April 17, 2024 | Samantha Henman

39 Foods With Misleading Names—And What They Actually Are

What’s In A Name?

Some are self-explanatory—yeah, buffalo wings come from Buffalo, New York, not buffalo, the animal. However, there are foods we eat every day that have names that we might not even clock as being misleading.


Welsh Rarebit

When most people first see the words Welsh rarebit on a menu—myself included—you might think it’s some sort of weird British dish with unappetizing combinations of ingredients, like mincemeat pie. Instead, Welsh rarebit could actually satisfy the most picky of eaters: it’s basically cheese sauce on toast.

Welsh rarebitTristan Kenney, Flickr

Hush Puppies

If you didn’t grow up in the American South, you might wonder why people are so excited about the brand of casual footwear with the basset hound logo. Well, in food terms, hush puppies are actually fried cornmeal-dough balls—and they’re absolutely delicious.

Hush puppies on a plate.jeffreyw, Flickr


Despite their name, no ladies were harmed in their making. Ladyfingers are sweet, egg-based sponge cake biscuits—often used when making tiramisu.

Home made lady fingers.blese, Flickr

Bubble & Squeak

Bubble & squeak is yet another British dish with an unappetizing name—they really have a way with that stuff, huh? It’s actually a mix of cooked potatoes and cabbage which is then fried, and it goes great with a big, greasy breakfast. It’s named for the sound the ingredients make in the frying pan.

Pan Fried Bubble And SqueakKolforn, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Dutch Baby

Sorry to break it to you, but the Dutch Baby is neither Dutch, nor contains babies. Probably for the best! It’s a puffy, German pancake with a watery batter. When cooked at high temperatures, the water evaporates quickly and the pancake puffs up. “Dutch” was a misunderstanding of “deutsch” (that’s German for German), and baby comes from the fact that it’s supposed to be a single serving.

24981810236_2848a0253f_h.jpgJazz Guy, Flickr


The British have done it again. Toad-in-the-hole is a dish of sausages nestled in a Yorkshire-pudding batter, which puffs up in the oven. The sausages kind of look like toads poking their heads out of the ground…keyword: kind of.

Toad In The HoleSam-Cat, Flickr


Unfortunately, only one part of this compound word is true to what the food itself contains…and it’s the word “head”. Headcheese is a combination of meat and gelatin from a hog’s head that has been cooked slowly until it falls off the bone. It is then compressed into a block and sliced.

Headcheese at fridge.Tamorlan, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons


Even MORE unfortunately than headcheese, sweetbreads are neither sweet nor are they made out of bread. Sweetbreads are the thymus and pancreas glands of calves or lambs.

Country Fried SweetbreadsLucas Richarz, Flickr


Before you get mad—don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin dumplings for you. There’s nothing untoward here. It’s just that so many cultures have dumplings, that few people recognize the multitude and multiplicity of dumplings out there.

From Asian meat-and-leek filled dumplings to American chicken and dumplings to Eastern European versions like pierogi, what you call a dumpling may be completely different from what the person next to you calls a dumpling.

Dumplings on White Textile.Cats Coming, Pexels

Monkey Bread

Who’s that monkey jumping on the bread? There’s no established story behind monkey bread’s name, except for the fact that it’s simply fun to eat. It’s made by rolling balls of dough in cinnamon and sugar and pressing them into a pan before baking.

Fresh monkey bread.Mark Bonica, Flickr

Pigs In A Blanket

Where would your annual Super Bowl party be without them? The pigs part is straightforward—the mini sausages or hot dogs presumably being pork. The blanket comes from the layer of dough that you wrap them up in.

Pigs in a blanketDavid Kessler, Flickr


Not only is the word fun to say, the bread is delicious—but where the name comes from is something of a mystery. One perhaps apocryphal tale has to do with a potential side effect of eating pumpernickel: flatulence. In German, pumpern means “to break wind,” and nickel is a kind of mischievous imp.

Pumpernickel Bread - CrumbRebecca Siegel, Flickr

Jerusalem Artichokes

Nope, they’re not an artichoke. Nope, they’re not from Jerusalem. Also known as a sunchoke, they’re a root vegetable from North America with another funny nickname: earth apple.

Jerusalem ArtichokesRobin, CC-BY-SA-2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Spotted Dick

No, you didn’t accidentally click on a link to a page about STIs. Spotted dick is a British (surprise, surprise) steamed pudding made from hardened meat fat and dried fruit.

Spotted Dick on a plate.su-lin, Flickr

Whoopie Pie

Every Saturday, my grandma used to make whoopie…pies. Depending on the description, whoopie pies are alternatively considered cookie, pie, sandwich, and/or cake. Despite those confusing specifications, it’s actually just a big cake-y cookie sandwiching sweet icing.

Whoopie on a plate.Dennis Wilkinson, Flickr

Angels On Horseback

The image doesn’t quite live up to the evocative name—unless you’ve got a great imagination. They're hot hors d’oeuvres featuring oysters wrapped in bacon that is then grilled or broiled.

Angels on horsebackFood Stories, Flickr

Devils On Horseback

Depending on where you grew up—or your tax bracket—you may be more familiar with devils on horseback. In this version, the oysters are replaced by dates, making this dish vegetarian…and, according to some, a lot more delicious.

Devils on Horseback, aka roasted pittedL.A. Foodie, Flickr

Fuzzy Navel

It’s one of those “Once you see it…” things. The fuzzy navel is a drink made from peach schnapps and orange juice—get it yet? The fuzzy is the peach schnapps, and the navel is for navel oranges. Groan.

Close-Up Photo of an Orange Beside a Peach FruitJo Macabre, Pexels

Brown Betty

No, not the Ram Jam song. A brown betty is a traditional American dessert made from baked fruit and sweetened crumbs, similar to a cobbler or crisp. Speaking of…

The apple brown betty.katbert, Flickr

Blueberry Grunt

Grunt, slump, buckle, sonker, boot. No, they’re not just sounds you make when you come in the door after a long day. They’re all nicknames for a baked dessert similar to a brown betty that involve fruit covered by a batter, biscuit, or dumpling (another word from this list).

Blueberry Grunt dessert, Newfoundland and Labrador CanadaShirley F. Arnold, Shutterstock

Bangers And Mash

Here’s yet another British dish whose name only tells half the story. The mash is self-explanatory—as in mashed potatoes, but then there’s the bangers. In this dish, bangers means sausages. During WWI, they’d sometimes be made with so much water they’d pop during cooking—hence, the bang.

Bangers & Mash on a plate.Annie Mole, Flickr

Fairy Bread

A whimsical name for a whimsical dish—though no mythical creatures were harmed in the making. It’s a dish from Australia and New Zealand featuring sliced white bread spread in bread or margarine and covered in colorful sprinkles.

Fairy bread on a plate.Mary and Andrew, Flickr

Eton Mess

Finally, a British dish that doesn’t have meat in an unexpected place. Eton mess has its origins in the namesake school where William & Harry matriculated. Like a messier pavlova, It’s made from berries, meringue, and whipped cream.

Eton MessMari Liis, Flickr

Garbage Plate

File under “more appetizing than it sounds”. The garbage plate is a Rochester, NY speciality which originated at a restaurant called Nick Tahou Hots. It features a combination of home fries, macaroni salad, baked beans and French fries topped with meats of the customer's choice.

The J. Stephen Conn, Flickr


Another regional American speciality, scrapple is decidedly less appetizing…with apologies to any Pennsylvanian reading this. Scrapple combines—you guessed it—pork scraps and trimming with cornmeal or flour and seasonings, which is then formed into a loaf, sliced, and fried.

Scrapple is a loaf of pork trimmings, corn meal and flour.stu_spivack, Flickr

The Imam Fainted

Ever had a dish so good that you fainted from sheer pleasure? That’s the origin story of the name behind this Ottoman dish featuring eggplant stuffed with onion, garlic, and tomatoes, and simmered in olive oil.

Imam bayildi - The Imam FaintedJoan Nova, Flickr

Jerk Chicken

Jerk doesn’t just refer to someone you don’t like. Jerk is both the process of slow-cooking meats over smoky heat sources, and the spice blend used to season those meats, which includes allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. The name likely comes from the Spanish term charqui, which is also the origin of the word jerky—as in beef.

Jamaican jerk chickenm01229, Flickr

Juicy Lucy

When it comes to burgers, I don’t joke around—and that’s why I have no funny comment to make about the Juicy Lucy, one of the finest versions of the humble cheeseburger. In a Juicy Lucy, the cheese is found inside the meat patty. Two competing bars in South Minneapolis have claimed to invent the dish. One says that it was a patron who gave the dish its name when he exclaimed “Oooh, that’s one juicy Lucy” after taking his first bite.

Juicy Lucy at Barney's Beanery Burbankmike fabio, Flickr

Pu Pu Platter

First popularized by Tiki bars and restaurants that were wildly popular in the mid-20th century, the pu pu platter is a tray of small appetizers, mostly Chinese-American in origin—things like coconut shrimp, mini egg rolls, and spare ribs. In the Hawaiian language, pū-pū denotes a relish, appetizer, canapé, or hors d'oeuvre.

Jade island pupu platterKrista, Flickr

Shoo-Fly Pie

Considering how sugary it is, it’s no wonder that tales about this dessert’s name origin focus on how its sweet aroma attracted flies. A Pennsylvania Dutch dish, shoo-fly pie is essentially a molasses-based custard in a pie shell with a crumb top.

Shoo-Fly Pie on a plate.jpellgen (@1105_jp), Flickr

Hoppin’ John

Who exactly is this John who’s hoppin’? Well, he might be a Chef Boyardee-type character—as in, he doesn’t exist. The dish is made from black-eyed peas and rice, and it’s possible that the name comes from a mispronunciation of the Haitian Creole word for pigeon peas, “pwa pijon”.

Hoppin' John dish.jeffreyw, Flickr

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Even if you’re squeamish about oysters, you might prefer the shellfish to Rocky Mountain Oysters—which are not oysters at all, but bull testicles.

Rocky Mountain OystersWally Gobetz, Flickr

Flapper Pie

Imagine a lemon meringue pie with a vanilla custard replacing the lemon layer, and you’ve got flapper pie. A dish from the Canadian prairies, the name is a matter of time and place—it became popular in the same era where flappers were all the rage. Now that’s good marketing!

Flapper Pie on the plate.Carol Browne, Flickr


Not only are they not made from beavers, the name is actually a trademark! Beavertails are a Canadian treat featuring a stretched dough fried to golden brown perfection and covered in sweet toppings like sugar, cinnamon, and whipped cream.

Three BeaverTails pastry flavours.BeaverTails, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Bullet Soup

Though it sounds like a phrase that a movie mobster might use as part of the threat, bullet soup is actually a dish of Métis origin. It’s also known as Métis boulettes—AKA meatballs—and it’s a meatball and potato soup served on New Year’s Day.

Soup with meatballs and vegetablesAlesia.Bierliezova, Shutterstock


What did you just call me? The fool, or fruit fool, is a British dessert featuring pureed stewed fruit in custard or whipped cream. Though the exact name origins aren’t known, it might have come from the French verb fouler—to crush.

Berry fruit fool dessert in glass bowl.Whiteaster, Shutterstock

Mulligan Stew

Fore! This dish has little to do with golf, and instead goes back to the usage of the word Mulligan to mean an Irishman—making mulligan stew a variation on Irish stew, but featuring any and all ingredients available that can be scavenged, stolen, or found. For this reason, it’s also known as hobo stew, from the Depression era.

Tasty winter traditional hot pot stew with meat and vegetablesstockcreations, Shutterstock


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