The US is home to many unique, homegrown dishes that have many different variations around the country and sometimes within a state, too. There are many places in the US that specialize in a certain kind of regional food that either originated in the state or was popularized there. Food items can range from sandwiches to desserts and soups, but one thing's for sure: the states below have definitely embraced the dishes that they claim as their own.
Although variations obviously exist across the state and country, in many cases, the original dish is a simple combination of ingredients that were readily available back in the day and could easily feed people who were on the go. A lot of the dishes on this list also tell the story of the resources available in the state since some of the dishes are made with ingredients that are highly popular within state lines or in the region.
Although many of the dishes below are typically very filling, most aren't necessarily healthy because their origins started back in a time when portability and cost were the most important factors in terms of how popular the food item ended up being. On the other hand, the fact that these dishes have survived over decades proves just how tasty they are!
In the list below, we look at 30 different regional dishes that have been perfected in the states where they were created or popularized and sometimes even named the official state food.
30 Louisiana: Gumbo
Designated as the official state cuisine of the state of Louisiana, gumbo is a thick and filling Creole stew that includes ingredients such as a very strong flavored stock, some kind of meat such as sausage or shellfish, and different vegetables with the most common trio being celery, onions, and bell peppers. The gumbo has to simmer for several hours so that the rich flavors are integrated, and the resulting thick stew can be served either by itself or over a bed of white rice.
29 Minnesota: Juicy Lucy
For the undiscerning eye, the Juicy Lucy may look like a regular cheeseburger, but a closer look reveals the primary difference: instead of being placed on top of the ground beef patty, the cheese is inserted inside two meat patties put together, which creates a gooey, cheesy core. The cheeseburger originated in the city of Minneapolis and is popular because of the juiciness created by the melting cheese inside of the meat. Toppings usually include the common cheeseburger toppings of pickles and onions, although different restaurants may put their own special twist by offering themed burgers with specific condiments.
28 Oregon: Voodoo Donuts
Oregon is the birthplace of the famous Voodoo donut stores that were started in Portland and Eugene. The donuts are topped with a wide variety of uncommon ingredients such as various breakfast cereals, bacon, Tang, peanut butter, bananas and even crushed Tums at one point! The wildly unconventional donuts and the toppings have been the subject of many food television shows, and the small business even set an official Guinness World Record in 2011 when it created a giant pink box filled with 3,880 donuts.
27 Nebraska: Reuben Sandwich
The hearty Reuben sandwich originated in Nebraska and is composed of corned beef along with cheese, sauerkraut, and a dressing made by combining mayonnaise and ketchup. The ingredients are placed between two slices of rye bread, which is then grilled. The sandwich is so popular that March 14th is officially known as "Reuben Sandwich Day" in the town of Omaha where it was believed to have originated. Variations of the sandwich include using different kinds of dressing such as thousand islands and substituting corned beef for other kinds of meats such as pastrami.
26 Hawaii: Poke
Poke is a popular food in Hawaii because it mainly consists of seafood although many different variations can be found. The simple but tasty and healthy dish consists of chopped seafood marinated in sesame oil and soy sauce along with onions. The seafood is typically tuna, octopus, or mussels depending on the taste of the person. Poke originated on the islands from the native population and has adapted to suit the tastes of a variety of audiences because of all the different ingredients that can be used alongside the dish.
25 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Cheesesteak
A filling food item that's commonly found in many restaurants and food trucks around the city of Philadelphia, the Philly Cheesesteak includes simple but tasty ingredients such as juicy, thinly sliced strips of beefsteak and melted cheese (usually US-style cheese or provolone) on a hoagie roll topped with onions. The cheesesteak has its origins in the early 20th century and is said to be created by brothers who originally owned a hot dog stand but decided to create a new sandwich using chopped beef and grilled onions, which quickly grew in popularity. Several restaurants nationwide continue to sell the sandwich.
24 Ohio: Buckeye Candy
The dessert snack buckeye candy is particularly popular in Ohio whose state tree is the buckeye tree. The simple but delicious candies combine the well-loved flavors of chocolate and peanut butter by the rolling a peanut butter fudge into a ball and dipping it in chocolate, with a key distinction of leaving just a small view of the peanut butter ball underneath the hardened chocolate shell. Many people make buckeye candy at home, but they're also available widely in candy shops across the state.
23 Massachusetts: Clam Chowder
The clam chowder that's typically associated with the state of Massachusetts is typically white and creamy, although different regions will create their own recipes using a red broth or a clear broth made of clam juice instead. In Massachusetts, the clam chowder is composed of clam, milk, onions, salt pork, and vegetables like onions and potatoes. The popularity of a dish that has caused so many different regional variations is due to the thickness and richness of flavor served warm to soothe and satisfy, especially on colder days.
22 Chicago, Illinois: Deep Dish Pizza
Most people don't associate pizza as anything other than a quick and casual food item to eat on the go, but Chicagoans take their pizza a bit more seriously and have created a pizza that requires about 45 minutes of bake time and forks/knives. The deep dish pizza that was developed in Chicago is distinct from most other pizza in the country because the high edge of the crust provides more space for ingredients that typically include large portions of chunky tomato sauce and a large amount of cheese, and the toppings are baked inside of the pizza rather than being placed on top.
21 New York: Bagel
Given the fast-paced lifestyle of many people from New York, it makes sense that one of the most popular foods in New York City is the portable and filling bagel. Although bagels themselves weren't invented in New York, several populations that settled there brought this food item into the city, and once new technology came about that allowed for the mass production of bagels per day, the sale of bagels really took off. Various twists have been added to the plain bagel through incorporating different ingredients into the dough or adding toppings to make bagel sandwiches.
20 Mississippi: Mud Pie
Chocolate lovers everywhere will most likely enjoy the different levels of chocolate contained in the Mississippi mud pie. The very chocolatey dessert is first referenced in the 1970s and consists of a crumbly chocolate crust with chocolate sauce poured on top of it. The dessert is usually served with ice cream on the side to add even more sweetness to this popular dessert. The reference to mud comes from the heavy use of chocolate to represent the mud that's found on the banks of the Mississippi River.
19 Georgia: Biscuits
Biscuits are very common in many Southern states, so it's no surprise that it's very common in many popular Georgia dishes and serves as a typical accompaniment to different foods. Although biscuits are quite common in many types of eating establishments from fast food to sit-down restaurants, they used to be considered a luxury back in the day since flour was considered an expensive commodity in the South. Biscuits can be eaten along with many meat dishes or slathered with sweet jams.
18 Arizona: Sonoran Hot Dogs
Popular in the cities of Tucson and Phoenix in the state of Arizona, Sonoran hot dogs are much heartier than the average hot dog with simple condiments like mustard and ketchup. This heavy hot dog is a very popular street food because it's so filling and usually inexpensive. The hot dog is wrapped in bacon, grilled, and served on a much larger bolillo-style hot dog bun that can hold toppings such as pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, and sauces such as jalapeño salsa and mayonnaise.
17 Missouri: Toasted Ravioli
Toasted ravioli was popularized in St. Louis, Missouri and can be seen on many restaurant menus across the state from casual to finer dining and even in the frozen food aisle of many grocery stores. The popular food item is usually made from breaded and deep-fried square ravioli, which is typically filled with different kinds of meats. The bread is fried long enough to be crispy and golden brown and usual additions include marinara sauce for dipping and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the squares.
16 West Virginia: Pepperoni Roll
Although it originated in West Virginia, the pepperoni roll is also popular in the nearby surrounding areas of Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and Appalachian Ohio. The food item is so popular that in addition to being served at various restaurants, it's also sold in grocery stores as well as convenience stores. The basic pepperoni roll is made of a yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked right into the middle of it, which allows the fat from the pepperoni to soak into the bread to enhance the flavor.
15 Delaware: Scrapple
Scrapple is a popular food item found in Delaware as well as other Mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland and New Jersey. It can usually be found in grocery stores already pre-made. The dish is certainly not for the vegetarian crowd since it consists mainly of a mush of pork scraps and trimmings, which is then thickened with cornmeal and wheat flour as well as different spices. The result is a concoction that looks like a loaf of sausage bread and is typically served at breakfast.
14 Alabama: Shrimp and Grits
Widely popular in many Southern states, shrimp and grits is a traditional breakfast dish, although it's also commonly served as either a lunch or dinner dish. The food was popularized amongst sailors who needed a hearty meal with minimal ingredients, although modern recipes typically put their own twist on the popular dish. The grits that cover the shrimp are made of ground corn that's boiled. Many different variations include substituting the shrimp for other kinds of fish such as catfish and salmon, and additional ingredients usually include spices, peppers, and vegetables.
13 Minnesota: Hot Dish
A common comfort food item in Minnesota is hotdish, which originally mainly incorporated three different ingredients intended to cover different food groups: starch, protein, and vegetables. All of the ingredients are then covered in a creamy sauce and baked. The dish can serve many people, which is one of the reasons why it was so popular during difficult financial times. The ingredients were simple and inexpensive but filling and able to feed a large number of people, which was important at the time.
12 Kansas: Bierocks
Bierocks is a food item in Kansas that's especially popular in the fall season. The meat pies are commonly eaten steaming hot and were popular back in the day because they were filling but very portable. Bierocks are a simple but filling mix of ground beef, onions, spices, and cabbage served inside of a roll. In addition to being sold at food trucks, there are entire restaurants in the state that specialize in serving a wide selection of Bierocks with different ingredients such as cheeses, dipping sauces, and various breads.
11 Kentucky: Hot Brown
The hot brown was originally created at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky as a way to satisfy hungry dance patrons in the late night. The popular dish is an open-faced turkey sandwich on white bread with some strips of bacon and creamy white cheese sauce covering it. The sandwich is usually served hot since it's commonly baked until the bread is crispy and the sauce begins to brown. Variations include adding ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, ham, chicken, pimentos, tomatoes, and/or mushrooms.
10 Connecticut: Lobster Rolls
Typically served with a side of potato chips or fries, the Connecticut lobster roll consists of a grilled hot-dog-style bun filled with lobster meat with common additions being butter, lemon juice, black pepper, and salt. The lobster roll can be served both cold and warm, although the first variation of it was originally served as a hot dish as early as the 1920s. Although the lobster roll was popular in Connecticut and several places in the New England area, it's not too common in other parts of the country.
9 Wisconsin: Cheese Curds
Wisconsin is widely known for its fondness for cheese, which even extends to its sporting events as many fans will often dress as “cheeseheads” and put literal foam cheese blocks on their heads. The cheese-loving state has a variety of different cheese snacks and dishes, although one of the more popular snacks is the portable and tasty cheese curds. Cheese curds are made from the by-product of the cheese-making process and are usually made of cheddar cheese product, although mozzarella, Monterey jack, and Colby are also available.
8 North Carolina: Pulled Pork Barbecue
People in North Carolina are very serious about their barbecue—to the point where a feud regarding the two different styles of preparation has been taken to court to try and declare one style as the official style of barbecue for the state! The two most common types of barbecues found in the state of North Carolina are Lexington style, which only uses the pork shoulder and a red sauce made with ketchup, vinegar, and pepper and Eastern style, which uses the whole hog and covers the meat in a vinegar-and-pepper-based sauce with mayonnaise.
7 South Carolina: Chicken Bog
The popular dish of chicken bog in South Carolina consists of chicken and rice cooked in a seasoned broth with onions and spices and sometimes, the addition of sausage as well. The name “chicken bogs” stems from the fact that the whole chicken with bones is included and is used as the primary ingredient for the dish, which is usually bogged down by the rice, which absorbs a lot of the juices and accounts for the rich and hearty flavor of this favorite, hot dish.
6 Wyoming: Soda Bread
Common in Wyoming, soda bread is typically used in recipes much as regular bread is, although the main difference from regular bread is that instead of using yeast as is common to most baked breads, it uses baking soda instead as well as buttermilk. One of the reasons it became popular was that it was much easier and quicker to bake than traditional bread, but it could be used in much the same way. Variations often include mixing different ingredients, such as raisins and nuts, into the dough.
5 Oklahoma: Fried Pies
Fried pies were made popular by cowboys and cattlemen who needed a portable way to eat both filling meat-filled pies as well as dessert pies. The most common fillings are usually fruit based such as cherry and blackberry and combinations like apple raisin pecan, although more substantial fillings such as sausage and breakfast fried pies are also available at many bakeries in the state. The dough is fried until a crispy, flaky golden brown and can serve as either a snack by itself or a complete meal if a large selection is bought.
4 North Dakota: Lefse
Lefse is such a popular dish in North Dakota that the state has an annual Lefse festival every August where different vendors make their own variations of this popular, filling, and simple dish. Lefse is a traditional soft flatbread originally from Norway and is made with potatoes, butter, milk, and flour. The interesting pattern on the flatbread is a result of special rolling pins used to make the characteristic deep grooves while it's cooked on a flat griddle. The flatbread can be eaten by itself or filled with various ingredients such as meats and vegetables.
3 Las Vegas, Nevada: Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp cocktails have been a staple of Las Vegas, Nevada and are available in a variety of different price ranges based on where you buy them. The flashy city welcomes many visitors year round, which means that the food industry has to offer popular dishes, and shrimp cocktails are one of the most sold items. Although there are many different variations, the main ingredients usually include lemon juice, ketchup, salt, pepper, onions, and of course, shrimp that has been soaked in lemon juice beforehand.
2 California: Avocado Toast
Avocado toast is very popular in California and has its origins in San Francisco as far back as the late 1800s. The typical avocado toast is an open sandwich made with mashed avocado, pepper, and salt as the basic ingredients, although there are countless variations as people and restaurants add their own unique additional ingredients such as different kinds of cheeses and vegetables. The simple food item is both filling and nutritionally dense, and since it's also easy to make, it is very popular amongst those who want to save time without compromising nutrition.
1 Seattle, Washington: Coffee
Although Seattle, Washington is certainly not the first place in the world that brewed the first cup of coffee, the northwestern city is well known for being a world center for coffee roasting and supplies coffee to numerous chains. The popular chain Starbucks has its origins in the city, and it's no wonder that there are oftentimes numerous coffee houses on just one city block. A national study even shows that people in Seattle consume more coffee on average than any other US city!