The United States is a big, diverse country in both its landscape and its tablescapes. A breakfast in, say, New York or Washington state is going to stereotypically look a lot different than the things Southerners have on their breakfast table or what folks in the Midwest start their day with. And way beyond breakfast, it seems like every state has some type of food it’s truly known for.
To determine the most iconic food in every state, we looked at regional specialties and official state foods. When a state had neither, we considered the output and culture of that state. For example, Delaware doesn’t have many historical ties to scrapple, but Delawareans sure do love the stuff. What dish, drink or food best represents the place you call home? Read on to find out the most iconic food in your state.
Lane cake is one of the most iconic desserts in America, and while it’s a staple at weddings and other Southern celebrations, its roots are all Alabama. This dessert consists of tender layers of white sponge cake filled with bourbon-soaked raisins and coconut. It was invented by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, in 1898, and was named the official state dessert in 2016.
Cold-water seafood is an integral part of the cuisine in Alaska. The state is a major producer of crab, cod, halibut, pollock and, of course, salmon. Alaskan king salmon is the official state fish, and for good reason. The quality of Alaskan salmon is second to none, especially when you know how to grill salmon to perfection.
The chimichanga is one of those dishes you may not realize are American in origin. This Southwestern staple has a bit of a contested history, but as legend goes, the chimichanga was invented at El Charro in Tucson, Arizona, when the restaurant’s founder accidentally dropped a burrito in a deep fryer. It was a beautiful accident, though, resulting in this crispy, iconic dish.
Cheese dip is huge in Arkansas food culture. In fact, the state even has its own cheese dip trail where you can dine on different versions of this divine dish. What is Arkansas cheese dip? It’s not your standard Mexican queso fundido. It contains a mixture of American and Mexican cheese and a one-of-a-kind spice blend of cumin, paprika and other spices that give it a distinctive flavor.
No state has embraced the avocado quite like California. Though most avocados in the U.S. are imported, the Golden State is America’s No. 1 producer of the creamy, green fruit. Avocado toast is an easy dish to mock, but you can’t deny California’s impact on making this regional meal a must-have brunch dish.
If you’re looking for the snack food that defines your state and you happen to live in Colorado, look no further than Rocky Mountain oysters. No, they’re not shellfish; they’re actually calf testicles that have been thin-sliced, breaded and deep-fried. They’re iconic cowboy fare and are served at bars and restaurants all across Colorado.
One’s mind may not immediately turn to New England when thinking of the humble cheeseburger, but this all-American classic was invented in Connecticut. New Haven’s Louis’ Lunch claims to have invented the burger in 1900 and still serves its flame-broiled beef patties between two slices of toasted bread to college students and tourists to this day. Even after more than 100 years, the burger at Louis’ Lunch is one of the best burgers in America.
Scrapple, a loaf made from pork scraps, cornmeal, flour and spices, is beloved in Delaware. The First State is the largest producer of this regional breakfast dish you need to try, and every fall, it is honored at the Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville, Delaware.
Georgia is nicknamed the Peach State, so of course the stone fruit is the most iconic food from this Southern state. The peach was named Georgia’s official state fruit in 1995, and the ripe fruit from Georgia will make any dessert impressive.
Hawaiians love their Spam. This canned lunch meat was popularized on the islands during World War II, when the shelf-stable product was served to troops abroad. The ingredients in Spam may seem like one of the biggest food mysteries, but it’s a pretty simple product, containing just pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrite.
Idaho is known for its potatoes, and the Gem State wants it to stay that way. In 1937, the Idaho Potato Commission was founded to market Idaho potatoes to the rest of the U.S. The potato, one of America’s favorite veggies, was named Idaho’s official state vegetable in 2002.
Illinois, particularly Chicago, has no shortage of famous food offerings. You can eat your way around the Windy City with deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef. But the most famous export from the Land of Lincoln is its pumpkin. In fact, Illinois grew over 500 million pounds of pumpkins in 2018. The state is so dedicated to this crop that one of the best parts about Thanksgiving — pumpkin pie — was named the official state pie in 2015.
The earliest recipe for sugar cream pie first appeared around 1816, the year Indiana was established. The pie is one of the best things you can make with pantry staples. It’s simply sugar, heavy cream (or whole milk), corn starch, butter and vanilla extract baked together to form a custard filling. This dessert is so synonymous with the state that it’s nicknamed Hoosier pie.
Did you know Kansas is one of the largest producers of wheat in the union? Kansas’ nickname, the Wheat State, is well-earned. According to the Kansas Wheat Commission, the amount of wheat produced in the state every year could be baked into 36 billion loaves of bread you can make at home. That’s a lot of dough.
According to the Kentucky Distillers Association, bourbon originated in the Bluegrass State, and 95% of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky. Kentucky is also famous for its Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Taking a trip to enjoy the trail’s nearly 40 distilleries is one of the things every American should do in their lifetime.
Creole and Cajun cuisine includes many iconic dishes, from jambalaya to beignets to red beans and rice. But perhaps the most famous food from New Orleans, and all of Louisiana, is crawfish, which was named the state crustacean in 1983. To eat them, gather a crowd and prep a crawfish boil, complete with potatoes, corn and andouille sausage.
If you’re looking for lobster rolls from the best seafood shacks in America, get yourself to Maine. There, you’ll find mayonnaise-based lobster salad piled on top of perfectly buttered and toasted rolls — though plenty of places also serve this sandwich warm and buttery.
Blue crab was officially named Maryland's state crustacean in 1989, and it is one of the must-try foods in the state. Blue crab is best eaten boiled in water that has been seasoned liberally with another Maryland classic: Old Bay Seasoning.
Massachusetts has quite a few foods it's known for: New England clam chowder, cranberries and baked beans, among others. But if you have a sweet tooth and find yourself in the Bay State, you're in luck, because the state has a signature dessert. Boston cream pie was named Massachusetts' official state dessert in 1996. Not a pie fan? Get a Boston cream doughnut at one of America's best doughnut shops instead. That treat was named Massachusetts’ state doughnut in 2003.
Michigan is all about cherries, specifically tart cherries. Michigan is one of America’s leading producers of cherries; more than 200 million pounds of this fruit is harvested in the state every year. Traverse City, Michigan, honors the cherry every summer by hosting the National Cherry Festival, one of the best food festivals in America.
One of the most popular apple varieties, the Honeycrisp apple was developed at the University of Minnesota and was named the official state fruit of Minnesota in 2006. The Honeycrisp has gained a loyal following because of its crisp texture and extremely juicy interior. If you don’t want to eat this apple raw, it’s also the foundation of some of America’s best apple pies.
One of many must-try Southern recipes is biscuits, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better ones than in the Biscuit Capital of the World, Natchez, Mississippi. This title comes courtesy of chef Regina Charboneau, who championed the moniker and has a passion for baking biscuits.
Toasted ravioli is a twist on an Italian classic that is said to have been invented in St. Louis and is served across the state as an appetizer and a main course. Despite their name, toasted ravioli are deep-fried, not toasted. It’s a classic Missouri way to make a normal food indulgent and one of those dishes you will only find in the Midwest.
Referred to lovingly as “Montana’s purple gems,” huckleberries are often compared to a smaller blueberry, but anyone from Montana would tell you there’s a big difference. Round and delightfully tart, huckleberries are perfect in pies, ice cream, muffins, jam and cocktails.
A Russian-German cousin of a calzone, a runza is a stuffed sandwich of sorts, with a rectangular yeast dough bread pocket enveloping a mixture of beef, cabbage, onions and other seasonings. In Nebraska, the chain Runza specializes in this dish, and it’s one of the best sandwiches in the United States.
Nevada loves its shrimp cocktail. This retro appetizer was introduced to the gaming public en masse by the Golden Gate Casino in 1959, and it caught on quickly as an incredibly popular (and cheap) dish. While shrimp cocktail’s popularity comes and goes in the rest of the U.S., you’ll still find it on nearly every restaurant menu in the Silver State.
There are more than 1,400 acres of apple orchards in New Hampshire, which helps make this New England state a great fall weekend getaway. To honor this, apple cider was declared the state’s official beverage in 2010.
New Jersey is obsessed with the pork roll. Also known as Taylor ham, the pork roll was reportedly invented in 1856 by John Taylor and is made of salty ground pork that’s shaped into a baloney-like log, sliced and pan-fried. Similar in texture to Spam, this processed ham is usually eaten with egg and cheese on a hard roll, one of the best breakfasts in the country.
Red and green Hatch chiles are practically a way of life in New Mexico. The chile, along with frijoles, is the official state vegetable, and a spicy sauce made from chiles is served with practically every meal. Can’t decide if you want red or green chiles with your food? Just order “Christmas.” It’s slang, but everyone knows that means you want both.
New York has plenty of iconic foods, from New York City’s bagels to Buffalo’s chicken wings. But the state is known particularly well for one agricultural product: apples. New York has about 30 different apple varieties grown across the state. The apple was named the Empire State’s official state fruit in 1976.
No, a chipper is not mulch, it’s a chocolate-covered potato chip. Invented by one of the best chocolate shops in America, Carol Widman’s Candy, chippers are the perfect mix of sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. It’s an underrated treat in most of the country, but it’s everywhere in North Dakota.
Chicken-fried steak is exactly what it sounds like: thin, pounded-out steak that’s breaded and deep-fried as if it were fried chicken. Oklahoma has an official state meal with plenty of classic Southern foods. On top of chicken-fried steak, the meal also includes fried okra, cornbread, barbecue pork, squash, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, pecan pie and black-eyed peas.
While Oregon’s state fruit is the pear, the marionberry is a true Oregon original. It was developed and cultivated at Oregon State University and introduced to the state in 1956. Oregon’s climate is practically perfect for growing marionberries, but because the fragile fruit doesn’t ship well, it’s not seen much outside of the region. It’s primarily used in marionberry pie, jam and ice cream.
If you want to find America’s best cheesesteaks, you have to go to Pennsylvania, specifically Philadelphia. Thinly chopped rib-eye is cooked quickly on a griddle and slapped on a long roll with cheese (usually Cheez Whiz), diced onions and occasionally other toppings like peppers. If you find yourself in Philly, head to Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks, two touristy restaurants even locals love.
You’ve heard of chocolate milk and even strawberry milk, but unless you’re from Rhode Island, you probably haven’t heard of coffee milk. No, it isn’t a healthy creamer for your coffee, it’s actually sweet coffee-flavored syrup and milk mixed together. This refreshing, sweet drink was named the official state beverage of Rhode Island in 1993.
Boiled peanuts are salty and slightly mushy peanuts that can be found at roadside stands and gas stations across the South. But people from South Carolina have such a fondness for this food product that they named boiled peanuts the official state snack in 2006.
Frybread is the official state bread of South Dakota. Frybread is a flat round of dough that is deep-fried in oil or lard. It can either be served sweet with powdered sugar or honey or savory by being turned into what is called a “Navajo taco” with ground beef, beans, shredded cheese and other classic taco toppings.
Nashville hot chicken is taking the country by storm, but as the name implies, its roots are all in Tennessee. Allegedly first created by a scorned lover who wanted to scorch her dining partner’s taste buds, Nashville hot chicken truly is h-o-t, with a deep red color and a fiery oil-based sauce that will light your taste buds on fire.
Texans have plenty of iconic dishes, including pecan pie, fajitas and salsa, but the official state dish is all Texas: chili con carne. Chili was named the official state dish of Texas in 1977, and Texas chili is its own thing. Devotees claim that the only true stuff comes from the Lone Star State, and other chili recipes are just imitators.
If you order a side of fries in Utah, don’t forget the fry sauce. Popularized by burger chain Arctic Circle, fry sauce is the simple yet irresistible combination of ketchup, mayonnaise and some secret spices. It’s perfectly creamy and tangy, and it’s quite baffling that it isn’t more widespread.
There’s no product more singularly popular from Vermont than maple syrup. This is so true that the state named maple as its official state flavor in 1993. Maple syrup greatly improves even the most iconic breakfast dishes. Drizzle it on waffles or pancakes, dip your sausage or thick-cut bacon in a bowl of syrup or even use it to sweeten your coffee. No matter what you add maple syrup to, your food will be better for it.
Smithfield, Virginia, is known for its namesake country-style ham, which is salt-cured, aged and smoked. Country ham is one of those foods you’ll find across the South, but many of the country’s top producers, such as Edwards and Calhoun’s, can be found in Virginia.
Washington state is famous for a lot of things — it’s fresh salmon, oysters, geoduck and apples are all icons of the region. But few things about Washington are as world-famous as its coffee. Especially since the biggest and best coffee chain in America, Starbucks, got its humble start in Seattle in 1971.
Washington, D.C., is famous for two things: It's the capital of the United States, and it has some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms in the world. While the most beautiful blooms don't always produce the most beautiful fruit, D.C. honored its stunning flora by naming the cherry its official fruit in 2006.
Stop at any convenience store in West Virginia and you’re likely to find pepperoni rolls. Like the name implies, the pepperoni roll is a yeast bread roll with pepperoni and occasionally mozzarella cheese baked inside. As the rolls bake, the oils from the pepperoni seep into the dough, creating a crusty texture and meaty flavor.
Wisconsin is all about its cheese. The residents of this state refer to themselves as Cheeseheads, the state’s official animal is the dairy cow, and they’ve even designated cheese as their official dairy product. The best way to eat cheese in the Badger State? Fried cheese curds, of course. Eating those with any meal is a sure sign you’re from the Midwest.
Lean bison meat comes from the state mammal of Wyoming, and if you haven’t tried bison yet, you really should. It has fewer calories, less fat and more protein than choice cuts of beef and is still nice and flavorful. If you're not sure whether or not bison meat is for you, try it on a bun at some of the best burger spots in America.
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