Midwesterners will be the first to tell you that they’re friendly and hardworking, so while food is important to them, the more important thing is the community that comes together at mealtime. So in Midwestern cuisine, you’ll find a lot of casseroles (or hotdishes), shareable but easy appetizers, and hearty party foods that are best enjoyed together. And while these foods are associated incredibly closely with the American heartland, you won’t be able to find them (or at least find them done right) outside of the region.
If the Midwest had to break down its major food groups, you’d probably find beer, cheese, casseroles, and desserts inspired by Midwesterners’ ethnic backgrounds and forefathers. So if you’re cooking your way through a Midwestern menu, you’re going to find a lot of those items mixed in. And when it comes to entertaining in the Midwest, it’s all about convenience and flavors that will satisfy the whole family. Let’s be real here, no gathering would be complete without pigs in a blanket and a Jell-O mold.
While the South and the Northeast have their own distinctive cuisines, we think there’s no finer fare in the U.S. than Midwestern food. Don’t believe us? Check out these 25 dishes you’ll only find in the Midwest.
If there’s two things that Midwesterners truly love, it’s meat and football. And there’s no better dish for a classic tailgate than a beer-poached bratwurst sandwich.
For the Milwaukee Beer-Braised Bratwurst Sandwich recipe, click here.
Seriously, the middle of the country loves it’s beer. Not only do they drink it and cook their meat in it, they’ll also mix it with another Midwestern favorite ingredient, cheese, and dip stuff in it.
For the Beer Cheese Dip recipe, click here.
The buckeye nut is a symbol of Ohio, and because eating the raw nut will make you quite ill, Ohioans took the buckeye’s chestnut-like look and turned it in to a scrumptious chocolate and peanut butter treat.
For the Buckeye recipe, click here.
Midwesterners will infuse cheese into every dish at every possible opportunity, including every single appetizer. It doesn’t get any more classically Midwestern than a cheese ball.
For the Appetizer Cheese Ball recipe, click here.
If Southerners bathe their vegetables in meat, Midwesterners steep theirs in cheese. This classic broccoli cheese dish proves that while also incorporating another classic Midwestern casserole ingredient: cereal.
For the Cheesy Broccoli Bake recipe, click here.
There are a lot of iconic regional foods, but few top the Chicago hot dog. And few have as many toppings as a Chicago hot dog. Yes, Illinoisans will put yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt on their dogs, making them some of the best hot dogs in America.
Chocolate-covered potato chips originated in North Dakota, mixing together two of America’s favorite snack foods. While this may sound like an insane combination, it’s delicious and can be found at the very best chocolate shops across the Midwest.
Cincinnati chili is baffling to people outside of southwestern Ohio. It has cinnamon but no beans, is served atop a bowl of spaghetti, and is topped with just massive amounts of Cheddar cheese. But Midwesterners love it, so who are we to judge?
For the Cincinnati Chili recipe, click here.
Sure, you can find great deep-dish pizza outside of Chicago, but for the real thing, you have to head to the Windy City. We recommend Lou Malnati's, Pequod's, and Pizano’s, but you can also make this dish at home.
For the Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza recipe, click here.
No, we’re not talking about mozzarella sticks. We’re talking about beautiful chunks of milky white cheese deep fried in a beer batter. For the true Midwestern experience, dip them in ranch. We recommend these 10 brands.
This classic St. Louis pastry was supposedly made by accident, when a baker reversed the amount of butter and flour in a recipe. But unlike many mistakes, this was a happy one, resulting in an iconic regional dessert.
For the Gooey Butter Cake recipe, click here.
What is known as a casserole to the rest of the country is called “hotdish” in the Midwest. It’s a quick and easy dinner for busy suburbanites, and these comforting casseroles can get you through a long, cold winter.
Phil Diser/Wikimedia Commons
The official pastry of Wisconsin is the kringle, a Danish pastry made of dough that has been rested overnight before being shaped, filled, and baked. You’ll find this all over Scandanavia, but stateside it’s a Midwestern specialty.
For the Easy Danish Kringle recipe, click here.
Also called a tavern sandwich, the loose meat sandwich is ground beef on a bun mixed with sautéed onions. It’s sort of like a sloppy Joe without the tomato sauce. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this outside the Midwest, but it is the best sandwich in Iowa.
This meat and vegetable hand pie is traditionally found in the U.K., but it made its way to the Midwest via Cornish miners in Michigan. Now it’s a staple of the region.
For the Traditional Pasties recipe, click here.
What can we say? Midwesterners love convenient foods and appetizers, including the hot dog wrapped in puff pastry, aka pigs in a blanket.
For the Pigs in a Blanket recipe, click here.
If beer-braised bratwurst are the entrée of your Midwestern tailgate, then potato skins kick off the party.
For the Elevated Potato Skins recipe, click here.
Puppy chow is made up of Chex cereal that is mixed with melted chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. If it sounds like a sweet mess, that’s because it is. It also goes by the name Muddy Buddy and Money Munch.
For the Puppy Chow recipe, click here.
No-bake cookies and desserts are perfect for entertaining in a pinch or a sweet treat during the dog days of summer. Midwesterners know this — thus, the scotcheroo, a crisp rice treat bonded together by chocolate, butterscotch, and peanut butter.
For the Chocolate Scotcheroos recipe, click here.
It’s well established by now that Midwesterners love their casseroles, and perhaps there is no casserole (or hotdish) more associated with this region than the Tater Tot casserole. Ground beef, Cheddar cheese, onions, and of course Tater Tots complete this all-in-one meal.
For the Chili Cheese Tater Tot Casserole recipe, click here.
Despite their name, in true Midwestern fashion, these ravioli are deep-fried, not simply toasted. It’s a classic Midwestern way to make a relatively healthy dish indulgent. And if you’ve had it, then you’re definitely Midwestern, and you likely use these 21 Midwestern phrases.
For the Toasted Ravioli With Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce recipe, click here.
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