Meats included the ever popular pork, especially in the South and West; beef, especially in corned beef; turkey and chicken; and lamb or mutton, generally in the Northeast and Southwest. Northerners liked Irish potatoes, while Southerners preferred sweet potatoes. Potatoes were served in various forms, including mashed, boiled, stewed, baked, and scalloped. Some "German fried" their potatoes, while urban restaurants began serving a new dish by the end of the Civil War: "French fried" potatoes. Rice was usually served only in rice-producing regions.

Vegetables were generally overboiled, and only wealthy Americans ate green salad. Raw celery, however, was a national exception, and corn continued to be a popular and adaptable vegetable. Raw fruit was enjoyed across the country, with every meal when possible.

Baked goods were eaten in large quantities. In the North, wheat bread was popular, while biscuits were the standard fare in the West and South. Pumpkin pie and mince pie were eaten in New England; raisin pie and apple pie in the West; and pecan pie, citrus fruit pie and sweet potato pie in the South. Cooks and bakers in the home, generally women, felt guilty obtaining baked goods from commercial bakers, so few such commercial enterprises flourished.

Because of the increasing availability of canned goods, refrigerated railroad cars and manufactured dairy products; a wider variety of foods were available to Americans. In 1860, they purchased five million canned goods, the largest volume being purchased in the West. Americans generally liked cheese, increasingly purchasing factory-made products rather than making cheese at home. In the East, however, many suspected canned goods to be unhealthy, and women considered their use to be signs that the woman of the house could not cook.

Breakfast was usually a large and hearty meal. Even in town, Americans maintained the farm practice of fortifying oneself for a hard day of work. Middle-class Americans ate beefsteak or pork, eggs, fried potatoes, fruit pie, hotcakes and coffee. In cold weather, porridge became popular. Different regions of the country had their own versions of hotcakes: buckwheat cakes, rice cakes, corn cakes, griddle cakes, buttermilk cakes, sourmilk cakes, flapjacks, slapjacks, hominy cakes, fritters and waffles. Some families ate doughnuts, which were solid forms rather than the round items with holes that became popular later in the century. While children often drank milk, and tea and hot chocolate made appearances at breakfast, coffee remained the dominant morning beverage.

Most Americans, if at all possible, came home around noon or 1:00 p.m. for the mid-day meal, which they called "dinner." Dinner was usually a heavy meal, both because of the large amount of food served and the fact that much of it was fried in butter, lard or bacon grease. The dinner meal usually included meat, and often included potatoes.

Supper usually was served between six and seven o'clock. If dinner had been heavy, supper was generally a light meal, with cold meats, cold cooked potatoes or some kind of potato salad, and fruit. This quick and light meal would allow the family members to enjoy a few hours of evening entertainment, such as reading or doing needlework, before bedtime.