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A day well spent at the fair is incomplete without filling up on local favorites. Offering up a bevy of snacks, meals, and desserts, state fairs are a one-stop-shop for all the best cuisine a state has to offer. Locals wait all year long to indulge in their favorite treats, and some folks even cross state lines to taste another region’s legendary fare. Try not to get hungry as we dig into 10 state fair foods, from enduring favorites to new classics.
Green Chile Cheeseburger, New Mexico State Fair
Green chile is a tried-and-true ingredient in New Mexican cuisine — the state’s notoriously robust pepper pops up in all kinds of regional fair foods, from deep-fried green chile cheese steak to green chile stew. New Mexico is the largest producer of green chile peppers in the U.S., so it’s no wonder the state fair is chock-full of foods with a spicy twist. One can’t-miss classic is the Green Chile Cheeseburger, the winner of the state fair’s annual cheeseburger challenge in 2019. The hand-crafted beef burger is smothered in melted cheese and topped with the iconic roasted chiles. Cue mouths watering.
Where to try: Oso Grill, New Mexico State Fair, Albuquerque
Boiled Peanuts, Alabama National Fair
When it comes to peanuts, you’re probably very familiar with the process of cracking open the firm shell to reveal the crunchy nut within. Head to Alabama, however, and you’ll find there’s more than one way to eat a peanut. By many accounts, boiling peanuts began in Civil War times, but the reality is, Americans were not the first to invent this unique snack. The practice of boiling peanuts originated in Africa and was brought to the U.S. by enslaved people from West Africa in the 1700s. It wasn’t until the 20th century that Southerners caught on to the tasty boiled legumes. Fast-forward to present day and boiled peanuts are now considered a staple snack in the South and an ever-popular fair food.
Where to try: Steve’s Famous P-nuts, Alabama National Fair, Montgomery
Deep-Fried Buckeyes, Ohio State Fair
It isn’t a state fair unless you indulge in at least one deep-fried treat. At the Ohio State Fair, the Bulk Candy Store knows that crispy, savory batter makes almost everything taste better, including their signature bonbon. Ohio’s nickname, the Buckeye State, borrows its namesake from the state’s official tree, the nuts of which resemble a deer’s eye. Although real buckeye nuts are inedible, they inspired the chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls found at the Ohio State Fair. Deep-frying these treats and drizzling them with chocolate make them all the more delectable.
Where to try: Bulk Candy Store booth, Ohio State Fair, Columbus
Thanksgiving Taco, Arkansas State Fair
Created in 2017, the Thanksgiving Taco scored big points with Arkansas locals and quickly became a classic state fair food. Providing a reminder of holidays past, tender bits of turkey, savory gravy, stuffing (called “dressing” in Arkansas), and tangy cranberry sauce are wrapped together in a warm tortilla to form the now-famous Thanksgiving Taco. The one-of-a-kind creation even caught the attention of Carnival Eats, a Canadian TV show that features fair food around the U.S. and Canada.
Where to try: Pat’s Kitchen, Arkansas State Fair, Little Rock
Fisher Scones, Washington State Fair
Mention a scone and images of porcelain teacups and small plates of crumbly, dry biscuits typically come to mind. If you’re a regular at the Washington State Fair, however, you know better. Fisher Scones are a Northwest treat, named after entrepreneur O.D. Fisher, who settled in Seattle in 1906 after leaving his native Missouri. Determined to build an empire, Fisher sold scones at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 in an attempt to showcase the superiority of Fisher Flour. They were a hit then and are still gobbled up by millions at Washington’s State Fair over a century later. Served velvety and warm, the scones are accompanied with raspberry jam and sweet honey butter.
Where to try: Fisher Scones, Washington State Fair, Puyallup
Vikings on a Stick, Montana
Going strong as a fair favorite since 1966, this deliciously deep-fried meatball-on-a-stick is legendary in Montana. Daughters of Norway member Judy Langren drew from her Norwegian heritage to conceive this crowd-pleasing creation. Pierced with a stick for easy transport, the meatball recipe is simple — ground beef, onion, egg, and oatmeal — but the spices that give the meat its irresistible flavor are an age-old secret.
Where to try: Sons of Norway, Montana State Fair, Great Falls
Strawberry Lemonade Sweetcake Sundae, Florida
Combining all the best parts of summer, this decadent sundae satisfies a sugar craving instantly. The Florida State Fair conveniently coincides with the state’s strawberry harvesting season, making this home-grown treat even sweeter. First comes the sundae’s foundation, handmade cinnamon-sugar donuts drizzled in lemonade frosting. A generous handful of fresh-cut Floridian strawberries sits atop the flaky fried dough, finished off by a mound of whipped cream and garnished with lemon zest. Is there anything more summery than that?
Where to try: DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes, Florida State Fair, Tampa
Original Cream Puff, Wisconsin
It’s only fitting that the cream puff originated in American’s Dairyland state. Created in 1924 by the Wisconsin Bakers Association to advertise the state’s thriving wheat and dairy industries, this long-standing treat features the best of both worlds: a soft flaky pastry sliced in two and filled with a thick lathering of whipped cream. Each year, “Team Cream Puff” works 24/7 during the 11-day state fair, making the legendary puff the longest-offered fair food in Wisconsin history.
Where to try: Original Cream Puff Pavilion, Wisconsin State Fair, West Allis
Fry Bread, Arizona State Fair
Tried-and-true, fried dough is a fair classic found in just about every state. Travel to the Southwest and you’ll encounter Fry bread — similar in taste and appearance but served with a heavy dose of cultural heritage. Fry bread dates back to 1864, when the Navajo people in Arizona journeyed 300 miles to relocate to New Mexico. The tradition of fry bread was born from the simple ingredients — flour, sugar, salt, and lard — supplied by the U.S. government. Today it’s considered an iconic Arizona food and a symbol of the Navajo people's pain and perseverance. Tasty and versatile, fry bread can be eaten with both sweet and savory toppings. Classic toppings include honey, whipped cream, and strawberries — or go for the inventive Navajo Taco, a version of fry bread topped with seasoned ground beef, pinto beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
Where to try: J&L Concessions, Arizona State Fair, Phoenix
Wine Slushies, California
Beat the summer heat while catching a buzz in California with their signature state fair drink: the wine slushie. California is famed for its vineyards and wineries, which is where this chilled-out version of the popular beverage comes into play — and makes a glass of wine on a hot day even more refreshing. Head to the fairground’s shady wine garden to try the popular iced versions of WiLD Vines’ blackberry merlot or white sangria.
Where to try: Save Mart Wine Garden, California State Fair, Sacramento