The US has a reputation for producing junk food. It's a birthplace of wild diet fads, popular food trends, and unnaturally bright-colored food. From burgers to fries to hot dogs, America has spread greasy delicious food to across the pond and beyond. While we agree that junk foods aren't good for you, we acknowledge that sometimes, you need some fried chicken. Here's the thing, US food is pretty famous around the world. International folks have seen US food in television shows, movies, and the Internet for years. We know what US diners look like, that New Yorkers love bagels, and what mac and cheese tastes like. US food dominates our screens, but it's time for international junk food to have some time in the spotlight.
There's a whole new world of snacks and junk food to try. From Mexico to Germany to Japan, we scoured the world to find some of the tastiest junk foods. There are street food, snacks, and crazy drinks galore just waiting for you to pick up on your next trip. We found sweet options, meat options, vegetarian options, and pescatarian options. Whether your tastes are cheesy, chocolatey, or spicy we found something out there for you. Did we find your favorite junk food? Did we inspire you to try a new snack? We'd love to know what you think of these international junk foods!
25 Currywurst (Germany)
You have got to get a load of this snack: bratwurst covered in curry ketchup served with paprika fries or a Brotchen. The currywurst is one of Germany's most iconic foods. It's spiced, it's savory, and it's meaty; it's the classic cheap snack or lunch food. There are stands and shops all over Germany that sell this delicious snack for around 3 euros or so. Pick one up while you're out exploring, and you'll never go back. If you want to try the sauce for yourself, you can pick it up on Amazon.
24 Deep-Fried Mars Bars (Scotland)
You're not wrong for thinking this snack came from America, considering their knack for deep-frying. People from America have deep-fried ice cream, candy, and even butter. However, this greasy beauty originates from Scotland's chip shops in the 1990s. It shook Britain and the health food industry. What does Mars think about this? They don't condone it since it goes against their promotion of a healthy lifestyle. We'd be surprised if America doesn't already sell this at a fair somewhere.
23 Poutine (Canada)
A true Canadian classic: fries covered in cheese curds and gravy—what more could you ask for? The people of Quebec really know what's what. UK people can certainly get behind this, as a similar dish, ready to be consumed after a night of heavy drinking, is sold in chip shops across Britain. Poutine is just one of many things America needs to bring in to step up its junk-food game. Canada is not just America's hat; it's also a nation of beautiful scenery, friendly people, and fine cuisine.
22 Takoyaki (Japan)
Hailing from the city of Osaka, these octopus balls, alongside okonomiyaki, are a beloved street food in Japan. These savory deep-fried balls are essential to any night out. You'll find them on stalls, convenience stores, and specialist restaurants as well as pubs. This is the writer's second-favorite international junk food next to currywurst. On your next trip to Japan, it's definitely worth picking some up. No worries if you can't go there, as you can make them at home.
21 Salteñas (Bolivia)
We so want to try these! Salteñas are kind of a cross between an empanada and a soup dumpling. These hand pies are filled with broth, meat, raisins, olives, and a surprise hard-boiled egg. These ingredients are then lovingly contained in a lightly sweet flaky crust and baked to perfection. Be careful—spilling the broth first means that you pay the bill. Not only that, but if you spill a lot of broth, you'll have bad luck in your love life. Salteñas aren't to be messed with, but as long as you eat them carefully, you'll be fine.
20 Completo (Chile)
Chile's version of the hot dog, completos are often double the size of US hot dogs and come with an interesting variety of toppings. Rather than the usual mustard, ketchup, and onions, completos come with avocado, tomatoes, mayo, sauerkraut, chili, green sauce, and cheese. That's one packed street food! With completo, you really do get more bang for your buck—and a whole lot more flavor, too. This dish honestly sounds right up America's alley with all its delicious ingredients (and the fact that it's a hot dog).
19 Sugar Cane Juice (Egypt)
Sugar cane is an integral part of our food systems. It's kind of the reason that we have all the sugar and candy we want these days. Sugar cane doesn't taste like the sugar you buy in stores, as it hasn't been processed yet. Also, apparently it can be juiced. In Egypt, sugar cane juice is sold in street stalls for a pretty decent price. It makes for a refreshing drink in the sweltering heat or after a long day of exploring.
18 Salmiakki (Finland)
Often found in Northern Germany and Scandinavia, salmiakki is salty licorice with extra bite. Shaped in a diamond, lozenge style, these candies are made with actual ammonium chloride or salmiakki salt, which is what gives the licorice the salty flavor. Each country has a different regulation regarding the amount of salt that can be used in making these, which is crazy. Salmiakki is a great treat to grab as a souvenir from your trip to Finland, just maybe advise that the receiver not eat too many at once.
17 Tlayuda (Mexico – Oaxaca)
Sometimes incorrectly referred to as Mexico's version of a pizza, the tlayuda is a delicious and flavorful junk food. A partially toasted tortilla is covered in refried beans, cabbage, asiento, avocado, meat, Oaxacan cheese, and salsa. This crunchy and surprisingly filling option is an excellent choice to devour on your next trip to Mexico. Real food from Mexico is truly one of the wonders of the world, and the tlayuda isn't an exception. Put this on your culinary bucket list, or you’ll be missing out.
16 Taiyaki (Japan)
Who wouldn't want to eat a cute fish-shaped pancake filled with delicious filling? Taiyaki is a cheap and easy street food found in stalls all around Japan. They're pretty sizeable and have filling like matcha, red bean paste, chocolate, and custard. It’s a sweet snack that's crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside—perfect for satisfying those cravings. When you get one made fresh off the plate and is still warm, it’s the best, but store bought from the convenience store is pretty good, too.
15 Bougatsa (Greece, Crete)
Typically eaten as a breakfast pastry, bougatsa is filo pastry filled with cheese, minced meat, or custard. How delicious does that sound? Honestly, we'd travel all the way to Crete just to check this out. If you've tried this, please tell us in detail how good it is because we have to know. Considering that pies with custard or meat are beloved comfort foods in the US, it seems that this dish would be a perfect way to introduce America to Greece's cuisine.
14 Garlic Lángos (Hungary)
We need to eat this right now. This amazing yet simple dish is fried bread with garlic sour cream on top. Honestly, who wouldn't want to eat that (besides Dracula)? This is another cheap and easy street food to grab on your travels but can also make at home. This sounds like the ultimate comfort snack, to be honest. Not only is it a great snack, but it also protects you from vampires at the same time. Sounds like something you'll need when visiting Hungary.
13 Knafeh (Jordan)
Street food isn't always savory. This sticky decadent dessert from the Middle East consists of a white cream cheese base, baked semolina bits, and a sweet syrup on top. It sounds like a wild cross between a cheesecake and a caramel pudding from Norway, and we have to have it. If that doesn't sound like happiness on a plate to you, we don't know what would. Take any opportunity you can to taste this stuff whenever you get the chance.
12 Bamba (Israel)
Are you a fan of cheese puffs? Are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches your jam? What if we told you that you could combine these two things into a snack? No, you don't just shove cheese puffs into a peanut butter sandwich. In Israel, there's a crisp known as "Bamba," which are like cheese puffs in style, appearance, and texture but taste like peanut butter. If that doesn't sound like a snack that should be on US shelves, then what does?
11 Amanoya Rice Crackers (Japan)
Savory with a spicy edge, these rice crackers are a fabulous mid-afternoon snack. Essentially Japan's equivalent of potato chips, these rice crackers are popular in Japan. Be careful if you buy them, though; these are so addictive you may just eat the whole bag without realizing it. If you're a fan of spicy and crispy snacks, then these Amanoya rice crackers are definitely the ones for you.
10 Lotte Chocolate Rice Cake Pie (Korea)
This snack may surprise you upon biting into it, as it's not a 'cake.' This chocolatey snack has more of a gelatinous outside similar in texture to mochi that has a chocolate core and a thin chocolatey outside. The pies come individually wrapped and in small boxes. Lotte chocolate rice cake pies also come in other flavors, like banana, strawberry, and matcha tea. Give it a try if you really want to intrigue your taste buds.
9 Pizzaman (Japan)
You've heard of steamed buns, and you've heard of pizza, but have you heard of them being fused together? I present to you the cheap snack: pizzaman, a hearty and warm snack combining China-style steamed buns with ingredients like pizza sauce, pepperoni, basil, and mozzarella to create the ultimate portable winter comfort food. We love dumplings, steamed buns, and pizza, so we think that this crazy combination is a match made in food heaven.
8 Nakkikastike (Finland)
This is a perfect kids’ comfort food. While the name seems crazy hard to spell or pronounce, Nakkikastike is a hot dog sauce served with boiled potatoes. The sauce is made of onion, carrot, cream, ketchup, and mustard and is filled with chopped frankfurters before being served on top of potatoes. This sounds perfect after a long day of playing around in the snow (or commuting to work like other adults–boring). Easy to make and satisfying to eat, what more could you want out of a meal?
7 Borek (Turkey)
This is delicious, and you can judge a restaurant based on how good their Borek is. A full pastry parcel filled with meat, vegetables, or cheese, this dish is addictive and light—a dangerous combination for your waistline. Our personal favorite kind of borek comes with spinach and feta filling, but the minced meat ones are also amazing. These can be enjoyed as a starter, a side, or a main dish and can be wonderfully filling after a long day.
6 Okonomiyaki (Japan)
Another one of the most popular street foods alongside takoyaki, okonomiyaki is a vegetable pancake. Batter and vegetables are fried into pancakes and served with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, parsley, and Dashi flakes. The name means ‘as you like it,’ and this cross between a pancake and a frittata can have whatever meats and vegetable you want mixed in to create the ultimate comfort food. This is the writer’s third-favorite international junk food, and she highly recommends that you give this one a go if you’re in Osaka.
5 Khachapuri (Republic of Georgia)
This is the stuff of dreams. Khachapuri is a bread leavened and filled with cheese, eggs, and other ingredients such as meat. The next step up from your next sandwich, this is like if cheesy garlic bread and a sandwich had a baby. This is another food we're desperate to get our hands on and maybe even try making ourselves at home. You can’t really go wrong with bread, cheese, and eggs put together; our mouths are watering.
4 Joulutorttu (Finland)
Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year for snacks and junk food. Joulortuttu are Christmas pastries shaped like stars or pinwheels. They're often filled with prune jam or dusted with sugar and eaten during the holidays. While the star and pinwheel shapes seem fancy, they aren't so difficult to achieve in practice. While prune jam is the traditional filling, you can use other jams or compotes like apple jam, for example.
3 Melonpan (Japan)
Despite the name, this isn't a melon in the shape of a pan. Melon pan is a small sweet loaf or roll of bread covered in a thin cookie top and grid lines to form its melon design. Some bakers even add small amounts of green coloring to really hammer home that melon vibe. This sweet treat can be bought in bakeries and convenience stores all across Japan, but it's also popular in Taiwan and South America. Melon pan is a fan favorite among kids and adults alike, so you know it’s a winner.
2 Lebkuchen (Germany)
We know that America already has ‘lebkuchen,’ but that's not legit lebkuchen, and we won’t stand for it. In case you don’t know, lebkuchen is a Christmas treat of literal spiced gingerbread. They can come in a soft, almost cake-like form or have the consistency of harder cookies. You’ll find them at German Christmas markets across the world, often covered in colorful icing that you can buy pre-made or customize with your own message for a loved one. There's no way to not feel winter joy when eating this.
1 Bunny Chow (South Africa)
Originating from the Durban in South Africa, Bunny Chow is a cheap and simple dish consisting of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry. This dish supposedly started during the depression area as a substantial but cost-effective meal for folks who were living on the bread line. Now, it's a cherished traditional dish that the Durban are very proud of. While the stereotypical version has meat in it, you can find vegetarian versions that use lentils as an alternative instead.