36 Official State Foods And What They Say About Their State

From herbs to calamari to entire meals, these famous foods shape their state's identity.

Every state has symbols that define it, whether it be a flag, flower, or motto. And 36 out of our 50 states have other defining symbols: state foods. Some have just one in a specific category, maybe something classically pastoral like a state berry. Other states have multiple, and they can become more avant-garde, stuff like state donut or state appetizer. And it's up to state legislatures to decide what makes the cut.


There are some clear patterns—for instance, 14 states have declared that their state beverage is milk, which speaks to the widespread economic impact of cattle across America. Some of the newest states in the union—like Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii—haven't yet gotten around to defining themselves in this particular way.

Every state has a long history winding through its food, and these food symbols give us insight into their respective states. This is a list of some of the most interesting and satisfyingly unique offerings from each of those 36 states.

Alabama State Dessert: Lane Cake

Alabama's most famous piece of literature, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, mentions Lane Cake as the bourbon, pecan, and coconut-filled treat that Miss Maudie Atkinson, Scout Finch's neighbor, bakes. Miss Maudie's cake is so beloved that other bakers in Maycomb are trying to steal her recipe.


In reality, Lane Cake is attributed to a Clayton, Alabama, woman named Emma Rylander Lane. The buttercream-frosted Lane Cake was her prized recipe in her cookbook, published in 1898.

The cake seemed to fall out of popularity until 2015, when Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchmen brought renewed interest in Lee's southern food references, and by extension, Alabama's official state dessert.

Arkansas State Grape: The Norton Grape

Winemaking in the Ozarks was once a booming business—emphasis on was. Prohibition wiped out the industry, which was at one point competitive with California. Move over Sonoma and Napa, in an alternate timeline sommeliers would be flocking to northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.


The Norton, both Arkansas and Missouri's state grape, is considered the Cabernet of the Ozarks, the grape that drove the region's winery boom. It is a hardy grape that produces red wine with a dark, fruity flavor. The region is currently attempting to build back its viticulture industry, so if you are an aspirational wine snob or Sideways (2004) stan looking for a wine tour off the beaten path, try the Ozarks!

California State Nut(s): Almond, Walnut, Pistachio, Pecan

California could really have any state food it wanted. An agricultural powerhouse, it is surprising that there aren't more food representatives on its list. But as a nut-producing region, California is unmatched—8 out of 10 almonds, for example, are Californian. In fact, California's drought issue is a major concern for nut growers in the state. But for now, California is still king of the nut.


Connecticut State Food: New Haven-style Pizza

I can't (and won't) speak to the rest of their political accomplishments, but Connecticut's state legislature passed at least one vital item in its 2021 session: commemorating New Haven-style pizza. The city's white clam pizza is a veritable institution, the invention of pizza auteur Frank Pepe, culled from the New Haven's Southern Italian immigrant enclave.


Delaware State Herb: Sweet Goldenrod

This entry might push the ontological envelope of what a food is, but Sweet Goldenrod is Delaware's most interesting edible state symbol. Before Europeans arrived, Native Americans were using Sweet Goldenrod for medicinal purposes. And during America's uprising against Great Britain, when colonists dumped English tea into the harbor, Sweet Golden Rod's elegant, yellow-leafed flowers were used as a substitute, dubbed "Liberty Tea".


Florida State Fruit: Orange

Few foods are as iconically tied to their state as oranges to Florida. But it might surprise some to learn that the citrus was only enshrined as an official fruit in 2005, which feels a bit late, no? Better late than never, and now, finally, it can join its siblings Orange Blossom (state flower) and Orange Juice (state beverage).


Georgia State Vegetable: Sweet Vidalia Onion

Like its southern neighbor, you can probably guess Georgia's state foods. The peanut (state crop). A peach (state fruit). But before either of those became state symbols, another famous food got the legislative treatment: the sweet Vidalia onion. You may have heard about the onion so sweet you could eat it like an apple. That onion is a Georgia product! Located halfway between Macon and Savannah, Vidalia, Georgia is the only place where this particular piece of produce can be grown. Grown anywhere else, well buddy, what you've got there is simply a sweet onion.


Idaho State Vegetable: Potato

Rounding out our trio of State Foods That Do Not Surprise Us is Idaho's versatile and hearty tuber, the potato. The state's most famous export is central not just to Idahoan identity, but American society, and for that we honor it.


Illinois State Snack: Popcorn

Similar to Florida's obsession with oranges, Illinois has an obsession with corn. Their state crop is corn, and their state vegetable is sweet corn. But it is corn's evolution, popcorn, that was first recognized.


Chicago is known for its caramel and cheddar popcorn, but the Windy City is not the first noteworthy settlement to embrace corn. Native American people built Cahokia in what is now Illinois, and it became one of Pre-Columbian America's largest settlements. Corn, or maize, which traveled north from Mesoamerica, is dated as having arrived in Cahokia around 1000 A.D., or basically when Cahokia boomed into its own metropolis. We must revere corn's power.

Kentucky State Soft Drink: Ale-8-1

I love regional sodas. I have this idea in my head of a weary, small-town inventor, frantically working through a crazy idea, tinkering in the lab with fruit juice and carbonation and sugar. For Kentucky, that drink is Ale-8-1, a homonym-type name for "A Late One" (read: the latest new thing).


This particular soda is like a ginger ale with citrus, the perfect refreshment to pair with your Hot Brown sandwich after belting out a spirited medley of bluegrass classics.

Kansas State Fruit: Sandhill Plum

The most recent addition to state symbol-dom, Kansas chose its state fruit in 2022—out of four possible candidates, the Sandhill Plum was chosen. The fruit grows in the western prairie of the state and is a natural deterrent against blowing sand.


For anyone ornithologically-inclined, you might recognize that this plum shares a name with the Sandhill Crane (picture gorgeous, wealthy geese), whose migration from Canada to Mexico and back routes through Kansas.

Louisiana State Meat Pie: Natchitoches

Louisiana is a culinary kingdom. With Indigenous, Spanish, African, French, British, and American influences, the boot-shaped state has uniquely melded the Old and New World. And you'd better believe they know it!


Louisiana is one of the states with the most state food entries. There is a state doughnut (the beignet), a state crustacean (the crawfish), and a state cuisine (Gumbo, naturally). But I had to highlight the state's official meat pie–the Natchitoches Meat Pie. For one, because of the novelty–you won't find any other state meat pies across our fair land. (Also, because the verbiage recognizing the meat pie is funny.)

And remember, for when you head down Natchitoches way, that it's pronounced "Nack-a-tish"!

Maine State Treat: Whoopie Pie

Going just off state foods, it is clear that Maine is a special place. They have inducted a state sweetener and a state pie, but that wasn't enough! Here we have the Whoopie Pie, which is more of a cake than a pie—in fact it is two cakes with frosting connecting the two.


It wasn't an easy road for the Whoopie to get official state recognition despite the fact that four states—Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire—lay claim to its origin. While the Whoopie Pie was initially proposed to be the state's dessert, that title was given to the Blueberry Pie after some legislative disagreement. Whoopie Pie then ended up with the consolation title of state treat, earning its due after all.

Maryland State Dessert: Smith Island Cake

A small enclave of fishermen still live on Smith Island, a salt marsh in the Chesapeake. This hearty band of families is still attempting to live off of the sea that is rising and swallowing their island. The calling card for Smith Island's Cake is layers–lots of em. Because after a long day of crabbing out on the briny sea, what would be better than 8-10 thin layers of decadent cake and fudge icing?


Massachusetts State Bean: Navy Bean

Massachusetts is one of the most impressive states on this list. They have multiple official sweet treats: a state dessert, cookie, doughnut, and muffin. That's serious.

But we must pay tribute here to the titular star of Beantown. Navy beans were cultivated by Native Americans, who baked them with venison and maple syrup. Colonists were enamored with the meal but swapped venison for salt pork and maple syrup for molasses, a byproduct of the city's rum industry. And so Boston Baked Beans were born.


Boston Baked Beans are so iconic that they even have an upsetting peanut-based candy, further proving Massachusetts' iron grip on the dessert section.

Minnesota State Mushroom: Morel

The Morel is one of the most easily-identifiable mushrooms, like "a tiny Christmas tree with a large trunk." Also known as a sponge mushroom or The Honeycomb Morel, it sprouts up from May to June in the Gopher State and is a highly sought-after edible fungus. The state's mushroom delegation, the Minnesota Mycological Society, proposed it be officially recognized in 1984.


Minnesota is in the running for the healthiest combined state meal–morel mushrooms, rice, Honeycrisp apple, and a blueberry muffin.

Missouri State Dessert: Ice Cream Cone

Forget the ice cream—the dessert here is, specifically, the cone. The Missouri Secretary of State's image of a cone is a delightfully low-energy effort. A real "forgot we had homework" vibe. In 1904, St. Louis hosted a World's Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where a folded waffle was first turned into an ice cream carrying device. An early term for this treat was an "ice cream cornucopia," and I wish that name had stuck.


New Hampshire State Fruit: Pumpkin

A Granite Stater's truest ambition in life is to carve jack-o'-lanterns. And they're good at it—their pumpkin festival, held in Keene, New Hampshire, achieved the world record of most lit jack-o'-lanterns in 2013 with 30,581. Images of the jack-o'-lantern festival are terrifying, like a pumpkin-fied Children of the Corn. And it appears that, after a two-year absence due to COVID, the pumpkin festival will return later this year. Festival vendors sell pumpkin flavored ice cream, whoopie pies, and other carnival fare while local restaurants work out pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin martinis. 


New Jersey State Fruit: Northern Highbush Blueberry

Surprisingly New Jersey, the home of the pork roll and saltwater taffy, only has one official food tribute: the blueberry. In blueberry cultivation, the state is massively punching above its weight size-wise, ranking in the top five. If they need suggestions for other foods, I know exactly what their state fish should be.


New Mexico State Vegetables: Chile and Frijoles

Here is our only entry that is explicitly two foods, together. According to the Secretary of State's website, "In 1965, the legislative debate over adoption of the vegetable centered over the argument that the two vegetables were inseparable so both the chile and frijole were adopted as the official vegetables." These foods plus corn are staples of the Pueblo diet, and one in 10 New Mexicans identifies as Native American.


New York State Muffin: Apple Muffin

It's obvious to go with the apple as New York's state fruit, we see that coming a mile away. But to also recognize an apple muffin is an inspired decision. Blueberry muffins will always have the lead when we talk fruit in breakfast pastries, but New York retorts that the apple muffin deserves to be in that conversation.


North Carolina State Fruit: Scuppernong Grape

Here we have our second state food that is mentioned in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The answer for how to achieve food fame is clear: Get enshrined in a canonical work of literature. The grape can grow quite large, sometimes to the size of a plum, and is indigenous to the North Carolina river it is named for.


North Carolina's other state fruits deserve our attention as well. So enamored with berries, North Carolina has delineated the state berry into two tributes, a state red berry (strawberry) and a state blue berry (blueberry). How whimsical!

North Dakota State Fruit: Chokecherry

The chokecherry is a member of the Rose family, a tart fruit that grows in bushes. It's an important fruit for Native Americans across the Plains of America and Canada. One application is pemmican, a calorically-dense meal of dried berries, meat, and lard—North Dakota is home to one of the few options for commercially-produced pemmican. Another example is the chokecherry patty, in which the fruit is crushed (pit and all) into a mash, formed into patties, dried (tactful patty-flipping required), and stored for the winter.


Ohio State Native Fruit: Pawpaw

The pawpaw gets categorized as a "forgotten" fruit. While it was eaten by Native Americans, Europeans didn't see its value, so it lost popularity. The fruit is sweet and nutritious, tasting like something between a banana and a mango. But the soft fruit doesn't keep well, lowering its ceiling for widespread acclaim that it rightly deserves. This makes the pawpaw even more exciting as a state fruit–it is celebrated for its unique regional culinary applications.


Oklahoma State Meal: BBQ Pork, Chicken-Fried Steak, Sausage with Biscuits and Gravy, Fried Okra, Corn, Black-Eyed Peas, Grits, Squash, Cornbread, Strawberries, and Pecan Pie

Yup. You are looking at the only state with an official meal, a tribute to Oklahoma's agricultural history, with many of the meal's items constituting Southern American foodways. In 2019, an Oklahoma State Senator attempted to rescind the state meal, criticizing it as being way too unhealthy. Regardless of any points the Senator may or may not have made, we should all be recreating this meal and eating it in full.


Oregon State Molecule: Brewer’s Yeast

Another entry that pushes the limit, Brewer's Yeast was put forward in 2013 to officially recognize Oregon as an internationally recognized hub of craft brewing.

Oregon is the only state that can compete with Minnesota for the most comprehensively healthy combined state meal (state fruit: pear, state nut: hazelnut, and state mushroom: chanterelle), and it goes great with a brewski to wash it down.


Rhode Island State Appetizer: Calamari

Rhode Island slides in with an absolute batshit category here. The union's smallest state, which has the eastern seaboard's largest squid-fishing fleet, honored the often-fried dish in 2014. It does feel like a missed opportunity, however, to pay tribute to an appetizer but not a corresponding entree and dessert.


I had to pick Calamari in this slot, but special shoutout to Rhode Island's state beverage, coffee milk, which is milk with coffee syrup. The Cabinet is a Rhode Island specialty drink, almost like a Root Beer Float, that mixes coffee milk with ice cream.

South Carolina State Snack Food: Boiled Peanuts

The year 1976 was a bellwether one for peanuts. Humble Georgia peanut farmer Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford and ascended to the presidency. Visionary Charlie Brown composer Vince Guaraldi passed away, after almost 15 years of scoring Peanuts. And South Carolina paid tribute to a Southern culinary classic, the boiled peanut. I appreciate the Palmetto State's inclusion of a recipe—peanuts must be boiled for "at least one hour while still in the shell."


South Dakota State Bread: Fry Bread

Frybread is salty, deep-fried, sweet dough, a food of survival created by the Navajo, who were forced from their land by the U.S. government. After displacing them and creating (among other things) massive food insecurity, it was a food that could be made with the meager set of ingredients the genocidal government provided. While officially recognized in South Dakota, frybread is championed by Native Americans across the West, Southwest, and Plains.


Tennessee State Fruit: Tomato

This feels like some sort of prank. It is unclear to me why the tomato was chosen. Tennessee is ranked sixth in the country in tomato production.

Certainly there are other foods that inspire pride in Tennessee? Nashvillians, Memphians, and everyone in between, call your state representative! Get to work!


Texas State Bread: Pan de Campo

At 15 state-recognized foods, Texas is our points champion. No surprises there. Pan de Campo shares some similarities with frybread in that it comes from a tradition of making something out of nothing. It's a cowboy meal, a big biscuit fried in a cast-iron skillet, with a legacy of being cooked by vaqueros across the cattle rides and deserts of Mexico and the southwestern U.S.


Utah State Favorite Snack: Jell-O

Mormons are incredibly into Jell-O. The gelatin juggernaut reinvented itself in the late 1980s, selling itself as big family-friendly, a cheap and easy way to keep a lot of mouths fed. And this messaging struck in both Utah and Iowa. The two states are bitter rivals when it comes to who eats more Jell-O. According to the legislative item, "when Des Moines, Iowa edged out Salt Lake City as the capitol of Jell-O® gelatin consumption in 1999, it sparked front page stories in Salt Lake City's newspapers." Luckily for Utahans, they had the grit and determination to take back the Jell-O belt.


Vermont State Pie: Apple Pie (with strict rules for consumption)

Vermont gets my utmost respect for its state pie, which is not simply the humble apple. There is a section in the Legislative Act that specifically details how the pie should be served:

When serving apple pie in Vermont, a 'good faith' effort shall be made to meet one or more of the following conditions:


(a) with a glass of cold milk,

(b) with a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of 1/2 ounce,

(c) with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It is that eye for specificity that really elevates this state food, and more people need to be talking about Vermont's insistence on an optimal pie slice.

Washington State Vegetable: Walla Walla Sweet Onion

Like Georgia's Vidalia, the Walla Walla is named for the river valley in southeastern Washington where it grows. If it's not from Walla Walla, well then buddy that's just a sugary allium. If you're looking for other applications besides eating it like a handfruit, sweet onions caramelize well and are a good option for a summertime Maxwell Street-style Polish, an elevated Grilled Cheese, or really anything. Sweet, fried onions are perfect.


West Virginia Fruit: Golden Delicious Apple

The myth of the golden delicious apple is that it's related to the trees planted by Johnny Appleseed. The fruit is the star of its very own festival every year in Clay County, West Virginia, where it was first discovered. And here's a lesson in specificity: West Virginia first granted state symbol status in 1972 to, flatly, the "apple." They amended the bill in 1995 to honor only Golden Delicious—sorry, other apples.


Wisconsin State Pastry: Kringle

For a people so proud of their dairy culture, selecting a state pastry really means something. This is like their Queen. The Kringle is a Racine via Denmark tradition, a delightful oval dough filled with fruit, nuts, and frosting. It's like if a coffee cake got all gussied up.