25 Breakfast Foods Popular In The US, Ranked Worst To Best

Table of breakfast foods
Table of breakfast foods - Juefraphoto/Getty Images

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day (though I would argue that dessert is also pretty high up there, but that's another story for a different day). Not only is it a way to break the period between dinner the night before and the present, but it's also a chance to fuel your body with the nutrients you need to have a successful day. For that reason, you'd be best off choosing your breakfast food wisely.

I consider myself to be a breakfast connoisseur. I go to diners regularly for the foods I can't easily make at home, and I grumble whenever I prematurely flip a pancake and watch the uncooked dough splatter everywhere. So, I've experienced both the hands-on preparation side and the brunch indulgence end of things. And through this experience, I've realized that some breakfast foods are just not what they're chalked up to be. To help save you from selecting a sub-optimal food (since all breakfast food is good breakfast food), I've compiled a list of the most popular breakfast foods in the U.S. and ranked them on factors including versatility and how easy each is to prepare.

Read more: 25 Most Popular Snacks In America Ranked Worst To Best

25. Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict on plate
Eggs Benedict on plate - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

I shouldn't have to tell you that eggs Benedict is an imperfect breakfast food. Anthony Bourdain himself cautioned against eating restaurant hollandaise because of how difficult it is to keep potential foodborne pathogens at bay.

While hollandaise does have a solid balance of flavors and savoriness, the thought of eating this gelatinous goop (which is, in all honesty, a pain to make) really turns me off to the idea of an eggs Benedict breakfast. Plus, poaching eggs is inordinately difficult.

24. Sausage And Gravy

Sausage and gravy dish
Sausage and gravy dish - Pickstock/Getty Images

Sausage and gravy is one dish that I can confidently say that I would never, ever venture to make at home. Granted, you can make a simple sausage gravy recipe by cooking down your meat, whipping up a white gravy, and smothering it on your favorite biscuits.

It's homestyle, sure. But why would anyone go to great lengths to whip this up for a casual Friday pre-work breakfast -- even if you can just use canned biscuits for it?

23. Breakfast Cereal

Bowl of colorful cereal
Bowl of colorful cereal - Anna Savina/Getty Images

I have a feeling that adults really only eat breakfast food when there are no other options in the fridge or your cooking routine is a bit uninspired. Breakfast cereal is okay -- but it often is quite one-note. And unfortunately, that one-note almost always leans sweet.

When I dive into a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I'm left with a saccharine coating on my tongue and teeth. The only thing this food has going for it is that it's convenient.

22. Crepes

Crepes and chocolate sauce
Crepes and chocolate sauce - Anna_Pustynnikova/Shutterstock

Crepes -- as if pancakes weren't difficult enough. I recommend always leaving this breakfast food to the professionals since it's not worth the aggravation.

This is because perfecting a crepe batter that easily pulls away from the heat of the pan is just as difficult as the cooking process itself -- which is bound to leave you asking, "Why did I think this was a good idea?" These thin pancakes are nothing short of infuriating. Once you get a crepe that doesn't look like it took a spin through a paper shredder, you can fill it with whatever sweet or savory fillings you want. But the process to get there just isn't worth the return.

21. Pancakes

Pancakes on plate
Pancakes on plate - Pjohnson1/Getty Images

I've had to throw too many pancakes out -- after either overcooking them or flipping prematurely -- to be a staunch supporter of this breakfast food anymore. It's one of the few items that I will leave to the professionals (meaning, the kitchen staff at my local diner) to make on my behalf rather than attempting it at home.

Despite the trickiness of making a short stack, pancakes are versatile. Grab a box of pre-made mix, add in the water, and throw it on a greased pan. But I can't help but point out that these flapjacks tend to lean dry, so they act more as vehicles for copious amounts of maple syrup rather than an esteemed breakfast food.

20. Protein Shakes And Smoothies

Smoothies with greens and fruit
Smoothies with greens and fruit - zefirchik06/Shutterstock

As someone who needs a hefty dose of protein after working out, I can understand why you'd want to cram a protein shake down. But it's not a drink that I would seek out to make for my entire breakfast. The protein content is usually satiating, but the fact that you have to drink your meal leaves a big hole in your breakfast experience.

Similarly, I don't think smoothies should count as breakfast food. Take the extra couple of minutes to bite into a fresh strawberry and feel the juice gushing from your hand rather than just throwing it in a blender for a seemingly dystopian "meal."

19. Waffles

Waffles on plate
Waffles on plate - Jmichl/Getty Images

Waffles deserve some points for versatility. Not only are there many different types of waffles out there, but you can also tweak the toppings to match whatever you're in the mood for. For example, you can drown them in syrup or go for something savory. Hello, chicken and waffles!

However, the main issue with this popular breakfast food is that you need to have a specialty piece of equipment to make it, so you can't recreate it if you don't have access to a waffle iron around. Many of the other top-ranked breakfast foods can be thrown together in a pan or a bowl, but they won't be as satisfying as filling each individual pocket with a bit of syrup.

18. Grits

Bowl of grits with cheese
Bowl of grits with cheese - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Grits embody the always-the-bridesmaid and never-the-bride persona. They're always playing a supporting role, but they never get the time in the spotlight that they rightfully deserve. For the unfamiliar, grits are starchy, ground corn that's often cooked into a porridge-like consistency. The grits alone lack flavor, so it's very obvious why they will not throw a bouquet any time soon.

Are grits as versatile as breakfast potatoes? Probably not. But I couldn't think of a better pairing for this Southern staple than shrimp and grits. "Shrimp and hash brown potatoes" just doesn't roll off the tongue.

17. Breakfast Sausage

Sausage on a fork
Sausage on a fork - Clarkandcompany/Getty Images

I'm going to be honest out of the gate: breakfast sausage will never compare to bacon. While it comes in more sizes and shapes, including links, patties, and flavored varieties, there's something mystery-meat-esque about what's actually in a sausage. Plus, there's the issue of sausages with the casings that you have to intentionally peel off before eating (if you want to avoid chunks of it getting stuck in the back of your throat, at least).

I also have the same issue with sausage as bacon. It's too salty and dense to eat as a meal on its own, but it's a great complement to other breakfast foods.

16. Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls on plate
Cinnamon rolls on plate - Jennifer_sharp/Getty Images

There's just something wonderful about diving into a gooey, icing-covered cinnamon roll on Christmas morning. The cinnamon roll surpasses the apple turnover and the muffin as one of the best breakfast pastries, but it's not a great breakfast on its own. These rolls are typically laden with sugar, which can make eating a whole one overwhelming. Plus, they hit the spot for a sweet treat, but they're not as filling as other options on this list.

Making homemade cinnamon rolls is another beast in itself. The dough requires extra attention to ensure it rolls well and has the proper structure. Alternatively, you can buy a cinnamon roll at a grocery store -- I just can't assure you that it will be that good.

15. French Toast

French toast with berries
French toast with berries - Jmichl/Getty Images

French toast is a great breakfast food through and through, but that's only provided that it's cooked correctly. Otherwise, it can be tough, undercooked, or soggy -- which can really put a damper on your morning. Plus, French toast is just not as satisfying as other higher-ranked options on this list.

I also really appreciate this breakfast food because it's easily customizable. Not only can you swap out the plain sandwich bread with something more exciting, but you can also top your short stack with berries, fruit, or nut butter. But it often leans sweet, which can be overwhelming for some eaters.

14. Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs on fork
Scrambled eggs on fork - Milanfoto/Getty Images

Scrambled eggs get us somewhere on the satiating end of things. Plus, they're easy to customize with whatever herbs and spices you have lying around in your refrigerator.

But my main issue with scrambled eggs is that they are incredibly difficult to cook well. If you look at them the wrong way, they get overcooked. You can't stir too much or too little without disastrous consequences. It's a food that senses fear, and that's not something I want to deal with when I just want to make a quick breakfast before work in the morning.

13. Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles on plate
Chilaquiles on plate - LesiaArt/Shutterstock

Homemade chilaquiles are essentially breakfast nachos. The crispy tortilla chips are coated in a layer of salsa, veggies, cheese, and toppings before being smothered with the classic breakfast accompaniment of a fried egg.

This isn't a breakfast that you can make before work. It's super messy and requires your diligent attention to make sure that all of the components come together. And naturally, you run into the same issue you would with nachos -- some chips have a morsel of everything while others come out dry. But if you find a way to evenly disperse your toppings, chilaquiles are a fantastic option for a lazy brunch with friends.

12. Bacon

Bacon cooking in pan
Bacon cooking in pan - Bonnie Marquette/Getty Images

There's nothing more tantalizing than smelling bacon as it cooks in a pan. Except for eating it, of course.

This meaty side dish is an excellent way to add savory flavors to other breakfast foods, but I'm not sure it's a formidable competitor in this race all alone. After all, has anyone ever eaten more than four pieces of bacon and still felt well enough to continue on? It's very fatty and dense, which is why I would recommend eating it in small doses rather than ordering a dinner plate-sized portion to eat in a single sitting.

11. Breakfast Potatoes

Hash browns on plate
Hash browns on plate - Gereug/Getty Images

I doubt there is someone out there who genuinely dislikes breakfast potatoes. You can season them with whatever ingredients you have in your cabinet and even opt for different shapes like hash browns, home fries, or tater tots. Plus, many of these shapes come frozen in bags, so you don't even have to go through the arduous process of peeling, boiling, and sauteing or frying up your spuds.

But, like other sides, potatoes aren't a breakfast all on their own. And not to mention that eating an entire plate of them can get pretty exhausting and a bit monotonous.

10. Quiche

Quiche slice on wooden surface
Quiche slice on wooden surface - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

I would call myself a rather experienced baker. But I've had one too many run-ins with soggy pie crust or dough that won't stay together, so I try to avoid them as much as I can. That's the case for quiche, a breakfast food that, besides the crust, I enjoy.

The crust is an essential component of this dish since it gives the egg base something to sit on and imparts sublime buttery notes. Plus, it's easily customizable with veggies, cheese, and protein. But when there's an easier crustless quiche option (frittata) available, there's no reason why I would go back to a quiche.

9. Omelettes

Omelette with tomatoes and cheese
Omelette with tomatoes and cheese - Cook Shoots Food/Shutterstock

I have nightmares about flipping an omelette and not having it go like I wanted it to. It's tricky to master the flip of the wrist required to tuck and fold the eggy mixture into place, which is why it's not a favorite breakfast food of mine to make as a simple breakfast. But at a diner, I'm all for ordering a cheese omelette.

The other major downside to omelettes is that you can't make them in bulk because they require patient flipping. So, they're not a great brunch food to serve when you have 10 people over at your house. The effort-to-reward ratio is small for this, albeit protein-dense, breakfast.

8. Toast

Avocado toast on table
Avocado toast on table - sweet marshmallow/Shutterstock

Toast ... it's as basic as that. But it doesn't have to be just a boring slice of cheap sandwich bread slathered in butter or with an adventurous schmear of peanut butter. You can get creative with your toast toppings and lean into the popular avocado toast trend. Or, swap out your bagel for bread and lox for a less carby breakfast.

The major issue with toast is that, unless you do something exciting with it, it's just a side -- rather than the main attraction. And unfortunately, jazzing up your toast is sometimes just more effort than it's worth because it's gone in just a few bites.

7. Bagel And Cream Cheese

Bagel with cream cheese
Bagel with cream cheese - Vladislav Noseek/Shutterstock

While some might consider a bagel and cream cheese a breakfast sandwich, I think it's its own beast. You can eat it open-faced, unlike a traditional breakfast sandwich, and stick to plain schmear or get more creative with lox, capers, dill, and red onions.

It's relatively easy to find a store-bought bagel brand that works for you, but making your own batch of homemade bagels is a challenge worthy of Heracles himself. You're better off buying a bag or going to your favorite bagel shop to stock up instead.

6. Yogurt Parfait

Yogurt parfaits on table
Yogurt parfaits on table - Jenifoto/Getty Images

Yogurt parfaits are a go-to breakfast food for the days when I'm craving something light and sweet but not overly sugary and dense. They're relatively easy to customize with berries and granola, or you can easily swap out the plain yogurt with a flavored variety. However, this is one breakfast food you can't let sit for too long because the granola gets soggy easily and can quickly become unpleasant.

I would also consider parfaits a bit too simple a breakfast food to satisfy a craving for something filling. They're better as an accompaniment to breakfast rather than a breakfast in and of itself.

5. Frittata

Cast iron pan with frittata
Cast iron pan with frittata - Rudisill/Getty Images

Frittatas were a staple in my household growing up because all you need to make one is a well-seasoned cast iron pan, eggs, and whatever leftovers you have on hand. Once you pop this pan into the oven, it will transform into a fluffy pillow of savory goodness. And the best part about it? You don't have to go through the excruciating process of flipping or folding it.

But a frittata alone is not filling. You need some sort of carb to break it up, which means that it's a rather incomplete breakfast food.

4. Hash

Hash in cast iron pan
Hash in cast iron pan - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Hash is essentially a breakfast food that you can dress up or down depending on the vibe you're going for. The star of the show is, of course, the potatoes, but other ingredients like alliums, veggies, and meat play an important supporting role in making it a success. Go with a corned beef hash recipe for a meaty take on a breakfast staple or stick with just peppers and onions for a vegetarian-friendly version.

This dish earns a high spot in the ranking because it's essentially a garbage disposal for whatever you have in your pantry and fridge. But it often sticks to savory, which limits its overall versatility.

3. Oatmeal

Oatmeal in bowl
Oatmeal in bowl - Alvarez/Getty Images

Oatmeal is often thought of as a humble, rustic breakfast food. But there are a ton of ways to make your bowl a little more savory or play with unconventional toppings to alter the flavor profile. Plus, it's easy to make overnight oats in a jar so that your breakfast will be ready and waiting for you in the morning.

Another pro of oatmeal is that it's rather filling, even though it might not look like it. However, this quality is also a double-edged sword. If your oatmeal is too thick and rich, you may have to stop eating it after a few spoonfuls.

2. Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast sandwich with fillings
Breakfast sandwich with fillings - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Breakfast sandwiches essentially make an array of breakfast classics portable. You can customize them with whatever style of egg you prefer, opt for a few slices of bacon or sausage patty, or adorn it with avocado slices for a distinct California flair. The base of your sandwich is also up to your heart's content; you can swap a carby bagel with an English muffin or use frozen waffles for a game-changing breakfast sandwich.

The world is your oyster when it comes to these sandwiches, which can also be found pre-made in the frozen section of your local grocery store. Despite the customizability of this breakfast food, I can't help but notice that sometimes, a single sandwich is a bit too filling, especially when a bagel is involved.

1. Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast burrito on table
Breakfast burrito on table - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Breakfast burritos easily clench the top breakfast food spot. Each burrito is a mixture of carbs (and not an overwhelming ratio of them, as is the case with bagels), eggs, meat, cheese, and whatever else you want to throw into the mix. This is one example where the entire dish is better than the sum of its parts. Nobody will tell that you overcooked the living daylights out of your eggs because it's smothered in cheese and sausage anyway.

Perhaps the best part about breakfast burritos is that you can freeze them ahead of time for a quick morning meal. A quick nuke in the microwave will leave you with a soft, steaming tortilla and satisfying filling.


Breakfast foods on table
Breakfast foods on table - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

The phrase "best breakfast food" is undoubtedly subjective and dependent on the individual's taste and palate. So, I put aside my knack for all things savory to try to give each breakfast food a fair analysis. I looked at how satisfying each of the foods is on its own and how versatile each is. Certain foods also got bonus points if they could be made ahead of time, since the purpose of breakfast is to have something quick, simple, and relatively effective to start your morning out on the right foot.

The final factor in this ranking was whether the food required highly technical expertise or tools to make. I strongly believe that everyone has a right to a good breakfast, and you shouldn't have to be cooking at a Michelin level to concoct something delicious.

Read the original article on Tasting Table