Popular foods for each state
From iconic Southern comfort Food to seafood on the East Coast, every region has dishes it’s known for. Whether you’re just curious about the cuisine in a particular state, or you’re moving or traveling and wondering what local fare to try, we’ve discovered the best bites in all 50 states, along with some food festivals and local dishes to try.
What is a state food?
There are actual official state foods and dishes in many places, some of which may be surprising. For an item to become official, a rigorous process takes place. Often, a citizen or organization requests that a food becomes a state symbol (snack, beverage, Fruit, etc.) to a legislator who creates a bill. Then the bill follows the normal legislative process. Once it’s passed, it becomes a symbol. The items that become state foods are typically agriculturally important to the area, but some are based on high consumption or local heritage.
Not every state has a food, some have state animals, fish or insects that are food-related, and some just have unofficial dishes that the area is known for.
Foods, dishes and festivals for each state
Take a tour around the country and learn about the culinary highlights in each area.
The Alabama state nut is the pecan, the fruit is blackberries, the tree fruit is the peach, the crustacean is the brown shrimp, and the game bird is the wild turkey. Alabama is one of two places with an official cake, which is the lane cake — a multi-layer vanilla bourbon cake with a filling of raisins, pecans and coconut. The state barbecue championship is the Demopolis Christmas at the River Cook-off.
The only item on Alaska’s state food list is the king salmon, the state fish. Unofficially, “Eskimo ice cream” is a popular dish — a whipped animal fat with flavoring. Don’t knock it until you try it!
There are no official Arizona state foods, although there was a campaign to make the chimichanga their local flagship cuisine. It was created here in the 1950s when a burrito was accidentally dropped into a fryer.
Arkansas has several state eats: milk (beverage), pink tomato (fruit/vegetable), Norton grape (grape) and pecan (nut). Unofficially, many residents say the Arkansas dish is fried catfish.
The California state foods are all grown locally. The avocado is the fruit, rice is the grain, almond is the nut and artichoke the vegetable. One interesting California festival is the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which can be smelled from miles around.
Colorado doesn’t have a state food, however many area restaurants serve Colorado lamb. It’s one of the top lamb-producing states in the country!
While the Connecticut cookie and dessert are pretty traditional — the snickerdoodle and ice cream — the state dish is unique. It’s a steamed cheeseburger, which is a burger that is cooked over steaming water and topped with a ton of gooey, melty cheese.
Enjoy some of Delaware’s most important agricultural contributions — milk (beverage), peach pie (dessert) and strawberries (fruit). You can also celebrate two local favorites at the Apple-Scrapple Festival. In Bridgeville, you can try treats made with apples and sample Scrapple (a processed meat dish made of pork scraps and cornmeal.)
Citrus plays a big role in Florida’s state cuisine. Oranges and orange juice are the fruit and beverage, and key lime pie is the pie. Some unofficial dishes that represent Florida include fried alligator and conch fritters.
Many Georgia foods have been made into state symbols. The prepared food is grits, the fruit is peaches and the vegetable is Vidalia sweet onion. Because of the love of peaches, the unendorsed Georgia dish is peach cobbler. You can enjoy another local crop at the Georgia Peanut Festival in Sylvester.
There are no official state foods in Hawaii, but poi (a paste made from taro), shave ice and SPAM® are resident favorites. Yes, SPAM. Because of the difficulty of importing fresh meat, the canned meat is quite popular.
It’s no secret that the state vegetable in Idaho is the potato, but did you know the fruit is the huckleberry? Make your own with this recipe from the Pie Addict.
While you may think of Chicago deep dish pizza, the official Illinois foods include popcorn (snack), gold rush apple (fruit), and pumpkin pie (pie).
There’s only one Indiana state food: the sugar cream pie, also known as Hoosier Pie. Bless This Mess has an easy recipe for the vanilla sweet treat.
Officially, there are no Iowa state foods. However, the region is known for corn, so popcorn, sweet corn and even corn dogs are popular treats here. There are several corn festivals across the area, including the Iowa Sweet Corn Festival and the West Point Sweet Corn Festival.
Kansas is another state with no symbolic foods, but it’s nicknamed the Wheat State and the Breadbasket. The Wellington Kansas Wheat Festival is a popular event, as Wellington is known as the Wheat Capital of the World. A local treat is Kansas dirt cake — a cold creamy treat made with whipped cream, cream cheese and chocolate cream cookies.
There are just two Kentucky state foods — the fruit, blackberry and the drink, milk. However, they have a few food-related symbols: the silverware pattern is Old Kentucky Blue Grass, The Georgetown Pattern. There are two official festivals, the Clarkson Honeyfest and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Known for delicious cuisine, Louisiana has several state items:
- Crustacean: crawfish
- Drink: milk
- Insect: honeybee
- Fruit: strawberry
- Reptile: alligator
- Jelly: Mayhaw and Louisiana sugar cane
- Meat pie: Natchitoches meat pie
- Donut: beignets
- Vegetable: sweet potato
- State dish: gumbo
While the unofficial state dish is the lobster roll, there are several official Maine foods. The blueberry is the fruit and the flavor of the pie. Lobster and salmon are the crustacean and fish. The herb is wintergreen, and the insect is the honeybee. The treat is the whoopie pie, a small mound-shaped cake filled with frosting.
Maryland’s crustacean is blue crab and their drink is milk. But the big feature is their state cake — a Smith Island cake which consists of 8-10 thin layers of yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Make your own with this recipe from Edible Delmarva.
Several items are part of Massachusetts’ state list: wild turkey (game bird), cranberry (berry), chocolate chip cookie (cookie), navy bean (bean), corn muffin (muffin), Boston cream pie (dessert), cod (fish) and Boston cream pie donut (donut). The unofficial dish is New England clam chowder, or as the locals call it, “chowdah.”
There are no Michigan state foods, however some may consider the pasty to be the representative dish. They’re handheld meat pies which can be found all over Michigan. Cherries would also symbolize Michigan as they’re top nationwide in tart cherry production.
Minnesota state eats include: blueberry muffins (muffin), morel (mushroom), milk (drink), honeycrisp apple (fruit) and wild rice (grain). The unofficial dish would be hot dish, a casserole made of meat, vegetables and a creamy sauce.
Milk is the only real Mississippi state food, as their beverage. However, several food-related items are symbols: black bass (fish), honeybee (insect) and oyster shells (shell). A local favorite dish is Mississippi mud pie, a layered chocolate cream pie. Make your own with Sugar and Soul’s recipe.
Local agricultural products top the list for Missouri state foods. The insect is the honeybee because they depend on it to pollinate their crops. The tree is the black walnut tree, which produces delicious nuts and beautiful wood. The fish is the channel catfish, found fried all over the state, and the dessert is ice cream, which was created in St. Louis at the 1904 World’s Fair.
There are no Montana state foods officially, but huckleberries are the favorite locally grown fruit.
While the state legislature has only signified two food-related items in Nebraska — the honeybee (insect) and channel catfish (fish) — festivals celebrate the local favorite of ribs. There are two different rib festivals, Swedish Days in Holdredge and the Duncan Ribfest.
Nevada doesn’t have any state foods, but the area is known for buffets. According to some lists, there are over 130 buffets in Nevada!
New Hampshire highlights some of their top products in their state list. The fruit is pumpkin, the vegetable is white potato and the fishes are brook trout and striped bass. The dish of the area is boiled dinner, which consists of meat (either corned beef or pork) with root vegetables and onions.
Official state food (and food-related) items include the fruit (blueberry), fish (brook trout), and bug (honeybee). Unofficial treats include salt water taffy because of the popularity of the treat in Atlantic City. You’ll also find a debate among locals about what to call their favorite sandwich — is it pork roll or Taylor ham? Either way, it’s a processed meat that’s grilled and often eaten on bread with egg and cheese.
Some unique items are showcased as part of New Mexico’s state eats. Biscochitos are the cookie. They have an anise flavor and resemble a butter cookie (check Some the Wiser for a recipe). The vegetables are the chile and frijoles (pinto beans) and the sanctioned state question is “Red or green?” as it’s the one question you’ll be asked at restaurants, meaning do you want red chile sauce or green chile sauce.
The state of New York has several symbolic food items: apple (fruit), milk (beverage), brook trout and striped bass (fish), bay scallop (shell) and yogurt (snack). Several iconic dishes, including cheesecake and Buffalo wings, originate from New York and are arguably the representative recipes.
Locals will likely tell you that the state dish of North Carolina is pulled pork. Officially, many items are foods for North Carolina:
- Berries: Blueberries and strawberries
- Beverage: milk
- Fish: channel bass
- Fruit: Scuppernong grape
- Freshwater trout: brook trout
- Insect: honeybee
- Vegetable: sweet potato
State foods for North Dakota are milk and chokecherry, as the beverage and fruit. Unofficial dishes (most often influenced by the German and Norweigan impact) include local favorite, Lefse, which are potato crepes.
The tomato is king of Ohio state — it’s the official fruit and juice. The native fruit is the pawpaw, which has creamy flesh that tastes like a mix of papaya, mango and pineapple. Local representative dishes would be buckeye candies (chocolate covered peanut butter truffles) and Cincinnati chili, which is a spiced chili served over spaghetti.
Oklahoma celebrates many state food items as a part of their symbols:
- Beverage: milk
- Fish: white bass
- Fruit: strawberry
- Game bird: wild turkey
- Insect: honeybee
- Vegetable: watermelon (who knew it was considered a vegetable?)
They also have a state meal which would feed an army! The Oklahoma meal includes fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak, black eyed peas and pecan pie.
Oregon state foods include milk (beverage), Dungeness crab (crustacean), chinook salmon (fish), pear (fruit), chanterelle (mushroom) and hazelnut (nut). The unofficial dish of Oregon is the marionberry pie. Check out this recipe from Dunk and Crumble to make your own.
Only two items are on the list for Pennsylvania: milk (beverage) and brook trout (fish). The unauthorized state dish might be a banana split, as it was created in Latrobe in 1904.
You could cover meals all day with Rhode Island’s state foods. The drink is coffee milk for breakfast, the fish is striped bass for lunch, and the fruit is the Rhode Island greening apple for a snack. You could eat the unofficial dish for dinner — clam chowder! Theirs has more of a clear broth (as opposed to the creamy New England style.)
Several items are a part of South Carolina’s list of state foods:
- Beverage: milk
- Fish: striped bass
- Food: grits
- Fruit: peach
- Game bird: wild turkey
- Hospitality beverage: tea
- Snack food: boiled peanuts
- Vegetable: collard greens
The South Dakota state foods include more typical things along with some unusual ones. Recognizable items include milk (drink) and walleye (fish). However, the dessert and bread are more unique. Kuchen, a custard filled pastry, is the South Dakota dessert. And the bread is frybread, which is a slightly sweet flat bread that’s deep fried.
Many would say the state dish in Tennessee is dry rub barbecue. However, the actual foods on the list include milk (beverage), smallmouth bass and channel catfish (fish) and tomato (fruit). Try the local favorite dessert at the Banana Pudding Festival in Centerville.
In “everything’s bigger in Texas” fashion, they have the most food-related items on their state list:
- Cooking implement: cast iron Dutch oven
- Cobbler: peach
- Bread: pan de campo (cooked in a Dutch oven — check the recipe from Sweet Life)
- Crustacean: Texas gulf shrimp
- Dish: chili
- Fruit: Texas red grapefruit
- Health nut: pecan
- Native pepper: chiltepin
- Pastries: sopapilla and strudel
- Pepper: jalapeno
- Pie: pecan
- Plant: prickly pear cactus
- Pollinator: western honey bee
- Snack: tortilla chips and salsa
- Squash: pumpkin
- Vegetable: sweet onion
Utah has some unique categories in their state foods list: historic vegetable (the sugar beet) and cooking pot (Dutch oven). They also have a fish (Bonneville cutthroat trout), fruit (cherry), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and snack food (Jello®).
You’ll be surprised to learn that iconic Vermont cheddar cheese and maple syrup are not state foods. The actual Vermont list includes apples (fruit), apple pie (pie) and gilfeather turnips (vegetable).
Virginia’s official state foods are milk (beverage), brook trout (fish) and oyster shell (shell). Unofficially, the dish is Virginia ham, which is a salty smoked pork ham.
The unofficial dish of Washington state is cedar plank salmon, which takes on the smoked flavor of the wood as it cooks. The real Washington eats are:
- Fish: steelhead trout
- Fruit: apple
- Oyster: ostrea lurida
- Vegetable: Walla Walla sweet onion
The unofficial state dessert of West Virginia is called Shoofly Pie, a rich molasses treat. You can try it at the Molasses Festival in Arnoldsburg. Or try the state fruit: golden delicious apples. There is also a fish (brook trout) and insect (honeybee). You’ll also find the popular dish pepperoni roll all over the area. It’s a yeast roll with pepperoni inside, and it takes on the spicy pepperoni grease as it cooks, and some rolls may have cheese as well.
Would you believe that cheese is not an official Wisconsin food? However, corn (grain), milk (beverage) and cranberries (fruit) are! They also include the dairy cow as the state domestic animal and the honeybee as the insect. The unique Wisconsin dish is a pastry — a kringle, which is a ring-shaped, fruit-filled bread.
Wyoming doesn’t have any foods on their state list, however, their mammal (bison) and fish (cutthroat trout) are often found on dinner tables across the region.
Which state foods do you want to try?
Now that you’ve seen this complete list of official and unofficial cuisines for every place, which ones piqued your interest? The more exotic chokecherry? Or the unique lane cake? Let us know in the comments!