The World’s Tastiest Accidental Food Inventions

Words: Robyn Samuels

Mistakes are unavoidable in life, thankfully, not all are bad. In fact, some of the world’s greatest inventions were happy accidents. Take penicillin, for example, which started out as a dodgy science experiment and would go on to revolutionise the medical world and life as we know it. Whether you’re cooking, baking or are a klutz like me, you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. Fortunately, these inventors have made some of the world’s tastiest accidental food inventions, and boy am I glad they did!

accidental food inventions

Kellogg’s Cornflakes

Cornflakes have been a breakfast staple for families across the nation, but ‘starting your day the Kellogg’s way’ wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Kellogg’s brothers’ accidental invention. In 1898, brothers W.K and Dr. John H. Kellogg initially had the idea to invent another breakfast fave, granola, but unexpectedly created a flaky texture from wheat berries, a whole wheat kernel.

Starting your day the Kellogg’s way wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Kellogg’s brothers’ accidental invention.

While Dr. John Kellogg wanted to create a healthier and more easily digestible cereal, his brother thought to introduce sucrose and created the sugarcoated Kellogg’s Corn Flakes we know and love. Dr. John decided to take his sibling rivalry to the next level and ended up suing his brother, Will. They then entered a ten-year legal feud about who would own rights to the Kellogg’s name, with Will winning the court battle. If there’s one thing the brothers agreed upon, it’s that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!


Most know about the association between cocaine and the popular carbonated drink, Coke, and for good reason. In 1886, pharmacist, John S. Pemberton, was trying to invent a syrup for the common headache. Pemberton, who was an American Civil War veteran, had a morphine addiction and thus sought to make the elixir without the use of opium. He then thought to make a mixture of coca leaves (plant used to make cocaine) and cola nuts (also where the drink gets its source of caffeine) — hence ‘Coca-Cola’.

Pharmacist, John S. Pemberton, was trying to invent a syrup for the common headache.

Whilst preparing the concoction, his lab assistant accidentally spilt carbonated water on top of it, which led to the accidental invention of the globally popular drink. Coca-Cola was first sold at Pemberton’s pharmacy for only five cents a pop. People initially thought that carbonated water was ‘good for you’, so soda fountains were commonly found at pharmacies. Interestingly, Pemberton believed that the drink not only cured headaches, morphine addiction and indigestion, but impotence too!

Try our recipe for Old School Coke Beef Short Ribs.

Nashville Hot Chicken

Spicy Nashville hot chicken has been around since the 1930s, and possibly inspired the creation of Zinger Wings. What’s more interesting is that this accidental food invention has a wayward male lover to thank. One Sunday morning, Thornton Prince, an apparently notorious womaniser, came home late to find his partner waiting at home for him. Angered by his tardiness, his partner decided to cook up some fried chicken. Only this time, she switched up her usual recipe and doused the chicken with hot pepper spice.

Probably the only time anything good came from cheating.

Unfortunately, her plan backfired; Prince enjoyed the chicken so much that he shared it with his workmates. Word of the spicy bird got out fast, so he opened up his own chicken house, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. The restaurant is still popular to this day and is now run by his family – probably the only time anything good came from cheating.

Earl Grey Tea

The origins of Earl Grey tea are somewhat questionable. Although popularised by the Brits, flavoured teas first appeared in Chinese tea culture. As a means to dazzle tea merchants and emperors, the Chinese infused their tea leaves with various aromatics like jasmine and rose.

The origins of this drink are somewhat questionable.

According to one story, aristocrat and British Prime Minister (1830-1834) Charles Grey, otherwise known as ‘the second Earl Grey’ saved a Lord’s life. As a token of appreciation, the spared Lord gifted Earl Grey with a recipe for black tea infused with bergamot essence. Another tale tells of bergamot oil being mixed with tea leaves during a shipment from China en route to England. Talk about spilling the tea!

Try this delicious Earl Grey Pots de Crème recipe.

Tarte Tatin

This happy accident was created by sisters, Caroline and Stéphanie Tatin, who owned and ran the hotel, Lamotte-Beuvron, in France. One day during service, Stéphanie, who did most of the cooking at the hotel, was overworked. She intended to make a traditional apple pie, but left the apples cooking in the butter and sugar for too long. In an attempt to salvage the dessert, she plonked a pastry base on top of the caramelised apples and popped it back in the oven for a blind-bake. Once ready, she turned the tart upside down, just in time for service. Patrons loved the dessert so much that the sisters decided to keep it on the menu.

Created by sisters, Caroline and Stéphanie Tatin.

The inspiration for this dessert has been long rumoured, with some historians saying it wasn’t an original concept by the Tatin sisters, as similar upside-down apple pastries were invented before. In fact, the dessert was only coined ‘tarte Tatin’ when food author and epicure, Louis Vaudable, spread the word. One desperate attempt to get the recipe saw Vaudable taking up a gardener’s job at the hotel, but was fired three days later for his poor planting skills. Sadly, he never got his hands on the Tatins’ recipe – but you can have ours…

Try this recipe for Honey & Fig Thyme Tarte Tatin or this Plum & Vanilla Tarte Tatin.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

All great cooks know that improvisation is key, and for Ruth Graves Wakefield, her improv skills created this milk-dunked fave. In 1930, Ruth and her husband ran a hotel in Massachusetts. Whilst preparing a treat (Chocolate Butter Drop Do Cookies) for the guests, Ruth realised that she didn’t have enough chocolate – a baker’s worst nightmare.

And that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

She decided to roll with the punches and chopped up a bar of Nestlé chocolate and sprinkled the chocolate chips in the batter. However, the chocolate didn’t melt into the batter as she had hoped – it remained solid, but melted to the touch. Luckily, the cookies were a massive hit, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Try this Choc Chip Cookie recipe or these inspired Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Muffins.

Crêpes Suzette

Many accidental food inventions were created during service time at restaurants — and for 14-year-old Henri Charpentier, his accidental food mistake went out in a literal blaze of glory. In 1895, at Monte Carlo’s Cafe de Paris, Henri apparently prepared a dessert for the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII). The Prince was accompanied by a group of friends, including a woman named ‘Suzette’.

Despite originating in England, the dish became a French favourite.

Whilst preparing the Prince’s order of pancakes, which was served with orange sauce and cordials, Henri accidentally set the pancakes alight. Not wanting to leave the Prince waiting, he served him and watched in anticipation. Much to Henri’s surprise, the Prince loved it and asked for the name of the dish. Henri originally coined it ‘Crêpes Princess’, but with a lady in their presence, the Prince insisted that they call it ‘Crêpes Suzette’. Despite originating in England, the dish became a French favourite.

Try our recipe for ClemenGold Crêpes Suzette.

Eton Mess

Truth be told, the origins of Eton Mess is as messy as this hodge-podge dessert. This sweet treat is a melange of meringue, strawberry compote and Chantilly cream, and was originally known as a ‘strawberry mess’.

Who knew that the five-second rule would be responsible for the invention of one of the UK’s most beloved desserts?

According to one story, a labrador sat on a helping of this dessert and whoever it belonged to, lapped it up – dog hair and all. The more believable version is the one from the Eton Public School cricket game (circa 1920), where someone dropped their strawberry mess on the floor, scooped it up and continued eating it. Who knew that the five-second rule would be responsible for the invention of one of the UK’s most beloved desserts?

eton mess

Try our recipe for Eton Mess.

Curious? Discover the History of Traditional Treats From Around the World.

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