Ranking the Best American Breakfast Foods, From Worst to First
Breakfast has been widely regarded as the most important meal of the day — and we happen to agree. Especially when it’s washed down with a big cup of coffee and a couple of mimosas on a lazy Sunday morning.
Like the country itself, breakfast and brunch options across the U.S. have become a melting pot of spicy, savory and sweet. And there’s an endless amount of dishes and ingredients to help get your day off on the right foot.
Here, we’ve pulled together a list of the 50 most popular American breakfast foods. Using a live list from Ranker, looking at trends in the food scene and taking into account our own staff’s humble opinions, we ranked these items from the absolute worst to those morning meals we could eat time and time again.
50. Protein Shake
Recent studies have concluded that meal-replacement shakes are just as healthy as a full breakfast, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a fan favorite. Sure, a high protein shake will curb your appetite, suppress cravings later in the day and even allow you more time to sleep in (if that’s your thing), they’re just not quite as satisfying as some of the more decadent items on this list.
However, Core Fresh restaurant in Oklahoma City does score points for its vegetarian protein shake. You really can’t go wrong with its decadent combination of peanut butter, banana, steel cut oats, dates, cinnamon, vanilla Greek yogurt and almond milk.
49. Granola Bar
Like its protein-shake counterpart, a granola bar is a fine option for on-the-go eaters, and while it’s more satisfying than a shake, a granola bar still leaves much to be desired.
However, this recipe does make the idea a little more inviting, which combines just three ingredients: peanut butter, maple syrup and rolled oats.
48. Hot Oatmeal
While it can go very wrong, very quickly, there’s something inherently comforting about a properly assembled bowl of hot oatmeal.
Whether dressed with cinnamon, brown sugar and apples or something savory like the “truffle risOATto” at OatMeals cafe in New York, sometimes all you need is a warm bowl of hearty oats to kick the day off right.
47. Cottage Cheese
Love it or hate it, this chunky, milky cheese-curd product is usually quite neutral in taste, but it makes a pretty healthy alternative to more fatty, lactose-heavy dairy products like cream cheese.
Eat it with fruit, bake it into pancakes or serve it alongside cherries and fennel like the Michelin-starred Nix vegetarian restaurant in New York.
46. Toast and Jam
Call it the nostalgia factor, but there’s something inherently delicious about a simple breakfast of toast and jam. It doesn’t matter if it’s naturally leavened, organic bread and jam from the farmer’s market, or processed white bread and Smuckers either.
Toast and jam is a tried and true classic that calls for Saturday morning cartoons and a glass of milk to wash it all down.
Separate from fruit salad or smoothie bowls, there’s the grapefruit — usually cut in half and served with a sprinkle of sugar. The combination of sweet and sour makes the citrus an interesting breakfast option for those who like strong bursts of flavor without feeling weighed down by heavier dishes.
This is exactly what makes it a great option for those who want a small bite upon waking up before heading to the gym or fasting until lunch.
44. English Muffin
A toasted English muffin is one of the easiest and quickest options on the list. While, admittedly, the English muffin is more of a neutral-tasting vehicle for spreads and toppings, with the right ingredients, this can be a tasty alternative to toast.
We particularly like a simple spread of high-quality butter, which oozes into the muffin’s air bubbles and creates a simple but tasty meal to go.
Introduced to the U.S. in 1964, Pop-Tarts have become a well-loved staple in many American pantries due to their fun flavors and versatile ways of serving. Pressed for time? All you have to do is unwrap the jelly-filled pastry and take a bite; otherwise, simply pop them into the toaster for a warm morning treat.
The Pop-Tarts brand even reinvented itself a couple years ago as a pop-up restaurant in New York, offering variations of the sweet treat like Birthday Fiesta Nachos and Chili Pop-Tarts Fries. Other restaurants have even made healthier versions of the sweet treat to bring it into the 21st century.
42. Hard-Boiled Egg
A hard-boiled egg is a game changer for rushed mornings — in five to seven minutes you have a protein-packed breakfast ready to go, with very little dishes or kitchen mess to clean up.
While you could go with a little salt and pepper, we particularly like how the Egg Shop in New York prepares its hard-boiled egg: with crispy capers, fried shallots and a little lemon vinaigrette.
41. Baked Beans
When it comes to vegetarian or vegan breakfast foods, there’s nothing that tops baked beans. They’re packed with flavor, relatively unprocessed and have more protein per gram than most breakfast meats.
While common in English and Irish breakfast dishes, baked beans have their origins in Native American cuisine, which was adopted and adapted by English colonists as early as the 17th century.
40. Croque Monsieur
We know what you’re thinking, why not include the Croque madame fried egg variation on this list instead?
Well, that’s because not all breakfast items require eggs, and this souped-up French version of the ham and cheese happens to be one of our favorites. Whether on white bread or whole wheat, challah bread or pumpernickel, this cheesy combination of carbs and fat is a winner every single time.
Some may argue that this isn’t a breakfast food, but for those who haven’t tried it, we think you’re missing out.
Apple pie, blueberry pie, cherry pie … the list can go on forever, but one thing is for sure, the morning after Thanksgiving or any big food event, a piece of yesterday’s dessert is just what the doctor ordered — alongside a fresh cup of coffee, of course.
38. Fruit Salad
Almost the same as dessert for breakfast, right? Not quite, but add a dollop of yogurt and some maple syrup, and you just might be fooled.
Fruit salad is always best when using seasonal and local fruit.
Yes, we love chilaquiles because it gives us an excuse to essentially eat nachos in the morning. This well-loved Mexican dish is made up of a corn (or wheat) tortilla, cut into quarters and lightly fried before topping with cheese, meats, beans, spices and occasionally eggs.
Chilaquiles are pretty much everything you love about the appetizer counterpart — plus a dose of eggs.
36. Cream of Wheat
Brown sugar, sliced bananas or all on its own, nothing warms the soul quite like a hot bowl of cream of wheat on a cold winter morning. Creamier and more versatile than oatmeal, cream of wheat is one of those “stick to your ribs” dishes that make breakfast quick and easy.
While it might not be the most exciting breakfast item on this list, it’s reliable, relatively healthy and can easily be jazzed up with fun toppings.
35. Bear Claw
While the bear claw is quite similar in taste and appearance to a Danish, the breakfast pastry actually originated in the U.S. during the mid-1920s.
A bear claw is usually filled with a sweet almond paste, sort of similar to marzipan, and sometimes dried fruit like raisins or dried cranberries.
34. Corned Beef Hash
The well-loved corned beef hash is popular around the globe. It usually consists of chopped corned beef, potatoes and onions, all fried together in a cast-iron skillet.
It’s a great way to use up leftovers in the fridge and usually comes out tasting quite indulgent (especially if you’re heavy-handed with the butter or olive oil).
33. Chia Pudding
In recent years, chia pudding has become a popular breakfast food in many American kitchens. Why? It’s extremely easy to make (even in bulk), and it’s probably one of the most nutritious items on this list.
The simple concoction of chia seeds and non-dairy milk earns major points for its nutritional content, including omega-3 fatty acid, antioxidants, fiber, iron and calcium.
This egg-based Italian dish is pretty similar to an omelet or crustless quiche.
And it's super easy to prepare — simply throw some eggs, cheese and maybe some veggies in an oiled skillet, and whisk until cooked.
31. Blueberry Muffin
Blueberry muffins seem to be available at any bodega or corner store across the country, and while some of them are good, most act as little more than sustenance on the way to the office.
A fresh blueberry muffin on the other hand, can be a real treat. Whether homemade or picked up at the bakery, a good blueberry muffin should be bursting with fresh berries with a soft but chewy texture.
30. Steak and Eggs
This protein-packed meal is the very definition of “breakfast of champions.” We particularly like a hanger steak with chimichurri and two farm-fresh eggs, but the best thing about steak and eggs (aside from the blast of pure protein) is just how versatile it is.
This WildWich Cafe in Delaware, for example, serves its steak and eggs breakfast-sandwich style, with sautéed onions and provolone cheese on a grilled English muffin.
29. Breakfast Pizza
Yes, it’s a thing, and no it’s not simply chowing down on leftover pizza for breakfast (although we recommend doing that, too).
Trendy bakeries and pizzerias, like Little Dom’s in Los Angeles, have breakfast pizza on their menus. It’s typically a pizza with eggs, cheese and some kind of prosciutto or other pork meat.
It’s savory, it’s hearty, it’s often cheesy — a hot bowl of grits all on its own or topped off with some fresh seared shrimp is a true Southern classic.
We particularly like the smoked paprika shrimp and grits at Handlebar restaurant in Chicago, which boasts fresh Gulf shrimp and Wisconsin-aged cheddar grits alongside sautéed spinach and sweet potato crisps.
27. Poached Egg
Both Instagram-worthy and delicious is a poached egg — i.e., an egg that has been cooked outside the shell by poaching rather than boiling.
The method makes for a more delicate cook, which retains the flavor of the yolk better than a hard or soft boil.
While scones may have been born in the U.K., they’ve found a happy home in many American pantries. The slightly sweet breakfast pastry is quite dense and goes perfectly well with a bit of butter or some jam.
Many cafes across the country offer a sweeter-style scone, which often has dried fruit or frosting and sort of tastes like a cross between a baguette and a muffin.
Omelets are extremely versatile and easy to make — like an egg-based sandwich minus the bread.
Popular fillings include a wide range of cheeses, veggies and meats, and we love choosing our own whenever a restaurant offers make-your-own omelet options.
24. Coffee Cake
A combination of everyone’s favorite morning beverage and a dense sweet-and-savory pastry, coffee cake is delicious. End point.
Interestingly though, coffee cake in the U.S. doesn’t always have to be made with coffee — it just has to pair well with it. Common coffee cake ingredients include fruit, spices, nuts or a simple sugar glaze.
Breakfast cereal may not be the most gourmet of morning-time meal options, but it can be a lot of fun. The rise of cereal-based restaurants across the U.S. has breathed a new life into the nostalgic breakfast food.
The Cereal Box restaurant in Colorado, for example, plays cartoons in the background while hungry diners chow down on their choice of more than 120 cereals — from Fruity Pebbles to Cocoa Puffs.
Think of quiche as the egg-based breakfast dish for those who don’t really love eggs. Created in France, quiche is essentially a savory egg-based pie — the mixture of eggs, custard, cheese, veggies and various meats are all whipped into a delicious tart and served hot or cold.
Some opt to add ketchup, but we happen to think that’s quite blasphemous.
21. Huevos Rancheros
Huevos rancheros are said to have originated on rural Mexican farms and ranches (hence the name) but have since made their way onto the U.S. breakfast table and beyond.
While the traditional Mexican dish consists of fried eggs with salsa fresca served on fried or charred corn tortillas, the Mexican-American fusion uses wheat flour tortillas instead of corn and enchilada sauce in place of salsa.
20. Breakfast Skillet
A loaded breakfast skillet is the easiest way to use up the odds and ends left in the fridge at the end of the week — which is why it ranks superior to other egg dishes on the list.
A typical skillet usually contains cheese, eggs, potato, some form of breakfast meat and peppers or onion fried up or grilled and served with toast, but there’s no hard and fast rule — any veggies, meats or cheeses will do.
19. Avocado Toast
Not to be confused with toast and jam, avocado toast reigns supreme when it comes to delicious breakfast foods — and not just because of its Instagram fame. This delicious breakfast food is super easy to make, but it’s also packed with the healthy fat we need to get the morning off on the right foot.
Add an egg, like this delicious version at Josephine House in Austin, Texas, and you’ll be set until lunch.
Roll them, pile them up, stuff them or even flambé them! Crepes are great for groups or just for one.
Whether you make them savory or ultra-sweet, like Crepe Cafe, a restaurant and wine bar in Seattle, they’re a delicious option for breakfast or brunch.
17. Eggs Benedict
Delmonico's in Lower Manhattan says on its menu that “Eggs Benedict was first created in our ovens in 1860.” Whether or not that claim is accurate, eggs Benedict is a distinctly American brunch dish.
Consisting of an open-faced sandwich (typically on an English muffin), topped with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce, it’s rich, packed with protein and best washed down with a mimosa.
16. Yogurt Bowl
Sure, the ever-present yogurt bowl is almost always the go-to “healthy choice” on most breakfast menus across the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it should be discredited. Yogurt bowls, like cereal or oatmeal, are a choose-your-own-adventure.
We recommend adding a little maple syrup or some honey for an upgraded, slightly sweeter version of the classic dish. Alternatively, switch it up for a DIY açaí bowl, which combines everything you love about a yogurt bowl with the added punch of açaí palm (a tangy Brazilian berry) and granola or banana.
15. Biscuits and Gravy
This quintessentially American breakfast dish is well-loved from coast to coast. It contains soft, dough biscuits covered in thick white gravy with bits of sausage, bacon or ground beef.
However, many modern breakfast eateries, such as Souley Vegan in Oakland, California, have begun creating delicious plant-based alternatives with vegetarian sausage or even blackened tofu.
14. Fruit Smoothie
Whether you are running short on time and want a fast and healthy breakfast or simply enjoy the satisfying nature of a fruit smoothie, this breakfast option is not one to be overlooked and can easily be made extra healthy with the addition of some greens like spinach.
Entire chain restaurants like Jamba Juice are making it easier than ever to get these on-the-go.
OK, sure, a doughnut may be more of an afternoon snack than part of a complete breakfast, but they’ve become a standard American breakfast option largely due to their wide availability and price point.
Running late? You can find coffee and a doughnut pretty much anywhere. However, we’re particularly keen on the ones at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, which boast unique flavors like Earl Grey tea and hibiscus or maple frosting with fresh, crispy bacon on top.
12. Breakfast Sausage
Why is breakfast sausage so satisfying? The common American breakfast item is usually made from ground pork or beef and is typically pan-fried or grilled with a generous amount of maple syrup.
Rosie's Restaurant in Middlebury, Vermont, takes breakfast sausage to the next level with its homemade breakfast sausage gravy over eggs.
Who doesn’t love a fresh croissant? The flaky French pastry pairs perfectly with a strong coffee or a glass of orange juice and can easily be eaten while on-the-go. Croissants and other viennoiseries are made of a layered yeast-leavened dough that, despite being layered with butter, tastes light and crisp.
While we prefer an authentic French croissant, many American bakeries have started whipping them up. San Francisco-based Tartine Bakery, for instance, makes French-quality croissants and pain au chocolat from scratch. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny.
10. Cinnamon Roll
Cinnamon rolls are a near-perfect breakfast pastry. They’re sweet, filling and pair just as well with a cup of coffee as they do a glass of fresh-pressed juice.
And while cinnamon rolls may have originated in Northern Europe, they’re just as well-loved across the U.S. The swirled, yeast-leavened pastry is often drenched in a thick frosting, but we happen to like them with raisins and a light dusting of coarse white sugar.
9. French Toast
French toast combines two popular breakfast items: eggs and toast. The delightfully sweet and savory dish is made of sliced bread soaked in eggs and milk, then fried and seasoned with cinnamon or powdered sugar.
We also like it with a handful of seasonal fruit like blueberries or sliced grapes.
8. Breakfast Sandwich
Ah, the breakfast sandwich. Whether you prefer the greasy wonders of a fast-food sandwich — thank you, McDonald’s — or you’d rather make a more gourmet option at home, there’s something inherently satisfying about breakfast meat, eggs and cheese on a biscuit, English muffin or just some sliced bread.
Eat restaurant in downtown Las Vegas has one of the best. Its truffled egg breakfast sandwich combines eggs, wild mushrooms, green onions, feta and bacon, which is then served up on a fresh ciabatta.
7. Breakfast Burrito
The breakfast burrito ranks highest on the list compared to other Mexican breakfast dishes because of the amount of ingredients you can pack into this rolled-up meal.
Most frequently, a breakfast burrito consists of scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, bell peppers, onions and a breakfast meat all wrapped into a flour tortilla and served with salsa or sour cream. It’s delicious and full of protein and healthy fats.
6. Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled eggs are fast, easy and extremely commonplace — in fact, they’re probably the first breakfast food most kids learn to make on their own. The fun part about scrambling eggs at home is how easy it is to experiment with textures and flavors.
Add a little cheese for a more flavorful plate or some ham for an extra burst of morning protein.
5. Hash Browns
These fried up potatoes complete the perfect breakfast plate. There’s something about them that just can’t be replicated with any other breakfast item.
Whether they're served at a Michelin-worthy brunch spot or at the continental buffet at an airport hotel, hash browns are always a crowd-pleaser — just add a little ketchup and a pinch of salt, and you’re set.
Whether it’s a New York bagel and a schmear, a Montreal bagel with lox and capers or a frozen fresh bagel at Starbucks, very few breakfast items come near to the bagel’s taste-meets-convenience ratio.
While New Yorkers believe they’re the only ones that know how to make this breakfast staple, other states have done their part to bring quality bagels to the rest of America (and thank goodness for that).
3. Chicken and Waffles
The voters over at Ranker ranked waffles third, but we believe that chicken and waffles are a staple in American soul food and Southern cuisine. And it's unarguably become a widely loved dish from coast to coast as well.
The flavorful breakfast item places fried chicken atop a regular breakfast waffle (with butter and maple syrup) for a mouthwatering, protein-heavy breakfast that your grandmother would be happy is making a comeback.
Make them thick and stack them high! Fresh pancakes with maple syrup are one of life's guilty pleasures.
But remember, maple syrup is loaded with antioxidants, so one might argue that it does make a healthy and balanced breakfast every now and then.
Vegetarians, we’re sorry. But, like peanut butter and jelly or burgers and fries, bacon and eggs are a match made in culinary heaven. Probably the most popular breakfast item in the U.S., you’ll find bacon on just about every breakfast menu.
The smoky and salty meat is a classic case of the Japanese concept of umami — a fifth taste akin to fat or savory. Now, let’s order a few sides of that!