State Fair Foods
If there’s ever a time to scrap your diet and really, really indulge, it’s during state fair season. Sure, everyone wants to look great at the pool, but when else are you going to have the opportunity to try a hot beef sundae or pickle-flavored pork rinds?
Every summer, you’ll find just about any food you can imagine deep fried or served on a stick — or, if you’re lucky, both — at fairs across the U.S. Always eager to up the ante, fair-food vendors know how to push boundaries, concocting everything from BBQ insects to soup on a stick to deep-fried jelly beans.
To help you gorge appropriately, we’ve rounded up 15 of the wackiest state fair foods you’ll find across America. Just make sure to bring your pants with the drawstring.
Bacon-Wrapped Cinnamon Buns, Nebraska State Fair
If you’ve never tried bacon cinnamon buns, you’re missing out. The good news: You can easily sample some by heading to the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island from Aug. 21 to Sept. 3.
In essence, someone decided to put mini cinnamon rolls on a stick, wrap them in bacon, dip them in batter and fry them until they’re crispy and golden brown. Oh, and because that’s clearly too refined, sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar to round out the flavors.
If fried cinnamon buns aren’t your style, the Nebraska State Fair also has a few other doozies. There’s a cheeseburger made with bacon, tart jam and two glazed donuts. Or, if you have more of a sweet tooth, you can try a ridiculously decadent cream puff made with chocolate, white or red velvet cake.
Yes, you read that correctly: There’s actually cake inside the cream puff.
Deep-Fried Jelly Beans, The Big E
Though there’s technically no state fair in Massachusetts, The Big E in West Springfield comes pretty close. If you stop by for a visit Sept. 14-30, you can sample a fair tradition: deep-fried jelly beans. The folks at Marion’s Fried Dough keep it simple with these bad boys: They simply coat the jelly beans in batter and dip them in the fryer.
Once you’ve had your fill of jelly beans, there are so many other treats to get your hands on that it’s hard to know here to begin. There are the French fries covered with chocolate and bacon, fried whoopie pies, funnel cake fries and chocolate-dipped key lime pie, just to name a few. Once you’re stuffed to the brim, be sure to check out the intricate butter sculpture that’s become an annual tradition at The Big E.
Pepperoni Chips, Minnesota State Fair
The low-carb craze appears to have reached even state fairs, including the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul held Aug. 23 through Sept. 3. If you love a good crunchy snack, you’ll have a chance to indulge with the fair’s pepperoni chips with roasted red pepper queso. Yes — chips made out of meat!
If you’re still hungry, another fun menu item is the turducken sausage sandwich served with “slawsa,” a mashup of slaw and salsa. The sausage is made with turkey, duck and chicken and is served on a fennel bun (there’s also a gluten-free bun available upon request!).
For dessert, you’ll want to check out the rainbow cloud roll, a truly magical concoction featuring ice cream dusted with fruity cereal and wrapped like a burrito in cotton candy.
Green Chili Pepperoni Pizza Funnel Cake, New Mexico State Fair
Obviously, you know about funnel cakes. And you’ve heard of pepperoni pizza. But have you ever considered just how delicious a combination of the two would taste? Someone did just that at the New Mexico State Fair, held Sept. 6-16 this year, by topping funnel cake batter with melty mozzarella cheese, zesty pepperoni and marinara sauce. Oh, and they added green chili, because why not? Even better, this fried concoction is served with ranch dressing as a dipping sauce.
Dan Mourning, general manager of fair organizer EXPO New Mexico, says the dish embodies what the people want: “delicious New Mexico cuisine as well some of the traditional fried favorites they’ve come to expect during a visit to the fair."
Hot Beef Sundae, New York State Fair
The hot beef sundae at the New York State Fair, held Aug. 22 through Sept. 3 in Syracuse, is not at all what it seems at first glance. Though it looks just like an ice cream sundae, it’s actually a savory dish made with mashed potatoes, roast beef, cheddar cheese and a cherry tomato on top that looks just like a sweet cherry.
Since this “sundae” won’t satisfy your sweet tooth, you’ll want to leave room for the fair’s Milky Bun. This new dessert features a sliced doughnut with ice cream and toppings in the middle. Before you take a bite, the whole contraption gets heated in a warmer that toasts just the doughnut. Then, it’s all covered with doughnut glaze or your choice of more toppings.
Deep-Fried Chicken Noodle Soup, State Fair of Texas
Everything is bigger — and wackier — in Texas, and the food at the state fair is no exception. As crazy as it sounds, someone figured out how to deep fry chicken noodle soup and put it on a stick. The crunchy soup balls are served with a side of broth, which fairgoers pour into holes poked in each fried package of flavor.
The State Fair of Texas, held Sept. 28 through Oct. 21 in Dallas, has also featured a funnel cake bacon queso burger, a tamale doughnut and deep fried Fruit Loops cereal. It’s time to loosen up your belt with the Texas-sized buckle, because there’s no chance you’ll leave this state fair hungry.
Firecracker Corn On The Cob, Florida State Fair
The Florida State Fair is one of the earliest fairs in the country (it’s scheduled for Feb. 7-18), which means you can basically start your fair food tour early next year. First on the list? Firecracker corn on the cob. This delicious concoction consists of roasted corn dipped in queso and rolled in spicy cheese puffs.
If you’re still hungry after that, you’ll definitely want to nosh on the chicken and waffles pizza. If you like the savory-sweet combination, you’ll be a big fan of this one. We’re talking about pizza topped with fried chicken, bits of waffle, mozzarella and syrup. Also on the menu is a deep fried strawberry shortcake, a southern catfish sundae and a banana funnel cake.
Ice Cream Potato, Western Idaho Fair
You might be wondering why anyone would put the words “ice cream” and “potato” together. This popular Western Idaho Fair treat is actually just ice creamed dressed up to look like a potato, in honor of the state’s vegetable of choice. If you get a chance to attend the fair in Boise from Aug. 17-26, you’ll definitely want to order this treat, which is really vanilla ice cream rolled in cocoa powder, split down the middle and topped with whipped cream, nuts and crushed Oreos.
If you’re on the hunt for something savory, you can get an order of deep fried pickles to go along with your foot-long “Party Pup,” which is a hand-dipped, homemade corn dog. If that’s not enough pork for you, you can always finish off the day with bacon-wrapped pork belly on a stick or a bacon-wrapped hot dog.
Inside Out Grilled Cheese, Indiana State Fair
The folks at the Indiana State Fair really aren’t afraid to experiment. They’re so adventurous that they literally decided to take a traditional grilled cheese sandwich and flip it inside out. What does that mean exactly? First, they stuff sourdough bread with delicious gouda cheese. Then they put mild cheddar on the outside of the bread and toast it all up until it’s melty on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Pure genius.
But the indulgent fair foods don’t stop there. You can also order a slice of deep fried sugar cream pie topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. Or grab an order of “piggy popcorn,” which are bites of deep fried pork cutlets topped with a sweet Hawaiian chili sauce.
Thanksgiving Egg Roll, North Carolina State Fair
Though the North Carolina State Fair takes place Oct. 11-21, you’ll feel like it’s already November when you taste this savory morsel. The Thanksgiving eggroll combines turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberries in a deep-fried bundle of deliciousness. And yes, a food coma is guaranteed, just like it is on Thanksgiving Day.
Looking for something with a little more pep? There’s also deep fried dirty rice, which is lightly breaded Cajun rice plunged into the deep fryer and served with spicy ranch dressing. If you’re hungry for even more fried foods, try the deep fried key lime pie bites topped with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, whipped cream and raspberry sauce.
Dill Pickle Pork Rinds, North Dakota State Fair
If you’re going to eat pork rinds, there’s really no better place to do it than at a state fair, where gluttony reigns supreme. Enter the dill pickle pork rinds at the North Dakota State Fair, held in Minot every July. Sadly, you’ll have to wait until next summer to try these dill pickle-flavored treats, which were created for the fair’s “Food Frenzy” competition. These crunchy homemade snacks blend the tangy, salty flavor of a dill pickle with the delicious, satisfying crunch of a pork rind — what’s not to love? The vendor fries up the pig skins right there at the stand, then takes the cracklings and tosses them in a dill pickle seasoning blend.
While you’re making plans for next year, be sure to save room for some frozen cookie dough balls or a pork chop on a stick. If you really want to indulge, consider the “ultimate minneapple pie,” a slice of deep fried apple pie served with vanilla and cinnamon ice cream, all topped off with apple syrup. Delicious and nutritious! (Well…)
Super Villain Whoopie Pie, State Fair Of Virginia
Despite what the name suggests, there is nothing evil about the super villain whoopie pie at the State Fair of Virginia, held Sept. 28 through Oct. 7 in Doswell. This decadent desert seems to have a little bit of everything — there’s an oatmeal cookie, some chocolate cake, toasted marshmallow fluff, vanilla ice cream and caramel and chocolate sauce. Talk about a sugar rush.
Other Virginia favorites include the “crabtastic” poboy, made with jumbo soft shell crab, homemade crab balls, lettuce, tomato and seafood aioli, all served on a tasty roll sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the days when you packed your lunch for school, there’s also a peanut butter and jelly funnel cake and a peanut butter and jelly bacon dog with spicy jelly.
Various Insects, Washington State Fair
If you’re brave, you can actually choose from three different types of flavored bugs at the Washington State Fair: chili roasted grasshoppers, BBQ crickets and Manchurian scorpions (which are served with gummy bears as a chaser!). The fair, held Aug. 31 through Sept. 23 in Puyallup near Tacoma and Seattle, has some other quirky choices, like cajun kangaroo sausage, wild boar bratwurst, rabbit and python sausage, duck and bacon sausage, and alligator burgers.
To wash down the exotic meats and insects, you’ll want to try some of the fair’s cookie dough (made with pasteurized eggs so it’s safe to eat). You can choose from chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter and Reese’s pieces cookie dough, s’mores cookie dough, brownie batter and birthday cake batter.
Frisalino On A Stick, Iowa State Fair
If you’re looking for a snack that covers almost all the food groups, consider the “frisalino on a stick” at the Iowa State Fair, held Aug. 9-19 in Des Moines. It’s basically a kebab made with borsellino salami, aged gouda cheese and cantaloupe. The salty, sweet and cheesy combination is a refreshing option that won’t weigh you down for the rest of your afternoon at the fair.
Want even more meat? New to the Iowa State Fair is brown sugar pork belly on a stick, which features a strip of pork belly cured with honey and rubbed with brown sugar. For dessert, there’s a Girl Scout cookie-inspired dish called the “Not So Thin Mint” featuring a chocolate-dipped spherical mint patty with crème de menthe candy pieces.
Cap’n Crunch Chicken Sandwich, California State Fair
This sandwich looks just as quirky as it sounds. It’s made with chicken that has been coated with whole Cap’n Crunch cereal pieces, then fried and served on a bun with lettuce, tomato and red onion. The overall effect is a lumpy, but tasty, sandwich that toes the line between breakfast and lunch.
The California State Fair, held every July in Sacramento, has also featured bacon-wrapped Reese’s peanut butter cups, vegetarian hot dogs on a stick, bacon-wrapped zucchini and meatball pizza. Once you’ve got your food of choice in hand, you might consider attending the fair’s wiener dog race or cornhole championships.