50 of the Best Food Trucks in the U.S.


Some of the best restaurants around the country are on wheels. Whether you're craving fish tacos, wood-fired pizza, or ice cream and doughnuts, these roving eateries prove you don’t need a fancy kitchen to serve up mouth-watering cuisine.


Location: Portland, Maine

Miss Rosie the Urban Sugar truck was so popular roaming Portland’s streets serving bite-sized, gourmet doughnuts (and wintering at the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain) that owner Kevin Sandes was able to open a permanent storefront at the skiing base lodge. But Rosie continues to make the summer rounds downtown and at weddings, doling out mini concoctions like the sweet Ol’ Blue Eyes (a lavender pastry cream with lemons curds and Nilla wafer crumbs) or savory Figgy (with fig jam, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and green onions).


Location: Hoboken, New Jersey

Why travel to Mardi Gras when Mardi Gras can come to you? Cajun-style fried shrimp, jambalaya, and other New Orleans treats are available to Jersey residents year-round. Just look for the bright purple and yellow truck.


Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Food from Seoul Taco
Seoul Taco

Not only does this Korean-Mexican fusion truck serve rave-worthy tacos, quesadillas, and burritos around St. Louis (and at a handful of regional storefronts, based on the cheap-eats’ street popularity), but when owner David Choi launched his second truck in the Lou last summer, he decided to use it as an opportunity to help underserved areas. All Monday proceeds are donated to St. Louis’s Metro Market, a non-profit mobile farmers’ market that aims to provide healthy, local foods to the city’s poorer neighborhoods.


Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Roxy's has been serving comfort food on four wheels since 2011. The menu is stuffed with grilled cheese sandwiches that showcase the owners' Boston pride, like the Green Muenster, their muenster, bacon, and guacamole sandwich named for the iconic left field wall at Fenway Park.


Location: Los Angeles, California

In a city filled with diverse cuisines, a fish taco is one the dish that’s 100 percent Los Angeles. And in true L.A. fashion, the city’s best is served out of a food truck. The fish at Ricky’s is fried to golden brown perfection and served under a refreshing layer of chopped cabbage and pico de gallo. A taco is only complete after a trip to the condiment station, where patrons can dress their meal with white sauce and salsa to their liking.

6. MOO

Location: New Hope, Pennsylvania

Moo Food truck

A burger from MOO is a bite of rural Pennsylvania between two buns. The ingredients that go into the All-American menu, like the grass-fed beef for the burgers, the potatoes for the fries, and the ice cream for the milkshakes, are sourced from farmers and purveyors in the community. Keep an eye out for their seasonal shake flavors like apple pie.


Location: Brooklyn, New York

The next time you're going on a beach trip to Coney Island, take a quick detour to Coney Shack, an unassuming taco truck situated amongst government buildings and a police station. The Asian fusion menu offers up loaded tacos, uniquely topped hot dogs, and grilled cheese. Try their Holy Phuc and you'll find yourself saying the name of the meal over and over.


Location: Newark, Delaware

You can find this punny food truck scooting around the campus of the University of Delaware and the greater Newark area. I Don't Give a Fork serves all the greasy college classics (including a likely hangover cure, their scrapple-and-fried-egg topped breakfast burger) and features a couple of more unusual entrees, like the Mac & Cheesesteak.


Location: Austin, Texas

Holy Cacao was founded in 2009 as a hot chocolate trailer, and soon expanded to include all manner of sweet treats: There’s frozen hot chocolate and ice cream floats, drinking chocolate and cake balls. To make the cake balls, cakes are baked and then crumbled, combined with frosting and hand-rolled into balls, which are speared with lollipop sticks, dipped in gourmet chocolate, and finished with toppings. What’s left over from the crumbled cakes is blended with chocolate or vanilla ice cream to create truly divine cake shakes.


Location: Various

ice cream sandwiches from coolhaus

Coolhaus has been serving up ice cream sandwiches since 2009, when the founders hit the road in a former postal van to sell frozen treats at Coachella. The sammies come with a side of puns, with architecture-inspired names like the "I.M. Pei-Nut Butter" and the "Mies Vanilla Rohe." Ten Coolhaus trucks are now roaming the streets of L.A., New York, and Dallas, and they’ve added pints and dipped bars to their menu.


Location: Chicago and Elmhurst, Illinois

What could be better than enjoying a sweet treat and doing good at the same time? Cupcakes for Courage was founded by sisters Kathryn Chandler and Laura Pekarik after Kathryn was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's T-cell lymphoma in 2010. They donate a portion of their proceeds to a variety of worthy causes, including the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. And the fact that their Cupcake Wars-winning baked goods are amazing is just, well, the icing on the cake. Fan favorites include Pink Velvet and Maple Bacon.


Location: Nashville, Tennessee

If you get nostalgic for a good ol' fashioned s'more—a toasted marshmallow and a melty square of chocolate sandwiched between two honey graham crackers—S’more Love in Nashville can scratch that itch. But they also have some gourmet options that may end up replacing the traditional version as your favorite. The Elvis is packed with excess, just like its namesake: homemade vanilla marshmallows, sweet heart-shaped honey grahams, chocolate ganache, honey-roasted peanut butter, and, of course, some banana.


Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The basis of every dish coming out of this Philadelphia food truck, founded in 2013, is a non-baked seven-cheese mac topped with a panko and crumbled potato chip crunch; the customer takes it to the next level with the mix-ins. Make your own or choose from a vast array of Mac Mart-designed dishes, from the The Wit' Mac (topped "wit" Philly steak and caramelized onions and finished with a ketchup drizzle) to the Rittenhouse (topped with garlicky spinach and artichoke dip).


Location: Austin, Texas

Gourdoughs trailer

Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts lives up to its name: Each of its huge, delicious doughnuts—served out of a 1977 Airstream trailer on South First—could easily be a meal. Standouts include the Fat Elvis, a peanut butter glazed doughnut topped with grilled bananas, bacon, and honey; the Razzle Dazzle, a raspberry-filled, fudge topped doughnut; and the Flying Pig, a maple syrup glazed doughnut topped with a lot of bacon. (There’s also a brick and mortar Gourdough’s with a full menu, including doughnut sandwiches and burgers, on South Lamar.) Each doughnut is made to order and served hot for maximum yum.


Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

If you want boring food served by boring people, find another truck. Sophia Woo and Sunny Lin’s out-of-this-world food and go-get-em attitudes have driven Pho Nomenal Dumplings straight to the top, earning them first place in the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race in 2015. The Raleigh-based truck is the place to go for stuff-your-face Asian favorites like pork and chive dumplings, beef pho, and Taiwanese spaghetti.


Location: Tahoe, California

Before the food truck craze took America by storm, hot dogs were the country’s standard street food. This Lake Tahoe truck serves reimagined versions of the classic dish. Quarter-pound dogs are paired with toppings like mac and cheese, avocado, and French fries. And a section of the menu is dedicated to exotic sausages that sate customers’ tastes for boar, bison, and elk meat.


Location: Crystal Bay, Nevada

Organic soup's on at The Souper Wagon, with everything from pork pozole, spicy thai coconut, and chicken soup with matzo balls on the menu. There's even an dairy- and gluten-free chicken pot pie option, as well as a variety of vegetarian and vegan soups.


Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

tots at the tot cart
The Tot Cart

The words gourmet and tater tots might not seem to go together, but The Tot Cart proves that they totally do. The food truck, which has been operating since 2013, was named Best Food Truck in Philly in 2015; it’s famous for its Drunk Cheese tots, which are topped in homemade beer cheese. Also getting high marks are the G-Parm—tots tossed in garlic parmesan cheese—and its Totchos, which are topped with ground beef, drunk cheese, avocado cream, and salsa. Their best seller is the Buffalo Chicken Tots, which are topped with slow-cooked buffalo chicken and drizzled with blue cheese. We’re hungry just thinking about it!


Location: Loxahatchee, Florida

We're pretty sure the reason the Loxahatchee, Florida-based Waffle Wagon is so-named is because you’ll waffle between which creation to choose. You can go sweet or savory, but it’s the Wu Tang Waffle that seems to get the most love on Facebook—that would be a fluffy Liege waffle topped with chicken tenders drenched in sweet teriyaki sauce and a side of soy ginger Asian slaw.


Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

In 2014, husband-and-wife team Haley and Tony Fritz decided to take their "unhealthy love for grilled cheese" to a professional level. At O'Cheeze, a big yellow food truck that roams the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, you can get a wide variety of melty, gooey goodness, from the Not-So-Classic (Irish cheddar, havarti, and cheddar) to The Big Stink (Gorgonzola, blue cheese, and havarti with honey and pears). O'Cheeze adds specials to the menu on the regular, so keep your eyes peeled for concoctions like the spaghetti sandwich.


Location: Kansas City, Missouri

There are only five sandwiches at Pigwich in Kansas City, plus a daily special, but they do those five sandwiches really, really well. You can choose from a double cheeseburger, banh mi, cheesesteak, falafel, or the pigwich—smoked pork with coleslaw and BBQ sauce. The Pigwich truck is stationary, by the way, and it's attached to the Local Pig, a beloved Kansas City butcher—so you know the food is fresh.


Location: Washington, D.C.

Crepe Love food truck
Crepe Love

This portable gourmet crepe dispensary puts a lot of new twists on the classic breakfast, lunch, and dinner treat. Their Dr. Seuss has eggs, black forest ham, and cheddar cheese; you can also try the Curious George, full of honey, almonds, and banana. Got guests and an event? The truck can be booked so it's all yours.


Location: Orlando, Florida

There’s nothing like a fresh, hot, melt-in-your-mouth doughnut. Little Blue Donut Co. of Orlando knows that, which is why they make all of theirs fresh to order. They have 13 flavors to choose from, including cinnamon roll and key lime, but customers can also choose their own toppings for a custom creations as well.

24. NOSH

Location: Seattle, Washington

Americans can get a plate of fish and chips worthy of an overcast London day at Nosh, but the truly curious might want to look elsewhere on the menu: the Seattle mobile eatery offers fried rabbit dipped in buttermilk. Elmer Fudd would approve.


Location: Brooklyn, New York

The ballfields in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn have become a foodie destination thanks to the bevy of food trucks that dish out delicious ethnic cuisine (tacos, empanadas, arepas, and more) each weekend. One of the most popular is the El Olomega food truck, which serves piping hot pupusas. For the uninitiated, a pupusa is a traditional Salvadorian street food consisting of a corn flour tortilla stuffed with fillings like cheese, pork, chorizo, plantains, or spinach. Pile on the pickled onions, jalapeños, cabbage, and sour cream for an irresistible lunch.


Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There's street vendor pizza, and then there's Streetza, which doles out organic toppings and daily slice specials, from Alfredo pizza to bratwurst simmered in local beer. They even manage to have a crab legs pizza, complete with a crab leg pinwheel in the middle of pie.


Location: Los Angeles, California

Okamoto Kitchen food truck
Okamoto Kitchen

This Japanese cuisine truck takes its cues from the passion owner Gerald Abraham has for video games: Okamoto ranks customers on a posted leaderboard, with social media mentions and orders helping to garner points good toward free food. But their variety of bowls (like the miso salmon with rice and salad bowl) and sandwiches (like the Nom Bomb, a sweet-and-sour teriyaki chicken sandwich) are enough to make you come back, even without the friendly competition.


Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

St. Clair Pizza serves up hot, wood-fired pies from an actual oven inside an old bus. Along with standards like pepperoni and margherita pizzas, they've also got specials loaded with kimchi, pears, dates, and other under-used toppings. Just a tip: They cater weddings.


Location: New York City

Freddy Zeideia declared himself the King of Falafel back in 2002, when he set up shop on a street corner in Queens, and he has been proving himself worthy of the title for the past 15 years. In a city filled to the brim with falafel and shawarma carts, Zeideia’s stands out, snagging the 2010 Vendy Awards’ grand prize for New York City food trucks. Don’t worry: If you can’t decide between falafel and shawarma, you can have both—the "shawafel" is a pita filled with strips of meat and falafel. Waits can be long, but you might snag a few free falafel samples while you’re in line.


Location: Seattle, Washington

food from off the rez food truck
Off The Rez

It’s rare to find a Native American food truck, so Seattleites usually jump at the chance to try Off the Rez's Indian tacos (in both meat-lover and vegetarian options) and sweet, crispy frybread (a little like a circular churro, drizzled with berry toppings, lemon curd, Nutella, and/or the flavors of your choice).


Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Nana Grimes's grandson took her family-favorite recipe—a classic Southern dish that infused smoked bacon in the waffle and used Nana's top-secret fried chicken recipe—and turned it into a ATL street-fare favorite. For dessert, try the Fried Oreos.


Location: New York City

Snowday is more than a food truck, it’s a social justice initiative that is operated by men and women who have spent time in prison, most notably on Riker's Island. It acts as a training grounds to teach former inmates skills—like money management and small business skills—that will help them re-enter the job market. With a farm-to-truck approach (most of the ingredients are local) and an emphasis on raising awareness about criminal system injustice, you can feel great about every bite of that oozy, perfectly crispy maple grilled cheese, which has been called one of the best in the city by several local mags. This summer, they’re changing their name to Drive Change, with big plans to open a food truck commissary/garage in spring 2018.


Location: Portland, Oregon

The motto of this food truck—which has three Portland locations—is "come by for a taste of your childhood," although treats like "The Cheesus" (a hamburger with the bun replaced by two grilled cheese sandwiches) seem strictly adult. As a bonus, one of the locations is a converted school bus; another is a double-decker bus.

34. HEY PB&J

Location: Denver, Colorado

Hey PB&J

The PB&J sandwich of your youth gets a gourmet upgrade from trained chef Matt McDonald, the owner of this Denver-based food truck. Launched in 2011, Hey PB&J serves unique mashups like the "Boss Hog," a sandwich packed with pecan-peanut butter, pulled pork, whiskey-peach jam, homemade bacon jam, and crushed potato chips, or "The King" which features peanut butter, applewood smoked bacon, sliced bananas, and clover honey.

35. ARLO'S

Location: Austin, Texas

Vegan meets comfort food in this truck that's connected to a nice patio area for dining in while you're outside. Try the seitan burgers or tacos with a side of sweet potato fries.


Location: Charleston, South Carolina

The savory entrees from Charleston Caribbean Creole are true to the eatery’s name—the menu features a blend of traditional dishes from both cuisines, thanks in part to Chef Frisco Thumbtzen's Creole and Cajun heritage. The standout: Locals go crazy for the "Slap Your Momma Gumbo Creole," an appetizing combo of celery, bell peppers, onions, fresh herbs, and chicken, beef, and beef sausage.


Location: Baltimore, Maryland

The Green bowl food truck
The Green Bowl

In 2014, The Green Bowl won the Baltimore Sun’s "Best Food Truck" award—probably because omnivores, vegetarians, and eco-warriors alike can find foods on their menu to please their palates. The food truck specializes in Asian and Latin-inspired cuisine (mofongo, bibimbap, spring rolls), and some dishes, like fried green plantains, are paired with Old Bay sauce for a touch of mid-Atlantic flavor. All of these items are served in compostable bowls, and with compostable bags and utensils.


Location: Chicago, Illinois

From kielbasa (a type of smoked sausage) to paczki (a doughnut-like pastry), Chicago residents have enjoyed the Polish-American community’s delicious culinary legacy since the mid-19th century. Today, locals can buy filled dumplings called pierogis from the Pierogi Wagon, in flavors like braised beef, cheddar and potato, and sauerkraut and mushroom.


Location: Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., politicians and plebeians alike love seafood—especially when it’s topped with a generous pinch of Old Bay. That’s where Feelin’ Crabby comes in: The punny food truck serves lobster and crab-based sandwiches, salads, and sliders, including the giant "Crabwich" sandwich, which contains 5 ounces of jumbo lump crab meat and 2 ounces of lobster claw and knuckle meat.


Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Native American chef Sean Sherman cooks the cuisine of his people, the Oglala Sioux. In 2014, Sherman opened a Twin Cities-based catering business called the Sioux Chef, and in 2015 he co-launched the Tatanka Truck food truck, which dishes out healthy indigenous foods like bison wild rice bowls and organic, sumac-seasoned popcorn. A Sioux Chef-branded restaurant is currently in the works, too.

41. 5411 EMPANADAS

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Empanadas from 5411 Empanada Truck
5411 Empanadas

Founded in 2011, 5411 Empanadas was one of the earliest members of the modern food truck movement in Chicago, where restrictions on mobile food vendors are some of the most onerous in the country. The truck became so popular that the company has since expanded to Miami and Houston and opened multiple storefronts in Chicago. From the simple chorizo to a bacon, dates, and goat cheese, there are plenty of fillings to choose from, including dessert options like banana and Nutella. Make sure to grab a few napkins, because things are going to get messy.

42. PEPE

Location: Washington, D.C. region

Chef José Andrés makes the best croquetas outside of Spain, and everybody knows it. His always-packed, D.C.-area tapas restaurants used to be the only place to get them, but no more. If you want something other than several servings of crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside croquettes, Pepe also offers a Serrano ham, manchego, and olive oil sandwich and a kick-butt gazpacho.


Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin

Tesfaye Joyce lived in an Ethiopian orphanage for most of his life before getting adopted and moving to Wisconsin. Now he’s paying it forward, along with his siblings and adoptive father, with this Taste of Ethiopia food truck that will make your heart as happy as your stomach: This not-for-profit eatery uses all of its funds to help kids back in Ethiopia.


Location: Chicago, Illinois

If you’ve ever visited the Windy City and dreamed of being served tamales by sci-fi-loving luchadores (masked Mexican wrestlers), dream no more. The tamales here are packed with everything from flank steak to duck confit. Spandex not required.


Location: Atlanta, Georgia

The Fry Guy Food Truck
The Fry Guy

You want fries with that? Frequently parked at festivals around the city, The Fry Guy is known for firing up some of the best in A-town. The Belgiun-style fries come topped with flavor combos like "coriander smoked salmon, crème fraîche, red onion, and capers" and "thai peanut sauce, curry mayo, white onion, peanut crumbles, and green onion."


Location: Akron, Ohio

You could settle for a warmed-over gyro, or you could make your week with a gorgeous, lovingly prepared mini-feast from the Square Scullery. Chefs Matt and Heather serve up what they call "indie comfort food," fresh, hip twists on classic fine food. Need great catering? They'll even bring Big Ole' Betty (that's the truck) to weddings, festivals, and corporate events. Don't miss the crispy rice ball with kimchi, cucumber melon slaw, and serrano vinaigrette, or the citrus braised pork over goat cheese and red pepper polenta cake with red slaw and sambal aioli.


Location: Los Angeles, California

For those with a hankering for Mexican-Japanese fusion, allow us to introduce you to the original sushi burrito: Raw fish or crab rolled into a special rice-based burrito. Don’t forget to order some spicy tuna nachos!


Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Mustache Pretzels
The Sentimental Mama

As advertised, this Scottsdale-based food truck hand rolls soft pretzels…to resemble handlebar mustaches. (Like many great businesses, it started as a joke in college.) Flavors range from a doughy original to salted caramel topped with nuts.


Location: Seattle, Washington

Diners craving Creole food in the Pacific Northwest can find it at Where Ya at Matt in Seattle. Run by a New Orleans native, the truck’s comforting dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and muffulettas are the perfect antidote to a rainy Washington day. And, of course, you can't stop at a NOLA-inspired food truck without grabbing some beignets.


Location: Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia

In addition to thoughtfully sourced and lovingly prepared food—like the Middle Eastern truck's perfectly herbed falafel, yogurt-marinated Cornish game hen, and lavash chips—Fava Pot’s founders pride themselves on good works, donating a portion of their proceeds to help orphans in Egypt.

Written by Erika Berlin, Stacy Conradt, April Daley, Michele Debczak, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Kate Horowitz, Bess Lovejoy, Erin McCarthy, Rebecca O'Connell, Lucas Reilly, Jake Rossen, and Abbey Stone.

The History Behind Why We Eat 10 Dishes at Thanksgiving

Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.


A roasted turkey on a platter.

Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as…served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!


Pan of breaded stuffing.

Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.


Dish of cranberry sauce.

Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.


Bowl of mashed potatoes.

Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting President to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.


Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.

Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, historian Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to created a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!


Plate of corn.

Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.


Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.

In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.


Plate of green bean casserole.

Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you love was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at, contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.


Slice of pumpkin pie.

Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. WINE

Two glasses of wine.

Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at


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