One of the best parts of travelling is enjoying local cuisine. Whether you’re visiting the US from abroad, or simply visiting a part of the country that you haven’t seen before, there’s no denying that America’s food scene is as incredible as its natural beauty. With options as diverse as its people and architecture, there’s no shortage of new, delicious foods to try. In fact, as you travel, you may notice that some dishes are unique to one state or city. We’ve highlighted some must-try state foods from every US state in this list that might even help you plan your trip!
Alabama: BBQ Chicken with White BBQ Sauce
Alabama white sauce is a mayonnaise and vinegar-based sauce most used with smoked or grilled chicken. But it’s versatile enough to pair with just about any white meat, for a perfect bite that’s tangy and creamy at the same time.
When you think of The Last Frontier, images of grizzly bears snatching salmon out of a rushing river might come to mind. It’s no wonder that seafood, especially salmon, features prominently in Alaska. Whether it’s farmed or wild-caught, it’s bound to be the best you’ve ever had.
The chimichanga was invented by accident, but no one’s complaining. A burrito was accidentally dropped into a deep fryer, leading to a delicious new addition to local cuisine and a bona-fide Arizona original dish.
Arkansas: Cheese Dip
The Natural State is home to the World Cheese Dip Championship every year, so you can imagine that the dish carries a certain amount of regional importance. Whether the dip was invented in Little Rock or Hot Springs is up for debate, but no one can deny how delicious it is.
California: Chicken Tetrazzini
While many may associate California with the Haas avocado, another local invention may take the cake as the best state dish. Named for an Italian-born opera star who lived in San Francisco, the dish involves thin sliced chicken served with mushrooms in a cream-based sauce flavored with white wine.
Colorado: Green Chili
While this dish originated in New Mexico, the prevalence of hatch chiles in Colorado has made this chili a state favorite. These unique peppers are mild and green and lend incredible flavor to the chili, which is made with a pork shoulder.
Connecticut: New Haven Style Pizza
This crispier cousin of traditional Neapolitan pizza can trace its roots to Italian immigrants who settled at the turn of the century. The roots go so deep that the accent has made its way into the name of the dish; pronounce it correctly by saying “apizza.”
This meat loaf is made of cornmeal, flour, seasonings, and pork scraps, which gives it its name. It’s then sliced thinly and pan-fried before serving. This dish owes its existence to the Pennsylvania Dutch not wanting to waste their meat trimmings, and it makes for an excellent snack or breakfast addition.
Florida: Cubano Sandwich
Florida’s proximity to Cuba means that the available Latin food is always incredible. The Cubano sandwich is made of roast pork layered with ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and pickles before being grilled. Pro tip: use extra napkins.
Georgia: Peach Cobbler
It may seem like every third street in Atlanta has some variation of “Peach” or “Peachtree” in the name: because Georgia’s peaches come by their popularity honestly. A baked peach cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream is one of the best ways to experience this local produce.
Hawaii: Spam Misubi
Spam’s popularity on the islands means that it makes an appearance in many local dishes, but Spam misubi is a different take on the Japanese influence on Hawaiian culture.
Idaho: Finger Steaks
These crunchy, battered and breaded strips of Idaho beef are served with a tangy dipping sauce and are a local specialty. It also makes sense, given that there are more cattle than people in the state.
Illinois: Italian Beef
Chicago’s meat packing history helps to explain the history of this delicious sandwich. Slow-cooked beef is sliced thin and placed into a white bread roll with a local hot pickled pepper relish or roasted sweet peppers. Whether you want your sandwich dunked fully in au jus is up to you, but you should try it before you dismiss it.
Indiana: Smash Burgers
A burger doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but the Smash Burger is given particular reverence in Indiana. Each small patty (there are usually two) is placed on a flat-top grill and pressed down firmly with a spatula so they’re very thin and even a little crispy. Stack the burgers on a bun with cheese and condiments and enjoy.
Iowa: Fried Pork Tenderloin
The trick with these sandwiches is to pound out a piece of pork tenderloin until it’s roughly the size of a dinner plate before it’s battered and fried to perfection. Serve on a standard burger bun with mustard and pickles for an authentic, and delicious experience.
These small meat pies were created in Kansas by German immigrants in the late 1800’s and are typically stuffed with cabbage, ground beef, and onion. While that’s how they’re traditionally made, the format lends itself to creativity and can be stuffed with just about anything!
Kentucky: Hot Brown
The Hot Brown was created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel as a late-night snack for guests of the hotel’s glamorous parties. This open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich is often eaten with a knife and fork because it’s drenched in a delicate, cheesy mornay sauce.
The moment the temperature drops in Louisiana local chefs start preparing gumbo, a hearty stew made with a roux, stock, either meat or seafood, and the “holy trinity” of green bell peppers, onions, and carrots. While gumbo is typically served with rice, potato salad and deviled eggs are common accompaniments as well.
Maine: Whoopie Pies
The state treat of Maine consists of two soft-baked chocolate cookies with a thick layer of whipped cream in the middle. Limiting yourself to just one of these treats is harder than you think.
The state’s long coastline lends itself to a wealth of seafood dishes, but crab and crabcakes with Old Bay seasoning reign supreme. Fresh crab meat and is bound together with cornmeal, mayonnaise, and seasonings and fried in butter until they’re perfect.
Massachusetts: Clam Chowder
New England clam chowder is rich and perfect on a chilly afternoon in the fall. Clams and potatoes are mixed together in a creamy broth and often served with oyster crackers for crunch.
Michigan: Detroit-Style Pizza
The first thing you’ll notice is that this pizza is rectangle shaped. The second is that the sauce is on top of the cheese. The caramelized crust is twice baked to give it a crunchy edge with a chewy middle, almost reminiscent of focaccia bread.
The words hotdish and casserole are frequently used interchangeably, but avoid this in Minnesota, especially if you’re planning to tuck into this state dish. Hotdish is relatively simple fare: a can of vegetables, a can of cream-based soup, a protein, topped with tater tots and baked until golden brown. It’s filling and delicious, especially on a cold winter night.
Mississippi: Delta Tamales
The concept of a tamale in Mississippi might seem a little confusing until you consider that Mexican workers frequently helped to harvest cotton on local farms. The dish made its way into local culture and is a little smaller than a traditional tamale, often made with cornmeal and ground pork.
Missouri: Toasted Ravioli
They might be called “toasted” but these little pasta squares are actually deep fried and meant to be dipped in sauce and eaten with your hands. They functional as an appetizer, entrée, and snack and are especially popular in St. Louis.
Montana: Huckleberry Cobbler
The huckleberry isn’t particularly common across the United States, so when you’re in Big Sky Country, get your fill of huckleberry cobbler. Top this unique, tangy dish with fresh ice cream and enjoy!
The runza in Nebraska is similar to the Kansas bierock. They’re both long rolls with meats and veggies inside, usually beef and sauerkraut, and are popular throughout the state. You may find them in shapes like half-moons and triangles!
Nevada: Shrimp Cocktail
Nevada and Las Vegas are almost synonymous with travelers, which means the shrimp cocktail has enjoyed a fair amount of popularity thanks to casinos! These tender shrimp are served with tangy cocktail sauce and are nearly irresistible.
New Hampshire: Cider Donuts
Nearly every cuisine has some form of a donut, but these cakey donuts from New Hampshire are topped with cinnamon and sugar and are perfect during fall, especially when paired with a cup of hot apple cider.
New Jersey: Taylor Pork Roll
This unofficial state sandwich is a perfect early morning pick-me-up. Sliced and pan-fried pork is served on a roll, topped with egg and melted cheese. It’s unfussy, delicious, and a staple of New Jersey.
New Mexico: Frito Pie
The name is misleading; this is no dessert. Instead, this dish is a bed of corn chips topped with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, onion, tomato, and cheese. You may also hear to referred to as a walking taco.
New York: Buffalo Wings
The name refers to the city of origin, not the animal. These unbreaded chicken wings are deep fried and coated with a spicy sauce that’s sure to pucker your lips. They’re often served alongside tangy ranch or blue cheese dressing with a side of crunchy veggies like carrots and celery.
North Carolina: Whole Hog BBQ
Many US states have their own version of barbecue, and North Carolina’s chosen version is whole hog, which is cooked in a pit over hot coals. The meat is then pulled or chopped and served with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, which is intended to cut the fatty texture of the meat. Try it on a sandwich with coleslaw for an authentic experience.
North Dakota: Kase Knoephla
These dumplings are German or origin, a nod to the settlers who immigrated to the area. They’re stuffed with a cottage cheese mixture and served with sauteed onions, cheese, and sour cream.
Ohio: Cincinnati-Style Chili
Mediterranean immigrants are to thank for this regional specialty. The chili differs from the kind traditionally served in Colorado or Texas in that it’s much looser and is seasoned with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cumin. It’s served over spaghetti and topped with onions, cheese, and beans.
Oklahoma: Chicken-Fried Stea
Also known as country-fried steak, this dish consisted of tenderized round steak that’s pounded thin, then battered and fried. It’s traditionally served with a creamy gravy seasoned with steak drippings.
Oregon: Marionberry Pie
This regionally specific blackberry variety is native to the state of Oregon, and tastes marvelous when baked into a pie. You may also hear them referred to as caneberries, due to the way they’re cultivated, but rest assured that they’re the same delicious berry.
Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak
Philadelphians are fiercely loyal to their cheesesteak shop of choice, and for good reason: these sandwiches are incredible. Thinly shaved beef and melted cheese are served in a long hoagie roll. Try them with broccoli rabe and Provolone cheese too!
Rhode Island: Fried Clams
This tiny state has an incredibly long coastline, which means seafood is always on the menu. Deep fried clams are served hot with fries and tartar sauce.
South Carolina: Frogmore Stew
No frogs are involved in this Carolina seafood boil. Instead, corn, potatoes, shrimp, crabs and sausage are boiled together in a pot, then spread out on a table for a communal dining experience that’s also called a low country boil.
South Dakota: Kuchen
South Dakota’s state dessert is an adaptation of a traditional German pastry. The sweet dough is commonly filled with a fruit or custard and is eaten throughout the state.
Tennessee: Nashville Hot Chicken
While native to Nashville, this style of fried chicken has caught on nationwide! The deep orange color of the seasoning that coats the chicken is indicative of how spicy it is. If you enjoy spicy food, give it a try, but be warned!
Texas history is synonymous with cattle ranching, which is why brisket is such an obvious choice for an iconic Texas food. This slow cooked beef cut is smoked for hours and rubbed with a blend of seasonings and served with white bread, chopped onions, pickles, and sauces.
Utah: Navajo Tacos
A nod to the Native American communities in the state, these tacos use fry bread instead of tortillas and are often topped with brisket, chili, cheese, and beans.
Vermont: Sugar on Snow
Vermont maple syrup is worth its weight in cold, and the state’s northern location lends itself to some chilly winters. A local favorite treat in the winter months is a cup of freshly fallen snow topped with warmed local maple syrup.
Virginia: Country Ham
Farmers in Virginia have been smoking hams for generations. Salt-cured country hams hung to dry in chilled meat lockers and are served in thin slices, almost like prosciutto. The longer they’ve aged, the more intense the flavor.
Washington: Rainier Cherry Jam
These local cherries are yellow with a tinge of bright red color, and are actually sweeter than the normal sweet cherries you may see in the grocery store! Their lower acidity levels allow more natural sugars to develop, making them great for pies or as a jam spread on toast.
West Virginia: Pepperoni Rolls
This original West Virginia creation, a soft white roll stuffed with slices of pepperoni, can attribute its existence to the local coal mining industry. The dish was created by an Italian baker so miners would have a no-fuss lunch they could pack for work.
Wisconsin: Cheese Curds
America’s dairy land lives up to its name. The state is the only place outside of Europe with a Master Cheesemaker program and requires that its cheesemakers be licensed. Cheese curds are a delicious, deep fried staple throughout the state.
Wyoming: Bison Burgers
Ranching is a very big deal in Wyoming. The American bison is the official state mammal and is a leaner alternative to ground beef, making it a popular alternative in restaurants and butcher shops across the state.
Smart Travel Tips
If you’re planning to see America right, planning is always key. Using a digital wallet is a great idea for seamless payments and fraud protection, especially if you’re visiting from abroad. There’s also the chance that your family and friends may want to send you money for your trip, so being able to receive money transfers from abroad is key.