The Most Iconic Food in Every State (We Didn’t Even Know #7 Was a Thing!)

Embark on a gastronomic journey through the USA's heart and soul, plate by plate.
Updated April 11, 2024
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The food we eat and cherish reflects our resources, what we value, and who we are.

While there are certain foods iconic to the United States as a whole, the culture and identity of the country vary from state to state. And so does the food we eat.

Each state has at least one signature dish that reflects the culture and history of the land and its people. So grab one of the best cashback credit cards and earn cash back while you sample the best the country has to offer.

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Alabama: Fried green tomatoes

cartela/Adobe Plate of friend green tomatoes

If you’ve read the book or seen the film by the same name, it’s no surprise that fried green tomatoes are Alabama’s most iconic dish.

While this delicious dish, consisting of green tomatoes dipped in cornmeal and shallow fried, is associated with Southern cooking, it originated in the Midwest and Jewish cookbooks before arriving in the South.

Alaska: King crab legs

myviewpoint/Adobe Carb legs

Alaska has many delicious dishes to offer, but the Alaskan king crab is the most iconic and noteworthy.

Male crabs can grow as large as 24 pounds and five feet long at their largest. The legs are the most popular and easy to eat, often served with melted butter for dipping.

Arizona: Chimichangas

GradPlanet/Adobe A chimichanga

Chimichangas are a much-loved staple of Southwest cuisine and actually originate in Arizona.

As the story goes, this dish was actually created by accident when the creator dropped a burrito in the deep fryer.

This iconic Arizona recipe can be dated back to 1922, though the exact origin is up for debate.

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Arkansas: Cheese dip (Cheese Dip Festival)

william/Adobe Cheese dip

Cheese lovers will appreciate Arkansas’ most iconic dish — cheese dip. The first cheese dip was thought to have originated in Little Rock in 1935.

The state hosts the World Cheese Dip Championship every year, where professionals and amateurs alike compete to see who has the best dip.

California: In-N-Out Burgers

Walter Cicchetti/Adobe An In-and-Out burger

There are many dishes that make up the various cultural pockets of California, but few are as iconic or unifying as In-N-Out’s burgers.

The first In-N-Out opened in 1948 and is now as synonymous with Californian culture as any other iconic imagery.

Colorado: Green chile (Green chili)

Brent Hofacker/Adobe Bowl of green chili soup

Green chile is a point of pride for Coloradans, who make the dish out of New Mexican or southern Colorado-grown chilis and fire-roasted tomatoes.

Eat it warm as a stewed chile dish, or use it as a sauce or chip dip.

Connecticut: Steamed cheeseburgers (Ted's Restaurant)

romeset/Adobe young man eating a cheeseburger with lettuce, bacon and sliced onions

When you think of a burger, you likely imagine a chargrilled taste and smokey flavor along with it. Not in Connecticut, though.

The East Coast state has steamed its burgers since the early 20th century, a tradition born in Meriden.

Delaware: Crab cakes

olindana/Adobe A crab cake

With such delicious and fresh seafood available at your fingertips, it only makes sense that Delaware’s most iconic dish is a crab cake.

Unlike other East Coast crab cakes, the ones prepared in Delaware often have French inspirations or are prepared with crushed saltine crackers.

Florida: Key lime pie

viennetta14/Adobe Slice of key lime pie

Despite being a state almost entirely surrounded by water, Florida’s most iconic and nameworthy dish is key lime pie.

Specifically, it’s iconic to Key West, where they host an annual Key Lime Festival. The dish dates back as far as the 19th century.

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Georgia: Peach cobbler

Brent Hofacker/Adobe Piece of peach cobbler

Peaches are almost synonymous with the state of Georgia, so it comes as no shock that the state’s most iconic meal is peach cobbler.

In fact, the state created a National Peach Cobbler Day in the 1950s to celebrate the dessert, which dates back to the 1800s.

Hawaii: Poke

Nelea Reazanteva/Adobe salmon fish poke bowl with rice

Hawaii is home to many iconic dishes, but few are as buzzworthy and popular as poke.

The meal has no specific origin, but marinated raw fish itself is a centuries-old Polynesian culinary skill.

Poke peaked in popularity in the 1970s and is now one of the most delicious and sought-after meals in the whole state.

Idaho: Potato (Baked potato)

pilipphoto/Adobe Baked potatoes

Idaho is widely known for its delicious potatoes, so it is no shock that potato dishes are among its most popular — specifically baked potatoes.

Baked potatoes can be enjoyed in any number of ways with any variety of toppings, including classics like butter, cheese, bacon, and sour cream, topped with chili, or any other creative combination.

Illinois: Deep dish pizza (Chicago-style pizza)

Pajaros Volando/Adobe A deep dish pizza

Illinois is home to one of the country’s most vast and passionate culinary scenes — Chicago. While there are many iconic Chicago meals, none hold a candle to The Windy City’s deep-dish pizza.

Deep-dish pizza arrived in Chicago in 1943 and has remained one of the city’s major claims to fame since.

Indiana: Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Fatih Nizam/Adobe A pork tenderloin sandwich

The most popular dish in Indiana is a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich served on toasted buns.

The dish is believed to date back to the early 20th century, created by the son of German immigrants who took inspiration from traditional schnitzel, using pork instead of veal.

Iowa: Pork tenderloin sandwich

Fanfo/Adobe A pork tenderloin sandwich

Iowa also boasts a pork tenderloin sandwich as their most popular food. However, this one is prepared and breaded with crushed oyster crackers.

Another difference comes in the cut of meat; Iowa’s version of the dish uses pork loin chops, not tenderloins.

Kansas: Barbecue (Kansas City-style)

Wagner A plate of BBQ

Barbecue is a staple in almost every southern state, each approaching the method of smoked and grilled meat slightly differently.

Kansas City BBQ has uniquely thicker and sweeter molasses and tomato-based flavors and sauces. There are plenty of cuts of meat to enjoy, but burnt ends are perhaps the most popular.

Kentucky: Hot brown sandwich

Brent Hofacker/Adobe A hot brown sandwich

The home of the Kentucky Derby also attracts hosts of foodies from all around to try the state’s famous hot brown.

Originating in Louisville in 1926, this delightful dish consists of a slice of Texas toast, turkey, bacon, Mornay sauce, and tomatoes, served up in the style of an open-faced sandwich.

Louisiana: Gumbo

HLPhoto/Adobe A bowl of gumbo

Louisiana has a rich culture and history, most of which is reflected through an array of amazingly flavorful dishes. But few of these foods are taken as seriously by Lousianans as gumbo.

This meal has West African, Chocktaw, and French influences all tied into one hearty stewed dish, which is thought to have originated around 1803.

Maine: Lobster roll

f11photo/Adobe Lobster roll and fries

Heading back to the fresh seafood of the East Coast is Maine’s lobster roll.

This iconic food originated as a humble lobster sandwich enjoyed by fishermen and is now an elevated New England staple.

Despite its widespread popularity, the roll didn’t appear on the culinary scene until the 1970s, right in Maine.

Maryland: Crab cakes

GnrlyXYZ/Adobe A carb cake

Maryland also boasts crab cakes as their most popular food and is one of the states that spread the popularity of the meal throughout the country.

Crab cakes actually have their roots in Native American cuisine. Then, in the 1920s, Maryland became one of the main sources of crab nationwide, making a name for itself with crab cakes.

Massachusetts: Clam chowder

ahirao/Adobe Bowl of clam chowder and crackers

As another state with easy and abundant access to East Coast seafood, it makes sense that clam chowder is Massachusset’s most iconic food.

Prepared with clam meat, potatoes, and a milky soup base, this dish originated in Nova Scotia in the 19th and 20th centuries but quickly became a Boston staple.

Michigan: Coney dog (Detroit-style Coney Island hot dog)

Brent Hofacker/Adobe A chili dog

While the origin of the Coney dog is hazy at best, it certainly found a home in Michigan.

The first Coney dog restaurant popped up in Michigan in 1914, serving beef hot dogs topped with meaty chili, tangy yellow mustard, and white onions in a steamed bun.

Minnesota: Tater Tot Hotdish

Brent Hofacker/Adobe A hot dish

Minnesota’s most iconic food, the tater tot hotdish, actually got its start as a Great Depression recipe.

Combining tater tots, meat, cheese, vegetables, and soup in a casserole pan, the dish was frugal while still being able to feed a family.

Mississippi: Fried Catfish

fahrwasser/Adobe breaded cod with toast in tray

While plenty of states serve up fried catfish, few do it with as much state pride as Mississippi. Catfish are a major part of Mississippi’s agriculture, particularly in the Delta.

The freshwater fish is seasoned and breaded in cornmeal before being deep-fried and served with tartar and hot sauce.

Missouri: Toasted Ravioli

Brent Hofacker/Adobe fried ravioli plate with marinara sauce

The origin of the toasted ravioli, a St. Louis staple and Missouri’s most iconic food, is slightly disputed, but its regional popularity certainly isn’t.

The dish is just what it sounds like — ravioli that have been “toasted,” or deep fried, and topped with parmesan cheese.

Montana: Huckleberry Pie

foodsofourlives/Adobe huckleberry plum pie on wooden table

Montana cherishes huckleberries, hosting an annual Huckleberry Festival and showcasing huckleberry pie as its most iconic food.

Huckleberries are tossed with lemon juice and zest, sugar, and cinnamon, added to a pie crust, and baked until the crust is crisp, soft, and flaky and the inside is gooey and sweet.

Nebraska: Runza

EWY Media/Adobe runza sandwich with onion rings

Runza is a fast food chain local only to Nebraska, serving up a famous dish of the same name. The first restaurant opened in 1949, introducing the runza sandwich that year.

The food is inspired by Eastern European eats like pirozhkis or pierogies, consisting of spiced ground beef, cabbage, and onions, topped with cheese, and entirely wrapped in bread.

Nevada: Buffets (Las Vegas buffets)

Viks_jin/Adobe different dishes at buffet inside restaurant

Las Vegas has lots of identifiers that make it iconic, including a vibrant culinary scene. However, most people visiting Sin City choose to explore the local cuisine through buffets.

Buffets came to fame right along with the appeal of the city, the first buffet gaining local popularity in the 1970s. As other Vegas attractions grew in attraction, so did buffets.

New Hampshire: New England clam bake

Carey/Adobe clams baked in roasting pan

New Hampshire’s most iconic food is a New England staple — the clam bake.

The shining star of clambakes is clams, but they’re also served with lobster, corn, and other seafood.

Traditional clambakes usually occur on the beach, with the clams cooked on hot stones in the sand, wrapped in seaweed.

New Jersey: Taylor ham/Pork roll sandwich

Ezume Images/Adobe taylor ham breakfast bun

New Jersey’s most iconic dish is also a source of contention amongst its residents.

As it’s called in southern Jersey, the pork roll originally went by Taylor ham, which is what northern Jerseyans call it.

Regardless of what you call it, the sandwich consists of a roll with ham, American cheese, and an egg.

New Mexico: Green chile stew

Solaria/Adobe green chile stew on wooden table

While Colorado claims green chile as its most iconic dish, New Mexico is the original deal. Pork, potatoes, and green chiles are slow-cooked in broth to produce the state’s popular meal.

The food combines culinary influences from indigenous and Spanish cultures, resulting in a spicy, hearty stew.

New York: New York-style pizza

While New York is home to various culinary hubs, few are as iconic as the classic New York slice.

Not only is pizza integral to New York culture and history but it’s believed that New York City is where the country’s first pizzeria opened in 1905.

North Carolina: Barbecue (North Carolina-style)

OPPERMAN/Adobe delicious north carolina bbq platter

Like Kansas, North Carolina also boasts barbecue as their most iconic food — and rightly so. There are a few things that distinguish North Carolina barbecue, however.

One, pork shoulder is the most popular and favored cut of meat. Two, the meat is seasoned with vinegar and other classic spices, making it uniquely tangy.

North Dakota: Lefse

Наталья Компаниец/Adobe norwegian potato pancakes in white plate

Lefse has its origins in Norwegian cuisine, but it’s also touted as the most iconic food in North Dakota.

It’s essentially a crepe-like flatbread, often eaten on its own with butter or cinnamon and sugar. One lefse restaurant in the state has been in operation since 1946.

Ohio: Buckeye candy

George Bailey/Adobe buckeye candy box on white counter

The Buckeye State’s most popular dish is, you guessed it, buckeye candy.

This sweet treat isn’t made from real buckeyes, but instead, peanut butter dipped in chocolate, mimicking the look of the nut.

The first buckeyes were commercially sold in the state in 1919 and are currently a staple dessert for almost every Ohioan.

Oklahoma: Chicken fried steak

Brent Hofacker/Adobe homemade fried steak with white sauce

Chicken fried steak, Oklahoma’s most popular food, is exactly what it sounds like — steak pounded out and breaded and fried just like chicken.

The dish has been popular for decades in the state, gaining popularity in the early 19th century as a way for people to prepare delicious and creative meals from cheap ingredients.

Oregon: Marionberry pie

Jeremy Pawlowski/Adobe marionberry pie with cup of tea

In the Pacific Northwest, marionberry pies are Oregon’s most iconic food. Marionberries are a variety of blackberries, though they have similar flavor notes to raspberries.

This berry, used to bake the state’s national pie, was cultivated in the state and is still grown there exclusively.

Pennsylvania: Cheesesteak

Emojibb.Family/Adobe cheezious philly cheesesteak bun

What else could be more iconic to Pennsylvania cuisine than the Philly cheesesteak?

The sandwich, originating in 1930, is traditionally served with beef, onions, and cheese on a hoagie roll, though some versions include peppers.

The food popped up at a hot dog stand in the early 20th century and has since become a regional staple with nationwide recognition.

Rhode Island: Clam cakes

Kelsey/Adobe clam cakes with cocktail sauce

Farther up the east coast is Rhode Island, who boasts the clam cake as its most iconic food.

They’re prepared more like a fritter than the similar-sounding crab cake, consisting of ground clams incorporated into a beer batter that’s deep fried in hot oil.

South Carolina: Shrimp and grits

uckyo/Adobe shrimp and grits bowl with spoon

Shrimp and grits may be a soul food staple, but it originated in Charleston, South Carolina, first appearing in a cookbook in 1950.

Shrimp cooked in a gravy-like sauce is served on top of fresh grits and butter for any meal.

South Dakota: Chislic

Dumitru/Adobe meat skewers getting chargrilled outdoors

South Dakota's most popular food arrived in the state in 1889, consisting of salty cooked venison cubes on sticks.

The dish has its roots in German and Russian culinary traditions, similar in preparation to a shish kebab, salty and chewy, and a favorite among South Dakotans.

Tennessee: Hot Chicken

Ruslan Mitin/Adobe nashville hot chicken legs and wings

The flavor of Nashville’s famous hot chicken has spread nationally and even internationally, but it started right in the heart of Tennessee. There’s a bit of legend around this spicy dish, too.

The story goes that a woman meant to punish her wandering husband with fried chicken doused in an abundance of cayenne.

But instead of reacting in disgust, he enjoyed the hot spices, and the flavor stuck from there.

Texas: Chili (Texas-style)

olindana/Adobe chili con carne beef stew

Few states showcase southern cuisine at its best, like Texas, but a uniquely Lone Star State staple is Texas-style chili.

The unique thing about this chili is that it isn’t prepared with any tomatoes, instead focusing on slow-stewed chilis and meat flavors.

Utah: Jell-O salad

Alin/Adobe multi-colored gelatin dessert in mug

Jell-O may be a slightly dated and retro ingredient in most parts of the country, but it’s still a favorite in Utah, often nicknamed the Jell-O belt.

Specifically, Jell-O salad. Lime jello is set with lemon juice and crushed pineapple and folded in heavy cream.

Vermont: Maple syrup (Maple creemees)

Nathanael Asaro/Adobe maple ice cream over wooden background

Pure maple syrup is a delicious sweet treat, and few places offer it fresher than Vermont.

The state’s citizens don’t stop there, though. Vermont is known for cremeees, a dessert similar in texture to soft-serve ice cream but with a lower fat content and fresh maple syrup.

Virginia: Virginia ham

dwags/Adobe plate of virginia ham steak

Virginia is known for its ham by both locals across the nation. This tradition dates back to before the state was even formed.

Jamestown settlers brought pigs with them, curing the ham before shipping it out to preserve it. The tradition has stuck since then, making ham the state’s most iconic food.

Washington: Salmon

timolina/Adobe baked salmon with asparagus and tomatoes

Salmon is one of the most iconic foods in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Washington. Even more specifically, Seattle.

Native Americans established salmon trading and commerce in the 19th century, and hatcheries now proliferate the area, providing fresh fish to locals and frozen to the nation.

West Virginia: Pepperoni roll

chas53/Adobe pepperoni roll ups in red plate

Early 20th-century Italian immigrants brought West Virginia’s most iconic food to the region — the pepperoni roll.

Either pepperoni slices or sticks of the cured meat is added to a freshly baked country roll, the dish dating back to 1927 and started by coal miners’ wives.

Wisconsin: Cheese curds

Natalia/Adobe freshly made cheese curds

With the state so well known for its abundance of dairy products, it likely comes as no shock that Wisconsin’s most iconic dish is the cheese curd.

Cheese curds are essentially the scraps left over when making cheddar cheese, but cheese makers in the 19th century found the bits of dairy to be a delicious snack.

Wyoming: Bison burger

Лидия Нагорная/Adobe fancy hamburgers on wooden plank

Burgers are one of the most classic American dishes, and Wyoming’s most iconic food is a regional take on the meal.

Instead of preparing their burgers with beef, the people of Wyoming use locally sourced ground bison meat, adding a gamey twist to the classic.

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Bottom line

Joshua Resnick/Adobe Happy couple eating dinner at restaurant

With a country so full of varying cultures, landscapes, and agriculture scenes, it makes sense that our foods are just as vast and unique.

Each state has at least one food that encompasses numerous aspects of its culture and history, combining the two into a regionally iconic delight.

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Lucy Clark Lucy Clark has considerable experience writing about real estate, as well as homes and gardens, home value, and more. She is savvy and resourceful, and she aims to ensure others can be, as well.

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