passionate about. Folks take great regional pride in their specific brand of pizza, from Chicago to Sicily. Frankly they can get a bit obsessed – one day, wars might be fought over who has the better slice of pizza!
#2 – Rice
You might see it as much as pizza depending on where you are, but rice is another food that has managed to spread far and wide. Rice hails from China and traces its roots back a long, long ways. It’s a massive staple in many Asian countries unsurprisingly, not only China but also Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and India as well.
Those countries have enormous population numbers, which is a big part of why it’s going to be so high on this list. It’s said that around a billion people in China consume rice as much as three times a day, and in India that number is doubled! That’s obviously a ton, but while rice’s popularity in Asia is huge, and a big factor, it would be disingenuous to suggest it’s the whole reason it’s up here.
The countries mentioned above are said to account for 30% of all rice consumption, with the Philippines actually being the highest. While that is certainly a lot, that means a whopping 70% of rice is eaten overseas. And mind you, that 30% is already several billion, so that should tell you how much is in the remainder!
White, brown and black rice are the most common. White rice is among the most mild foods in the world and will pretty much taste exactly like whatever you put on it, so once again the strength of malleability comes into play. Black and brown rice have a bit more of a distinct taste and are also seen as more nutritious options.
#3 – Chicken
Definitely the most popular meat around, there’s a reason that people describe any good meat as tasting like chicken. It’s one of the most prolific foods out there and can be found as a major part of cuisines all across the globe.
It can be prepared in all sorts of ways, be it grilled for a solid, healthy meal or fried into a delicious, crunchy delight. It can be broiled and roasted, and is a huge part of many stews. From chicken sandwiches to chicken salad, it’s an integral part to all sorts of American dishes and that’s not even getting into other cuisines.
Because for sure, chicken is used all around as well. It’s frequently paired with rice, giving it a strong in-road into Asia. Boy does Kung Pao Chicken hit different too… orange chicken is a real delight as well! For Italian lovers, Chicken Parmesan might suit your fancy. And that’s not all, it’s used very regularly in Mexican food too. Chicken enchiladas and chicken quesadillas are just the tip of the iceberg, it’s one of the most commonly consumed protein sources in all of Mexico.
Speaking of protein, that’s a real big thing, atleast for those of us who want to get real big ourselves! Anyone looking to pack on muscle is likely to consider chicken as one of their best options. It’s a delicious food that can be very healthy when prepared the right way, and is a staple of many of the most influential countries in the world.
#4 – Bread
Bread is essential, let’s be real. It seems like almost any dish could be served with bread… hm, okay, bread with something like ice cream would be a little odd, but still, it’s a perfect side to anything. And it can be the main or secondary ingredient to full-course meals as well!
It’s always had a baked-in (see what we did there?) part in Western culture due to being the most frequently mentioned food in the Bible. That says a lot about just how far back this goes, people have been eating bread for a very very long time! And it’s just as popular today as ever.
Usually bread is made from white wheat but there’s no shortage of other sources it can have, like whole grains or almond flour. These types are trendy since they’re gluten-free and there is an ever rising sentiment against gluten.
More often than not bread is used to make sandwiches or eaten as toast, but they can also be used for crusts and plenty other things. It’s very, very widely consumed, in fact in the UK alone it has been estimated that nearly 400 sandwiches are eaten each day!
#5 – Pasta
Alright so this is technically a whole category of food here, but when you think about it, you can say that about a lot of major foods like bread as well. Pasta in it’s simplest definition, per Oxford dictionary, is dough made from durum wheat, extruded or stamped into various shapes and cooked in boiling water. From there it can be formed into almost anything and the amount of pasta dishes out there is insanity.
Pasta is at the heart of Italian cuisine and it’s most popular form is probably spaghetti – certainly in the US and maybe in the rest of the world as well. Spaghetti is absolutely delicious and, notably, very filling and nutritious due to a high level of carbs and proteins. Other famed types of pasta include lasagna and ravioli among many others, and each have their own variations and recipes.
Ultimately pasta is another Italian dish that has served to not only take over the US, but Canada and Spain in addition to some Asian countries. And it’s of course enormous in Europe, particularly Spain and naturally it’s home of Italy, where it’s said to be eaten by a staggering 80% of the populace on a regular basis!
By the way, small aside to close this section out, you might not know this but macaroni is also considered a kind of pasta!
#6 – Eggs
Sometimes it feels like you have to go way out of your way to avoid using a recipe that includes eggs. They’re a staple in any kitchen, pretty much globally, as a huge portion of meals out there include eggs among their main ingredients.
They are exceptionally healthy, great sources of protein as well as healthy cholesterol. And they can be used with nearly anything, both sweet and savory dishes, not to mention having a huge part in all sorts of desserts. In other words, whether you’re looking for a sweet cheat meal or a hearty and healthy snack, eggs are going to be on your shopping list.
Additionally eggs are pretty cheap and there’s never a shortage of them. Plus they’re a cinch to prepare as well, often simply boiled or cracked open for their yolk. It’s certainly no surprise then that eggs find themselves doing very well on our list.
Eggs are popular just about everywhere but especially in European countries like Germany, Spain, France and Portugal, as well as in Japan and India. In these listed countries these are used by a gigantic percentage of the population, around 70-80%!
#7 – Burrito
Finally we get to a Mexican dish! While not quite as prolific as Italian cuisine, Mexican food has similarly integrated itself very strongly into other countries, especially in the United States. Burritos for sure are a huge example of that, consumed all around America but most notably in Chicago thanks to the famed El Pollo Loco burrito chain.
The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity, as the main ingredient is just a tortilla, which can be wrapped around all sorts of ingredients. Tortillas, incidentally, are meant from unleavened cornmeal or, on occasion, wheat flouter. The most frequent ingredients for burrito are meat and refried beans, but that’s just the most basic version.
Plenty more can and has been stuffed inside a burrito, including salsa, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, boiled beans, spanish rice, all sorts of vegetables… the list goes on and on. Some specific types of burritos that have become classics in their own right include breakfast burritos, burrito bowls, wet burritos and chimichangas.
Nowadays people even eat sushirrito, a trendy food and a surprising mix to say the least. Don’t know what a Sushirrito is? Well it’s exactly what it sounds like – a Mexican burrito with classic Japanese sushi blended in! Now there’s a culture shock for you.
#8 – Soup
Soup’s on! This is another one where it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t tried a bowl of soup atleast once or twice in their lives. If nothing else, you probably found yourself consuming some when you were sick, since hot soup does a lot to alleviate the symptoms of colds and the flu.
Chicken noodle soup is definitely the most popular type of soup in the US… hey, what do you know, another major use for chicken! Anyway it’s evidently good for the soul, though citation is needed on that one… what we can say is that it’s quite yummy and leaves you with a nice warm feeling. So it’s no surprise that Americans consume boatloads of the stuff, in the park of 10 billion bowls per year!
And that’s just one type of soup, mind you! They come in all forms. Cold, stew, goulash, canned and broth soups are available. It’s another food that benefits from simplicity because all you have to do to make a soup of some kind is put some spices and salt in water, usually with some veggies or other such ingredients.
Vegetable soups are extremely popular but there exists fruit soups out there too. Berry soups are among the most often consumed out of this group, noted for it’s interesting combination of tart and sweet flavors. Of course meat can find it’s way into soup as well, and vegetable beef soup is absolutely out of this world tasty!
There’s really nothing off the table when it comes to soup. And we’re seeing a clear trend emerge here. The most popular foods are almost always those that are simple to make or find, and can either be partnered with anything or topped and flavored with anything. Soup is another example, just like pizza, bread or burritos. Versatility is key when it comes to a type of food gaining mass appeal.
#9 – Tacos
You know when you see burritos that tacos can’t possibly be too far behind. Indeed, to nobodies’ surprise, this is a national dish of Mexico and it’s insanely popular in its native country. Like a burrito it is a tortilla filled with various things, but it’s done in a different manner, as tacos traditionally have more of a solid shell. Even the soft-shell variety of tacos are crunchier than the very soft tortilla wraps used for burritos.
What’s more, and what really sets it apart from other similar Mexican dishes, is that tacos can be filled with practically anything. The standard taco is likely to be filled with ground beef, refried beans, lettuce, tomato slices and sour cream, maybe shredded cheese and such. But if you search taco along with practically anything, you’ll likely find it.
No, seriously, try it out sometime. Salmon taco? Naturally. Pizza taco? Of course! Taco M&Ms? Strange, but… sure, they’re out there! Seriously, if it exists, somebody has put it in a taco and they probably found it absolutely delectable. And so, yet another very adaptable dish finds its way onto the list.
Now, compared to burritos, tacos are not as big in the US or elsewhere. Indeed their popularity is mostly centered in Mexico, but man you can’t walk two steps in Mexico without seeing one. They’re everywhere!
Even so, they definitely have an international presence. And it should be noted that for those who do like tacos, they tend to really, really, REALLY like them. I mean people just live and die by the taco, it’s an obsession! Part of it might have to do with how fun the word ‘taco’ is to say and how distinct their appearance is. Tacos are just very fun to have around.
#10 – Ice Cream
We’ve been dipping our toes real deep into savory foods a lot so far, seems like. Finally the time has come for sweets to shine! And when it comes to confectionary treats, what could be better than ice scream? We all scream for it, after all… this is a dessert that’s beloved by all, particularly on hot summer days!
It is said that a gargantuan 15.4 billion liters of ice cream is eaten every single year! And among that, vanilla is known to be the most popular, which is interesting because people don’t talk about it that way. It might be that vanilla is the safe choice, you could say the vanilla one, since it’s unlikely to bother anybody. Chocolate and strawberry are also enormously popular and iconic ice cream flavors.
But what sets ice cream apart from other sweets, and you probably see this coming by now, is that ice cream can be made to suit anyone’s taste. After all it can come in practically any flavor. Baskin-Robbins famously capitalized on that with their original 31 flavors, and people have since taken this and ran with it, and now there’s hundreds of flavors of ice cream on the market.
Just how diverse do these flavors get? Well, while the vast majority are sweet, you might be surprised to learn that there exists savory ice cream flavors too. The main ingredients to these are usually smoked bacon, egg, chili, black peppers and sometimes black pudding. It sounds bizarre but they certainly have an audience!
Ice cream can be a little like pizza in the sense that people seem to have tons of fun getting creative and wacky with it. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s made a fortune off of this very principle!
#11 – Cheeseburgers
Really this can be seen as a simple, yet vital upgrade to the old hamburger. Take that, top it with a bunch of cheese, usually melted into the meat patty, and you have a truly delicious American classic.
The burger has to be the most famous type of food to come out of the US and for good reason, it’s absolutely got the honor of being the most popular food in the USA. The main ingredients here are very common among burgers and most often ground beef is the meat used for the patties. Meanwhile the cheese is most commonly swiss, American and other such easily meltable options.
Some of the most iconic toppings include tomato, lettuce, onions and pickles. Bacon is a topping that’s gained rapidly in popularity in recent years, as has such other toppings like avocado, chili, cheese sauce and many, many others.
That variety of toppings is largely where you’ll see the versatility come into play, though veggie burgers are also some of the most popular alternative foods, allowing vegetarians and vegans to enjoy a burger too.
While their popularity in the US is enormous and certainly accounts for much of it’s consumption, cheeseburgers can be found basically everywhere. Something that has helped them gain international fans is the global expansion of McDonald’s, the most famous provider of cheeseburgers out there. By the way fun fact, 71% of all beef served in restaurants comes in cheeseburgers!
#12 – Tofu
Tofu comes from Asia and is very common to find in China, where it’s considered to be a healthy meat substitute. It’s huge in other Asian countries like Japan, Vietnam and Thailand too, and from there spread to Europe. It’s a common finding in Greek salads as well.
Tofu is certainly recognizable and is something of a pioneer food, as it was an early example of meat substitutes, one that vegetarians and vegans were quick to get into. Made by coagulating soy milk, it was the first of what would end up being many soy-based meat alternatives.
As such, it experienced a wave of popularity in the West, though it has fallen somewhat out of favor now that there’s so much more competition in this market. Even so, the classics never die and millions in the US still consume tofu, showing that it has an endearing place.
Full of plant-based protein, it’s used in a variety of savory dishes and just like chicken, it can be cooked in nearly any way imaginable. It can be fried, grilled, baked, stewed, roasted, braised, deep-fried or steamed. And it can be put to good use in more health conscious desserts as well.
It has an extremely high nutritional value of course, high in iron and calcium in addition to the previously mentioned protein. Plus it’s low in calories, so it’s a solid choice for more restrictive diets.
#13 – Potatoes
Irish readers are no doubt stunned that it’s taken so long to get to potatoes on this list, but not for lack of trying! Potatoes are very closely associated with Ireland, but you might be surprised to know they’re not even close to the country with the highest production of them.
Instead that honor goes to China, which to be fair seems to have the highest production of most things, but Ireland is shockingly all the way down at 80th place! Even so, they’re legendary for their consumption of them and that’s definitely not a myth. At their peak, Ireland was recorded as having consumed 139 kg per capita in the year of 1962!
That is a staggering number, that means the average person in Ireland consumed over 300 pounds of potatoes on average! Of course a high like that can’t be maintained forever and recently the number bottomed out. In 2020 it hit an all-time low of 60 kg of potatoes consumed in Ireland per capita. Which… is still a whole lot, actually!
And of course potatoes are huge across the globe as well, another food that has benefited a lot from being mild, nearly flavorless, and therefore able to be adapted to whatever you prepare it with. It’s very comparable to rice or bread in that way, but with a very different chunky yet soft texture. It’s said that in France there are nearly 500 ways to prepare potatoes!
While there are too many to mention them all, we can’t help but make note of mashed potatoes, a big favorite Stateside. And potatoes are also the main ingredient to the next item on our list…
#14 – French Fries
That’s right, french fries – known as pomme frites in some circles – are by themselves among the most frequently consumed food in the world. One would think for sure given their name that they are of French origin, but that’s actually up for debate. A report by the BBC suggests that they were actually most likely conceived in neighboring Belgium. The first recorded mention of French fries comes from a Parisian book that dates back to 1775, and the first recipe for what we’d recognize as French fries today comes from a French cookbook from 1795.
Regardless of where they come from though, one thing is for sure, people all over the world just love ‘em. Made by deep frying dried potato strips, they’re usually salted and can be served with a number of condiments, including ketchup, mayo, vinegar and more. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they’re wonderful for dipping into sauce and make for perfect finger food.
French fries are closely associated with burgers in the US, and are often served alongside them at restaurants, from fast food places to high end bistros. They’re not only tasty but rich in fiber and protein, which is pretty good nutritional value for something so commonly eaten. It’s pretty rare that anyone turns their nose up at French fries.
#15 – Bananas
What is it about bananas that are so inherently… funny? The unique, kinda goofy shape? The bright yellow color? The fact that they come in a big cumbersome peel? Maybe it’s just the fact that the name is so fun to say. Maybe all of the above!
It’s hard to pinpoint but bananas definitely have something of a fun personality to them that other fruits can lack, something that might help feed into its extraordinary popularity. People like to say the name so much that ‘going bananas’ became a playful slang term. They’re closely associated with monkeys, another thing that adds to that image, and nevermind the classic slipping-on-a-banana-peel slapstick routine.
What we’re trying to say is that bananas have an excellent PR team, but that’s not solely where their popularity comes from. They’re a great fruit for practical reasons too, having a very distinct taste. They’re commonly enjoyed by themselves and also frequently mixed into things. Banana pudding, banana sundaes, banana bread… they can be cooked into pancakes and muffins or blended into smoothies.
Bananas bring a fantastic natural sweetness to any dish they’re added to for sure, which is likely the reason that they’re known as the most popular fruit in the world. That’s actually kind of crazy considering that they’re tropical fruits, and thus only grow in a few places!
#16 – Paella
This one may throw you for a loop a bit, as it isn’t a very famous food in the West. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve its place in the world wide rankings. Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish, one that has been eaten for a long time and is remarkably popular in Spain. As well, former Spanish colonies still consume heavy amounts of paella, particularly those in South America.
Paella is a bit more strict in how it’s made than others on this list, as it is without fail made of ten specific ingredients. These are chicken, short-grain rice, rabbit, tomatoes, wide green beans, saffron, garrofo beans, olive oil, water and salt. Optional ingredients do exist though, including artichoke, seafood, Peking duck, snails, rosemary or paprika.
Paella is a very unique and tasty dish that comes from Valencia, and it was named after the traditional pan that it was cooked in. It’s highly recommended that you eat paella directly from the pan.
#17 – Apples
And finally we close off our list with another worldwide staple. Apples are the second fruit on this list and feel almost like the poster child for fruit in a strange way. Most would probably guess that they’re the most popular fruit and while they fall short of that, they’re still beloved across the globe.
Apples are very sweet fruits and yet remarkably healthy. They are so very nutritious that the famous phrase was coined, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Apples are a great solution if you’re on a diet that strictly forbids sugar but you have a craving for something sweet. And man, is there a big variety out there of apples to choose from.
It’s said that there are 100 varieties of apples grown commercially in the US, and somewhere around 7500 types of apples grown across the world! The gala apple is the most iconic around, followed closely by the Red Delicious variety. The slightly sour Granny Smith apple is a big favorite too, as are Golden Delicious apples.
And if the basic ones don’t suit your fancy, you can always bake them into apple pies or apple turnovers, put them on a stick and coat them in caramel to make caramel apples, or just turn them into apple juice!
And so our list of seventeen comes to a close. As you can see, certain types of food are much more popular than others. It’s pretty amazing how certain foods managed to be created in one place only to spread across oceans and all over the world. Today, our cultures are more closely knit than ever and these shared foods make for a big, and wonderful, result of this.
But of course, it’s not a fully comprehensive or objective list by a long shot. There’s room for error in most datasets and the answer as to what the most popular in the world is could change on a dime with the trends. Is there any food you can think of that deserved to have a spot on this list?