March 18, 2024 | Samantha Henman

The Most Iconic Food From Every State


The Most Iconic Food From Every State

Not every state has an official food, but every state has at least one example of an iconic dish that they’re known for—and some are a little more wild and weird than expected. What’s the most iconic food from your state?

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Alabama

Sorry Georgia—did you know that Alabama’s state tree fruit is the peach? Plus, their vegetable is the sweet potato, and their state fruit is the blackberry. Hmm, makes me think of pie…which leads to me the state’s official nut: The humble pecan. Put it all together, and what do we have? Alabama’s most iconic food is…drumroll please…pecan pie. 

...Alhough chicken and white barbecue sauce could be a close second.

Pecan PieWayTru, Flickr

Alaska

Alaska’s frigid waters make it a fertile ground for some of the most delicious fish and seafood that the US has to offer—but one item has clawed its way to the top. That would be king crab. Whether it comes in crab cakes or just a pile of giant steamed legs with garlic butter, they call it king for a reason.

King crab dishSarah Braun, Flickr

Arizona

Arizona has no official state food—which is funny, because the state has a lot of unique offerings. There’s the Sonoran hot dog, though it’s named for a place in Mexico. There’s also fry bread, a Native staple. But really, the most iconic Arizona food has to be the chimichanga, a deep-friend tortilla with fillings.

And why is chimichanga so fun to say? Well, apparently it’s Spanish for “thingamajig”.

ChimichangaDainsleaf , CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

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Arkansas

Arkansas has a number of local crops to be proud of—particularly vine tomatoes and rice. But while it would make sense to nominate a dish that blends the two, instead, we have to pay our respects to Arkansas for a beloved dish that was created in the state. That would be deep-fried pickles, which were invented at the Duchess Drive-In.

fried dill picklesstbar1964, Shutterstock

California

California might be responsible for 80% of the world’s almond production—it’s one of their four state nuts—but only one iconic item of produce has a town named after it in Fresno County. That would be the avocado. The creamy fruit is an inescapable part of Cali cuisine—from sushi rolls to tacos to crunchy avocado toast.

Healthy avocado toastsNelli Kovalchuk, Shutterstock

Colorado

Colorado is another state that’s never named an official food—and while it’s tempting to name Rocky Mountain water, AKA Coors Light, as our official pick, we instead have to give a nod to the state’s hard-working ranchers. While the state has legions of beautiful cattle ranches, it produces some of the best lamb in North America—making lamb our pick for the state’s unofficial food.

lamb chop mealgresei, Shutterstock

Connecticut

You’ve gotta have chutzpah to be an hour drive from New York City and make your state’s official food pizza—but Connecticut did that. However, this isn’t the cheesy, red-sauced pie you’re thinking of. Connecticut is known for white clam pizza, which omits the mozzarella and marinara for clams, olive oil, and parmesan.

Clam Pizzacapelight, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Delaware

It seems like all these states are trying to offend Georgia. Delaware’s state dessert is peach pie, which is a pretty bold claim. Seasonal fruits like peaches and strawberries are an important part of Delaware’s agriculture, but to avoid a battle, we’re picking chicken and slippery dumplings as their iconic dish. The thin flour dumplings are cooked in chicken brother, which is what makes them “slippery”.

chicken and slippery dumplingsEmily Carlin, Flickr

Florida

When you think of Florida, you might think of oranges—but if you can believe it, oranges only became the official state fruit in 2005. What were they waiting for? On the other hand, Florida calls an absolutely iconic dessert its state pie. That would be key lime pie. The creamy, refreshing treat is one of the best pies out there, period, let alone the state’s most iconic dish.

key lime pieAS Foodstudio, Shutterstock

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Georgia

It’s the state that’s already come up twice—and there are no surprises here. Peaches in all their forms are Georgia’s most iconic food. After all, it is called the Peach State. Though Georgia also produces delicious treats like Vidalia onions and peanuts, and lists grits as the state’s official prepared food, we cannot deny the state’s close ties to ripe, juicy peaches.

Fresh peachesAndrew Brunk, Shutterstock

Hawaii

Though Hawaii has no state food, they have an utterly unique cuisine characterized by the vibrant produce, tropical fruit, and fresh fish that the islands have access to. There’s poke bowls, pineapple, shaved ice, coconut muffins…and then, there’s Spam. Hawaii’s residents have the highest consumption of Spam per capita.

The most iconic dish might be Spam musubi, where a slice of spam is placed on a puck of rice and wrapped in nori.

spam, rice and nori, MusubiBrent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Idaho

Was there ever any question? Idaho is known for their potatoes for a reason. The state produces around 1/3 of the nation’s yield. While its official nickname may be the Gem State, but we think its unofficial nickname—the Potato State—is something to be proud of.

potato dishMaria Orlova, Pexels

Illinois

Illinois has an interesting variety of state foods, from popcorn as the official snack to pumpkin as the official pie. But as far as pies go, Illinois has one that no other state does: Chicago deep dish pizza. A buttery golden crust filled the toppings of your choice and a rich tomato sauce on top. That’s right, sauce on top of the cheese.

It may not be an everyday dish—and Chicago also has great thin-crust pizza—but it’s certainly something special.

chicago deep dish pizzaBrent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Indiana

Indiana’s official and unofficial state foods all have something in common—the color beige. But hey, aren’t most great junk foods beige anyway? First, there’s the state snack, popcorn. There’s also the popular deep-fried pork tenderloin sandwich. But the most iconic Indiana food is definitely sugar cream pie. The cream filling is made with sugar, cream, vanilla—and it looks about as beige as you’d imagine.

Sugar Cream PieBrent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Iowa

While one source claims that Iowa has claimed the s’more as its official state snack, there’s not actually one on the books—so we’ll let the crops speak for themselves. Iowa leads the US in corn production, making it the state’s most iconic food. It’s corn!

cornIvan Danik, Shutterstock

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Kansas

A lot of states do great barbecue, and the states that take it seriously each have their own version—and Kansas’s version might just be the platonic ideal of barbecue. Though we love the tangy vinegar-y zing of North Carolina barbecue, Kansas barbecue involves rubbing meat with spices, slow-smoking it, and slathering it in a tomato-based sauce. There’s no better way to make fall-off-the-bone ribs.

Ribs plateMichelle Lee Photography, Shutterstock

Kentucky

Kentucky’s state fruit is the blackberry—and boy, do they ever excel at producing those tiny purple-black gems. But as delicious as a blackberry cobbler is, Kentucky’s most iconic dish has to be the hot brown. What is it, exactly? It’s an open-faced turkey sandwich with tomato slices and cheese sauce, broiled to golden brown perfection, and topped with bacon. Hot and brown, indeed.

Kentucky open face turkey sandwichRosemarie Mosteller, Shutterstock

Louisiana

Louisiana lays claim to a whole whack of official state foods—from strawberries to sweet potatos to gumbo to something called a Natchitoches meat pie. But if you’re ever had a pillowy beignet straight from the deep fryer and piled with fluffy powdered sugar, you know why it’s the most iconic food from the straight—with apologies to gumbo!

Beignets covered with powdered sugarPage Light Studios, Shutterstock

Maine

Anyone who’s been to Maine would agree that picking its most iconic dish is a difficult task. First, there’s the whoopie pie—a cake-y sandwich filled with icing. And then, there’s the seafood. You can’t visit Maine’s beautiful beaches without enjoying a lobster roll from a seafood shack. But then, there’s Maine blueberries.

For our money, Maine’s most iconic dish is a cone of blueberry ice cream—preferably homemade from a shop along a beach boardwalk.

cone of blueberry ice creamm01229, Flickr

Maryland

Speaking of seafood—it’s a good thing we didn’t give Maine the crown, because they’d have some stiff competition from Maryland. The state’s blue crab is small, with sweet flesh, and best served steamed and poured onto a newspaper-covered picnic table by the dozen. It’s a lot of work—but boy, is it worth it.

blue crab dishartgerly, Flickr

Massachusetts

When it comes to Massachusetts official foods, the name of the game is cream. There’s Boston cream pie, and its counterpart the Boston cream donut. And while it’s tempting to nominate a Boston cream donut and a large iced coffee from Dunkin as the most iconic food of the state, there’s nothing quite like creamy Massachusetts clam chowder—invented and perfected in the state.

clam chowderCindy Goff, Shutterstock

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Michigan

No official state food here, though Traverse City, MI is the Cherry Capital of the World. There’s also pasties, a handheld meat pie. But maybe the best option has a somewhat misleading name: the Coney dog. It’s got nothing to do with the New York island of the same name, and is instead a Detroit specialty featuring a steamed hot dog topped with meat sauce, yellow mustard, and onions.

Coney dog MichiganLenka Reznicek, Flickr

Minnesota

Minnesota’s initial offerings for official state foods are, to be quite honest…a little boring. There’s wild rice, which, while delicious, doesn’t live up to the first part of its name. Then there’s the morel mushroom. But the most iconic dish has to be “hot dish”—a simple name for a great dish.

The casserole is filled with meat, veggies, cream of mushroom soup, and is topped with tater tots and sometimes cheese.

casserole MinnesotaAnn, Flickr

Mississippi

Virginia may be for lovers, for Mississippi is for bakers. Why? The state is defined by two iconic baked goods. There’s butter cookies—certainly a delicious choice—but the most iconic Mississippi dish has to be another buttery option: fluffy biscuits.

fluffy biscuitsBrent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Missouri

Did you know that it’s widely believed that the ice cream cone was invented at the St Louis World’s Fair in 1904? And it’s not just the vessel: Missouri screams for ice cream, and made the ice cream come its official state snack in 2008.

ice cream conesAnna-Mari West, Shutterstock

Montana

The votes were unanimous when it came to Montana. Though they only declared it an official state fruit in 2023, Montana cuisine is all about the huckleberry. Though they may look like a large blueberry, huckleberries have a distinct flavor all their own—and Montana residents absolutely love huckleberry ice cream and milkshakes from local creamery Wilcoxson’s.

huckleberry ice creamcalamity_sal, Flickr

Nebraska

It’s tempting to perform an alphabetical hat trick here and name Nebraska’s most iconic dish as the tin roof sundae or butter brickle ice cream to continue the frozen desserts theme. But instead, we had to pick the Reuben as the most iconic dish. The sandwich, featuring rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, thousand island dressing, and sauerkraut, was invented in Omaha in 1925.

reuben sandwichRFondren Photography, Shutterstock

Nevada

While there’s no official state food, anyone who’s been to Las Vegas could list off a number of iconic foods. There’s fancy fare like Chateaubriand, late-night/hungover greasy eats like a 3 AM plate of steak and eggs, and multi-colored yard drinks to accompany you on your stroll down the strip somewhere in between the two. But the most iconic Nevada dish? It’s gotta be shrimp cocktail—invented in Vegas in 1959.

Shrimp CocktailWarren Jennings, Shutterstock

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has a lot of overlap with other states…and places. Some claim their lobster rolls are better than Maine’s. Others claim the official dish as poutine, which is an affront to French Canadians, despite the cultural crossover between the two places.

While New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live Free or Die”, we’re more apt to choose a conflict-free option—like the seasonal favorite, New Hampshire’s state fruit, the pumpkin.

New Hampshire pumpkinJoseph Sohm, Shutterstock

New Jersey

Like Maine, New Jersey has claimed the blueberry as its state fruit. Like Quebec, it has its own version of fries with cheese and gravy (disco fries). And like New York City, Jersey makes a heck of a slice of pizza. It’s a tough decision—but the state helped us out a little when it chose its official state sandwich: the pork roll, egg and cheese, our pick for Jersey’s most iconic dish.

new jersey sandwichEzume Images, Shutterstock

New Mexico

Its official vegetable is the New Mexico chile, though the state is known for growing all colors, shapes, sizes, and varieties of chile. Though chiles might have to share that crown with pinto beans, there’s nothing quite like a chile pepper—and for that reason, they’re the most iconic New Mexico food.

ChileImages by Dr. Alan Lipkin, Shutterstock

New York

It would be easy to pick the state’s most iconic food from among New York City’s finest—like pizza or cheesecake—but neither of those foods originated in the state (although they’ve arguably perfected them). Instead, we have to go with a one-of-a-kind original, beloved the nation over: The Buffalo wing, invented somewhat by accident at the Anchor Inn in Buffalo in 1964.

Buffalo WingsSteven Guzzardi, Flickr

North Carolina

North Carolina produces bumper crops of delicious produce like strawberries, the official state berry, and sweet potatoes, the official vegetable. However, our vote for most iconic state food once again goes to the barbecue option. In contrast to the thick tomato sauce that characterizes Kansas barbecue, North Carolina barbecue is basted in a tangy, vinegar-based sauce. Many restaurants double up and serve their iconic sauce on coleslaw instead of mayo.

Barbecue in North CarolinaChristian Geischeder, CC BY 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota

North Dakota names its official state fruit as the chokecherry, and while we’re sure that a good dab of chokecherry jam is delicious, it’s not exactly what we’d call iconic. Instead, we have to go with cheese buttons. What’s a cheese button, you ask?

Well, when you take multiple generations of immigrants from Poland, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, and other countries in that area, you get a lot of pierogis. Or vareniki. Or pyrohy. And the longer they live in North Dakota, the more likely they are to call the dish its “American” name, cheese buttons.

cheese buttonsYUNO, Flickr

Ohio

Most iconic dish…or abomination? Ohio’s most iconic dish is Cincinnati or Skyline chili, a strange dish that has little to do with that the rest of the country might call chili. Cincinnati chili is a thin red meat sauce that is most often spooned over spaghetti and can be served with cheese, beans, and onions.

Ohio Skyline chilileyla.a, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma

Their state motto could be “Oklahoma doesn’t mess around”. While many states have official foods, only Oklahoma has an official state meal—and it’s got our vote for most iconic. The meal is: barbecued pork, chicken-fried steak, sausage with biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, corn, fried okra, grits, squash, cornbread, pecan pie, and strawberries. I’m full just thinking about it.

short rib at OklahomaKit Leong, Shutterstock

Oregon

If Oklahoma’s state meal makes it a glutton, Oregon’s official state foods make it an almond mom. The Beaver State has an official nut (the hazelnut) and a state mushroom (the Pacific golden chanterelle). And while those two might make for a fancy dish in a small-plate restaurant, the state fruit, the pear, is its most iconic food. Pears are an underrated fruit—but a ripe, fresh Oregon pear in season? Nothing like it.

oregon pearCandace Hartley, Shutterstock

Pennsylvania

It’s really tempting to give Pennsylvania scrapple as the state’s most iconic food. A creation of the Pennsylvania Dutch, scrapple is pork scraps that are mixed with cornmeal and flour, formed into a loaf, sliced, and fried. As…delicious as that sounds, I think the people of Pennsylvania would prefer to hide their local shame, and instead we nominate the beautiful, incomparable, luscious Philadelphia cheesesteak as the state’s most iconic food.

Philly CheesesteakSusan Stevenson, Shutterstock

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is home to two of the most delicious summer drinks going. It’s got frozen lemonade (name explanatory) and coffee milk (name less explanatory). Coffee milk is a combination of, you guessed it, coffee syrup, sugar, and milk. It’s like…a melted Frappuccino, for lack of a better description. And while calamari, the state appetizer, is a real crowd pleaser—coffee milk is truly an unmissable Rhode Island treat.

iced coffee with cream milkAliceCam, Shutterstock

South Carolina

It’s tempting to complete the triad of Kansas and North Carolina barbecue by nominating South Carolina barbecue alongside it. The state’s barbecue sauce is mustard-based, which truly compliments smoked pork. But the state’s most iconic dish is actually a beloved barbecue side, collard greens. Some people think they’re a love-em-or-hate-em food—but if you’re on the hate side, maybe you just haven’t had good collard greens yet.

Collard GreensBrent Hofacker, Shutterstock

South Dakota

Carbs rule in South Dakota, where the state bread is frybread, a beloved dish is a flat potato bread called lefse, and the state dessert is kuchen. Our vote for most iconic is kuchen—it’s the German word for cake, and South Dakota kuchen comes in a number of varieties.

round sponge cakeAhanov Michael, Shutterstock

Tennessee

For a long time, the state fruit, the tomato, ruled over lists of iconic Tennessee foods—but then the Nashville hot chicken sandwich came along, and we haven’t stopped craving them ever since. In fact, Nashville hot chicken—blazingly hot fried chicken served with pickles, often over white bread—is so iconic that it’s basically an international sensation.

nashville hot chicken sandwichJoshua Resnick, Shutterstock

Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas—including the list of official state dishes, which includes chilli, grapefruit, jalapeno, chiltepin, sweet onion, pecan, chips and salsa, pan de campo, peach cobbler, pecan pie, and pumpkin. And while those are all fantastic, there are few things in this world that compare to Texas brisket.

Texas brisketErnesto Andrade, Flickr

Utah

Some 60.6% of Utah’s residents are Mormon and that they gotta get their kicks somewhere (no booze, no coffee). So, it’s tempting to name the bizarre soda mixes, AKA “dirty soda” that soda shops like Swig hawk across the state as the most iconic food. Even though it’s a drink. But we have to agree with the 2001 Senate resolution which identified Utah’s “favorite snack food”: Jell-O.

Jell-o strawberrycalimedia, Shutterstock

Vermont

If you have to get it south of the border—as in, not Canada—Vermont maple syrup is certainly a delicious choice. But it’s definitely not as iconic as Vermont’s official state pie, the apple pie. Does that seem a little too simple to qualify as iconic? Well, consider the fact that it’s required by law to be served with a glass of cold milk, a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of 1/2 an ounce, or a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. High maintenance? Yes. Iconic? Also yes.

Apple pieMSPhotographic, Shutterstock

Virginia

Virginia is known for its ham for good reason—but it’s also home to an iconic-if-strange dish with a storied history. Peanut soup is a made with a mix of onion, celery, chicken stock, and peanut butter, and it has its roots in the slave trade.

peanut soup with green onion garnishFoodio, Shutterstock

Washington

Their state fruit is a common choice, the apple, and the state vegetable, decidedly less common, the Walla Walla sweet onion. And while Washington has plenty of unforgettable dishes, we’ve got to hand it to a simple favorite: coffee. After all, Starbucks began in Seattle in 1971.

Unforgettable StrangersFlickr, HAO XING

West Virginia

While many would name the state’s official fruit, the Golden Delicious apple, as the most iconic dish, it can be a very divisive variety of the fruit. Instead, our pick is the official state food, the pepperoni roll. It features sticks of pepperoni baked instead fluffy, warm bread.

pepperoni rollAlexander Prokopenko, Shutterstock

Wisconsin

If you thought it was going to be anything other than cheese, you’d be gravely mistaken. While all cheese is beautiful, being the site of production for delicious cheese means that Wisconsin gets a healthy supply of one of its best by-products, cheese curds. And while squeaky fresh curds are great, Wisconsin also loves a deep-fried cheese curd. Cheeseheads rejoice!

Wisconsin Cheese CurdsBrent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Wyoming

While it’s tempting to nominate, say, a bison burger or chicken-fried steak as the most iconic food of the Cowboy State, Wyoming is also one of the top fly-fishing destinations in the world—making trout its most iconic food.

Baked Trout with VegetablesYARUNIV Studio, Shutterstock


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