Some of the world’s greatest dishes originate from European food culture. With 44 countries all contributing, tourists visiting the European continent have access to a huge variety of foods to choose from. From French and Italian to Polish and Greek, the diversity of food in Europe is something Americans can only marvel at.
As you travel through the continent, you’ll find the meal habits of locals subtly changing. However, because of the free movement that exists across much of Europe, you’ll also be aware of cultures mixing and swapping recipes, creating something greater than the sum of its parts.
No matter how long you spend in Europe, you’ll never run out of foods to try. If you’re looking for a place to start, then this list is for you. Below, you’ll find nine of our favorite examples of true European food culture.
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The style of pizza we know and love in the USA has come a long way from its origins. If you’re bored of New York and Chicago-style pizzas, then head to Italy for an authentic pizza experience. It’s thought that Neapolitan pizza is the version that most resembles the original style of this world-famous dish.
Neapolitan pizza is known for having an extra chewy crust that is filled with air pockets, giving it a croissant-like texture. It should be cooked in a woodfire oven at enormous temperatures to give it the leopard spots that provide a deliciously smoky charred flavor. The toppings are light, with just a few splotches of fresh mozzarella cheese. Only in Italy can you find the best example of this incredible European food culture.
This staple of the American diet – as the name implies – actually originated in Europe. Although the history of the humble French fry is disputed, it’s actually thought that they were invented in Belgium, not France. Certainly, the Belgians are quick to take credit for their existence. Frying up some thin strips of potato may not seem like much but these have quickly become one of the world’s most consumed foods.
The Brits call them chips but elsewhere in Europe, they’re more commonly known as fries. There are many different versions, though, from the thin fast-food variety to thick-cut steakhouse fries. If you want the absolute best french fries you ever tasted, though, then head to the small European country of Belgium. Hot and crispy fries made to perfection can be found just about anywhere.
Not all European food culture originates in France and Italy. Don’t be afraid to explore further east if you want to try a greater variety of European cuisine. Former Soviet countries have a particularly interesting flavor, often influenced by Russian and Ukrainian food culture. If heading in this direction, Poland should be your first stop.
The national dish of Poland is pierogi and you’ll find it just about everywhere. These are simply dumplings stuffed with your choice of fillings, whether that includes chicken, cheese, cabbage, or something else. Go to any touristy restaurant in a beautiful Polish Old Town and ask for pierogi. You’ll quickly realize why these make up a fundamental part of European food culture. This will differ greatly from what you find in Western Europe but adds some interesting diversity to your diet.
Fish and Chips
Despite having left the European Union, the UK is still one of the most influential nations in that continent. British food culture is no exception. There are many meals you could try that originate on this island, from roast beef and Yorkshire puddings to the famous full English breakfast. However, perhaps the most quintessentially British cuisine is fish and chips.
“Chips” is the correct term here because they differ a lot from traditional French fries. Their taste and texture are undescribable so you’ll just have to pop down to an authentic British chippy to give them a try. Pair your chips with a beautifully battered cod and then load up on mushy peas for the complete eating experience. This less-than-healthy dish will quickly satisfy your cravings. Soon, though, you’ll be back for more of this traditional British dish that can’t easily be found elsewhere.
If you’re looking for something hearty, decadent, and filling, then you should travel to Germany. Here, you’ll find big, bold flavors that don’t hold back. The perfect example of this is the currywurst. This dish isn’t as German as you might think, though, but rather originates from a mixture of cultures. The sausage itself might be German but the curry sauce on top was an addition brought over by British soldiers during the war. This dish is then usually served with French fries, which are from Belgium.
Furthermore, currywurst isn’t only found in Germany. It’s also popular in other German-speaking countries, such as Austria and Switzerland. As you navigate central Europe, you’re bound to come across this gem of European food culture. The currywurst is a quick and filling meal that gives you the energy you need to continue exploring this amazing continent.
The French are known for taking their food incredibly seriously. There are many dishes you could try from this country, from baguettes to snails. However, one of the most universally popular food items has to be the croissant. This will be present on the breakfast table of Europeans from England to Estonia. It’s just such a perfect and delicious pastry.
Serve it with butter and jam in the morning or build a more substantial meat, cheese, and lettuce sandwich for your lunch. The croissant is one of the world’s finest and most delicious dishes that has to become a part of your diet while in Europe. If you want the flakiest, most buttery, and sublime croissants, though, you have to head to a bakery in France.
For a different side of European food culture, head to Greece. They have a wealth of incredible dishes but one you’ll definitely want to try is moussaka. This meal is made up of eggplant or potato baked on top of ground meat. It has similarities with a British shepherd’s pie or an Italian lasagne but with its own unique and distinctive texture and flavor.
This dish actually extends beyond Europe into Africa and Asia, with versions being created in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. However, Greek moussaka is the most popular. It’s a meal you can easily find in America but head to Europe if you’re looking for the most traditional and authentic example.
Iceland is a long way from the rest of Europe so many people forget that this volcanic island nation is an important part of that continent. Being so isolated means that it has had to create its own unique cuisines that differ from that you’ll find in the rest of Europe. One great example of this is skyr, which is found everywhere in Iceland. Similar to a mild yogurt, skyr is incredibly healthy.
Icelanders love a bit of skyr for breakfast, often adding seeds and berries for flavor and extra nutrition. Although it may not be popular elsewhere in the world, it’s worth trying if you get the opportunity. This is a hugely versatile food that goes with just about everything. It’s also one of the healthiest ways to start your day.
Europe is full of delicious dishes but is there anything more sinfully tasty than cheese fondue? If you happen to be in Switzerland, then you’ll have the perfect opportunity to eat fondue in the country in which it was invented. Find a nice restaurant, take a seat, and wait for a pot of piping hot melted cheese to arrive at your table.
You can then choose which food you wish to dip it in. Whatever you opt for, everything tastes amazing when drenched in melted Swiss cheese. This isn’t the healthiest food in Europe but it certainly reveals the continent’s reverence for big flavors.
What is traditional food in Europe?
European food is diverse and varies from country to country. Generally speaking, though, it relies on attention to detail, fresh ingredients, and the expertise of an experienced chef. This is what helps the continent create some of the world’s most delicious food.
What is Europe’s most popular food?
Europe’s most popular food is undoubtedly pizza, which originated in Italy. Spread by Italian immigrants, this amazing dish can now be found in almost every country on Earth, with each culture adapting it to suit their tastes.
What is a traditional breakfast in Europe?
While the Brits love some fried meat and veg in the morning, continental Europeans prefer bread, cold cuts, and cheese. Each country has slightly different breakfast traditions, though.
What makes the food in Europe unique?
European food developed in isolation from the rest of the world, being carefully curated over centuries. In recent years, the increased mixing of cultures has created a unique and distinctive taste of European food culture.