When it comes to really experiencing all that a place has to offer, it’s about the famous food, isn’t it? Whether it’s moving to a new city, visiting friends and family out of state, or heading off to a whole new country, there’s always regional favorites that you just have to try.
It’s about more than food: It’s a shared identity, a source of pride, and sometimes, it even gives you a glimpse into an area’s history. And that’s important — food brings us together, but it also gives us a way to identify ourselves. (Just ask people if it’s "soda" or "pop," and you’ll see just how important our regional foodie identity is!)
So, let’s talk famous state foods … after a bit of a disclaimer. We put together a list of some of the dishes and ingredients that each state is most famous for, and sometimes, it was tough picking just one of a slew of delicious creations. Here’s what made the final cut.
Alabama: Lane cake
The Lane cake is a famous Alabama classic food, and Southern Living said it first entered the culinary scene with a bit of an upset: Alabama’s Emma Rylander Lane entered her cake into a Georgia county fair and went home with first place. Her cake was so good that it took on her name, and when Harper Lee mentioned it in To Kill a Mockingbird, the Lane cake’s place in history was secured.
It’s no wonder: this delicious dessert is packed with classic southern flavors. Peach schnapps, coconut, pecans, more peaches … how can you go wrong?
Alaska: King crab
Heading to Alaska? You’ll have to look to the ocean for one of their most iconic famous food: king crab. They’re pretty amazing creatures, ones that can walk up to 100 miles a year along the seafloor, grow up to 24 pounds, and eat pretty much anything they crush with their huge claw (via NOAA Fisheries).
And they’re delicious, so it’s no wonder that this delicacy is known worldwide. To get the real thing, a trip to the source should be on every crab-lover’s bucket list.
Honorable mention: Salmon, snow crab, and oysters.
The chimichanga is authentic Arizona cuisine. Invented in Tucson, this deep-fried burrito (and favorite of Deadpool) has become the very symbol of a marriage between Mexican cuisine and American ingenuity. According to the Los Angeles Times, there’s a ton of stories about exactly who first decided to throw a burrito in the fryer, but whoever it was, they were nothing short of a genius.
What makes this famous food so good? It’s the combination of flavors and the crispy, crunchy texture of deep-fried goodness. We’ll say it again — genius!
Arkansas: Deep-fried pickles
Every year, Atkins, Arkansas holds Picklefest, and every year, they sell thousands of orders of Fatman’s Original Fried Dill Pickles. That isn’t really surprising, because fried pickles are amazing.
The famous food festival was the brainchild of Bernell "Fatman" Austin, who perfected his recipe in 1963 (via the Encyclopedia of Arkansas). You’ll see fried pickles on menus across the country today, so you should thank Mr. Austin. And if you’re ever in Arkansas, definitely stop and pick up some of the originals, which are still made using his top-secret recipe.
California: Fortune cookies
Hear us out! This famous food staple of American-Chinese cuisine doesn’t hail from the Far East at all. It comes from California, where it was invented much more recently than you might think. California.com says there’s still a ton of disagreement on just who decided to add these tasty little cookies onto the end of a meal, but what we do know is that they spread across the country from California. Who would have thought?
Honorable mention: Avocado toast, fish tacos
Colorado: Green chile
Want to torpedo a dinner conversation in Colorado? Suggest the state’s famous food chiles might be inferior to New Mexico’s.
The Denver Channel says the rivalry is very real, and Colorado takes its green chiles very seriously. And here’s the thing: The "chile" is a pepper with just the right amount of heat and all the flavor you could possibly want to go along with it. We don’t want to get into a fight with New Mexico, but we can’t deny: We love the famous Colorado green chile, and we wish it was available everywhere.
Connecticut: Lobster roll
When it comes to famous food feuds, look no further than the Connecticut vs. Maine debate over who has the better lobster roll.
According to Boston.com, the lobster roll was actually invented in Connecticut. Their version is hot and buttery, which any lobster-lover has to admit sounds pretty darn good … even though it’s the cold version that might have edged ahead in popularity. Should it? Science says, "Maybe not," because flavors tend to pop more when food is hot, and that means Connecticut’s version just has more flavor … scientifically speaking, at least.
According to Delmarva Now, scrapple goes back to a time when people used every scrap. When it came time to use the last of the pig bits, those bits were ground up, mixed with cornmeal and spices, and turned into a breakfast dish. Think of it as sausage filling in patty form.
Delaware may not be credited with inventing scrapple (that honor goes to Pennsylvania), but Delaware chefs that have gone above and beyond in reinventing this old food into new, famous food recipes. So congratulations, Delaware: Scrapple is yours.
Florida: Citrus/Tropical fruit
There are oranges, and then there are Florida oranges. According to Sciencing, Florida’s hot, damp climate is perfect for producing slightly tart, super-juicy oranges, although there’s more going on in Florida than just this nationwide favorite. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit — Florida has it all and more.
When you look at geography, Atlas Obscura says that southern Florida is actually in the Caribbean Basin. That means the state doesn’t just have famous citrus but tropical fruit too. Yum!
Honorable mention: Key lime pie
Of course Georgia’s famous food is the peach! The state is almost synonymous with their peach production, and according to NPR, peaches — which are native to Asia — weren’t successfully farmed in the U.S. until 1856. That’s when a pair of Belgian horticulturists named Louis and Prosper Berckmans became determined to introduce the peach as an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton.
With the end of the Civil War, peaches became the new flagship crop of the south, and Georgia’s climate was perfect for them.
In 2016, Vice claimed that Hawaii goes through about seven million cans of Spam every year. And considering there were just less than a million and a half people in the state at the time, that’s a lot of Spam. It’s not just eaten out of the can, either — this famous food has been incorporated into other dishes for a uniquely Hawaiian cuisine.
Hawaii’s obsession started during the hard times of World War II. You’re likely to still find cases of Spam hoarded in homes — it’s practically tradition — but you’re also likely to find some shockingly delicious Spam treats you won’t find anywhere else.
Idaho is synonymous with potatoes. It’s estimated (via the Idaho Potato Commission) that 97 percent of Americans eat potatoes regularly. Who knew?
And Idaho produces the vast majority of them, growing around 13 billion pounds of potatoes each year. The Idaho Potato Museum says the state’s climate is ideal for the famous food, with warm days and cool nights throughout the growing season, the summer snowmelt for watering, and the rich, volcanic soil for growing. It’s a potato lover’s dream come true!
Honorable mention: Finger steaks
Illinois: Deep-dish pizza
In 1943, Sewell and Ric Riccardo decided they were going to create an American pizza that had its roots in Italian cuisine. The result was a pizza with a deep dish, thin crust, and inverted toppings, which the BBC aptly describes as a "savoury layer cake." Chicago pizza lovers never looked back.
While there’s a bit of debate on just who, exactly, created the idea for this famous food, no one’s debating about just how much it’s loved. Other pizzerias have put their own spin on it since, but it’s still delicious no matter how you slice it.
Indiana: Sugar cream pie
There’s sugar. There’s cream. It’s pie. What more do you need to know?
The sugar cream pie is Indiana’s official state pie, and this famous food deserves the title. What’s Cooking America says that it’s also been called a "desperation pie," which means it was created using standard ingredients found in most kitchens. It’s been around since the 1800s, and it was a dessert that could be made at times of the year when the apples and other fruits were gone. Still, it’s pretty amazing.
Honorable mention: Pork tenderloin sandwiches
Iowa: Dry-cured bacon
Mmm … bacon. If you love bacon and you want to try the bacon that America’s Bacon Critic named the very best in the country, Iowa’s your state.
It’s the home of Vande Rose Farms Applewood-Smoked Artisan Dry-Cured Bacon, and this famous food is a little different than your ordinary bacon. The Des Moines Register says that every slab gets rubbed with brown sugar and spices then smoked over applewood, and it’s cured for about two weeks. It’s an old-fashioned curing process used on meat from vegetarian pigs, and you can taste the difference.
Here’s one that might have those outside Kansas scratching their heads. Bierocks are essentially bready rolls filled with meat, onion, and cabbage. Today, the famous food is served at diners across the state, but their history goes back much farther.
According to Kansas Farm Food Connection, bierocks originated in Eastern Europe, with wives who would bake their husbands portable meals to take with them when they headed into the fields. When German Russian Mennonites settled in Kansas, they brought their bierocks with them, and they remain an important link to the area’s heritage.
Kentucky: Hot brown
The famous food hot brown has its roots in Europe, but today, it’s all Kentucky.
The original was invented in 1926 at the Brown Hotel, and Eater says it’s still the original. So, what is it? It’s essentially an open-faced sandwich, made with Texas toast, bacon, turkey, tomato, and a bechamel sauce with cheese, properly called Mornay sauce. (There was also a cold brown, but it just didn’t catch on like the hot version.)
Also part of the allure? It’s the perfect food for a hangover, and given that Kentucky is the home of bourbon, those are inevitable.
There are few famous foods that have more stories associated with them than Louisiana’s Po-boy. NOLA.com says that there’s no consensus on how they were invented, but once they hit the scene in New Orleans, they helped define Louisiana cuisine.
The name "po-boy" first showed up in print in 1929 (in conjunction with a murder case that was being tried at the time — the trial paused for a lunch of po-boy sandwiches). These often seafood-filled sandwiches are a must for natives and visitors alike!
Honorable mention: Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice
Maine: Lobster roll
As Boston.com notes, the lobster roll may have been invented in Connecticut, but it’s the Maine version that’s the most popular.
The difference? The famous food Maine version is served cold, topped with lemon and mayo, and you’re hungry already, right? The beauty of the Maine lobster roll, fans will say, is that the mayo and lemon compliment the lobster, and that’s the main star of the dish. It’s no wonder that it’s this version you can find almost anywhere in the country that serves seafood. Thanks, Maine!
Maryland: Old Bay Seasoning/Old Bay crab
Maryland is known for its seafood and its blue crab, but no famous food seafood platter is complete until there’s Old Bay added.
This Maryland staple has spread nationwide, but it’s still treasured in the state that developed it. And it’s not as old as you might expect: We found that it was created by a happy accident. Gustav Brunn fled Nazi Germany and brought his spice mixer with him, settling in his new country and accidentally creating a seasoning mix that would become a state — nay, national — treasure.
Massachusetts: Clam chowder
When it comes to beloved famous foods with a long history, look no further than Massachusetts. The state has been serving Boston-style clam chowder for a long time, and they’ve been doing it out of what What’s Cooking America calls the country’s oldest, continuously operating restaurant.
This New England favorite even got a shout-out by Herman Melville in Moby Dick, but no one sums it up better than author and playwright Joseph C. Lincoln, who said, "It is ‘Yankee Doodle in a kettle.’"
Michigan: Coney dog
While there might technically be no right answer to the question, "How do you like your hot dogs?" Michigan natives might disagree. There, it’s not only a Coney dog all the way, but according to the Encyclopedia of Detroit, there’s even the ongoing and famous rivalry between Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island when it comes to the restaurant with the best.
Either way, this Michigan famous food features a beef dog on a steamed bun, covered in an all-meat chili, yellow mustard, and white onions. Simple. Straightforward. Classic.
Minnesota is known for its long, cold winters, so it’s not surprising that one of its most famous foods is one that’s perfect for those dark and chilly nights. It’s the hotdish, and we found that while there’s a ton of variations, some things stay the same. It’s always a vegetable, a protein, and a starch, all tied together by a creamy sauce. It likely has roots in the Great Depression and times of scarcity, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.
Sounds pretty perfect for around January, doesn’t it?
Just try to imagine southern famous comfort food without those soft, pillowy, buttery biscuits. Can’t do it, right?
Of all the southern states, it’s Mississippi that takes its biscuits the most seriously. Natchez is known as the biscuit capital of the world, and it also holds an annual Biscuit Festival, according to The Manual, complete with bake-offs and biscuit-making demonstrations. If you ever doubt how serious they are, you should know that some of their most iconic recipes contain both butter and margarine. The nation thanks you, Mississippi!
Missouri: Kansas City-style BBQ
VisitKC calls BBQ "Kansas City’s culinary soulmate," and based on the sheer number of Missouri restaurants that are serving up legendary Kansas City-style BBQ, that’s absolutely true. And they’re not talking about just any BBQ — they’re talking about meat seasoned with a dry rub, cooked low and slow, then doused with a sweet sauce. Still in doubt? The state also lays claim to the greatest concentration of BBQ restaurants in the nation, which means there’s plenty of famous food deliciousness to choose from. Road trip!
Montana: Huckleberries/huckleberry pie
Huckleberries grow wild throughout the Rocky Mountains (and yes, they’re where Mark Twain got the name Huckleberry Finn from), but it’s in Montana that huckleberries are considered a famous food. According to What’s Cooking America, they only grow wild and have to be foraged.
They have a long history going back to Lewis and Clark and the earliest interactions between white settlers and native peoples, and while you can substitute them for any recipe that calls for blueberries, USA Today says huckleberry pie is tops when it comes to Montana desserts.
The famous food runza, says Kansas Farm Food Connection, is the cousin of Kansas’ bierock. These handheld meat pies originated in Eastern Europe and were brought to the US by immigrants who settled in the area. What’s the difference? While bierocks are more traditional, Nebraska has switched up the dish a little bit. In Nebraska, they’re usually rectangular instead of rounded, and you’re more likely to find a wider assortment of fillings in these tasty pockets of bread. A hearty meal you can take with you and eat on the go? Total win!
Nevada: Shrimp cocktail
Nevada is a true melting pot, with people from all over the country drawn to the hot, sunny climate and the chaos of Las Vegas. You’ll find famous food galore, but when it comes to a Nevada classic, look no further than the shrimp cocktail.
According to the Lazy Gastronome, the shrimp cocktail made its Vegas debut in 1959 at the Golden Gate Casino, and until 1991, you could get one for just 50 cents! While Boston lays claim to inventing the dish, it’s Vegas that’s made it famous — and it’s still a casino staple.
New Hampshire: Apple cider donuts
According to New Hampshire NPR, the state’s famous food "signature dish is more of a signature attitude," and that’s making something unique out of something they have a lot of. What do they have a lot of? Apples.
USA Today says that New Hampshire produces more than 24 million pounds of apples every year, and some of those go to making the apple cider for apple cider donuts. They’re simple — sometimes plain, sometimes covered with sugar — but with that apple kick, who needs to hide beneath frosting?
New Jersey: Pork roll
Whether you call it pork roll or Taylor ham, it’s a famous food New Jersey staple. What is it?
It’s a processed pork product that Eater says is rumored to go back to the Civil War. Rumors aside, it was made official in 1856, and what’s with the two names? While it was first called "Taylor’s Prepared Ham," it didn’t actually meet guidelines for being called "ham." That never stopped anyone from enjoying anything delicious, and since then, this classic New Jersey sandwich (pork roll, egg, and cheese) can be found in pretty much any deli.
New Mexico: Enchiladas
The earliest enchiladas may have been made hundreds of years ago in Mexico, but when areas like New Mexico were enveloped into the U.S., they became a part of American famous food cuisine too (via History Today). And in New Mexico, enchiladas are still a beloved dish.
Only In Your State says that New Mexico has so many amazing enchilada places that there’s actually an Enchilada Trail, a series of restaurants serving up some of the best in the state … which sounds like part of the tastiest road trip ever.
New York: Buffalo wings
New York City is known for a lot of things, but for this famous food, we’re going to go to the other side of the state. That’s where Buffalo is, the home of a nationwide favorite, a staple at football games, and the simple food that’s spawned entire chains.
That is, of course, the Buffalo wing. (And in Buffalo, they’re just "wings.") There are a few different versions of the story of the dish’s creation according to Time, but we feel like the details don’t really matter. What does matter is how you like them: hot, medium, or mild?
Honorable mention: New York-style pizza, bagels, and cheesecake
North Carolina: Pulled pork
North Carolina BBQ is in a category all its own, and when it comes to specifics, it’s pulled pork for the win. According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, pulled pork has a famous food history that goes all the way back to at least 1769 and George Washington, who made mention of enjoying a BBQ in his diary. Today, pork is the BBQ meat of choice thanks to North Carolina’s early Scottish, German, and Irish settlers. It’s also often served with coleslaw, which provides a nice, fresh contrast to the intense pork flavor.
North Dakota: Knoephla
It’s likely that anyone who’s never been to North Dakota might be wondering what the heck "knoephla" is, and the answer to that is simple: HPR says it’s a famous food hearty soup made with chicken stock, dumplings, potatoes, celery, and carrots. It’s German in origin and was brought to North Dakota by those who settled there in the 1800s, and it’s spelled a whole bunch of different ways. Whichever way it’s spelled, it means a filling, comforting sort of soup that’s perfect for those long, cold winter nights … or anytime, really.
Ohio: Cincinnati chili
Dear Ohio, we need to talk. Your famous food regional dish of choice is Cincinnati chili, and it’s a weird mix that can get complicated to order. Basically, it’s a base of spaghetti with layers of chili, onions, beans, and enough cheese to cover the entire thing … and then some.
There are few dishes that will be as polarizing as this one. Vice says it’s been called everything on the spectrum from good to bad, but one thing that’s undeniable is that you have to try it to really, truly believe that it’s a thing that exists.
Oklahoma: Chicken fried steak
Where on earth would American famous food cuisine be without chicken fried steak? Culture Trip says that even though it originated in Texas with its large population of German and Austrian immigrants who were inspired by the wiener schnitzel of their homeland, it’s Oklahoma who can lay claim to some of the best-known recipes for it. The state takes it super seriously, too: In 1988, they named the fried meat-and-gravy dish the official state meal. This state definitely has its priorities in order.
Marionberries are strictly Oregon born and bred, and that’s no joke. This famous food was created by the Oregon State University in the early 1900s, and they’re a cross between a few different kinds of blackberries. According to NPR, the berry was widely lauded for its sweet-and-tart flavor. And even though the state produces around 30 million pounds of marionberries each and every year, most of them don’t make it out of the state. Oregonians claim that they don’t ship well, but we think they might just want to keep them all for themselves.
Pennsylvania: Philly cheesesteak
Hot beef. Melted cheese. On a roll. It’s seriously that simple and that good, and Pennsylvania has been the home of the truly famous Philly cheesesteak since it was invented by a hot dog vendor in the 1930s.
Visit Philadelphia says that we can thank Pat Olivieri for coming up with this magical creation, and here’s some good news for onion lovers or haters: Whether you like it "wit" or "witout," neither way is wrong. Actually? Either is oh-so-right.
Rhode Island: Coffee milk
Coffee milk a famous food that is a distinctly Rhode Island thing, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: milk flavored with a coffee syrup (including brands like Autocrat, Eclipse, or Coffee Time).
The different brands are slightly different, but they all make your milk taste just like a cold coffee drink — and how that hasn’t caught on everywhere, we’ll never know. It’s not just a grown-up thing, either. Instead of growing up with Nestle’s chocolate milk or Strawberry Quik, WGBH says it’s coffee milk all the way for Rhode Islanders.
South Carolina: Boiled peanuts
Boiled peanuts seem like a weird famous food at first glance. After all, why would you want to boil a nut? But according to Southern Living, they’ve been around since before the Civil War but didn’t become super popular until South Carolina newspapers started advertising them as the snack of anyone who was someone in Southern society. That was around the start of the 20th century, and since then, they’ve become a snacking staple … and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
South Dakota: Fry bread
The state bread of South Dakota is fry bread, and while it’s a delicious famous food and versatile option that’s often used to replace tortillas in some dishes, it’s probably the most controversial food on our list.
Why? According to the Argus Leader, fry bread still represents a dark chapter in American history. When Native Americans were forced onto reservations in the late 19th century, they were given rations that included salt, lard, powdered milk, and flour. That was used to make fry bread, and it’s a reminder of terrible times. South Dakota officially embraced it as a way to share cultural touchstones, but it’s still debated.
Tennessee: Memphis-style BBQ
Famous American BBQ, says the Smithsonian, evolved into separate styles from Caribbean roots. Those styles include the Memphis version, which features a sweet, tomato-based sauce that developed in part because of the readily-available ingredients — including molasses — that were traded along the Mississippi River.
Memphis is also where BBQ diverged from being something strictly pork-related into using other tasty meat products as well, to make something that’s as uniquely Tennessean as the Grand Ole Opry.
Who doesn’t love the famous food queso? It’s one of those appetizers that you could easily make a whole meal out of if they’d just keep it coming.
And no state takes its queso more seriously than Texas, where they boast of first mixing up some chile con queso. Eater says that as soon as processed American cheese was invented in the early 20th century, it was used for this ooey, gooey dish of goodness that Velveeta and Ro-Tel teamed up to make into an art form. While some have argued over which regional variation is the best, there’s one standpoint that’s clear: Don’t mess with Texas.
Utah, says History, is home to more than two million Mormons, and it’s their love of the famous food Jell-O that pushes this wiggly, jiggly dessert to the top of Utah’s favorites list. After all, residents of Utah eat more Jell-O per capita than anywhere else in the country.
Thrillist took a look at why Jell-O is so popular among the Mormon community and says it has to do with the marketing campaigns of the 1980s. Jello-O was the family dessert that just happened to be perfect for large gatherings — like church functions. And the rest is, as they say, history.
Vermont: Maple syrup
According to the New England Maple Museum, Vermont produces around two million gallons of maple syrupy goodness every year, making this state the nationwide leader of the famous food. And they’ve been doing it a long time, too — since early settlers were taught the art of maple sugaring from the Native Americans, who had been doing it for generations.
For a long time, school was even scheduled around the industry. Students got a break from school in February to help hang buckets, and it continues to be an important part of their cuisine and communities.
Virginia: Virginia ham
What is it about ham in Virginia that’s so good that it takes the name of the state?
WAMU says that to be the real famous food Virginia ham, it has to come from a pig that’s only eaten foods it can forage … and peanuts. It’s cured, spiced, hung, and smoked, then allowed to grow a layer of mold. It’s so iconic because they’ve been doing it for a long time — since the colonial era, when Smithfield, Virginia was at the center of an industry that fed the new colonies.
National Geographic describes the famous food salmon as "the ultimate wild food in North America," and when it comes to getting the freshest salmon possible, you have to go to Washington state. They take their salmon very seriously, and serious salmon fans can’t find better than the fish at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
Seattle Magazine calls salmon the city’s fish mascot. Coho, king, sockeye, pink, or keta, destined for sushi or smoking, Seattle has you covered.
West Virginia: Pepperoni rolls
WV Tourism provides a history of the famous pepperoni roll, which is essentially pepperoni wrapped in rolled dough then baked so the bread absorbs all that pepperoni deliciousness … but it’s also so much more.
It goes back to the state’s coal mining past and an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Argiro. When he saw coal miners heading off to work with a lunch of bread and a stick of salami or pepperoni, he decided he could combine the two into a portable pocket. It was an immediate hit with miners and West Virginians everywhere.
Wisconsin: Cheese/cheese curds
Wisconsin is famous for its cheese, and it’s no wonder — the state is home to more than a million cows. Travel Wisconsin says that 90 percent of the state’s milk is turned into cheese, and along the way, that milk is also being made into cheese curds.
Separating the curds and whey is a critical part of cheesemaking, and those cheese curds are delicious deep-fried or as they are. You know they’re as fresh as can be when they squeak when you bite into them.
Wyoming: Rocky Mountain Oysters
Nope, they’re not oysters — they’re battered and deep-fried bull testicles that have been a try-it-if-you-dare part of Rocky Mountain cuisine.
Reported to be aphrodisiacs, this questionably cringe-worthy famous food even has its own festivals, like the Testicle Festival in Evanston, Wyoming (via King FM). Wyoming Public Media says they’re surrounded by some fascinating cowboy lore (some stories tell of ranch hands throwing huge parties and frying up some newly harvested Rocky Mountain Oysters), and that kind of explains their popularity. Who doesn’t want to be a cowboy?