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21 Best American Cereals to Start Your Day with a Bang

American cereals run the gamut from fruity sugar mixes to hardcore health food. Read on to discover 21 breakfast cereals that will start your day with a bang.

Fruit Loops with Milk in Bowkl

Our history with cereal in America dates back to our childhood days when we’d learn about new cereal flavors while watching cartoons every Saturday morning. Though we didn’t know each other yet, we shared an affinity for colorful, sugary cereals that made our dentists cringe in horror.

Ironically, the cereals of our youth are completely different from the morning starter championed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg at the Battle Creek Sanitarium during the 19th century. That cereal was far healthier than the ones linked to Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam. It also created a revolution – an American cereal revolution.

Our Favorite American Cereals

Gallery of Kellogg's Cereal Boxes

Cereal is a breakfast item that we rarely enjoy.

As Lisbon ex-pats formerly from Philadelphia, we don’t have full access to American cereal. Sure, we can buy boxes of certain cereal faves like Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, but we we don’t have the full array of American cereal brands sold at grocery stores all over the US. But that’s not the only issue…

It’s a little known fact that Daryl loves certain American cereals so much that he’s prone to eat the ENTIRE box in a day or two. To mitigate this potential gluttony, we typically save our cereal sessions for trips back home to the states or on special occasions. That’s the time we load up on the best cereal flavors one bowl at a time.

In between those times, we spend time dreaming up a list of cereals that we miss most. These are our favorites:

1. Frosted Flakes

Frosted Flakes Box

Year Invented: 1952
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

They’re Gr-r-reat!

With this enthusiastic statement, Tony the Tiger motivated a nation to eat bowls and bowls of Sugar Frosted Flakes after its 1952 debut. More than a half century has passed and little has changed with these sugar-coated frosted flakes of corn with one exception – the name.

Frosted Flakes in Bowl

Originally called Sugar Frosted Flakes, the cereal lost the word ‘sugar’ in 1983 but kept the sweet taste. Fans consume millions of boxes each year, making Frosted Flakes one of the best selling cereals in the USA.

Fun Fact
This cereal has different names in different parts of the world. It’s called Frosties in Portugal where we currently live.

2. Honey Nut Cheerios

Honey Nut Cheerios Box

Year Invented: 1979
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Runs the Gamut

It’s a Honey of an O.

Honey Nut Cheerios is an over-achiever. Despite it introduction more than three decades after original Cheerios made its debut, the sweeter Cheerio products is now one of the best selling cereals in the nation, if not the number one best seller.

Honey Nut Cheerios in Bowl

Despite its nutty name, this cereal doesn’t contain any nuts. Perhaps its popularity is due to the cereal’s sweet (but not too sweet) almond flavor. The only other option is its cute mascot named BuzzBee.

Fun Fact
In Hungary you can buy “Honey Cheerios” but, for some unknown reason, General Mills has omitted the “Nut” for the Hungarian market.

3. Rice Krispies

Rice Krispies Box

Year Invented: 1927
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Runs the Gamut

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Despite its trio of kid-friendly animated elf mascots, Rice Krispies skews less sugary than most breakfast cereals marketed to kids. But this puffed rice cereal brings something extra to the breakfast table. Actually three things – a snap, a crackle and a pop.

The sensory secret is revealed as soon as the milk hits the bowl and the cereal starts snapping, crackling and popping. If you listen closely, it’s a miniature cereal symphony that lasts until the final bits are gone.

Rice Krispies in Bowl

But that’s not the only reason why Rice Krispies is special. This popular American cereal serves a second purpose that you may already know…

The crispy rice cereal is the primary ingredient in super-popular Rice Krispy Treats that are baked in homes across America. The only other ingredients in the iconic recipe are butter and marshmallows.

Fun Fact
Each Rice Krispies box includes the Rice Krispy Treat recipe but you can also find the recipe online.

4. Froot Loops

Froot Loops Box

Year Invented: 1963
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Follow Your Nose. It always knows.

These famous six words spoken by Toucan Sam inspired a generation of Generation X’ers (including us) to fill cereal bowls with Froot Loops and slurp the remaining sweet milk until those bowls were empty. Ironically, Toucan Sam has a colorful beak instead of a nose, which would probably make smelling a challenge if he were a real bird. And that’s not the biggest irony when it comes to Froot Loops…

Froot Loops in Bowl

Le’t cut to the chase. The ingredient list for Fruit Loops doesn’t include any fruit. None. As in zero. The colorful rings may look like a rainbow of fruit flavors but they’re not. And, even more ironic, all of the colors, which have grown in variety over the years to include the infamous blue, are the same flavor.

But here’s the greatest irony. We love Froot Loops despite the cereal’s lack of fruit and its monotonous factory-honed, sweet flavor. It’s a guilty pleasure we indulge once every year or so with total glee and delight.

Fun Fact
The original Froot Loops color scheme just included orange, red and yellow. Blue, green and purple joined the party decades later.

5. Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms Box

Year Invented: 1964
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

They’re Magically Delicious

Proving that cereal and candy can happily co-exist in the same bowl, each box of Lucky Charms combines oat cereal with colorful marshmallow bits shaped like charms. This is a cereal where hearts, stars, rainbows and unicorns come together in cereal harmony

Lucky Charms Cereal in Bowl

Each bowl of Lucky Charms is a bit of a surprise since the mix of marshmallow bits is rarely the same from one box to the next. We feel lucky whenever our bowls have a good amount of marshmallows in various shapes. Otherwise, we cheat and pick a few bonus bits out of the box to create a colorful melange.

Fun Fact
This cereal has no direct connection to Ireland despite its leprechaun mascot.

6. Apple Jacks

Apple Jacks Box

Year Invented: 1965
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

A is for Apple, J is for Jacks, Cinnamon Toasty Apple Jacks

We liked eating this cinnamon-apple flavored cereal that turned our milk into an orangish, pink liquid treat when we were kids. Back then, each ring-shaped cereal piece was orange and we never thought about what was in the cereal besides apples and cinnamons as the tagline advertised.

Apple Jacks in Bowl

Fast forward to the present and we now know that the ingredients in Apple Jacks include sugar, wheat flour, oat flour, and various food colors. Additionally, the cereal now features green cereal rings in addition to orange rings. Minds blown.

Fun Fact
The original name for Apple Jacks was Apple Os.

7. Cheerios

Cheerios Box

Year Invented: 1941
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Babies to Octogenarians and Beyond

Ch-ch-ch-cheerios

Cheerios may be the country’s first ready-to-eat oat cereal but it’s not the only one. It’s not even the only oat cereal sold under the Cheerios moniker.

Beyond its original and honey nut flavors, other Cheerios varieties include apple cinnamon, banana nut, blueberry, chocolate, maple, peach, pumpkin spice, toasted coconut and very berry. If you think that’s a lot of flavors, you are correct.

Cheerios in Bowl

Unlike many American cereals, a box of Cheerios doesn’t have any artificial colors or flavors. It also doesn’t have any gluten or genetically modified ingredients. Some sugar addicts would complain that it doesn’t have much flavor but that’s a different issue.

Fun Fact
Cheerios aren’t just heart-healthy. Some are also heart-shaped.

8. Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Box

Year Invented: 1984
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Crave Those Crazy Squares

We recently experienced the joy of eating these sweet, crunchy squares both dry and in bowls with milk. Since we both enjoy eating cinnamon toast, it’s not surprising that we like this flavorful American cereal.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch in Bowl

When you think about it, Cinnamon Toast Crunch isn’t an average cereal and may even be a stroke of genius. Not only does this tasty cereal transform the cinnamon toast experience but it also combines wheat and rice in each tasty bite.

As a bonus, the cereal leaves a distinct cinnamon flavor behind in the milk. We’d call it crazy but the marketers beat us to the punch. And by crazy, we mean crazy good.

Fun Fact
Proving that mascots don’t last forever and that ageism is for real, a fresh crew of Crazy Squares replaced the more mature Chef Wendell.

9. Cocoa Puffs

Cocoa Puffs Box

Year Invented: 1956
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

I’m Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!

Cocoa Puffs is a cereal with benefits. Sure, the cereal tastes good as a snack in a pinch but that’s not what we’re talking about. Nope, we’re all about the chocolate milk that remains in the bowl when we eat this cereal with milk. To steal from another top American cereal, the residual brown liquid is nothing short of ‘magically delicious’.

Cocoa Puffs Cereal in Bowl

Flavored with actual cocoa, Cocoa Puffs are essentially round cereal puffs made with corn, oats and rice plus sugar and various additives. Even though it’s not the top ingredient, there’s enough cocoa to turn plain milk into chocolate milk. At the end of the day, that’s why most people (including us) eat Cocoa Puffs in a bowl with plenty of milk.

Fun Fact
The Cocoa Puffs mascot Sonny has been ‘cuckoo for cocoa puffs’ for almost as long as the cereal has been on the market.

10. Cookie Crisp

Cookie Crisp Box

Year Invented: 1977
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

You Can Have Cookie Crisp!

The cereal Cookie Crisp is so wrong that it’s right. Each piece of cereal doesn’t just look like a chocolate chip cookie. it tastes like a chocolate chip cookie too.

While this cereal is made with whole grain and has six vitamins including iron and calcium, it’s not exactly the healthiest way to start the day. But, with a name like Cookie Crisp, nobody confuses Cookie Crisp with health food.

Cookie Crisp Cereal - Birdseye view

After missing Cookie Crisp during our most recent trip home, we were lucky enough to see it in a local Lisbon grocery store. We quickly bought a box and made our breakfast dreams come true.

Seriously, who doesn’t want to eat cookies for breakfast every blue moon?!

Fun Fact
Cookie Crisp’s mascots have included a wizard, a crook, a cop, a dog and a wolf.

11. Corn Pops

Corn Pops Box

Year Invented: 1950
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Gotta Have Pops

The cereal Corn Pops has come full circle. Originally called Corn Pops when it debuted in 1950, the cereal changed its name to Sugar Corn Pops in 1978, returned to Corn Pops in 1984, briefly switched to Pops in 2006 and then returned to Corn Pops again that same year. Phew!

Corn Pops in Bowl

Not surprising based on the name (or should we say names?), the top three Corn Pops ingredients are milled corn, sugar and corn syrup. In a bit of a twist, the ninth ingredient is wheat starch, transforming Corn Pops into a multi-grain cereal. Go figure.

Fun Fact
There have been multiple Corn Pops mascots over the years including Woody Woodpecker, Sugar Pop Pete, Whippersnapper, Big Yella, Poppy and Sweet Toothasaur.

12. Capt’n Crunch

Cap'n Crunch Cereal Box

Year Invented: 1963
Manufacturer: Quaker Oats
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Stays Crunchy, Even in Milk!

Cap’n Crunch isn’t just the one of the best cereals in the USA – it’s also the one with an exciting backstory involving an 18th century captain named Horaitio Magellan Crunch who was born on Crunch Island and sailed a ship called the Guppy through the Sea of Milk.

Whether you choose to believe this backstory or not, you’re practically guaranteed to love this sweetened corn and oat cereal whether you eat it with or without milk. Its legions of fans have motivated Quaker Oats to release an armada of flavors that includes Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries and Peanut Butter Crunch as well as more niche offerings like Deep Sea Crunch, Home Run Crunch and Cotton Candy Crunch.

True Confession – Daryl is one of those fans. When he was in college, he ate so much Cap’n Crunch that the cereal’s crunchy, sugary coating literally left scars in his mouth.

Fun Fact
Cap’n Crunch’s stripes reveal that the captain was actually a commodore. Perhaps the cereal should be called Commodore Crunch.

13. Raisin Bran

Raisin Bran Box

Year Invented: 1926
Manufacturer: General Mills, Kellogg’s and Post
Age Range: Adults

Two Scoops of Raisins

The combination of raisins and bran flakes is so powerful that three separate American cereal companies produce a cereal called Raisin Bran. Most people have a favorite. Ours is the Kellogg’s version sold in purple boxes.

Why is Kellogg’s Raisin Bran our favorite? That answer is easy and involves the cereal’s sugar-enhanced raisins. And not just any raisins. This cereal allegedly includes two scoops in every box. Winning!

Fun Fact
Regardless of the brand, Raisin Bran tends to get soggy faster than most other cereals.

14. Trix

Trix Box

Year Invented: 1954
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Silly Rabbit! Trix Are for Kids!

Originally shaped like balls, Trix are now shaped like fruit. But make no mistake – eating a bowl of Trix is nothing like eating a bowl of fresh fruit. While the cereal’s ingredient list includes fruit juice, it also includes corn syrup.

Trix Cereal in Bowl

Originally just three flavors, Trix has added additional shapes and flavors to its mix over the years. The current roster includes grapity purple, lemony lemon, orangey orange, raspberry red, watermelon and wildberry blue. It also includes carnations though those don’t taste like flowers since that would be… silly.

Fun Fact
Yoplait reintroduced Trix Yogurt in 2021 after a five-year hiatus. Flavors include berry and strawberry.

15. Life

Life Cereal Box

Year Invented: 1961
Manufacturer: Quaker Oats
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

He likes it! Hey Mikey!

Fueled by an ingenious ad campaign that involved a little boy named Mikey liking Life cereal even though he supposedly “hates everything,” kids across America clamored to eat the healthy-ish cereal throughout the 70s. Mindi was one of those kids while Daryl was too busy eating Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes.

Life has remained popular over the ensuing decades with new flavors like cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla added to the mix. Those who assume that the multigrain cereal is healthy might be surprised to find out that Life has a good bit of sugar as well as artificial coloring. As they say, that’s life.

Fun Fact
Original Life is the most popular Life flavor. Cinnamon Life comes in second.

16. Honey Smacks

Honey Smacks Box

Year Invented: 1953
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Honey Smackin’ Good!

Unlike other cereals, Honey Smacks doesn’t pretend to be healthy. It’s had various names and mascots over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – a high level of sweetness.

The original name of Sugar Smacks was probably the most descriptive but not the most parent-friendly. Hence the eventual name changes to Honey Smacks, Smacks and Honey Smacks again. Dig’em Frog is back as the mascot, leaving others like Cliffy the Clown, Smaxey the Seal and Wally the Bear in the sugar dust.

Fun Fact
Honey Smacks may be the only American cereal to survive a salmonella outbreak. The widespread event occurred in 2018 and resulted in a voluntary product recall.

17. Golden Grahams

Golden Grahams Cereal Bag

Year Invented: 1975
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Have a Golden Day!

Debuting a century after graham crackers, each Golden Graham square channels the sweet cracker that inspired the popular American cereal. Not only are Golden Grahams square in shape, but they’re also flavored with honey and brown sugar. Sound familiar?

Golden Grahams Cereal in Bowl

Considering the similarity between graham crackers and Golden Grahams, the cereal’s second purpose should be no surprise. The cereal is the primary ingredient in the recipe for s’more treats which are a ramped-up version of rice krispie treats. Other ingredients include miniature marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Fun Fact
The classic Golden Grahams jingle, sung to the tune of Oh, Dem Golden Slippers, is annoying difficult to get out of your head once you hear it.

18. Frosted Mini Wheats

Frosted Mini Wheats Box

Year Invented: 1969
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

The Kid in You

The inventors of Frosted Mini Wheats were clever when they reduced the size of their frosted whole grain nuggets. Perhaps they knew that the size of their original frosted wheat cereal was too big or maybe it was dumb luck. Either way, bite-size Frosted Mini Wheats is now one of the most popular cereals in the USA.

Don’t be misled by this cereal’s icing. Frosted Mini Wheats is a little healthier than other cereals based on its high fiber content and relatively low amount of fat and sugar. Plus, the icing sweetens the milk which is always a breakfast cereal bonus.

Fun Fact
The bigger version of Frosted Mini Wheats was called Big Bite before it kicked the cereal bucket.

19. Corn Flakes

Corn Flakes Box

Year Invented: 1894
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Adults

What’s Your Perfect Bowl?

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes isn’t just one of the most popular American cereals. It’s also one of the oldest with a history that dates back to the late 19th century.

This cereal’s history started when John Harvey Kellogg and William K. Kellogg developed flaked cereals for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. William later founded the aptly named Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company which later became the equally aptly named Kellogg Company.

We get that Corn Flakes are far from the sexiest entry on this list of cereals but it’s fruitless to argue with a cereal that spans the centuries. Plus, it’s a better use of time to pour Corn Flakes into a bowl, add some milk and sprinkle on some sugar. You can even go crazy and add some fruit. We suggest sliced strawberries or bananas.

Fun Fact
Astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins ate fruit-flavored Corn Flakes during their Apollo 11 moon mission.

20. Cocoa Krispies

Cocoa Krispies Box

Year Invented: 1958
Manufacturer: Kellogg’s
Age Range: Kids of All Ages

Make Milk Go Choc!

Rice Krispies (see above) is a near 100-year-old classic. It’s wholesome and crunchy with a popping sound in milk that makes eating the cereal extra fun. But sometimes you have to amp up the flavor to keep the interest of an evermore attention starved-TV generation of kids.

Add a little more sugar and the flavor of chocolate and you get the milk-transforming phenomenon that is Cocoa Krispies. Seriously, what kid doesn’t like chocolate milk?

Cocoa Krispies in Bowl

Cocoa Krispies, introduced in 1958, provides a dose of puffed rice energy fueled by a generous amount of sugar and a hit of energy-inducing chocolate. The challenge of eating Cocoa Krispies is finding just the right milk to cereal ratio.

You’ll want your milk to have a serious concentration of chocolate after the cereal is gone. Trust us, the challenge is real but the reward is worth the effort.

Fun Fact
Kellogg’s was criticized in 2009 when, during the H1N1 pandemic, the company claimed that Cocoa Krispies “helps support your child’s immunity.” Oops.

21. Chex

Rice Chex Box

Year Invented: 1937
Manufacturer: General Mills
Age Range: Adults

Chex Mix Is A Bag Of Interesting

Chex stands apart by being the only American breakfast cereal on this list that was originally produced by a pet food company. Don’t worry – human consumption was always the intended purpose when Ralston Purina created shredded wheat squares and named the cereal after its checkerboard logo.

While current Chex cereal flavors include savory options like corn, rice and wheat as well as sweeter options like apple cinnamon, blueberry, chocolate, honey nut and vanilla, many people buy boxes of Chex cereal with an entirely different purpose in mind. These people mix the cereal with crackers, nuts, pretzels and Worcestershire sauce to create bowls of snack-worthy Chex Mix.

Fun Fact
Chex Mix is a quintessential Super Bowl party snack.

Additional American Cereals

If 21 bowls of cereal aren’t enough to fuel your mornings, pour some milk on the following additional cereal options:

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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