Most American breakfasts are classic and can be found at great breakfast restaurants from sea to shining sea. Bacon and eggs, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes and waffles… You know them and you love them, no matter where in the great U S of A you reside. And while we're all familiar with oatmeal, some breakfast foods have only regional popularity — though they really should be nationally known. Most people associate things like chicken and waffles with the Deep South. And the avocado toast trend came right out of California. But there are some other regional offerings you may not have heard of.
Beignets are French pastries made from deep-fried dough and covered in powdered sugar. This French version of a doughnut became a Creole breakfast staple in New Orleans, where it’s often served for breakfast with bananas, plantains and a heavy dose of powdered sugar.
If you like bagels, you’re going to love a bialy. While this breakfast isn’t even available in most of America, in New York it can be found at most bodegas. Though it’s shaped like a bagel, it’s actually quite different. Bialys are filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds — and unlike bagels, they’re not boiled. They’re baked. They are still doughy and delicious. You can eat them pretty much any way you’d eat a bagel — with butter, with cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon… Go crazy.
The “gravy” in biscuits and gravy is much different than the gravy you’d pour on your Thanksgiving turkey. Every Southerner knows that. In the South, it’s par for the course to eat a breakfast of buttery, flaky biscuits doused in thick white gravy. Southerners are picky about their sausage gravy; anywhere you order it in the South, you can bet it’ll be good.
A BEC is a bacon, egg and cheese. In New York City, it’s common practice to order this sandwich on a bagel or roll for breakfast. There’s nothing quite like the ritual of stepping into a grimy bodega and paying for this with cash. Once you do, you end up with the foil-wrapped glory of a hearty egg sandwich that could cure any hangover.
Though its name may lead you to think otherwise, the Dutch baby pancake is not Dutch. It’s also not a baby — it’s massive. The Dutch baby pancake actually originated in the Pacific Northwest by way of German immigrants. Germans brought a gigantic German pancake called “Apfelpfannkuchen.” From there, it is believed that Pacific Northwesterners were inspired to create the Dutch baby pancake. It does stay true to the pancake aspect of its name. Essentially, this dish is a giant souffle-like pancake cooked in a skillet, sometimes topped with fruit and almost always sprinkled with powdered sugar.
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You’ve probably heard of eating enchiladas for dinner, but you may not have seen how people eat them for breakfast. In New Mexico, the Southwestern dinner dish is transformed into a hearty, huge breakfast. It consists of the usual mountain of tortilla, beans, cheese, peppers and chili sauce, but is topped with an egg. This dish is proof that you really can top anything with an egg and call it breakfast.
Fried green tomatoes are a staple of Southern breakfasts. They’re made from unripe tomatoes coated in cornmeal and deep fried. What better way to get your serving of vegetables with breakfast? Fried green tomatoes are typically served as a side dish, though they can be incorporated into dishes such as eggs Benedict or breakfast sandwiches, as well.
This may not sound all that appetizing, but any good Midwesterner knows it’s worth putting on your breakfast table. Fried mush is made from cornmeal mush (which is just cornmeal that’s been boiled in water or milk) that’s then fried — an appealing appetizer with an unfortunately unappealing name. In the Midwest, it’s typically served with sweet maple syrup. Here’s how to make some for yourself.
Goetta is a breakfast meat from Cincinnati, Ohio, made from ground pork and/or beef meat, oats and seasonings. It was introduced to Ohioans by their North German heritage and was invented as a way to stretch less meat into more meals. Goetta is so widely beloved locally that there’s even an annual festival held to celebrate it: GoettaFest in Newport, Kentucky. This year’s celebration claims to be “bigger than Las Vegas New Year’s Eve.”
Life is short. Eat cake for breakfast. These Missourian cakes are gooey and, yes, loaded with butter. Some people call it an “ooey gooey butter cake.” It’s sweet and rich, served just like you would serve coffee cake. The consistency is similar to a brownie, and the slices are usually coated with powdered sugar. Here's how you can make one for yourself at home.
This Midwestern breakfast food is a great way to use up whatever’s left in your fridge. Hoppel poppel, sometimes also spelled hopple popple, is similar to a hash — all the breakfast foods you could ever want all cooked in a skillet and eaten from one bowl. Potatoes, eggs, sausage, peppers, herbs, onions, cheese, you name it. It can all get thrown in the hoppel poppel.
One story about the johnnycake’s origin holds that because the settlers on the famous Mayflower had nearly run out of wheat by the end of their first winter the New World, the Pilgrims had to adapt and learn to cook with corn instead, and thus the johnnycake became a staple of New England cuisine. The recipe behind a johnnycake is simple — just cornmeal, boiling water and a sprinkle of salt — and they’re best served with butter. Southerners have since adopted them as “hoecakes,” though their origin remains in New England.
A kolache is a pastry that can be either sweet or savory. Most versions are filled with fruit — but another version that’s especially popular in Texas is filled with meat. These fillings are surrounded by a shiny, puffy dough. The kolache emigrated from Europe to the Midwest via Czech immigrants. They have since become so beloved by the Midwest that Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin all have festivals in honor of this breakfast food.
The kringle originated in Scandinavia as a spinoff of the pretzel, though it’s not shaped like that. A kringle is oval-shaped and actually sweet instead of savory, and it’s served among other types of breakfast pastries. In the Midwest, these oval pastries are baked, filled with sweet fillings such as fruit or marzipan, and iced.
Kuchen is the German word for cake, but in the Midwest it’s been adopted to describe a sweet breakfast option. A kuchen is a rich custard dessert that usually involves fruit and glaze.
In Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, “migas” refers to an entirely different dish made with leftover stale bread. But in Texas, “migas” is for breakfast. It’s a mixture of scrambled eggs, cheese, peppers and fried tortilla strips. Migas are often spicy and can be served with a side of beans or potatoes.
Pasties aren’t pastries, since they’re savory and usually filled with meat, potato and/or cheese. It looks like a small calzone and is a popular breakfast option in Michigan, where it’s often eaten on the go. It was popularized for this purpose among workers in copper mines, though it has since become a state-wide favorite. There’s even an annual Pasty Fest in Calumet, Michigan.
What is scrapple, you ask? It might have a name that sounds like it belongs in the trash, but it’s quite the popular breakfast meat in the rural Mid-Atlantic. Scrapple was invented as a method of avoiding food waste and is, (appropriately) made from scraps. Pork trimmings left over from butchering are mixed with cornmeal, flour and spices and morphed into loaves. These loaves are typically sliced and fried before they’re served as a side with breakfast. Scrapple can be eaten on toast and/or with a variety of condiment options including ketchup, grape jelly, applesauce, honey, mustard or maple syrup.
Southerners have been known to eat grits for breakfast in many forms, and one of the most delicious combinations includes seafood. Shrimp and grits, which originated as a breakfast for Lowcountry fishermen, is precisely what it sounds like: a savory dish made with shrimp and grits. Many like to spice it up by adding other toppings, including hot peppers, spices and cooked vegetables. This version is topped with bacon and white cheddar (and if you’re bold, a generous pour of Tabasco).
Sourdough pancakes are exactly what they sound like — pancakes made with sourdough instead of regular flour. They’re fluffy, dense and delicious, and often eaten savory instead of sweet like you would normal pancakes. Sourdough pancakes are popular in Wyoming and often served with sausage or bacon.
Do people eat Spam for breakfast? In Hawaii, they sure do. Many people think Spam sounds gross, but it might be time to give it a shot. Hawaiians have found a way to turn a notorious blue can of mystery meat into a popular dish. Spam musabi consists of a grilled slice of Spam sandwiched between slabs of white rice, all wrapped in seaweed — kind of like larger pieces of Spam sushi. The dish has yet to gain popularity outside of the island state.
Sweet rice is similar to rice pudding, except that in Arkansas it’s acceptable to eat before noon. This creamy, rice-based dish is often topped with cinnamon and a bit of butter, and is a pretty sweet way to start the day.
Taylor ham, also known as a pork roll, is a classic New Jersey breakfast that is said to have been invented in 1856 by John Taylor of Trenton, New Jersey. Pork is sliced, fried and arranged on a bun or bagel with a fried egg, American cheese and occasionally lettuce and tomato. While it may not be the best sandwich New Jersey has to offer, the breakfast sandwich is so beloved by residents that there was a bill introduced in 2016 to make it the official state sandwich.
Utah scones are, not surprisingly, popular in Utah. Also called fry bread, they’re essentially made from deep-fried bread and are often served with jam or another spread. They’re hard to find outside of Utah, though. Some foods are worth traveling for! Life is too short not to try the best food and drink in every state.
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