Karen Loft Hess (November 11, 1918–May 15, 2007) was an American culinary historian. Her 1977 book The Taste of America, co-authored with her late husband, John L. Hess, established them as antiestablishment members of the culinary world.
In 1985, Hess became one of the founding members of the Culinary Historians of New York, an association of food professionals, historians, and others interested in studying and writing on the history of food. On October 19, 2004, the Culinary Historians of New York presented her with their first annual Amelia Award, an award which recognizes excellence in culinary history.
In 2006, she was listed in the eighth annual Saveur 100, from Saveur Magazine, in an article by Shane Mitchell entitled "The Grandest Dame of American Culinary History." Mitchell says that although Hess came from Nebraska, her "soul must be Southern." Hess's The Carolina Rice Kitchen is the story of how rice from Africa became a South Carolina Low Country staple, as well as how the African cooks shaped Southern cooking.