The Favorite Foods Of Every US President

Presidents ... they're just like us, right? Okay, no, for the most part, they are not. For one thing, all but a few of them are dead. For another, every single one to date has been male. Still, one thing each of our leaders has had in common is that they've all liked to eat food. Wow, pretty amazing ... ly normal. Food, after all, is the great equalizer.

Many of our presidents have had favorite foods that sound quite relatable, such as ice cream, steak, and chili, while others, especially going back a century or so, liked to eat no-longer-popular dishes such as boar's head, turtle steak, and sugar-stuffed tomatoes. A few presidents even enjoyed such dubious-sounding delights(?) as red flannel hash and fanny daddies, but we'll demystify these dishes if you'll just keep scrolling. We'll also reveal the name of the founding father-turned-president who shared a favorite dessert with our current POTUS, the identity of the two(!) different presidents who actually enjoyed eating squirrel, and various other bite-sized bits of presidential culinary trivia.

George Washington: Hoecakes

George Washington, aka POTUS No. 1, was known for being a generous host at his home in Mount Vernon. One account of an evening's entertainment records quite the menu, including roast beef, goose, pork, mutton, cabbage, onions, potatoes, and pickles followed by mince pies, tarts, fruit, nuts, and cheese. When he was on his own, though, Washington liked to start his day with something simple: hoecakes, which are a kind of pancake made out of cornmeal. For a cute story about one boy's search for his hero's favorite recipe, check out the 1969 children's classic "George Washington's Breakfast."

John Adams: New England Boiled Dinner

The whole "eat local" movement is trendy these days, but back in John Adams' time, being a locavore was pretty much the norm. So it's not surprising to learn that much of what he ate came from no more than a few miles from his Massachusetts home. The Adamses most likely had their dinner in the middle of the day and the main course would often be a boiled dinner of meat and potatoes. PBS' "A Taste of History" also chose a New England boiled dinner (theirs made of beef, pork, chicken, and a bunch of root vegetables) to honor the second president.

Thomas Jefferson: French vanilla ice cream

Thomas Jefferson was not only a founding father but apparently a founding foodie. He grew heirloom apples (known back then simply as "apples), established one of the first wineries in the Old Dominion, and helped introduce les frites to les États Unis after a stint as Minister to France. While Jefferson neither invented nor introduced ice cream, he was quite a fan, and at Monticello, there's a recipe he wrote out himself for a French vanilla version. This ice cream is French vanilla in two senses of the term — for one thing, it's made with eggs, but for another, the recipe may have come from Jefferson's French butler.

James Madison: Virginia ham

James Madison may be the only president who ever had a line of snack cakes named after his wife, but he probably wasn't a huge devotee of sugary junk food, as there wasn't much of it available in the early 19th century. In fact, the National Constitution Center admits that history has little to say about Madison's favorite foods, but the best guess is that this Virginia native enjoyed his state's smoked ham. He probably didn't eat a great deal of it, though, since at 5' 4 and 100 pounds, he was the smallest of our presidents, notes Statista.

James Monroe: Spoonbread

James Monroe was yet another Virginia-born president, and it's to him — or rather, to his cook — that we may owe the Southern specialty known as spoonbread. According to "George Mason: The Founding Father Who Gave Us The Bill Of Rights," spoonbread was born at Ash Lawn-Highland (home to Monroe, not Mason) when a dish of cornmeal mush was baked in the oven. This happy little experiment resulted in a nice crusty pudding, and Monroe must have liked it if it stayed on the menu.

John Quincy Adams: Fruit

John Quincy Adams is another president who didn't leave many records of his food preferences, but according to the Massachusetts Historical Society, he was really into gardening, especially after he left The White House. While Adams grew a variety of plants, he was especially proud of his apple, apricot, peach, and plum trees.

In his diary, he described his orchards as bearing "fruit for the subsistence health and comfort of my descendants." The sufficient reason, we'd say, to assume the man was fairly fond of fruit and may have been eating his recommended daily allowance years before the USDA existed to do the recommending.

Andrew Jackson: Tenderloin with jezebel sauce

When Old Hickory was in The White House, his state dinners, according to "A Rich and Fertile Land," combined haute cuisine with plainer fare more reflective of his Tennessee roots. One fancy-sounding dish he's known to have served as tenderloin with jezebel sauce. The funny thing is, according to the Biloxi Sun-Herald article reprinted in The Food Dictator, there's no written record of a sauce by this name prior to the 1950s. Culinarily, Jackson may have been a man well ahead of his time.

Martin Van Buren: Boar's Head

Before Martin Van Buren was president, he traveled to England accompanied by Washington Irving. Man of letters that he was, Irving, who penned both "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," wrote to his sister to describe the trip. One of the highlights seems to have been "an old-fashioned English Christmas" complete with "mummers and morris dancers and ... the boar's head crowned with holly." Van Buren became somewhat of a boar aficionado after this introduction, as Barbecue News Magazine says the dish became one of his favorite Christmas traditions.

William Henry Harrison: Squirrel stew

Squirrel meat, rather than being treated as a scarce delicacy these days, is instead looked down upon. When tabloids accused Britney Spears of eating squirrels while growing up, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette says they meant to demean her rather than to paint her as an Andrew Zimmern-style adventure eater. Back in the 1840s, though, a squirrel was a dish fit for a president ... and for his constituents, too. Case in point: Free squirrel stew handed out at voter rallies may have helped William Henry Harrison get elected our ninth president. (It's possible it was the possum, though, as One For the Table says this critter may have been part of that burgoo, too.)

John Tyler: Chess pie

While George Washington was the metaphorical father of our country, John Tyler was the president who went the farthest towards becoming the literal embodiment of this epithet. Believe it or not, he had 15 children that we know of, the youngest born when he was 70 years old. How did he balance such a big family with the stressful job of being president? With a type of pudding that came to share his name. According to the Manuscripts Cookbooks Survey, Tyler pudding wasn't really a pudding, per se, but was nearly identical to the Southern staple we now know as chess pie.

James K. Polk: Ham and corn bread

Poor James Polk. Once his term in office was up, he and his wife traveled down the Mississippi by boat at a time when the South was in the grips of a cholera pandemic. Polk was as cautious as could be, relating in his diary how he politely refused the unfamiliar food offered him in New Orleans and instead quietly asked for an old standby, a slice of ham with cornbread. Despite his efforts to stay healthy, several months later Polk would still succumb to the disease (through no fault of the ham, we're sure.)

Zachary Taylor: Calas Tous Chauds

As far as we are aware, Zachary Taylor is the only U.S. president to have been killed by food, notes the University of Virginia. Okay, there's no real proof that the cherries or milk he ate right before he died were the culprits, as it hasn't been possible to pinpoint an exact cause of death. But that's what happens when you perform an autopsy 164 years post-mortem, reports the Courier Journal. Still, Taylor would probably have been better off if he'd skipped the fruit and stuck to his favorite dessert instead. According to "American Cake," he was partial to a fried sweet rice dumpling known as calas tous chauds.

Millard Fillmore: Resurrection pie

Resurrection pie, according to "The Presidents' Cookbook," may have been a favorite dish of Millard Fillmore's due to the fact that it originated in the North of England, as did the Fillmore line. (Not Millard himself, though, or he would not have qualified for the presidency.) The cookbook says such pies are made from steak and liver, but Foods of England clarifies that they were originally made from whatever leftovers were available, thus "resurrecting" the food and giving the pie its name.

Franklin Pierce: Fannie Daddies

A dinner hosted one year by the Officer's Club on the Marine base at Twentynine Palms, California featured presidential favorites, but the one listed for Franklin Pierce may have raised a few eyebrows: fannie daddies, a dish with a name that sounds like a naughty joke from a Victorian novel. Recipe Circus, however, explains that fannie daddies are actually clam fritters, something that's long been popular in New England (Pierce, as you may or may not recall, was a New Hampshire man, notes The White House).

James Buchanan: Sauerkraut

James Buchanan, our 15th president, came from a Scots-Irish background on both sides, as lovingly detailed by Northern Ireland's Derry Journal. But, one of his favorite foods was something he himself described as an "honest German dish": fermented cabbage, aka sauerkraut. In an 1866 letter to a friend, he admitted that "many pretenders to refinement despise [sauerkraut]," but said he was glad that "we both delight in the classical dish." Although sauerkraut is now hailed as a superfood, Lancaster History notes that the rest of Buchanan's diet wasn't too healthy, so he still suffered from health problems such as gout.

Abraham Lincoln: Corn cakes

When you google "Abraham Lincoln" and "cake," you're likely to get a zillion recipes for modernized versions of an almond cake that Mary Todd is said to have made for him back in their courting days. While Honest Abe purportedly praised it to the skies, what else could he say when trying to seal the marital deal? His actual tastes may have run more to something plainer and more savory, though. According to "The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage," he once claimed, "I could eat corn cakes as fast as two women can make them."

Andrew Johnson: Hoppin' John

According to Will Patterson, a chef who has cooked for three different presidents, one of Andrew Johnson's favorite dishes was Hoppin' John. While Johnson was not one of the presidents he cooked for (these would be Ford, Clinton, and Bush the First), he tells Laurel Circle that he learned to make the 17th president's favorite in Johnson's hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. So what goes into this not-so-descriptively named dish? Patterson's version is made of peppers, tomatoes, rice, and black-eyed peas. This last-named ingredient is common to all Hoppin' John recipes and is also what makes the dish a popular good-luck food on New Year's Day.

Ulysses S. Grant: Rice pudding

Perhaps the most elegant eatery of the 19th century was Delmonico's, a fancy-schmancy New York steakhouse. According to "The Presidents' Cookbook," though, not a dessert on the menu at this ritzy restaurant could woo Grant away from his beloved rice pudding. Town & Country says this humble dish even made its appearance at opulent state dinners, but according to D.C.-based journalist Emily Edson Briggs, Grant's banquet version was anything but plain. In one of her letters, she describes it as "such a pudding as would make our grandmothers clap their hands with joy ... worthy to be embalmed in romance or story." Wow, that's one heck of a pudding.

Rutherford B. Hayes: Corn

Rutherford B. Hayes may be better known for what he didn't like than what he did — he was no fan of booze, to the point where he was known to have tricked his guests by serving punch flavored with rum extract instead of real rum. His wife, too, was known by the sobriquet of Lemonade Lucy for the nonalcoholic beverage she favored. While a first family cannot live on lemonade alone, Hayes was also pretty fond of corn. It rates 18 different mentions in his diary, and among Hayes' favorite recipes were ones for cornbread, corn fritters, and corn soup.

James Garfield: Squirrel soup

There's something squirrely going on here. Not one, but two presidents claim to have squirrel as a favorite dish. Was eating squirrel on the campaign trail circa 18-something akin to eating a funnel cake at the Iowa State Fair as is de rigueur for 21st-century presidential hopefuls? According to Eat a Squirrel, this may not be the case, as James Garfield's own squirrel soup recipe seems to have predated his presidency and may have roots in his Ohio boyhood. So proud of the recipe was he, though, that he submitted it to "The Original White House Cookbook," published in 1887.

Chester A. Arthur: Turtle steak

Turtle, like squirrels, is another 19th-century favorite that has fallen out of favor, although for entirely different reasons. Unlike squirrels, which are still quite prolific, many sea turtles are now so scarce that they fall under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Back in Chester A. Arthur's day, though, there was nothing this presidential gourmand liked better than a good turtle steak. As per The President's Cookbook, he would eat this dish accompanied by macaroni to help offset some of its richness.

Grover Cleveland: Corned beef and cabbage

Grover Cleveland, the only president to share a name with a current Muppet, was also the only one to serve two non-consecutive terms. According to The White House website, he was both the 22nd and 24th president, with a brief break for Benjamin Harrison at number 23. So, what was Cleveland eating when he occupied/didn't occupy/re-occupied The White House? It seems he may have preferred plain home cooking to fancy chef creations. According to "Our Capital on the Potomac," the president once asked to trade his gourmet grub for the corned beef and cabbage being served in the servants' hall and later described it as "the best dinner I had eaten in months."

Benjamin Harrison: Fig pudding

Benjamin Harrison was really into Christmas, to the point where he was the first president to set up a Christmas tree inside the White House. While we do not know his favorite Christmas carol, we think he might have had a certain fondness for "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on account of the line "Oh, bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here." As one-time White House chef François Rysavy revealed in a book of the same name, Harrison, like the anonymous carolers of the song, was a big fig pudding fan.

William McKinley: Red flannel hash

William McKinley had a favorite dish that really doesn't sound appetizing at all — red flannel hash. It seems like something that might be made out of worn-out handkerchiefs and Long Johns with holes in the seat. The actual dish, however, as described by Ohio's Tribune Chronicle (McKinley being a Buckeye by birth), is made from potatoes and beets. While this sounds somewhat more palatable than cloth scraps, it's still not really something you'd expect to see come out of The White House kitchens.

Theodore Roosevelt: Fried chicken

Theodore Roosevelt is still pretty popular over a century after leaving office. He's not only the most recent of the "Rushmores," but is also a fan-favorite mascot with the Washington Nationals Racing Presidents. It's fitting, then, that one of the foods he liked best is something nearly everyone still enjoys today. According to the biography "Theodore Rex," Roosevelt was very fond of fried chicken. He's said to have preferred it with white gravy, too, as that's the way his mother used to make it. From a 1925 account of Roosevelt's presidency called "Released for Publication," we learn that the president was even known to eat an entire chicken in one meal.

William Howard Taft: Steak

William Howard Taft, as per Statista, holds the distinction of being our nation's heftiest POTUS to date. He tipped the scales at 332 pounds, and you don't sustain a robust physique like that by nibbling on lettuce leaves. Taft was known to start each day with a 12-ounce steak, although eventually he took his doctor's advice and reduced the size of his steaks to 6 ounces. In her memoir "Secrets of the White House," his housekeeper Elizabeth Jaffray remarks that even after adopting this diet, "somehow he really didn't take off any great amount of weight." Go figure.

Woodrow Wilson: Virginia country ham

While Virginia calls itself "the mother of presidents" due to having been the birthplace of eight of our leaders, it's been a while since they've had one — the Woodrow Wilson administration was the last one to be led by a son of the Old Dominion. Like his predecessor and fellow Virginian James Madison, Wilson was very fond of Virginia country ham. According to "When the Cheering Stopped," this was one of the few "well-chosen" foods his doctor permitted him when his health issues started to impact his presidency.

Warren G. Harding: Knockwurst with sauerkraut

Warren G. Harding presided over the nation during Prohibition, so his dinners of state were as booze-free as those of Rutherford B. Hayes. Not so his private parties — "Entertaining in the White House" relates how he would frequently invite his pals over for an evening of poker and bathtub gin (or more likely a private pre-Prohibition stash). At these stealthy soirees, Harding would always feed his friends the same meal: knockwurst with sauerkraut. Too bad he and James Buchanan never got to know each other, but as Harding was only two years old when his fellow president passed away at the age of 77, they were fated never to become sauerkraut buddies.

Calvin Coolidge: Jelly roll

Ling P. Quan, a chef who'd worked in The White House during the Harding administration, stayed on to work for the Coolidges, as well. In 1925, he spoke with a newspaper called the Daily Evening Item and dished on the first family's favorite foods. Mrs. Coolidge, he said, was a big fan of his veal curry, but the president had more of a sweet tooth. What Silent Cal liked best was a jelly roll filled with strawberry jam or currant jelly and covered with lemon icing.

Herbert Hoover: Caramel tomatoes

Many of the dishes on this list may seem strange by today's standards, but keep in mind that people living a century or so ago would likely be horrified by the idea of kale smoothies or chocolate with 0% sugar. While today bitter is better, back when Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office, sweet foods were very much en Vogue. So much so, that the Hoovers' cook Mary Rattley created a recipe for caramel tomatoes that was a hit with the first family. She's not the first one to have combined tomatoes and sugar, though, as Cook's Country Eats Local says there's a similar recipe that dates back to the 1880s.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Grilled cheese sandwiches

Poor FDR! His housekeeper Henrietta Nesbitt was notorious for serving some of the worst meals ever eaten at The White House. Nesbitt was a friend of his wife's, though, so as much as he longed to fire her, he was never able to do so. (My Journal Courier reports that the Trumans had no such compunction.) The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library cites Nesbitt as saying that the president's favorite foods were fish chowder, fruit cake, hot dogs, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches. While we're skeptical of the source, grilled cheese seems like something that even a lousy cook could manage not to screw up too badly.

Harry S. Truman: Cornbread with sorghum

Harry S. Truman never seemed entirely comfortable in his presidency, as the National Archives reveals that his nickname for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was the "Great White Jail." He never really took to formal dining, either, as he'd rather have been eating the foods he grew up on like meatloaf and fried chicken. Truman, a Missouri native, was especially fond of one of his home state's products: sorghum, a molasses-like syrup that he would drizzle over cornbread.

Dwight Eisenhower: Beef stew

Dwight Eisenhower may have been a military hero prior to his presidency, but one lesser-known fact about him is that he also liked to cook. Among his specialties was a beef stew made with a tomato-based broth and a pinch of cayenne pepper. In the lead-up to the 1956 election, The President's Kitchen Cabinet tells us that Ike made his stew recipe available to his supporters. The intent behind this was to have them serve it up to their neighbors while convincing them to vote for the man who created it.

John F. Kennedy: New England fish chowder

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library describes JFK as a "small eater," but when he did remember to eat, he seems to have been a meat and potatoes man. He also liked seafood, of course, as befits a native New Englander. One of his favorite dishes was said to be New England fish chowder, although a National Press Club President's Day-themed dinner chose bay scallop chowder to represent the 35th Commander-in-Chief.

Lyndon B. Johnson: Barbecue

Lyndon B. Johnson was a pretty picky eater, something that may have caused a bit of frustration for Henry Haller, a White House chef who'd come from Switzerland. Haller wasn't the only one to do the cooking, though. As he told the Gerald R. Ford Foundation in 2010, the Johnsons brought a cook known as the Barbecue King all the way from Texas to prepare some of the president's favorite meals. Haller may have been good enough to make the haute cuisine necessary for formal occasions, but when you want smoked ribs done right, it's best to stick with a true pit master.

Richard Nixon: Cottage cheese

By the Nixon era, nearly every word and action undertaken by the president was recorded for posterity ... even the misdeeds that eventually drove the 37th POTUS out of office. Among the more innocuous facts on file about Richard Nixon is his habit of lunching on cottage cheese. H.R. Haldeman noted in his diary that the president ate his curds and whey with pineapple, while presidential aide Stephen Bull says he ate them with ketchup. An anniversary ode to Nixon and his wife Pat goes so far as to commemorate the couple's midday meal preference in a rhyming couplet, "At lunchtime, they are quite easy to please, They just eat fruit and cold cottage cheese."

Gerald Ford: Pot roast with red cabbage

Henry Haller, speaking with Gerald R. Ford Foundation in 2010, had nothing but nice things to say about the organization's eponym, although he did note that Ford presided over The White House at a rather difficult time. A poor economy meant steep budget cuts, while at the same the nation's Bicentennial needed to be celebrated in style with lobster and medallions of veal. When the Fords were dining en famille, however, they preferred something a bit simpler. The Gerald R. Ford Library says that pot roast and red cabbage was one of the president's favorites, even if Haller remembers the dish as being pork chops and red cabbage, instead.

Jimmy Carter: Cheesy grits

Before becoming president, Jimmy Carter spent some time running the family peanut farm. While he liked peanuts just fine, they weren't his absolute favorite food. A New York Times article written a month prior to the 39th president's inauguration says he was really into dairy products of all kinds: milk, buttermilk, butter, and especially cheese. His daughter Amy praised one particular dish that Carter would make for the family, saying, "Daddy makes grits for breakfast, then breaks a couple of eggs into it and adds some cheese, and it's yummy."

Ronald Reagan: Jelly beans

While some critics might maintain that gobbling jellybeans isn't the healthiest of habits, it's one Ronald Reagan adopted in his pre-presidential days in order to ditch an even worse one — the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library says he was attempting to give up tobacco. While the president's favorite flavor was licorice, he celebrated his 1981 inauguration by treating his guests to 3½ tons of Jelly Bellies in a patriotic selection of red (cherry), white (coconut), and blue (blueberry) hues.

George H. W. Bush: Pork rinds

George H.W. Bush may have had a past shrouded in a certain amount of mystery — he'd formerly headed up the CIA, and that's pretty much the agency's stock in trade. As president, though, he came across as a fairly regular guy, thanks in no small part to his food preferences. He famously hated broccoli, which is something many of us can relate to, but what he did enjoy noshing on was pork rinds doused with Tabasco sauce. As Parade recalls, Bush I was responsible for a huge bump in sales of these gas station snacks once he admitted that they were one of his favorites.

Bill Clinton: Chicken enchiladas

Bill Clinton did go jogging to get some exercise, but oftentimes his feet would find their way straight to McDonald's. When asked to name a favorite dish for posterity, though, the one Clinton came up with was chicken enchiladas. So does he miss those enchiladas now? Perhaps he doesn't have to. According to a 2014 New York Times article, the former president hasn't been strictly vegan ever since his doctor advised him that lean protein is necessary in order to be adequately nourished while maintaining a healthy weight.

George W. Bush: Cheeseburger pizza

While George W. Bush, unlike his predecessor, wasn't known for frequenting fast food chains, he did enjoy homemade (or rather, White House chef-made) versions of what's typically considered junk food, with his favorite being cheeseburger pizza. As his chef told the British newspaper The Sun (via Grub Street), she'd start off with a Margherita pizza base — got to retain those foodie credentials somehow — then pile on toppings including ground beef, bacon, fried onions, ketchup, pickles, and, of course, lots of cheese. The calorie total? The Guardian estimated it at upwards of 2,300, but Dubya's chef did say of her boss, "He watches his portion control!"

Barack Obama: Chili

Barack Obama was quite the First Foodie while in office, frequenting restaurants all around the nation's capital. One restaurant that was particularly honored by his patronage was Ben's Chili Bowl, so much so that the owners painted him into a mural several years after his 2009 visit. As there's no evidence that Obama ever returned to Ben's, we wouldn't go so far as to claim, like Business Insider did, that the restaurant's signature chili half-smoke is among his favorite dishes. He is very fond of chili, though, and in an interview with North Coast Journal, he revealed that he still uses a favorite recipe that dates back to his college days.

Donald Trump: McDonald's

While Donald Trump got a lot of flak during his presidency for his fondness for fast food, he did have an explanation for this. As he told CNN in 2016, "I'm a very clean person. I like cleanliness and I think you're better off going there than maybe someplace where you have no idea where the food is coming from." Consistency, too, is the hallmark of fast food. McDonald's was (and probably still is) Trump's favorite chain, and his favorite sandwich was the Filet-O-Fish.

Joe Biden: Ice cream

Joe Biden, as per Politico, neither drinks nor smokes, but he does have one weakness he'll cheerfully admit. As he introduced himself at a campaign stop in 2016, "My name is Joe Biden and I love ice cream." Sure, that stop did happen to be at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio, but Biden has long been a fan of Jeni's. He also likes Häagen-Dazs, so much so that the White House kitchen is typically stocked with its vanilla chocolate chip flavor. There's only one thing that can curb the president's passion for ice cream, and that's his devotion to his Catholic faith since he's been known to give the treat up for Lent.