The Most Controversial Foods in America, According to Instacart

The data shows that some foods will always be divisive.

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Green olives with anchovies
Photo: BearFotos (Shutterstock)

Brace yourselves for some classic food arguments, everyone. Third-party grocery delivery service Instacart has released a new report of the most controversial foods in America. Think deep and take some time for reflection within your soul. Mentally conjure the top three foods you hate the most, and let’s see if they match what the general public says.

America’s top three most hated foods

Just for the sake of tidiness, we’ll start with the top three most hated foods. These were determined by an online poll conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Instacart. The top reasons for hating all of these food items include aspects about their smell, flavor, texture, appearance, and how people feel after eating them. Here they are:

  1. Anchovies (50% of respondents hate them)
  2. Black licorice (45% hated)
  3. Oysters (41% hated)

Okay, so maybe there are no big surprises here—although I will defend anchovies and oysters to the death. I still don’t understand the hate for anchovies in particular. Where are people encountering them so often that they’ve decided these little guys are poison? Nobody’s forcing you to put them on your pizza.

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Anchovies make a great background ingredient in a wide range of dishes. You can use them in pasta sauces and Caesar dressing, where those fishy flavors you might be averse to magically transform into straight-up umami. Seriously, give anchovies a shot—we even have a recipe for you if you’re not sure where to start.

And oysters? Okay. I get the texture thing. Raw oysters are certainly soft, nearly gelatinous, which is off-putting for plenty of people. I hesitate to call them slimy, though; if they’re slimy, it’s best not to risk it. If you bake them or grill them, however, they take on a much firmer and meatier texture, and their shellfish flavor takes well to savory flavors like Parmesan cheese and bacon. Oysters Rockefeller are a classic for a reason.

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Then there’s black licorice, which, yes, can be actual poison if eaten in too great a quantity. It contains glycyrrhizic acid, a compound found in products containing licorice root extract. If you eat regularly large amounts of it, like two ounces a day, you risk ending up in the hospital with heart problems since it can reduce potassium levels in your body and mess up your electrolyte balance. This can actually kill you. Don’t be alarmed, though—you’d have to eat a ton of it to cause any potential harm.

(Also, I hate black licorice and whenever I got Good & Plenty for Halloween, I would immediately throw them out.)

The other most hated foods in America

The rest of the most hated foods are as follows:

I’m somewhat surprised by the presence of capers and fennel on this list; I can’t imagine those are a common ingredients that people are encountering regularly in home-cooked meals or at restaurants. Then again, maybe if people were more habituated to them, they wouldn’t be so freaked out by them.

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How about you? Does the list above reflect your least favorite foods, or is there anything you despise that hasn’t made it on this list?