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The 50 Most Iconic Foods From All 50 States

Land of barbecue pulled pork, home of lobster rolls and key lime pie.
The 50 Most Iconic Foods From All 50 States

Japanese cuisine relies heavily on raw fish, rice, and seaweed, while pasta, risotto, and cheese are the fabric of Italian plates. But when it comes to American food, it’s not exactly easy to define. That’s why the culinary experts, chefs, and food writers at Flavored Nation pulled together this list of the best American foods. According to David Rosengarten, a two-time James Beard-winning food journalist and content director at Flavored Nation, they drew data from research, consumer input via social media, and conversations with state tourism boards.

“No one wrote a guidebook on how to authentically identify the United States’ most iconic foods. It’s been an amazing adventure and challenge,” Rosengarten said in a press release. Barbecue pulled pork, shrimp and grits, key lime pie, and lobster rolls are classic American dishes you can easily associate with a state or region, but other states that aren’t culinary destinations are harder to pinpoint. “Some states, like Louisiana, California, and New York, are well known for multiple dishes. For other states, like South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska, I personally drew a blank,” Rosengarten said.

So if you’re planning a trip across the country at any point, bookmark this story for the best American foods in every state. We hear North Dakota makes a mean bowl of potato soup and West Virginia has killer pepperoni rolls. Want to learn more about what American fare has to offer? Subscribe to the Eat This, Not That! magazine. For a limited time, you can get 50 percent off the cover price!

1

Alabama

fried green tomatoes and sauce on plate Shutterstock

Fried Green Tomatoes

Interestingly enough, the Alabamanian-written novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe introduced fried green tomatoes to the south. The southern side dish is simply made by slicing unripe tomatoes, coating them with cornmeal, and dunking into the fryer until crispy.

2

Alaska

reindeer sausage Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Reindeer Sausage

Whether you picture reindeer sleighing through a Christmas Eve sky or on a bun at a hot dog cart, the gamey meat has been an Alaskan staple since the late 19th century.

3

Arizona

chimichanga cut in half Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Chimichangas

Believe it or not, the deep-fried burrito was born in the Grand Canyon state. According to Tucson-based restaurant El Charro, their founder Tia Monica Flin was the true inventor of the chimichanga. “While frying her now famous El Charro ground beef tacos, she accidentally dropped a burro into the frying pan, and when the oil splashed up she was about to lash out a common Spanish cuss word starting with ‘Ch.’ But because she was amongst her young nieces and nephews, she changed it to ‘Chimichanga,’ the equivalent of ‘thingamajig,'” the site recounts. However, others beg to differ that Macayo’s in Phoenix invented the hearty roll-up.

4

Arkansas

fried catfish with fries and coleslaw on plate Shutterstock

Fried Catfish

While Arkansas’ freshwater bodies are brimming with the state’s staple, authorities set a daily creel limit on many catfish species to ensure the streams and lakes maintain their abundance. In restaurants, you’ll often find the fried fish breaded with a mixture of flour, cornbread, and spices, and served alongside hushpuppies.

5

California

open fish taco on plate Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Fish Tacos

The classic fish taco—grilled or fried white fish (such as cod or mahi mahi), shredded cabbage, crema, pico de gallo, and a squirt of lime all nestled into a double layer of corn tortillas—originated in Baja, California.

6

Colorado

pubelo chiles in roaster Brett O'Connor/Flickr

Pueblo Chiles Relleno

Colorado’s hot days and cool night grow hearty Pueblo chiles that are perfect for roasting. On the spice spectrum, Pueblo chiles are comparable to jalapeno peppers, but they have more heat than cayenne peppers. Enjoy Pueblo chiles in a soup, a refreshing salsa, or roasted for a side dish!

7

Connecticut

lobster roll in carton Lobstercraft/Yelp

Warm Lobster Roll

Nothing screams New England more like sweet lobster chunks piled high into a warm bun and adorned with melted butter. The lobster roll made its debut in Connecticut as the “warm with butter.”

8

Delaware

scrapple waffle on plate with blueberries Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Scrapple

When made traditionally, scrapple combines pork scraps and trimmings with cornmeal, flour, and spices. But unlike your usual diner meatloaf, scrapple is sliced and pan-fried to a crisp and often enjoyed for breakfast.

9

Florida

key lime pie on table with limes and knife Nathan Lemon/Unsplash

Key Lime Pie

As the official pie of the peninsula state, key lime pie crusts are filled with a tangy yet sweet mixture of aromatic key limes, eggs, and condensed milk. Key limes, which are native to the Florida Keys, differ from other lime varieties because they’re smaller, seedier, and more flavorful.

10

Georgia

peach cobbler with ice cream on top Ralph Daily/Flickr

Peach Cobbler

It’s no secret that Georgia is known for its juicy peaches, but how did the fruit-filled cobbler come about? According to Flavored Nation, cobblers were created by combining fruit with “cobbled” together clumps of biscuit dough that’s then baked over a fire. The pie originated as a main meal for American settlers but is usually enjoyed for dessert nowadays.

11

Hawaii

hawaiian plate lunch on leaves Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Plate Lunch with Kalua Pig and Rice

A traditional, affordable, and filling meal, Hawaiian plate lunches often feature a protein with a side of macaroni salad and white rice. In the 1930s, lunch wagons would provide pineapple and sugar plantation workers with a plate lunch, yet now, the staple is served everywhere from roadside stands to food trucks.

12

Idaho

finger steak in basket with fries and toast Lyan L/Yelp

Finger Steaks

Much to our dismay, Idaho’s most iconic food isn’t the nutritious potato. Finger steaks began as a means to repurpose leftover tenderloin and are made by cutting the meat into half-inch-wide strips, battering them in flour, and deep frying. While the protein is typically paired with french fries and buttered toast, we can think of another side that it should be served with.

13

Illinois

Deep dish pizza Shutterstock

Deep Dish Pizza

No surprise here, Chicago is globally known for the deep dish pizza that was invented at Pizzeria Uno in chi-town in 1943. The super-stuffed pie is assembled upside down to prevent overcooking all your favorite fixings.

14

Indiana

breaded pork sandwich on plate Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana created the sandwich that features a hammered-thin piece of pork tenderloin that’s dipped in flour, eggs, breadcrumbs (which can be swapped out for crushed saltines) and then deep fried. It’s served with condiments galore. (We like relish and mustard!)

15

Iowa

corn dogs in warmer Torbak Hopper/Flickr

Corn Dogs

The Iowa State Fair is one of the largest summer fairs in the nation, so it’s no surprise that the batter-coated sausage is the region’s iconic staple.

16

Kansas

sour cream pie Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Sour Cream and Raisin Pie

The seemingly awkward combo of sour cream and chewy raisins was introduced to Kansas by European immigrants. The pie ties the dairy’s tang with the dried fruit’s sweetness by coupling the star ingredients with warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

17

Kentucky

hot brown on plate Beth P/Yelp

Hot Brown

“Hot Brown” doesn’t give us much insight into what this sandwich is about, except for the fact that it originated in the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Kentucky residents go wild for this broiled ‘wich that’s stacked with turkey, bacon, and tomato, and then doused in Mornay sauce, a béchamel with grated Gruyère.

18

Louisiana

shrimp gumbo with rice and bread roll Jeffery W/Flickr

Gumbo

If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you’ve likely noticed that arguably every restaurant proudly features Gumbo on its menu. The southern stew epitomizes the state as a cultural melting pot by combining a French roux with German sausage, Spanish seafood and peppers, and okra, which is called “ki ngombo” in the Niger-Congo language and thought to be the source of the dish’s name.

19

Maine

lobster roll with lemon wedge Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Cold Lobster Roll

Just as Connecticut braves the cold, snowy winters with a warm lobster roll, Maine is notably known for its cold lobster rolls. The difference: Unlike CT’s steamy chunks, Maine lobster is chilled and tossed with mayo and celery or scallions into a seafood salad that’s then piled over a special bun called the “New England.”

20

Maryland

crab cakes on plate Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Crab Cakes

You really can’t go wrong with a fresh-baked crab cake dipped in tangy tartar sauce. And Maryland does it best by baking its cakes with blue crabs straight from Chesapeake Bay.

21

Massachusetts

clam chowder in bowl Courtesy of Flavored Nation

New England Clam Chowder

A trip to Cape Cod would be incomplete without a bowl of New England clam chowder. The hearty soup is concocted with clams, potatoes, onions, and milk or cream—which lends the chowder its signature richness and white color. The brew was believed to be introduced to the northern states by either French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers and was a staple in the region’s diet in the 1700s.

22

Michigan

coney dog being cut with fork and knife Ali B/Yelp

Coney Dog

Greek immigrants arriving in the Midwest brought their love for New York’s famous Nathan’s hot dogs to Michigan in the early 1900s. The Coney Island staple epitomizes the All-American hot dog: it’s steamed and stuffed into an also-steamed bun. When served Michigan-style, the frankfurter is topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, and a chili-esque sauce known as Coney Sauce.

23

Minnesota

wild rice soup Emily Carlin/Flickr

Wild Rice Soup

Wild rice, a tall aquatic grass plant that’s packed with protein and fiber, is native to Minnesota’s lakes and rivers—so much so that the Land of 10,000 Lakes actually hosts an annual festival dedicated to the grain.

24

Mississippi

slice of mud pie next to whole pie Shutterstock

Mud Pie

Named for the dark and viscous mud that runs along the Mississippi river, this chocolate-packed pie has become the beloved favorite among dessert seekers nationwide. The pie, unlike the cake, is made with a cookie crust, and the filling remains a delicious mixture of pudding, cake, biscuits, ice cream, whipped cream, and marshmallows. What’s not to love?

25

Missouri

ribs fries coleslaw and sauces on plate Kim L/Yelp

St. Louis BBQ Pork Steak

Baseball, the Blues, Beer, and Barbecue make up the four key components of Missouri tourism. The fire-grilling tradition all started in Kansas City, an old meat-packing hub that boasted plenty of hardwood, and the fervor has now wafted eastward to St. Louis.

26

Montana

bison burger and fries on plate JPellgen/Flickr

Bison Burger with Huckleberry Barbecue Sauce

In the vast farmlands of Montana, farmers actually own more bison than cows. An excellent source of lean protein, bison also supplies a variety of B vitamins, zinc, iron, and selenium. And because bison are free ranging, they’re more likely to be grass-fed and organic than beef. To enjoy a bison burger like a true Montana native, you top it with a sweet and tart huckleberry sauce. Huckleberry picking is a summer pastime. Similar looking to blueberries, huckleberries are chock-full of antioxidants and health-boosting anthocyanins.

27

Nebraska

Runza sandwich on fast food tray with ketchup onion rings and soda Daniel M/Yelp

Runza Sandwich

The Runza is the ultimate hot pocket. Filled with beef, cabbage, onions, and seasonings, this doughy dish originated in Russia and spread to Germany. Today, Runza Restaurant, which first opened in the state’s capital, Lincoln, serves up this dish in 80 different locations across the Midwest.

28

Nevada

prime rib cut on board Shutterstock

Prime Rib

Las Vegas has become a culinary destination for many people with its strip of luxury hotels and upscale restaurants. While prime rib is served in many of these Michelin-starred restos, this cut of meat is actually cheap and was used to lure gamblers into casino restaurants.

29

New Hampshire

Shutterstock Shutterstock

Pumpkin Soup

As New Hampshire’s official state fruit, pumpkins are used to prepare everything from soups to roasted dishes to baked goods. Pumpkins are high in fiber and beta-carotene, the red or orange pigment in veggies and fruits that’s later converted into vitamin A.

30

New Jersey

man handing pork roll out of food truck Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Pork Roll

Whether you call it a pork roll or a Taylor ham sandwich depends largely on where you live in the state, but you’ll be surprised to learn that Taylor ham isn’t really “ham”—it’s pork. This New Jersey classic is usually enjoyed for breakfast. What’s better than waking up to a sandwich filled with thin slices of Taylor ham, a fried egg, and American cheese?

31

New Mexico

enchilladas in dish Shutterstock

Enchiladas with Christmas on the Side

The traditional enchilada is filled with meat and cheese, but the Southwestern state, which takes pride in its Christmas festivities, likes to spice it up with a red or green sauce. Sometimes, the enchiladas have a fried egg on top with lettuce and black olives. Ole!

32

New York

wings stacked on plate Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Buffalo chicken wings are a Big Apple favorite, especially at bars and pubs throughout the city. But the first wings were actually served in a Buffalo restaurant called the Anchor Bar. And, you bet there were blue cheese and celery on the side. But it’s not the deep-fried goodness that makes the wings so addictive; it’s the finger-licking marinade, which has a delicious combo of butter, hot sauce, and red pepper.

33

North Carolina

pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on top and fries OneTallChef/Flickr

Pulled Pork with East Carolina Vinegar Sauce

This Southern state is best known for their comfort foods, including mac and cheese, cornbread, and shrimp n’ grits. But its barbecue pork, which is usually pulled, shredded or chopped, is another story. The tangy and spicy flavor of East Carolina vinegar sauce balances the sweetness of the super tender barbecue meat.

34

North Dakota

knoephla soup Alex W. Covington/Wikimedia Commons

Knoephla

The Dakotas are states with deep German and Russian roots. Knoephla is a thick, German potato dumpling soup that has chicken, potatoes, onions, and parsley. Hearty and flavorful, you’ll want to dip some bread into your bowl.

35

Ohio

buckeyes lined up on tray Shutterstock

Buckeyes

Peanut butter and chocolate lovers will swoon over this tasty treat. Buckeyes are mini peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate—the sides only—so the peanut butter center is visible on top.

36

Oklahoma

fried okra in bowl Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Fried Okra

Fried okra is part of the official Oklahoma state meal. It’s so common, in fact, that it’s a side at many restaurants. To make fried okra, you chop the veggie into bite-size pieces and coat them with flour or cornmeal and some spices, then fry them in oil.

37

Oregon

marionberry pie in box Hagen M/Yelp

Marionberry Pie

Marionberries resemble blackberries very closely and have a tart and subtle sweet flavor. But because they have a brief picking period in July, many Oregonians like to enjoy loads of marionberries in their pie.

38

Pennsylvania

philly chessesteak cut in half Dave H/Yelp

Philly Cheesesteak

Philly uses a variety of beef for its famous cheesesteaks, but top round and ribeye are the most popular cuts. The meat is cooked on a griddle and broken up into ultra-thin slices. Then, it’s added to an Italian sub and topped with Cheez Whiz and sauteed onions and green peppers.

39

Rhode Island

person frying johnnycake Shutterstock

Johnnycakes with Maple Syrup

Also known as battercake, corn cake, and journey cake, these cornmeal-based patties are served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a morning meal, Rhode Islanders will enjoy it with butter, maple syrup or molasses. Many people also like to break the cakes up into pieces and soak them in milk and sugar. Instead of potatoes, Rhode Islanders swap in johnnycakes for potatoes in their lunch and dinner dishes.

40

South Carolina

shrimp and grits in bowl with bread Megg/Flickr

Shrimp and Grits

Many states in the South will argue that they make the best shrimp and grits, but it was South Carolina that put this comfort dish on the map. Magnolia’s restaurant in Charleston is famous for turning the meal from a basic breakfast into a fancy dish.

41

South Dakota

chislic in bowl with ranch on side Justin S/Yelp

Chislic

A traditional Russian dish, chislic has cubes of wild game, mutton, lamb, or beef that are seasoned with garlic salt and deep-fried or grilled. The meat is then threaded on a skewer or toothpick and served with saltine or soda crackers.

42

Tennessee

chicken on plate Peter D/Yelp

Nashville Hot Chicken

The secret to preparing the best Nashville hot chicken is to baste the chicken with a spicy paste made with lard and cayenne pepper before or after breading it. Most people enjoy with a slice of white bread and topped with pickles.

43

Texas

chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes on plate Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Chicken Fried Steak

The Lone Star State loves its steak and fried foods, so it’s only fitting that this dish marries both. To make chicken-fried steak, you pound a piece of steak with a mallet and dredge it in an egg-and-flour batter. Then, you fry it in either a skillet or deep fryer and top it off with a cream gravy.

44

Utah

artisan chocolate circles lined up Shutterstock

Artisanal Chocolate

Utah is the country’s epicenter of artisanal chocolate. In fact, it’s home to more than 300 different craft chocolates and eight bean-to-bar chocolate makers. Yum!

45

Vermont

half apple pie with cheese slice on top Jeffery W/Flickr

Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie

Vermont is the country’s capital for craft beer, wood-grilled pizza, maple syrup—and cheddar. The tradition of putting cheese on apple pie started in the 1600s to give it extra gooeyness and a sharp, salty flavor to complement the sweetness of apples.

46

Virginia

Virginia old dominion ham biscuits Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Old Dominion Ham Biscuits

Best known for its country ham, Virginia sneaks layers of the cured meat into its biscuits with a savory spread of butter, poppy seeds, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and onion.

47

Washington

salmon on cutting board Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Cedar Plank Salmon

Cooking fish on planks made of wood from cedar trees is a technique that’s native to the people of the Pacific Northwest. Wild salmon is a popular dish in Washington, and cooking it over a plank infuses it with some smokey flavor that enhances the fish’s natural brininess.

48

West Virginia

pepperoni roll sliced Chaupham Photography/Flickr

Pepperoni Rolls

Coal miners in West Virginia pack pepperoni rolls for lunch because they are easy to prepare and don’t require refrigeration. Like a stuffed pizza, pepperoni and shredded mozzarella cheese make a hearty, melt-in-your-mouth center encased in a doughy bread.

49

Wisconsin

bratwurst with bread and chips on plate Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Bratwurst

Wisconsin’s German roots are very much embedded in the state’s recipes and cuisine. Bratwurst is a German sausage that’s filled with chopped and minced meat, onion, caraway seeds, coriander, pepper, nutmeg, and mustard seeds.

50

Wyoming

bison meatball on board Courtesy of Flavored Nation

Bison Meatballs

Just like Montana, there are many free-range bison roaming in Wyoming, so its residents like to use it to prepare everything from meatballs to burgers. Bison has just as much protein as beef, but it has less cholesterol. Season your meatballs with garlic, thyme, ground pepper, and a little sea salt, and you’ve got a deliciously filling dinner.

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