15 Delicious Things That Were Invented By Mistake (2022)

From chocolate chip cookies to beer, some of your favorite foods were born out of laziness, apathy, and a little bit of luck.

Emily Arata

We’ve all been there: You come home to a half-empty fridge, so you throw a pot on the stove and proceed to dump the remnants of every half-full condiment bottle into it with whatever sad vegetables and meat scraps you can find. You take a bite straight from the pot, and it tastes amazing.

As it turns out, some of the tastiest foods were born out of a similarly magical confluence of laziness, resourcefulness, and luck—or simply because someone, somewhere, f**ked something up. From chocolate chip cookies to beer, humans throughout historyhave often created foods and beverages far more delicious than anything they set out to make.

So, next time you’re cooking and accidentally screw up the recipe, embrace the failure and see where it takes you. If you read through these examples of accidental tastiness, you’ll see that history is on your side.

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Who invented it? Toll House Inn's Ruth WakefieldWhen? 1930What happened? Wakefield found she had ran out of baking chocolate one day, so she smashed up a bar of semisweet chocolate and added it to her batter. What resulted was a cookie studded with chunks of chocolate. Soon, her Massachusetts inn was known for its chocolate chip cookies.

  • Popsicles

    Who invented it? (11 year old!) Frank EppersonWhen? 1905What happened? Epperson left his soda-making equipment out on his porch. When he returned for it the next morning he discovered the stick he was using to stir the mixture had frozen upright in the liquid. In 1924, he applied for a patent for his new discovery, which he originally dubbed the "Epsicle." Later on, he changed the name to the one we're more familiar with today: popsicle.

  • Nachos

    Who invented it?Ignacio “Nacho” AnayaWhen?1943What happened?Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was a maître d’ at a restaurant called the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico. One day in 1943, a group of ten military wives crossed the border from Fort Duncan Army base. Unable to track down the chef and faced with ten hungry women, Anaya decided to improvise—he covered a plate of tostadas with grated cheese, passed it through a salamander (a broiling unit that heats food from above), and topped the whole thing off with jalapeños. One of the women dubbed the dish “Nacho’s especiale” (“Nacho’s special”), which was later shortened to just “nachos” when Anaya took the dish to El Moderno restaurant and finally opened his own place—Nacho’s Restaurant.

  • Worcestershire Sauce

    Who invented it? Lord Marcus SandyWhen? 1838What happened? Upon returning to England, the formal Bengal colonial governor found himself craving his favorite Indian sauce and commissioned drugstore owners John Lea and William Perrins to recreate it based purely on his descriptions. The stench of the product they created proved to be far too offensive to sell in their store, so they stashed it in their basement for two years. This aging period improved the flavors vastly and the sauce became a hit with customers.

  • Beer

    Who invented it? MesopotamiansWhen? About 10,00 years ago.What happened? When Mesopotamians began storing grains for bread, their storage spaces occasionallybecame damp, which caused the grains to ferment. This fermentation process resulted in the earliest beer. We should all raise a glass to that first Mesopotamian who was brave enough to sample the strange liquid.

  • The Sandwich

    Who invented it? John Montagu, 4th Earl of SandwichWhen? Sometime in the 1700sWhat happened? There is some debate about the invention of the sandwich. Some believe Motagu couldn't leave a particularly intense gambling game, so he requested that meat be brought to him between two pieces of bread. Others believe that work kept him at his desk for many hours, necessitating a utensil-free meal. Either way, Montagu's refusal to get up for a meal resulted in one of the greatest culinary advances in history.

  • Tofu

    Who invented it? The ChineseWhen? Ancient ChinaWhat happened? One origin story maintains that boiled, ground soybeans were accidentally mixed with impure seasalt contaning calcium and magnesium salts, causing the soybeans to gel. Yet another Chinese legend tells of a cook accidentally dropping nigari (a natural coagulant) into a pot of soybean milk, creating a curdling effect that produced tofu.

  • Brandy

    Who invented it? Dutch vintnersWhen? 17th centuryWhat happened? Vintners would boil their wine in order to reduce its volume for transport, then cut it with water on the other end. They didn't realize that by transporting this concentrated mixture in wooden casks, the fortified wine would be transformed into something very different.

  • Potato Chips

    Who invented it? Chef George CrumWhen? 1853What happened? A customer at Saratoga Springs' Moon Lake House sent batch after batch of fried potatoes back to the kitchen, complaining that they were not thin enough. Chef Crum was tired of the complaints, so he sliced the last batch of potatoes as thinly as he could, fried and salted them, and sent them out. The customer loved them and soon the word of these crunchy fried potatoes spread across the region.

  • Nashville Hot Chicken

    Who invented it?Thornton Prince's spurned loverWhen?1930sWhat happened?Nashville's spicy take on fried chicken is served throughout the city (and beyond) today, but its origins are at the famous Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Restaurant lore traces the recipe back to current owner Andre Jeffries’s great-uncle Thornton Prince, an infamous womanizer. When she thought he was creeping, one of his jealous lover's fed him extra-spicy chicken out of vengeance—turned out, he liked it so much that he began cooking it at his restaurant.

  • Champagne

    Who invented it? UnknownWhen? 1490sWhat happened? The bubbles in champagne were initially considered a serious problem for the Champagne region. Changes in climate starting during the 1490s caused temperatures to drop, creating a shorter growing season. The effect on fermentation was disastrous. The yeast that converted sugars to alcohol in grape juice would stop working too early and lay dormant until the following spring. When the weather warmed back up, the yeast would start a second fermentation, producing carbon dioxide in the juice. This secondary fermentation caused stoppers to push out and bottles to explode. But once these bubbles were harnessed, the results were miraculous.

  • Kellogg's Cereal

    Who invented it? Will KelloggWhen?Early 1900sWhat happened?While working in a sanitarium in Michigan, Will "W.K." Kellogg attempted to make granola as a “healthy treat” for his patients.Instead of making granola, W.K. and his his brother, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, accidentally flaked wheat berry. W.K. kept experimenting until he flaked corn, and created the delicious recipe for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.Breakfast hasn't been the same since.

  • Coke

    Who invented it? John PembertonWhen? 1886What happened? Pemberton was a wounded veteran who had become addicted to morphine. He sought to create a replacement to stave off his addiction. Through some experimenting in his pharmacy, he created a tonic (the original Coca Cola formula) that contained small amounts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.In 1887, another Atlanta pharmacist, Asa Candler, bought the formula for Coca Cola from Pemberton for $2,300. By the late 1890s, Coca Cola was one of America's most popular fountain drinks, largely due to Candler's aggressive marketing of the product as a soda.

  • Cheese Puffs

    Who invented it? The Flakall Company of Beloit, WisconsinWhen? 1930sWhat happened? The Flakall Company invented a machine that crushed grains for animal feed without hulls and grain dust. Edward Wilson noticed that workers poured moistened corn kernels into the machine to reduce clogging. The machine got so hot that the moist cornmeal came out in puffy ribbons, hardening as it hit the air and fell to the ground. Wilson took the ribbons home, added oil and seasoning, and made the first cheese curls.

  • Ice Cream Cones

    Who invented it? Ernest HamwiWhen? 1904What happened? At the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, an ice-cream vendor had run out of dishes. Hamwi, a neighboring concessionaire, rolled the waffle-like pastries he was selling (called zalabis) into a cone so his neighbor's ice cream could be held inside. The cone became an instant hit with customers.


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