18 Foods You Won’t Find Anywhere Else Except the Midwest

The American Midwest is a vast region encompassing 12 U.S. states, including Kansas in the south and Nebraska in the north. Like many regions, it has its own culinary identity and several quintessential menu items that are found nowhere else (or at least don’t taste as authentic elsewhere). Here are 18 delicious foods you simply have to try when visiting the Midwest.

Chicago-Style Hot Dogs

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These aren’t your typical hot dogs! Chicago-style ‘dogs’ start with a Vienna beef hot dog served in a poppy seed bun, then topped with green relish, chopped raw onions, tomato slices, dill pickle, celery salt, and mustard. Most people agree that the flavor combination is a taste explosion and beats the standard, less fancy hot dogs found in cities like New York.

Juneberry Pie

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Fancy a sweet treat after that hot dog? We recommend this pie made from tart juneberries baked into a buttery, flaky crust. The Food Dictator says Juneberry pie originated in North Dakota and is one of only a few recipes to include these small, oft-forgotten berries that are actually related to apples! The combination of sweet and sour makes for a delicious summer dessert.

Pulled-Pork Barbecue

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Pulled pork is an American barbecue staple, but the Midwest offers its own take on this popular comfort food. Pork shoulder is cooked slowly until melt-in-the-mouth tender and served covered in a smoky, tangy sauce. Typically, this is piled high on soft bread buns and topped with creamy coleslaw for a deliciously satisfying meal that is especially popular in the warmer months.

Pan-Fried Walleye

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The lakes of the Midwest are home to an abundance of walleye, a freshwater fish known for its delicate flavor and flaky texture. In the Midwest, a unique coating of crushed saltine crackers is smothered onto the fish before being fried in canola, grapeseed, peanut, or rice bran oil. This recipe differs from other regions, where the fish is simply coated in flour or breadcrumbs.


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This German sausage is a legacy left behind by European immigrants to the Midwest and is made from coarse-ground pork. Known to be especially succulent, bratwurst is traditionally grilled or pan-fried until crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, served on a soft roll with tangy sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard, sometimes with grilled onions for extra sweetness.

Tart Cherry Pie

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This sour pie is a Midwest specialty and best made with native cherries from the Montmorency region for the brightest red color and delicious sweet/tart flavor. Like Juneberry pie, the fruit is baked in a buttery, sweetened shortcrust pastry and is a common end to summer meals. Certain recipes use the name ‘Michigan Cherry Pie’ due to its particular popularity in this city.

Food on a Stick

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Fairs, festivals, and sporting events across the Midwest often offer various foods on a stick for maximum convenience and a fun novelty factor. USA Today claims corn-on-the-cob is popular in Illinois and Wisconsin, where they put various foods on sticks, including cheese, cherry pie, and cranberry cookies. For something truly unique, try chocolate-covered bacon in Nebraska!

Toasted Ravioli

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Created and popularized in St. Louis, Missouri, this dish was supposedly invented when an Italian chef accidentally dropped a ravioli into some hot oil. Nowadays, these fried squares of pasta filled with savory meat or cheese are dredged in breadcrumbs and parmesan and often served as an appetizer or light meal, typically with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

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Cincinnati chili is a unique meat sauce inspired by Greek cuisine and featuring ground beef or mixed meats simmered in a rich tomato sauce with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and sometimes even chocolate! Unlike Mexican chili, it’s usually served over spaghetti noodles (not rice) and generously topped with grated cheddar, chopped red onion, and a dollop of sour cream.

Juicy Lucy

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These unique burgers are a regional cuisine of Minnesota, especially popular in Minneapolis. The recipe involves a thick beef patty with a gooey core of melted American cheese, offering a twist on the standard burger with cheese on top. The trick is to cook the burger thoroughly without destroying the cheese! Juicy Lucys are served on a toasted bun with typical burger toppings.

Cornish Pasties

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According to The Takeout, Cornish miners who settled in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula brought with them a traditional savory English pastry that has remained popular in the area. Cornish pasties are handheld pockets of flaky pastry filled with seasoned ground meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, and even rutabagas. They are a great on-the-go snack that can be eaten hot or cold.

Funeral Potatoes

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These potatoes were traditionally served at gatherings (including funerals) of certain church groups, but are a surprisingly comforting casserole dish. Layers of diced potatoes, cheddar cheese, cream of chicken soup, and sometimes sour cream are topped with a crispy layer of fried onions after baking. Funeral potatoes are a potluck favorite in the Midwest.

Corn Fritters

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The Midwest is known for its corn production and fresh produce is showcased in these crispy, fried fritters with a soft, fluffy center. The recipe requires creamed corn, flour, eggs, and oil, and the fritters are typically served as a snack or side dish, often with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey to complement and enhance the natural sweetness of the corn.

Gooey Butter Cake

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Midwesterners sure do love butter, and this soft-filled butter cake is a great way to enjoy good quality butter, with its short, crumbly streusel topping on a base of rich, gooey cake batter. The resultant texture combination is pleasant—crunchy and soft at the same time. The recipe is thought to have originated in St. Louis sometime in the 1930s or ‘40s.

Runza Sandwiches

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A Nebraska staple, runza sandwiches are a unique comfort food that is packed with flavor. A savory ground beef filling seasoned with onions and spices is packed inside a soft, slightly chewy sourdough bread pocket. The whole thing is then deep-fried, creating a crispy exterior that gives way to a warm filling with each bite. These handheld treats are often eaten for lunch or on the go.


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These bite-sized treats are made by rolling peanut butter in melted chocolate, creating a sweet and salty flavor combination. They are especially popular in Ohio and neighboring states and are named after their resemblance to the poisonous nut of the Ohio buckeye tree! They are a simple candy that’s easy to make at home and is typically shared with friends or family.

Butter Burgers

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Wisconsin is known for its dairy industry, and these burgers reveal the state’s addiction to butter! Beef burgers are cooked on a flat-top grill, where melted butter is generously basted onto the patties, creating a golden crust and infusing them with a rich, buttery taste. Most recipes call for a simple, high-quality, unseasoned burger patty so the buttery flavor can really shine through.

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

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The classic pork sandwich is taken to a whole new level in Iowa, where its signature pork tenderloin sandwich is endlessly popular. These sandwiches feature a hand-breaded, deep-fried pork tenderloin that is often far larger than the bread bun it’s served on, extending over the sides and making the sandwich somewhat messy to eat without cutlery.

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