What's America cooking?
With the internet at pretty much all of our fingertips, getting recipe inspiration or having a meal delivered has never been easier. We pulled SEMrush data of all 50 states to learn more about people's Googling habits when it comes to meals they're interested in. We gathered information about breakfast, lunch, dinner and general cuisine queries (on a state-by-state basis) – are certain states interested in specific foods more than others?
In an additional survey of 1,130 respondents, we also touched on the emerging trend of prepackaged meal services and asked respondents why they might prefer home cooking over other alternatives. Lastly, where do they get their cooking inspiration from? Read on to discover more about all things cuisine in America.
The most important meal of the day
We started by looking at the most Googled breakfast foods across all 50 states.
Across the U.S., many different breakfast foods are enjoyed, but a significant chunk of people were most interested in learning more about biscuits and gravy online. People on the West Coast liked looking into breakfast burritos, and a lot of Southerners conducted cheese grits-related web searches. Online inquiries related to all kinds of bagels and eggs were the most common in Northeastern states and Alaska. Hawaii was the only state to look up acai bowls the most – the fruit is native to Brazil and needs specific conditions to grow successfully. The Hawaiian climate is similar to that of Brazil, and acai bowls, like the ones made at Kahuku Farms in Hawaii, have become a favorite among locals due to their quick preparation time and freshness.
While acai bowls have enjoyed a 50% Google search increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, smoothie-related searches have risen by 83%, the most of any breakfast food. When you can mix and match all sorts of fruits, vegetables, spreads, nuts and supplements to create near infinite smoothie combinations, what's not to like? Smoothies can be a healthy breakfast option and be part of a well-balanced diet.
Moving to the next meal, the most Googled lunches were up in our search for the most popular foods across the U.S.
Almost everyone interested in biscuits and gravy for breakfast was also quick to do their research on chicken noodle soup for lunch. On the West Coast, the burrito theme remained, and gumbo was a popular search in the South. Northeastern states were particularly interested in macaroni and cheese, and ramen noodles were the flavor of the day a little further down south, and in Hawaii.
Interestingly, sushi was the most Googled lunch food in Nevada and Florida only, but overall searches for this food type increased by an impressive 124% during the pandemic, while poke bowls, another raw fish dish, rose by 83%. Sushi has become quite the popular lunch choice in the U.S., with the market size of sushi restaurants clocking in at $22.5 billion in 2021 so far. This figure is also expected to increase 12.2% this year. In fact, sushi has enjoyed a steady increase since 2016, with an average market growth of 2.1% per year since then.
Third and final meal
After breakfast and lunch, we looked at the most Googled dinner foods to see which states fancy which meals for their last meal of the day.
For dinner, there was a little more variety within regions across the country, but we can see that the Northern states were interested in fried rice, the West Coast was doing their online due diligence on hamburgers, and the South was researching chili. Meanwhile the Midwest and Southeast states were particularly interested in meatloaf and chicken and dumplings, respectively. The Northeast was researching all things chicken, including whole roast and pot pie recipes.
Since the pandemic, two American classics – hot dogs and hamburgers – have both had a 50% increase in Google searches. In supermarkets in 2020, Americans spent just shy of $8 billion on hot dogs and sausages, and they consume around 50 billion hamburgers per year. These foods are attractive to many families, especially the ones who are on tight budgets, because of how accessible and convenient they are to get across the country. The financially trying times of the COVID-19 era have, at the very least, enticed Americans to conduct more research into these food groups.
Tastes from around the world
Our Google search was not only limited to specific foods. We also took a look at the most searched cuisines in each state, to see which parts of the world inspire cooking across the U.S.
There is even more diversity among states when Googling about different cuisines. People on the West Coast and in the Southern states were particularly curious about Vietnamese food. Interestingly, even though hot dogs and hamburgers had been searched online a lot more since the start of the pandemic, American cuisine was the most Googled in only three states: South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
While Greek food only accounted for the top Google searches of two states (Nevada and Utah), the cuisine had the highest uptick in pandemic-era searches, with an increase of 82%. The Mediterranean diet has become a popular choice for many due to its health advantages. Many plant-based foods are included in it, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts. Butter is also substituted for a healthier alternative in olive oil, red meat is limited, and fish and poultry are consumed more often. Greek cuisine can not only be delicious but advantageous for your well-being also.
Easy as 1, 2, 3
With everyone spending more time housebound over the past year, we looked at people's reasons for cooking at home and the services they used to make the process a bit easier.
While going to restaurants and ordering takeout is a popular option, meal services have become a preferred choice among many. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they've used one, with this option being especially popular among millennials, a third of whom have used a meal service. HelloFresh was the most commonly used meal service, with a handful of others also getting some use across the country. The service is quick and convenient – for example, the HelloFresh experience is as follows: You customize a meal plan based on your preferences, enjoy weekly deliveries of said meals with step-by-step instructions and exact measurements, cook and enjoy!
In general, people preferred home cooking simply because it's cheaper. On average, ordering delivery from a restaurant is almost five times more expensive than a home-cooked meal. Meal services are more affordable, but still about three times more costly than cooking from scratch. Many respondents also liked the fact that home cooking allowed them to eat healthier, while 41% of respondents opted to cook for sheer enjoyment. In fact, with people spending more time at home, 62% reported cooking more frequently than they did before the pandemic. This could partially be due to restaurants closing during the pandemic, which led to home cooking becoming the new normal.
Just like mama used to make
Lastly, we looked at what inspired people to cook, and where they went to find new recipes.
When looking for recipe inspiration, YouTube, family recipes and Google were the top three resources people used. Millennials were more likely to use online resources such as food blogs and digital cookbooks, whereas Gen Xers didn't involve technology as much, opting for family recipes and physical cookbooks. Baby boomers had all their recipes memorized apparently, as they were most likely to not consult any instruction at all. Regardless of where people found recipes, however, 2 out of 3 respondents preferred family recipes that had been passed down over new ones.
Inspiration for cooking does not only come from recipes. The most inspirational cooking show, according to 41% of respondents, was "MasterChef." Over a third also appreciated what "Chopped," "Hell's Kitchen," and "Top Chef" had to offer. People tune in to cooking shows for different reasons. For some, it's not about the cooking at all – even if people hate cooking, the drama and intensity of the show provides enough incentive to watch. Also, even if you're opposed to cooking, the chances are that you still like food, and watching people make creative and delicious meals is exciting in and of itself. The creation process of any given dish can definitely inspire many, though, to further explore the culinary arts.
Expanding our palettes
Clearly, people across the country are interested in a huge variety of different cuisines and specific meal items, although many preferences are clustered within regions. The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse, which naturally introduces more ethnic cuisines into society and allows more people to enjoy new culinary experiences. Meal service companies like HelloFresh have also gained popularity due to their varied offerings and ease of use, but many still prefer a home-cooked meal, getting inspiration from websites, cooking shows or recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
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This study uses data from a survey of 1,130 people located in the U.S. Survey respondents were gathered through the Amazon Mechanical Turk survey platform where they were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 50.7% of respondents identified as men, while 49.3% identified as women. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 79 with an average age of 40. Millennials accounted for 54.9% of respondents, 29.3% were Gen Xers, 15% were baby boomers and 0.8% were Gen Zers. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues such as exaggeration, recency bias and telescoping.
We also pulled data from Google using SEMrush, specifically the search volume of the following food items and cuisines:
Sourdough bread Porridge Shrimp and grits
Pancake French toast Smoothie
Hash browns Pop-Tarts Acai bowl
Overnight oats Banana bread Oatmeal
Cheese grits Bacon Waffles
Chicken and waffles Breakfast sausage Omelet Frittata
Biscuits and gravy Scrambled eggs Poached eggs
Hard-boiled eggs Soft-boiled eggs Sunny-side up eggs
Over-easy eggs Avocado toast Huevos rancheros
Plain bagel Everything bagel Poppy seed bagel
Cinnamon bagel Onion bagel Whole wheat bagel
Toast Doughnuts Granola
Trail mix Gorp Breakfast burrito
Fresh fruit Sandwich Cuban sandwich
Pastrami sandwich Reuben sandwich Chicken biscuit
Pork tenderloin Poke bowl Salad
Grilled cheese Pizza Quesadilla
Turkey wrap Buffalo chicken wrap Fish and chips
Ramen noodles Sushi Spring rolls
Burrito Mac and cheese Nachos
Burrito bowls Buddha bowl Gumbo
Broccoli cheddar soup Chicken noodle soup Hummus
Pizza Hawaiian Deep-dish pizza New York-style pizza
Meat lovers pizza Pepperoni pizza Vegetarian pizza
Cheese pizza Buffalo pizza BBQ chicken
Stuffed crust pizza Fajitas Jambalaya
Chicken wings Buffalo wings Whole roast chicken
Salmon Meatloaf Fried chicken
Steak and potatoes Beef stew Enchiladas
Fried rice Chili Hot dog
Burger Chicken pot pie Casserole
Tuna casserole Spaghetti and meatballs Clam chowder
Baked potato Barbecue ribs Lobster roll
Crab Steak and eggs Poutine
Brisket Pot roast Pulled pork
Sloppy Joes Split pea soup Pasta
Lasagna Chicken and Dumplings Dumplings
Ramen Chicken salad Moroccan chicken
Stuffed peppers Chicken-fried steak Shrimp
Lemon pepper chicken Fish tacos Pizza dough
Chicken Pot Pie Sweet potato casserole Corned beef
Egg burger Paneer Butternut squash
Risotto Lobster Salad dressing
Cookies Guacamole Tomato soup
Mochi Shortcake Cake Chicken parmesan
Hot chicken Indian food Italian food
Chinese food Japanese food American food
French food Thai food Mexican food
Korean food Greek food Vietnamese food
Spanish food Middle Eastern food
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