Each state has its own personality and its own set of identifiers that make it unique from other states, and food is one of the biggest differentiators out there. While it might not necessarily be official, we’ve rounded up a list of iconic dishes from every state in the great U.S. of A. Read on to find out if we got your state’s dish right and enjoy taking a look at the classics from other states!
Wisconsin – Fried Cheese Curds
While raw cheese curds can be enjoyed alone (with their recognizable squeakiness), it’s deep-fried that’s really the way to go. In fact, so many people eat them deep-fried, they end up referring to the fried versions as plain, ol’ “cheese curds,” then end up calling the non-fried ones “raw cheese curds.” Can someone send some cheese curds our way??
Alaska – King Crab
Alaska is known for its amazing, cold-water seafood, and most especially for its king crab. Crab fishing season is very short (two to four weeks, typically) and incredibly dangerous – it’s said that one fisherman dies a week during the fishing season.
Indiana – Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
While the origination of it isn’t clear, one thing’s for sure: breaded and fried pork tenderloin sandwiches are a Hoosier classic. Some things to get straight when making (or ordering) one: it should always be deep fried; it should always be pork tenderloin; the meat should always be substantially larger than the roll it’s served on. Now go and get yourselves one!
Arkansas – Possum Pie
Don’t worry, no possums were harmed in the making of this dish! While also known as “Striped Delight” or “Chocolate Layer Pie,” this is a 4-layer pie with a butter pecan shortbread crust topped with a cream cheese filling and from-scratch chocolate pudding, all topped off with whipped cream. We think it’s called possum pie because all those delicious layers are “playing possum” and hiding underneath the whipped cream. Either way, we love it!
Connecticut – White Clam Pizza
Originating in New Haven, CT at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, the “white clam pie” was created when Pepe decided to not only sell clams on the half shell at the bar, but to also put them on their signature “apizzas”…now it’s a Connecticut staple!
Delaware – Scrapple
Although scrapple was technically invented in Pennsylvania, it’s in Delaware that it really shines. Scrapple festivals and scrapple-flavored beer are just two of the ways that Delawareans show their appreciation for it. Regardless of the fact that it’s made up of castoff pig parts, the flavor is unbeatable!
Florida – Cubano Sandwich
While the key lime pie was a very close runner up, the Cubano is more inherently Floridian. Packed full of ham, pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, sandwiched between two pieces of soft, Cuban bread, this sandwich does not disappoint.
Maryland – Crab Cakes
Just as Maine is known for its lobster rolls Maryland is known for its crab cakes. Purists say that crab cakes should consist of only blue crab all-lump meat, with very little filler so as to let the crab meat shine on its own. Whether it’s served Boardwalk-style (breaded and deep-fried) or restaurant-style (all-lump, no filler), you can’t go wrong with one of these bad boys.
Hawaii – Spam Musubi
Spam is to Hawaii what hot dogs are to the greater 48. It’s everywhere from convenient stores to high-end restaurants – people love it! Spam musubi is a fried slice of spam on top of a mound of rice, all wrapped up in a piece of japanese nori (seaweed). This salty snack is so yummy, so it’s great that you can find it just about anywhere in HA.
Idaho – Finger Steaks
A distinctly Idahoan dish, finger steaks are wide strips of sirloin that have been battered and fried that are usually served with fries and buttered toast. While Idaho’s also known for its potatoes, this dish surpasses its competition and is definitely the state icon.
New Hampshire – Boiled Dinner
If you haven’t heard of it before, a boiled dinner is simply that, dinner where you boil each ingredient until they’re all cooked to perfection. Corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes…you name it and you can make it part of the boiled dinner…and for leftovers you can have red flannel hash!
Iowa – Loose Meat Sandwiches
Unlike a regular hamburger, loose meat sandwiches are where the beef is cooked (sometimes unseasoned) without being formed into a patty, then served in a bun with other typical burger fixings. Also known as a “tavern” these sammies are more than well known in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest.
Kansas – Ribs
There’s no questioning it; Kansas is known for its ribs. While people might talk about the loose-meat sandwiches or the grebble or bierocks, it’s the barbecued ribs that has people so hooked and keeps ‘em coming back for more!
Louisiana – Gumbo
Literally the state dish of Louisiana, gumbo is a true meeting of the worlds. Influenced not only by French, Spanish, Choctaw and West African cooking practices, gumbo is a stew generally comprised of a flavorful broth, shellfish and/or sausage, celery, bell pepper and onion, and some sort of thickener. Served over rice, this is a dish so packed full of flavor it had to be the state dish!
Maine – Lobster Rolls
Since Maine is known for having some of the best lobster around, it should come as no surprise that the lobster roll is one of the most “Maine” dishes there is. Technically speaking, a “lobster roll” is when the lobster is still warm in the sandwich, where as a “lobster salad roll” is when it’s cold. We’ll take one of each!
Alabama – Fried Green Tomatoes
Not just the title of the iconic film, fried green tomatoes really are an Alabamian specialty! Pick ‘em in October, before the first frost, while they’re still green and you’ll have the best tomatoes of your life!
New Jersey – Disco Fries
Basically a New Jersian version of poutine, disco fries are a NJ classic, found at all diners and dive bars. The fries are topped with a brown gravy and plenty of mozzarella cheese, making this dish an indulgent choice that always delivers.
Massachusetts – Clam Chowder
A northeastern (and now national) standard, clam chowder is a hearty, creamy soup that’s filled with plenty of clams and veggies, with nary a tomato in sight. Whatever you do, don’t get your New England chowder and your Manhattan chowder confused – the red stuff has no place here!
North Carolina – Pulled Pork
If there’s one thing that North Carolina’s known for, it’s its pulled pork. It doesn’t get more tender or flavorful than this stuff, and the secret is all in cooking it low and slow…sometimes for over 12 hours! If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying it yet, next time you’re there you should definitely grab a big serving of Carolina pulled pork!
Colorado – Denver Omelette
Denver omelettes at this point are so classic, you can find them on just about any menu across the country! Ham, bell pepper, onion and cheese, it doesn’t get much better than this breakfast staple!
Minnesota – Tater Tot Hot Dish
If you haven’t spent much (read: any) time in the Midwest, you might not know what a hot dish is. The heartiest of casserole, with some sort of beef, sometimes a veggie, cream soup and a starch – with tater tots being the preferred choice. If you haven’t tried it yet, you need to ASAP!
Mississippi – Mud Pies
Named supposedly for its resemblance to the muddy banks of the Mississippi River, a Mississippi mud pie means business; stuffed so full of chocolate it’s definitely not for the faint of heart…but don’t let that stop you from trying it!
California – Cobb Salad
Created in Hollywood, CA in 1937, this salad truly is iconic. Made traditionally with iceberg, watercress, endives and romaine lettuce, it’s what it’s topped with that gets people excited: bacon, hard-boiled egg, roasted chicken, bleu cheese, tomatoes and avocado. This salad has everything but the kitchen sink in it!
Missouri – BBQ
While barbecue is popular all over the south, Missouri has made its mark on BBQ with a noted smokiness to the meat, a slightly spicy rub and a thick and hearty, tomato-based sauce to round everything off. Grab your napkins and dig in!
Arizona – Chimichangas
Whether it was Monica Flin who dropped a burrito in the deep frier and shouted “chimichanga!” in 1922 or someone else later on, there’s no mistaking this dish came from Arizona – it’s a classic!
Montana – Bison Burgers
While bison burgers are starting to become more popular, they were never out of favor in Montana! Bison meat also has less cholesterol and fat as beef, so it’s a healthier, delicious choice that anyone who likes a good burger should try.
Kentucky – Hot Brown
Inspired by the classic Welsh rabbit, the Kentucky Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich that’s topped with a hot, cheesy sauce. The whole things goes under the broiler until it’s crisped up and, let us tell you, it’s delicious!
South Dakota – Chislic
Traditionally using cubed pieces of mutton or lamb that are then deep-fried, chislic is a South Dakotan mainstay. Any bar you go to will have it, and it makes for a wonderful accompaniment to a nice, cold beer. We’ll cheers to that.
Nevada – Buffets
When you think of food in Nevada, does anything else come to mind but a buffet?? Famous for its many All You Can Eat (AYCE) buffets, Nevada really pulls out all the stops. For when you’re not looking for any specific food in general, but do want to eat (as much as you possibly can), a Las Vegas buffet is the best place to go!
New Mexico – Green Chile
Seeing as the chile is New Mexico’s “largest agricultural crop”, it makes sense that it’s a huge part of regional cuisine. The altitude and arid nature of the climate affects New Mexican green chiles’ texture and flavor, plus, leads to hotter varieties that people can’t get enough of. Are you a green chile person or a red chile person?
Oregon – Marionberry Pie
Marionberries are actually a specific breed of blackberries that grow primarily in Oregon, making marionberry pie a natural fit as the iconic state dish. These berries are more juicy and flavorful than regular blackberries, and thus, marionberry pie reigns supreme.
North Dakota – Lefse
Sort of like a Norwegian flatbread or savory pancake, lefse is a traditional classic in North Dakota, typically made with potatoes (which differentiates it from its Norwegian ancestor) and rolled up and eaten with butter or jam. Some people save making it for the holidays, for others it’s part of their daily routine.
Washington – Salmon
Washington takes great pride in its salmon populations and making sure they stay healthy and thriving is a top priority…leading to excellent salmon in all its many forms! If you want the freshest of the fresh, Washington is the place to go!
Oklahoma – Chicken Fried Steak
While it might be confusing at first, chicken fried steak is actually just steak – there’s no chicken involved at all. The name refers to the method of cooking fried chicken, and the Oklahomans just applied that same method to steak – a genius idea if you ask us!
Pennsylvania – Philly Cheesesteak
It doesn’t take a genius to guess why the Philly cheesesteak is the obvious choice here, as it has a cult following that borders on regional (and national!) obsession. Thin strips of beef and onion, all topped with provolone cheese or cheese whiz, then stuffed into a soft Italian roll. Whichever way you like it, you can’t go wrong with a cheesesteak!
Rhode Island – Clam Cakes
While Maryland has crab cakes, Rhode Island has clam cakes. Instead of being pan-fried, these bad boys are battered and deep-fried, like a savory doughnut hole with perfectly fresh bites of clam in every bite. We don’t know about you, but we could devour a whole lot of these!
South Carolina – Hoppin’ John
Made as early as the 1840s, Hoppin’ John is a typical South Carolinian dish consisting of rice, black-eyed peas, bacon (or ham hock) and collard greens. This is a dish traditionally eaten around New Year’s since it represents wealth and prosperity; the black-eyed peas signify pennies or coins and the greens allude to the color of U.S. currency. Now there’s a tradition we can get behind!
Tennessee – Hot Chicken
Different from just fried chicken, hot chicken is marinated chicken breast or thigh that’s fried and topped with a spicy paste, then served on white bread. While some of the spicy paste ingredients might vary, you can count on there being lard and cayenne pepper as the staples of it that pull everything together. Excuse us while we go get ourselves some hot chicken….
Michigan – Pasties
Although they’re initially a Cornish specialty, pasties made their way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and became such a hit that there’s even an annual festival now to celebrate them (and to eat as many of them as possible).
Ohio – Cincinnati Chili
While you might read the name and think of something akin to a chili and cornbread dish, you’d be wrong here. Cincinnati chili is a mediterranean-inspired chili that’s served atop a heaping pile of spaghetti (- this chili served on hot dogs is known as a “coney”) that was invented by Macedonian immigrants in Ohio in the 1920s. This dish is definitely not to be missed!
Illinois – Deep Dish Pizza
This one is a no-brainer. No one goes to Illinois without doing (at the very least) a basic roundup of the best deep dish in the area. In a nutshell: deep-dish pizza has a very deep, almost bowl-like crust, then the crust is topped with cheese and meats, then the whole things is topped with tomato sauce. Doing the toppings upside-down like this ensures that the cheese won’t burn during the long bake time. We want a slice right now!
Utah – Funeral Potatoes
If you’ve ever spent any time in Utah, it’s very likely you’ve heard of funeral potatoes. Originating as a popular dish that people would bring to funeral luncheons, these creamy and crunchy potatoes gained popularity and now no get-together is complete without them!
Vermont – Maple Syrup
As the biggest producer of it in the United States, Vermont lays claim to the maple syrup industry, making it a clear choice as the iconic food of the state. The way we see it, pancakes, waffles or French toast are just vehicles for as much maple syrup as possible.
Virginia – Ham Biscuits
Known for its country ham, or “Smithfield ham” as it’s more specifically known, Virginia is very particular about its curing process, ensuring that all ham products in the area are the very best of the best, including their ham biscuits. Fluffy biscuits stuffed full of sweet ham…does it get any better??
West Virginia – Pepperoni Roll
There’s not really a more iconic dish in West Virginia than the classic pepperoni roll. The pepperoni is baked right into the soft white bread and the oil then permeates throughout the roll, giving it its flavor and texture…we could definitely go for one of those right about now!
Nebraska – Runza
Originally from Germany, runza made their way to the midwest and set up shop. Beef, cabbage and veggie-stuffed bread pockets, there’s no wrong time for a runza! Other iterations of the runza are baked in varying shapes, but in Nebraska they’re rectangular.
New York – Bagels
Although the first bagel was originally created in the Jewish communities of 17th century Poland, it was brought to New York by immigrant Polish Jews and the rest was history. New York is known for its superior bagels, which are slightly puffy and with a moist crust – next time you’re in the area, make sure to pick one up!
Georgia – Peach Pie
Given that the peach is Georgia’s state fruit, it makes total sense that it would play a large part in state cuisine. And what better way to showcase their fruit than in a classic, time-tested pie…this just goes to show that sometimes keeping it simple can really pay off!
Wyoming – Rocky Mountain Oysters
The name “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is euphemistic for something slightly more unsavory…bull testicles. That’s right, in an area where male cattle is frequently castrated it’s typical to bread and fry the testicles…and they do make pretty good bar food, so if you’re feeling adventurous, you should try them!
Texas – Brisket
While Texas is known in general for its barbecue, brisket in particular has the deepest roots in the Lone Star State. Since it’s one of the tougher cuts of meat, it needs to be cooked for hours and hours until it’s broken down and tender…and then you’re going to want a lot of it.
And there you have it – the most iconic dish from every state! Do you agree with the dish from your state? Are there any from other states that you definitely want to try now?