McBride's "The Good Lord Bird", about the journey of a young slave in the 1850s scored over Lahiri's tale of two brothers set in Kolkata of the 1960s.
Other fiction finalists were Rachel Kushner for "The Flamethrowers"; Thomas Pynchon for "Bleeding Edge"; and George Saunders for "Tenth of December".
At Wednesday's award giving ceremony in New York, the judges praised McBride for "a voice as comic and original as any
we have heard since Mark Twain."
McBride, 56, who said he hadn't prepared an acceptance speech because he didn't expect to win against the likes of Pynchon, Lahiri and Saunders, said, "They are fine writers. But it sure is nice to be here."
The annual awards, presented by the National Book Foundation, honour American authors for published works over the past year in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature.
The nonfiction award was won by George Packer for "The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America". The poetry award went to Mary Szybist for "Incarnadine". The young people's literature award was won by Cynthia Kadohata for "The Thing About Luck."
London-born daughter of immigrants from West Bengal, 46-year-old Lahiri, who lives in New York's Brooklyn last month lost out on the prestigious Man Booker Prize for contemporary fiction writers from the Commonwealth and Ireland.
In a review of her latest novel, the New York Times noted: "Jhumpa Lahiri first made her name with quiet, meticulously observed stories about Indian immigrants trying to adjust to new lives in the United States, stories that had the hushed intimacy of chamber music."
"The premise of her new novel, 'The Lowland,' in contrast, is startlingly operatic," the influential US daily said calling it "certainly Ms. Lahiri's most ambitious undertaking yet", that "eventually opens out into a moving family story".
She is the author of three previous books. Her debut collection of stories, "Interpreter of Maladies", won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 21-11-2013)