Which Famous Food Was Invented in Your State?
From sea to shining sea, American states have invented a huge variety of foods. From fast foods enjoyed around the world to legendary local cuisine, we've rounded up the most famous food from every state.
Alabama — White barbecue sauce
Barbecue culture is rich in the South, and debates about the exact origins of those savory, saucy meats can stretch into the night. But one thing’s for certain, Alabaman Robert “Big Bob” Gibson created the iconic white barbecue sauce featuring mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar. First brewed in 1925, it’s still gracing Alabama dinner tables today. Find out what Alabama and every other state is best—and worst—at.
Alaska — Muktuk
Whale may not be the first thing we think of when we think of sushi, but for the native Inuits of Alaska, muktuk—bite-sized cubes of whale skin and blubber, often served raw—has been an integral part of the diet for centuries. For beginners, muktuk is also delicious deep-fried.
Arizona — Chimichanga
The chimichanga, that burrito transformed to crispy perfection after a trip to the deep fryer, is famous for its Tucson origins. Most origin stories attribute its creation to Monica Flin, whose niece accidentally bumped a bean burrito out of her hands and into a pot of cooking oil. The fallout from that innocent encounter turned out to be a gift to us all. That’s right, chimichangas might be served at Mexican restaurants all across America, but it’s one of the surprising foods that are actually American creations.
Arkansas — Skippy peanut butter
It’s no wonder that all of the Skippy peanut butter in the United States has come from Little Rock, Arkansas for decades. The Natural State’s proximity to peanut production—a staple of the American South—make it the ideal location for making this iconic brand.
California — French dip sandwich
Two Los Angeles restaurants claim to have invented this favorite beef sandwich served with a bowl of au jus. Interestingly, they claim to have first served a sandwich with au jus with different motives: one to mask stale bread, and the other to help a customer with sensitive teeth. Regardless, we’re happy to eat a French dip like this today.
Colorado — Root beer float
This delicious treat dates all the way back to 1893 in Cripple Creek, when a bartender gazing upon the moonlit snow-covered Rocky Mountains saw visions of vanilla ice cream scoops floating on root beer. We’re not sure what he was drinking that night, but the result of his epiphany is a true American classic.
Connecticut — Subway sandwiches
The country’s most ubiquitous fast-food chain has its origins in the Nutmeg State. The very first Subway opened in Bridgeport in 1965 when a 17-year-old teamed up with a family friend to offer the first footlong, for only 49 cents. Find out how that first Subway went on to become the world’s biggest restaurant chain.
Florida — The Cuban sandwich
Florida residents know that the Cuban isn’t strictly Cuban. In fact, it was invented in Tampa for the city’s early Cuban immigrant workers in the cigar industry. Today, you can make this delightful varietal of the ham, cheese and pickle sandwich in a slow cooker.
Georgia — Pimiento cheese
Pimiento cheese? Yes, please! This versatile cheese spread owes its popularity to a Macon, Georgia lawyer who used his influence to strike a deal with the Spanish consulate to obtain authentic pimiento pepper seeds from Spain for Georgia’s farmers to grow. By the early 20th century, 90 percent of the pimiento peppers in the United States came from Georgia.
Hawaii — Sweetbread
Hawaii’s historic sugar plantations produced the sweetness, and Portuguese laborers arriving to work on the sugar plantations brought traditional bread baking techniques. The result was pure magic: light, fluffy and a hint of sweet. Before you hop on a plane to test out authentic Hawaiian sweetbread yourself, take note of the 11 things to know before you go to Hawaii.
Idaho — Huckleberry ice cream
Don’t tell anyone from Idaho that the huckleberry is a minor league berry. The state fruit of Idaho works wonders as the prime ingredient in this purple summery treat.
Illinois — Deep-dish pizza
If you’ve ever been to the Windy City, you know that the locals take their pizza seriously. It’s hard to say who invented this food for sure, but legend has it that deep-dish was first created at Pizzeria Uno. It offered the hungry hordes a super-sized pie with an extra-deep crust and plenty of cheese. In the mood for pizza but nowhere near Illinois? Check out the best pizzeria in your state.
Indiana — Orville Redenbacher popcorn
The so-called “King of Popcorn” oversaw his empire from Valparaiso, Indiana, using the state’s plentiful cornfields as a laboratory for creating the perfect pop. A bronze statue of Orville sitting on a park bench remains today in the city’s downtown square.
Iowa — Eskimo Pie
You won’t often see an Eskimo in Iowa, but their namesake “pie” was invented in Onawa, Iowa in 1920. It’s similar to an ice cream sandwich, but not quite. The concept came about when a kid didn’t have the requisite two nickels to buy both an ice cream and a chocolate bar. The proprietor of the shop set about creating an all-inclusive ice cream and chocolate treat and the rest is history. Iowa isn’t the only place with a signature ice cream. Here are some fascinating ice cream traditions from around the world.
Kansas — Pizza Hut
The first-ever Pizza Hut opened in Wichita in 1958. It’s now a museum on the campus of Wichita State University. From its humble beginnings, Pizza Hut became the largest pizza chain in the world.
Kentucky — Bourbon
Known as “America’s Native Spirit,” bourbon is a special kind of whiskey. Ninety-five percent of the world’s supply comes from the Bluegrass State. The secret is the aging process, which can only occur in new charred white oak barrels to produce that dark and rich flavor.
Louisiana — Jambalaya
Louisiana’s rich Cajun, Creole, and French roots have yielded a unique cuisine, and it’s hard to pick just one dish. We’ve got to go with classic jambalaya, the rice and meat-based stew that’s been made in New Orleans’ French Quarter since at least the late 1800s.
Maine — Potato candy
Maine was (and, depending who you ask, still is) the top potato producer of the nation. What to do with all those extra spuds? Make candy, of course! With mashed potato and coconut in the center and a dark chocolate topper, potato candy has been a Maine delicacy since the late 19th century.
Massachusetts — Boston baked beans
Molasses is the secret to a great Boston baked beans dish, which dates from colonial days when molasses played a large role in New England trade. The Puritans of Massachusetts, whose religion prevented them from cooking on Sundays, would make a large bean pot on Saturday and leave it to sit overnight, soaking up all those delicious flavors and juices. This one is the ultimate comfort food. It’s even included in the guide to the best American comfort food in all 50 states.
Michigan — Vernors ginger ale
James Vernor’s drugstore in Detroit started selling the “original ginger ale” back in 1866, and the sweet and spicy soda has been soothing stomachs and adding pep to cocktails ever since. Some even consider Vernors to be the world’s oldest soft drink. The original recipe was aged for four years in wood to provide fizzy fermentation. Have you tried any of these regional sodas?
Mississippi — Comeback sauce
Known as Mississippi’s “house dressing,” this tangy dipping sauce is made from a combination of mayonnaise, ketchup and chili sauce. Described as a mix between remoulade sauce and Thousand Island dressing, you can use it on meats, french fries, and even salads.
Missouri — Toasted ravioli
This St. Louis specialty comes from The Hill neighborhood, where the city’s Italian immigrants first took root and opened a bevy of traditional Italian restaurants that remain to this day. Classic toasted ravioli should have meat in the middle, not cheese, and should be served dipped in a rich marinara sauce. In the mood for ravioli but don’t want to slave in the kitchen all day? Believe it or not, ravioli is one of the surprising things you can make in an air fryer.
Montana — Bison burgers
Big Sky country is truly where the buffalo still roam, and Montana continues to be one of the nation’s top producers of bison. Healthier than beef but with much of the flavor, Montanans have been enjoying the benefits of their native meat for centuries.
Nebraska — Reuben sandwich
Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel was the site of the world’s first-ever Reuben sandwich, created by Reuben Kulakofsky during a poker game in the 1920s. Soon after, the sandwich was featured on the hotel’s lunch menu, and word spread about the corned beef, Thousand Island and sauerkraut stack. It’s become a classic all over the United States and is probably served at the most iconic diner in every state.
Nevada — The Chateaubriand
The original Chateaubriand was invented in France in the 1800s but surged in popularity in the 1950s in Las Vegas. This famous tenderloin “for two” is carved at your table and often served with mushrooms and a white wine sauce.
New Hampshire — Apple cider doughnuts
Nothing evokes autumn like apple cider sipped while taking in the colored foliage of New England. Perhaps it’s not surprising that apple cider donuts were invented here. Their delicious aromas fill the air near New Hampshire’s cafes and farmers markets every autumn. Serve these with the top fall recipe from your state.
New Jersey — Saltwater taffy
This salty-sweet treat comes from the boardwalk of Atlantic City. Legend has it that the phrase originated when the ocean jumped the boardwalk during a storm in 1883 and soaked a candy store’s inventory. Fortunately, making saltwater taffy today requires significantly less drastic measures.
New Mexico — Red and green chile sauce
Chiles are ubiquitous in New Mexican cuisine. Ordering red and green chiles together is called “Christmas” in the Land of Enchantment, where the locals order this delectable combo to accompany their burritos or enchiladas. In the mood for something to go with your chile sauce? Here are some easy Mexican appetizers anyone can make.
New York — Waldorf salad
One of the world’s most famous hotels gave its name to this salad made with chopped apples, celery, lettuce, and mayonnaise. This simple yet brilliant mix is credited to the Waldorf’s maitre d, who created it for the hotel’s first-ever charity ball in 1893. Variations abound: Try walnuts to add a savory crunch to the mix.
North Carolina — Pepsi
Small-town pharmacist Caleb Bradham created the formula for this popular soda, sold then as “Brad’s drink” and made with nutmeg, lemon oil, and kola nuts. Seizing on its early popularity among the drugstore kid crowd, Bradham soon changed the name to Pepsi-Cola, an homage to the stomach enzyme pepsin, to advertise the drink’s qualities as a digestive aid. While you’re wondering, here’s the difference between Pepsi and Coke.
North Dakota — Knoephla
This simple yet sumptuous potato and dumpling soup is just what’s needed to get through those long North Dakota winters. Brought to the northern plains by German immigrants, the name knoephla translates roughly to little knob or button.
Ohio — Quaker Oats
The original Quaker Oats Company began milling in Akron, Ohio over a hundred years ago. By the late 1800s, the company produced up to 360,000 pounds of oats each day. Oats are growing in popularity as part of a healthy diet. Check out this speedy guide to make-ahead oats.
Oklahoma — Chicken fried steak
Oklahoma is one of just two states with an official “state meal,” meant to highlight the Sooner State’s agricultural production. The hearty and crowd-pleasing chicken fried steak is the main course of this meal, which also includes fried okra, cornbread and pecan pie for dessert.
Oregon — Tillamook cheese
A farmer-owner co-op called the Tillamook County Creamery Association makes renowned cheeses, ice cream, and butter. The Oregon co-op been collectively producing for over a century along the Pacific coast, just to the west of Portland. In the mood for a bit more food? Check out the best all-you-can-eat buffet in your state.
Pennsylvania — Philly cheesesteak
This classic sandwich from the City of Brotherly Love combines ribeye steak slices with melted cheese on a crusty Italian roll. Just make sure you know the “right” way to order if you go to Pat’s King of Steaks, the Philadelphia spot where it all started back in the 1940s.
Rhode Island — Glee Gum
This popular all-natural gum was invented in Providence. Instead of artificial sweeteners, Glee is based on chicle, a type of tree sap harvested in Mexico and Guatemala that’s a natural alternative to mainstream gums. This gum might just be one of the best-kept secrets in every state.
South Carolina — Sweet tea
Sweet tea, that wonderful Southern refresher, comes to us from the fittingly named town of Summerville, South Carolina. Most certainly not the stuff of British “high tea,” sweet tea is best enjoyed in a tall glass while lounging under a sun umbrella. More of a coffee person? Here’s the best coffee shop in every state.
South Dakota — Chislic
You’ve likely never heard of this South Dakota dish made of salted, cubed lamb or beef served with crackers. The area surrounding Sioux Falls is known as the “chislic circle” for its love of the dish, first popularized by German and Russian immigrants. You’ll definitely find this South Dakota classic at their state fair. Here’s what to expect at the best state fair or festival in your state.
Tennessee — Hot chicken
A Nashville favorite, hot chicken is increasingly popular around the nation. As simple and delicious as its name implies, the fried chicken is served with a cloud of cayenne pepper. Enjoy it atop white bread with pickles for an authentic Nashville experience.
Texas — Frozen margarita
Nothing beats a frozen margarita on a hot day, and Texans know all about both of those. The cocktail was first made by hand in blenders, and Dallas restauranteur Mariano Martinez made it possible to serve frozen margs en masse when he converted a soft-serve ice cream machine into a drink blender. Learn more about the surprising origin behind your favorite drink.
Vermont — Maple syrup
Vermont produces nearly half of all the maple syrup in the United States, about 2 million gallons annually. The tradition dates back centuries in Vermont, where farmers used the sap from their trees in late winter to provide an added income source during the slow season. Here’s how you can use maple syrup to make the best winter treat ever.
Virginia — Brunswick stew
There’s a hot debate between Virginia and Georgia for who can claim the origins of this meat and veggie stew. Virginians believe the stew was first made in Brunswick County and included squirrel as the protein, not a surprising addition for the frontier days. Today, chicken’s the star of this savory classic.
Washington — Cinnabon
The first Cinnabon opened in 1985 in the SeaTac Mall, and their cinnamon rolls have appeared in shopping malls around the world ever since. Like many recipes, this one didn’t come easily: It took the creators months to perfect. Find out if Washington is one of the happiest states in America.
West Virginia — Pepperoni rolls
These hot and delicious bites are the West Virginia snack of choice, and date back to the days when Italian immigrants came to the state to work in the coal mines. Made simply from Italian bread with pepperoni baked in, they’re part “pizza roll” and part calzone. These days, they’re perfect for lunch boxes and cocktail parties alike.
Wisconsin — Cheese curds
A visit to America’s Dairyland is not complete without a stop at a roadside cheese stand or farmers market to grab a bag of fresh cheese curds. The squeak you hear when you bite into a curd is the air escaping from tiny pockets, which is how you know it’s fresh. Try them aside a bratwurst and German beer for a true Wisconsin meal. Cheese curds narrowly beat out another Wisconsin treat for the winning title: here’s what you need to know about the other Wisco classic, Frozen Custard.
Wyoming — Taco John’s
This fast-food mainstay started as a humble taco stand run by a chef named John in 1968. Then, two entrepreneurs bought the rights to the stand and took the franchise national. They’ve even trademarked the phrase Taco Tuesday! Find out what the one food you have to try is in your state.