A mainstay breakfast for a New Yorker will look different than what a Californian chooses to eat for their first meal. A dessert in Ohio will be different than one from Alabama, and the way that Washington residents drink their coffee is going to be quite different than how a Rhode Islander takes in their daily dose of caffeine. And each and every state in the union has its very own iconic, signature foods.
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. Delaware doesn’t have many actual ties to scrapple, for example, but they 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.
Also called prize cake or Alabama Lane cake, this dessert consists of tender layers of white sponge cake filled with bourbon-soaked raisins and coconut. It’s a staple at weddings and Southern holidays, but its roots are all Alabama. It was invented by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, in the 1890s, 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 trout, crab, cod, halibut, pollock and, of course, salmon. Alaskan king salmon is the official state fish, and there’s good reason. The quality is second to none, especially when prepared as a poke bowl or 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 the story goes, the chimichanga was invented at El Charro in Tucson, Arizona, when the restaurant’s founder Monica Flin 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, and nearly every restaurant has some variation of it. Though most Mexican restaurants have queso fundido, with chorizo and plenty of spice, on their menu, Arkansas cheese dip differs because it contains processed cheese and oftentimes includes other added meats and vegetables.
Yelp / Nikki N.
Rocky Mountain oysters are among those foods that aren’t quite what they sound like. No, they’re not shellfish; they’re actually calves’ testicles, thin-sliced, breaded and deep-fried. They’re iconic cowboy fare and are served at bars and restaurants all across Colorado. Heck, you can even get them at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.
One’s mind may not immediately turn to ritzy New England when thinking of the humble cheeseburger, but this all-American classic was invented in Connecticut. New Haven’s Louis’ Lunch invented the burger in 1898 and still serves its flame-broiled beef patties between two slices of toasted bread to college students and tourists to this day. All burgers are good, but the burger at Louis’ Lunch is one of the 101 iconic dishes you need to try.
Scrapple — a loaf made from pork scraps, cornmeal, flour and spices — was actually invented by the Pennsylvania Dutch, but it’s really taken off in Delaware. The First State is the largest producer of this regional breakfast dish you need to try, and every fall, scrapple is honored at the annual Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville, Delaware.
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, 85 percent of consumed pumpkin in the United States happens to come from Illinois. The state is so dedicated to this crop that one of the best parts about Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, was named the official state dessert in 2015.
Sugar cream pie supposedly first appeared in 1816, the year Indiana was established. The pie incorporates sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract to make a custardy filling that is baked inside a flaky butter pie crust. It’s so synonymous with the state that it’s nicknamed Hoosier pie and Indiana cream pie.
Try to name a spirit that’s more quintessentially American than bourbon. We’ll wait. Even though it technically doesn’t have to originate in Kentucky to be called bourbon, bourbon production is largely concentrated in Kentucky and is then distributed across the country and world. Sure, it’s a drink, but it’s far and away the most iconic product from the state.
Creole and Cajun cuisine are full of iconic dishes, from jambalaya to crawfish etouffee to red beans and dirty rice. But perhaps the most famous food from New Orleans, and thus Louisiana, is gumbo. This richly flavored stew is jam-packed with seafood, sausage and chicken and is one Southern dish every Northerner needs to try. Louisiana and gumbo are so synonymous, it was deemed the official state cuisine in 2004.
Sure, you can get a good lobster roll outside of Maine, but for the real deal, you have to head to the Pine Tree State. There, you’ll find a mayonnaise-based lobster salad piled on top of a perfectly buttered and toasted roll, but plenty of places also serve it warm and buttery. Trust us: It’s worth traveling to Maine for.
Blue crabs are frequently found in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland, and the meat in these particular crustaceans is so sweet and tender, it’s second to none. Crab in Maryland is a treasured seafood that’s served at countless seafood shacks, and it is perfect in crab cakes and crab dip or simply steamed with plenty of Old Bay seasoning.
True Bay Staters know it’s pronounced “clam chowdah,” but no matter how you say it, this creamy soup is a true icon of Massachusetts. Fresh clams, bacon, potatoes, cream and fish stock make for a hearty chowder that perfectly exemplifies the native cuisine of New England.
While Michigan has its own pizza style and a signature dish (the pasty), this state is all about cherries. Michigan is one of America’s leading producers of cherries; over 90,000 tons of this fruit is harvested in the state every year. Traverse City, Michigan, one of America’s must-visit coastal towns, honors the cherry every July by hosting the National Cherry Festival, and that celebration just so happens to be one of the best food festivals in America.
One of the most popular apple varieties today, the Honeycrisp apple was developed at the University of Minnesota and was named the official state fruit of Minnesota in 2006. A cross between Macoun and Honeygold apples, the Honeycrisp has gained a cult following because of its crisp texture and extremely juicy interior.
The South has plenty of delicious, buttery biscuits, but Mississippi is home to the Biscuit Capital of the World, Natchez. This title comes courtesy of chef Regina Charboneau, who championed this title and has a passion for biscuits. She started making biscuits at age 10, went to culinary school in the '80s, and is still working to perfect her flaky biscuit recipe to this day. Mixing together French styles and Southern styles, the biscuits in Mississippi are like nothing else you’ll ever try.
This twist on an Italian classic 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 actually toasted. It’s a classic Missouri way to make a relatively healthy dish indulgent and one of those dishes you will only find in the Midwest.
Nevada loves its shrimp cocktail. This simple yet iconic 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.
When you think of a New England-style boiled dinner, you may assume you’re about to eat a lobster boil or some steamed clams. But really, this iconic food from New Hampshire hearkens back to the colonial days. This traditional dish is made of corned beef or smoked ham, cabbage, potato, root vegetables and onion boiled together in one pot. It’s hearty enough to get you through any long, cold winter.
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 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.
Ask anyone living in New York: You just cannot find a decent bagel outside of the state (Jersey has some good ones, but that’s about it). There’s something in the water (literally) that makes the outside perfectly crisp while maintaining a soft, doughy inside. Whether you eat your New York bagel with lox and cream cheese or go for the classic BEC (that’s bacon, egg and cheese), the bagel is an icon of New York City and beyond.
Ohio’s nickname is the Buckeye State, but because the actual nut from the buckeye tree is highly poisonous, Ohioans had to make their own treat to resemble their icon. The buckeye is a creamy, mega-sweet peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. It resembles the nut itself and, in our opinion, tastes 100 times better than any peanut butter cup.
The marionberry is a cross between two different kinds of blackberries; it was developed and cultivated at Oregon State University in the 1940s and introduced to the state in 1956. Oregon’s climate is practically perfect for the growing of 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. This sandwich is a true signature of the state. 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. It’s the perfect indulgent, greasy, salty food.
You’ve heard of chocolate milk and even strawberry milk, but unless you’re from the Ocean State, you probably haven’t heard of coffee milk. No, it isn’t a healthy creamer for your coffee, it’s actually just sweet coffee-flavored syrup and milk, mixed together. Weird? Kind of! But it’s the official state beverage of Rhode Island.
Boiled peanuts are salty and slightly mushy peanuts that almost take on the form of beans, and 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. Like a lot of foods with simple names, frybread is exactly what its name implies. It’s just a flat round of dough, 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 its roots (as the name implies) are all in Tennessee. Allegedly first created by a lover scorned, who in turn wanted to scorch her dining partner, Nashville hot chicken truly is h-o-t, with a deep red color and a fiery oil-based sauce that will light your tastebuds on fire.
Texas’ food is so unique, it’s inspired an entire cuisine: Tex-Mex. Texans have plenty of iconic dishes, including tacos, fajitas and queso, but the official state dish is all Texas: chili con carne. This spicy stew originated in The Lone Star State and is now a favorite tailgating dish across the country. Just remember: no beans!
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 and mayonnaise. It’s perfectly creamy and tangy, and it’s honestly baffling it isn’t more widespread. Heinz may call this combination mayochup, but Utahans know it’s fry sauce.
If you had to pick just one natural icon from the state of Vermont, it’d have to be the maple tree. The maple tree is the state tree, and the state even named maple its official flavor. There’s no product more singularly popular from the Green Mountain State than maple syrup. Drizzle it on waffles, pancakes or in your coffee if you want, but true Vermonters know that “sugar on snow” (which is maple syrup drizzled on top of snow) is the best way to eat it.
Smithfield, Virginia, is known for its namesake country-style ham, which is salt-cured, aged for up to several months and smoked (as opposed to its more commonly found cousin, city ham, which is wet-cured and smoked, and not aged). Country ham can be found throughout the South, but many of the country’s top producers, including Edwards and Calhoun’s, can be found in Virginia. Country ham is at its best when it’s seared and served alongside some red-eye gravy, or tucked into a freshly baked biscuit.
Washington State is famous for a lot of things: Its fresh salmon, oysters, geoduck and apples are all icons of the region. But few things about Washington are as world-famous as its coffee. Yes, the biggest and best coffee chain in America, Starbucks, got its start in Seattle in 1971. Today, the mega-chain has over 13,000 stores nationwide.
Half-smokes are served in Washington, D.C. and its surrounding areas. This link is typically larger and spicier than your average hot dog, and the meat within the casing is coarser. It may be a bit of a tourist trap restaurant, but D.C. locals will tell you to head over to Ben’s Chili Bowl to get their iconic half-smoke, served with mustard, fresh onions and homemade chili sauce.
Drop in to 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 yet seriously satisfying texture and meaty flavor.
Wisconsin is nuts about its cheese. Seriously. 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.
Is there any state that’s more true to the wild, wild West than Wyoming? The state’s trademark is a bucking horse and a rider, for goodness’ sake! So of course, its most famous food is jerky. Beef jerky and turkey jerky are all fine and good, but the most quintessentially Wyoming food has to be bison jerky. Lean bison meat comes from the state mammal of Wyoming, and if you haven’t tried bison yet, you really should. Perhaps they serve it at the best steakhouse in your state.
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