Italian cuisine is world’s most popular

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 12, 2019, 12:00 AM GMT+0

In a survey of 24 countries, pizza and pasta take the top spot – closely followed by Chinese and Japanese cuisine

An international YouGov study of more than 25,000 people in 24 countries finds that pizza and pasta are among the most popular foods in the world, as Italian cuisine beats all comers.

We asked people which of 34 national cuisines they had tried and whether they liked or disliked them, with Italian food being the most well-liked. The cuisine received an average popularity score of 84% across the 24 nations we studied.

Patriotically, the biggest fans of Italian food are Italians themselves, with 99% enjoying their national cuisine. Other big fans include Spaniards (94% of those who have tried it say they like it) and the French (92%), while the least impressed by Italian food are the Chinese (59%).

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Second place behind Italian food goes to Chinese cuisine, which scored on average 78% across the countries surveyed. It’s liked by 95% of Chinese people, with Singaporeans (94% of those who say they've tried it) and Hong Kongers (91%) also particular fans. The cuisine is least popular in Saudi Arabia (54%) and Indonesia (57%).

The world’s third most popular cuisine is Japanese, scoring an average of 71% across the 24 nations. Aside from the 94% of Japanese people who like it, 94% of Singaporeans who have tried it also do, as well as 93% of Hong Kongers. Once again it’s the Saudi Arabians who are least enamoured, with only 43% enjoying it.

At the bottom of the table comes Peruvian cuisine, which received an average score of only 32%. Scoring only fractionally higher (and rounding to the same percentage score) was Finnish cuisine.

It should be pointed out, however, that Finland was one of the countries surveyed but Peru was not, meaning that the loyal 94% of Finns who like their own country’s cuisine was enough to give them the edge. Had the study included Peruvian opinions then Finnish cuisine would likely have come bottom.

The lowest opinion any nation had for another nation’s cuisine was Japan towards Saudi Arabian cuisine, with just 11% of Japanese people who have tried it saying that they like it.

In fact, the survey finds that Japanese people are the harshest food critics of any nation surveyed. Of the 34 cuisines we asked about, 23 scored less than 50% among Japanese respondents. On average only 39% of Japanese people who had tried any given foreign food said that they liked it.

By contrast, it’s Filipinos who are the most likely to appreciate international cuisine. An average of 67% of Filipinos who had tried any given cuisine said they liked it, with only five types of food being liked by fewer than half.

British cuisine is looked down on in Europe, but is more popular further afield

British cuisine is regarded as unpalatable across mainland Europe. While 91% of Britons say we like our own national cuisine, fewer than half of those in the other European countries agreed.

Holding our national dishes in particular disdain were the Germans, Spaniards, Danes and French, of whom only 25% to 28% who had tried our food said they liked it.

Only the Japanese hold our cuisine in greater contempt - just 20% like it.

Nevertheless, British cuisine tended to be more warmly received elsewhere outside of Europe, with a majority of people saying they like it in 11 of the 15 non-European countries surveyed. It’s particularly popular in Singapore (76% of those who have tried it say they like it) and Australia (71%).

When it comes to what Britons themselves like, we put Italian food on a level-pegging with our own national dishes, with 91% who have tried either cuisine saying they like it. This is followed by Chinese food (86%) and then Indian (84%).