Signature breakfast foods in every state
Signature breakfast foods in every state
Americans love breakfast. A lot. They love the meal so much that once a day often isn’t enough. According to Marie Haaland of the New York Post, a large percentage of Americans admit to eating breakfast for dinner. The meal is an American staple and has become more of an event than a meal.
Yes, breakfast is a big deal these days, as evidenced by the wide popularity of brunch and the seemingly endless options on breakfast menus across the country. This wasn't always the case. In the early days of America, people started breakfast with whatever was readily available, from bread and eggs to leftovers, writes Dora Mekouar in VOA News. The meal was a matter of convenience.
That's not necessarily true anymore, as breakfast has grown into a great American pastime. Still, no matter what state you’re in, the breakfast dishes are deeply rooted in history and tradition. From recipes passed down through generations to fusions between European immigrants and Native Americans, from cowboy sustenance to remnants of our Mexican history, breakfast tables across the United States tell a story.
Stacker compiled signature breakfast dishes from all 50 states by looking at articles, agriculture, and historic trends that helped shape the cuisine of today. In fact, many of the breakfast items we know and love today have a fascinating backstory, which, as the U.S. is a land of immigrants, is true of many of the food dishes of which we wax nostalgic today. Whether it's traditional kolache from the Czech Republic in Nebraska, an Americanized breakfast burrito in New Mexico, or a sugary cinnamon donut anywhere in New England, Americans are passionate and proud about what is served each morning.
Do you know the most popular breakfast item in your state? Read on to find out.
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Alabama: Shrimp and grits
Shrimp and grits, while traditionally a favorite in the Lowcountry (the area along the South Carolina coastline), has become so popular in Alabama that it's served everywhere from holes-in-the-wall to decadent dining rooms, according to Bham Now’s Irene Richardson. The breakfast dish is essentially a porridge topped with plump, juicy shrimp, but each establishment has its own twist.
Alaska: King crab Benedict
Life in Alaska isn't for the faint of heart, so you can imagine that Alaskans are ready to fuel up every day. What are they tucking into? Seafood, of course. With more than 46,000 miles of coastline, Alaska lives (and eats) by the sea. Alaskan king crab legs are famous around the world, but serve them up on an English muffin, slathered in hollandaise sauce, and you're eating pure Alaska, writes Mara Severin in the Alaska Visitors Guide.
Arizona: Breakfast burrito
If Arizona does one thing well, it's Mexican-style breakfasts, particularly the breakfast burrito. It's really a northern Mexico dish, says Jeffrey Pilcher in an interview with FiveThirtyEight, hailing from states like Sonora, which just so happens to share a border with Arizona. In fact, Arizona was originally part of Mexico, along with California, New Mexico, and Texas.
Arkansas: Sweet rice
With Arkansas being the top producer of rice in the United States, it's no wonder the staple finds its way into every meal, including breakfast. Arkansas sweet rice is made with sugar, milk, butter, and sometimes flavoring like cinnamon, vanilla, or cocoa. It's very similar to rice pudding, according to The Daily Meal’s Matt Sulem.
California: Avocado toast
For something so simple as mashed avocado on bread, avocado toast has gained quite the cult following. Avocados are the "quintessential Californian food," writes Beatrice Aronson in The Daily Californian, so serving them up on toast was only natural for breakfast.
Colorado: Cinnamon rolls
What started at one truckstop has grown to become a statewide breakfast favorite. Johnson's Corner opened in the early 1950s, and around that time an employee began to sell homemade cinnamon rolls. The customer love soon followed, and today the truckstop bakes more than 15,000 cinnamon rolls a month.
Florida: Cuban breakfast
Cuban culture is at the heart and soul of southern Florida, with Cubans immigrating to its shores as early as 1896, according to The New Tropic. Today Floridians can't get enough of Cuban cuisine (or at least their spin on it). Start with a traditional cafecito and a pastelito, which is a baked puff pastry stuffed with sweet or savory fillings.
Georgia: Buttermilk biscuits
The buttermilk biscuit is the iconic breakfast staple all across Georgia, whether it's bookending a juicy breakfast sandwich or on the side of your eggs and bacon. Georgia buttermilk biscuits are so famous that even this grandmother has gone viral sharing her three-part video tutorial on how to make her own special recipe.
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Hawaii: Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice
Hawaii was built on the influence of so many different cultures, from indigenous Hawaiian to Asian, European, and beyond. Nowhere is this more exemplified than on the breakfast plate. True to Hawaii morning form, the best breakfast recipes often include Portuguese sausage, eggs, and a giant scoop of white rice—and don't forget the condiments, which can be anything from soy sauce or ketchup to even a side of local fruit.
The potato is one of the great American breakfast staples (home fries or hash, anyone?). Idaho produces 29% of the U.S. potato crop, according to the USDA. Idahoans love potatoes so much they even put ice cream on them. Tip: For the best breakfast in Boise, numerous sites recommend Goldy's, which has a pick-your-potato option.
Illinois: Apple pancakes
At the heart of America, Illinois is definitely known for its salt-of-the-earth, no-frills breakfasts like eggs and bacon. But another Illinois favorite can be found at breakfast chain Walker Bros. (which advertises as “The Original Pancake House”). The chain restaurant can trace its roots to 1953 and, according to the Daily Herald’s Barbara Vitello, the apple pancakes continue to be the favorite recipe at each location.
Indiana: Fried mush
If you're from America's heartland, you have probably grown up on fried mush. Indigenous to the grassroots states of the Midwest (Indiana in particular), this mixture of cornmeal, water, and salt, fried in butter, is a delicacy that can shoot any Hoosier straight back to childhood, according to Andrea Arnold of Extra Crispy.
Iowa: Breakfast pizza
Any Iowan worth their salt knows Casey's General Stores, a chain of gas stations across the Midwest and the South which got its start in Iowa. Back in 2001, the chain introduced its now-iconic “breakfast pizza,” which comes with veggies, sausage, or bacon, writes Leesa Friend-Teale in The News Gazette. Today, it is a signature Iowa breakfast staple.
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The residents of Kansas love their doughnuts. Whether it's a traditional chocolate frosted from Druber's Donut Shop or one from Varsity Donuts sprinkled with bacon or in the shape of Cookie Monster, there is a style and taste for everyone in Kansas.
Kentucky's cuisine is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, but it’s mostly rooted in traditional Southern cooking. Spoonbread, a pudding-style cornbread that is one of the South's staples, is one of Kentucky’s most popular breakfast dishes, writes Sara Moulton in The Concord Monitor.
Louisiana's mix of cultures, from Creole and Cajun to Vietnamese and French, means it has some pretty creative eats. But one of the most iconic breakfast treats is the beignet, made famous by Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Beignets are fried dough pastries topped with powdered sugar, paired perfectly with a strong cup of coffee.
Maine: Blueberry pancakes
Maine has many cuisine claims to fame, but blueberries top the list. When it's time for breakfast, tables across Maine are sure to use their native fruit as often as possible, particularly in blueberry pancakes. It's not difficult to find superb blueberry pancakes in Maine, but Eater recommends starting at A1 Dinner in Gardiner.
Maryland: Crab cake eggs Benedict
Crab may be the most important ingredient on Maryland menus (50% of blue crab in the U.S. comes from the Chesapeake Bay), so when it comes to breakfast, it's no wonder crab cake eggs Benedict is a statewide favorite. Topped with a poached egg and doused in hollandaise, crab cake eggs Benedict is a Maryland masterpiece.
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New England may love its donuts, but nowhere is this more true than in Massachusetts (Dunkin Donuts is from Quincy, after all). Whether it's an old standby or a new-fangled obsession (like the bacon maple donut), Boston—and Massachusetts in general, for that matter—is crazy for this coffee companion.
Passed down from European immigrants, the traditional pasty is a flaky pastry pocket that is filled with savory meats and spices. They were primarily used as sustenance for the mining communities, as they were easy to carry in pockets down into the mines, according to Kevin Revolinski in The Epoch Times, but they’ve become so entrenched in society that today they’re simply a comforting breakfast tradition.
Minnesota: Breakfast hotdish
In Minnesota, the easiest way to show affection is to whip up a hotdish. Anywhere else you'd call it a casserole, but in Minnesota, it can only be a hotdish. Good for any type of meal, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl and Stephanie March write in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine that it's essentially a 9-by-13-inch pan of starch, veggies, protein, and a binder, topped and baked with tater tots. A breakfast hotdish may contain, but is not limited to, sausage, eggs, and cheese.
Mississippi: Biscuits and gravy
If you didn't have biscuits and gravy for breakfast, did you even visit the South? Southerners, and Mississippians in particular, will tell you no—Mississippi is all about biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Picture a fluffy buttermilk biscuit slathered with sausage and mushroom gravy, and you've got the quintessential Mississippi morning.
While the slinger is undoubtedly a St. Louis tradition, it has its roots in iconic dishes from all over the country. The slinger's origins can be traced back to the New York garbage plate, five-way Cincinnati chili, Mexican chilaquiles, and even Canadian poutine, according to Feast Magazine. It’s a heaping plate of eggs, hash browns, and hamburger patty all topped with chili con carne and cheese.
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Montana: Cinnamon roll
Many Montanans like to start their morning with a mountainous cinnamon roll slathered with icing. In fact, according to Insider’s Rachel Askinasi, the most-searched recipe in Montana during lockdown has been cinnamon rolls.
Wilber, Nebraska, is the U.S. Czech capital, and as such, its residents are all about savoring Czech treats. Breakfast is no exception, which is why Nebraska loves its kolache, a combination of soft dough and sweet filling. Cara Pesek of the Lincoln Journal Star writes that kolache is the ultimate breakfast dish to take you back to Grandma's kitchen.
Nevada: Graveyard breakfast
While Nevada is known for a few iconic breakfast foods, that doesn't necessarily mean they are eaten at breakfast time. Nevada (Las Vegas in particular) is known for its graveyard menus—cheap eats available after midnight to soak up whatever it was you’ve been consuming all night. Typical menu items include omelets, breakfast tacos, French toast, pancakes, and steak and eggs, according to Eater’s Krista Diamond.
New Hampshire: Cider donuts
Like its other New England neighbors, New Hampshire is all about the cider donuts. There are dozens of apple orchards across the state, and come the fall locals and visitors flock to pick apples and sink their teeth into warm, cinnamony cider donuts.
New Jersey: Pork roll
New Mexico: Breakfast burrito
Similar to Arizona, the state’s proximity to Mexico lends itself to absorbing the flavors and cooking techniques of our neighbor to the south—and there’s also the fact that New Mexico used to actually be a part of Mexico. Southwestern breakfast burritos typically include eggs, potatoes, chorizo, or bacon.
New York: Bagel and lox
New York has several iconic menu items, but when it comes to breakfast it can only be a bagel and lox. Neither were invented in New York, but the mashup is now a thing of New York legend. Originally, bagels were eaten by Ashkenazi Jews in Poland, writes Michelle Cohen in 6sqft, and lox, or smoked salmon, is another European import. Both traditions made their way through Ellis Island, and the famous New York breakfast sandwich was born.
North Carolina: Krispy Kreme
To the world, it may appear to be just another donut, but to North Carolinians it's so much more. Krispy Kreme, one of the world's most recognized donut chains, started in Winston-Salem in 1937 as a delivery-window treat and has expanded to become an international sensation. Today, there are more than 1,000 Krispy Kreme locations around the world.
North Dakota: Kuchen
With nearly half the population of North Dakota of German descent, it's only natural that many recipes would swing heavily German. Breakfast is no different, as one of the most popular dishes is kuchen (German for cake). It's known as a “Dakota grandma standard,” according to City Pages’ Sarah Brumble.
When Cincinnatians welcome out-of-towners, you can be certain they're taking them to try goetta. It's an Ohio-area sausage inspired by German immigrants that consists of pork and beef with a grain filling. What used to be purely meant as sustenance has turned into a veritable artform, but whatever you call it, it's certainly an Ohio tradition.
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Oklahoma: Biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits
It's easy to pick out the signature breakfast in Oklahoma, as the state is one of the few to have official dishes. Approved in 1988 by the 41st Legislature, Oklahoma has several signature dishes across breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, and the official state breakfasts include biscuits, sausage and gravy, and grits, according to Angela Botzer of the Oklahoma Gazette.
Oregon: Berry anything
When it comes to berries, the best crop comes from Oregon. The state is the top producer of blackberries, raspberries, marionberries, and boysenberries in the country, so you can bet they turn up in all sorts of breakfast treats, from jams and sauces to pastries.
It's probably one of Pennsylvania's most iconic dishes, but what exactly is it? Scrapple was an invention from the Pennsylvania Dutch, writes Susan Kronberg of Jersey's Best, that evolved from the "waste not, want not" mentality. It's essentially a mix of leftover meat scraps combined with cornmeal, wheat flour, and spices, which is formed into a loaf and fried.
Rhode Island: Jonnycakes
The state may be small in size, but Rhode Island packs it in with signature foods. One of the most iconic breakfast items from Rhode Island is the Jonnycake, whose recipe, it is said, was handed to the colonists from the Narragansett tribe, according to 10best’s Bob Curley. It's basically a blend of pancake and polenta that’s cooked on a griddle and served with butter or syrup.
South Carolina: Shrimp and grits
As we mentioned earlier, one of the signature dishes of Lowcountry is shrimp and grits. Seeing as Lowcountry is defined as the South Carolina coastline, shrimp and grits rocket to the #1 breakfast spot in this state. Writer John Huey suggests in Southern Living that shrimp and grits was first served at Abe's Shrimp House, which is on the way from Savannah to Hilton Head.
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South Dakota: Kolache
Nebraska isn't the only state in the union to love this Czech treat. According to Laura Johnson Andrews of South Dakota Magazine, Czech immigrants made their way to South Dakota in 1869 and brought kolache with them. The traditional food continues to be an iconic breakfast across South Dakota.
Tennessee: Biscuits and gravy
Like any good Southern state, Tennessee adores its biscuits and gravy. It's a serious breakfast business in these parts, and one of the best spots to get these ubiquitous breakfast sides is at The Loveless Cafe, a Nashville icon that has been doling out biscuits since 1951. According to Mark Burnett of the Nashville Business Journal, the biscuits are now being sold online during the pandemic.
Texas: Breakfast taco
Everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes breakfast. In fact, according to Edible Austin, the first Texas cookbook dedicated to breakfast has nearly 100 native Texan breakfast recipes. One that continues to be a favorite is the breakfast taco, which usually includes bacon and eggs in a tortilla.
Utah: Utah scones
Scones may not be a food associated with the West, but Utah is the exception. With a high population of English Americans (one of the highest in the country, according to Jenn Ashton of Utah Public Radio), scones are part of every Utah morning for a majority of the population. That said, Utah scones are a far cry from those across the pond, being more akin to a fried, yeasty ball.
Vermont: Maple syrup
Vermont produces more than 2.2 million gallons of maple syrup in 2020, according to Ethan Bakuli of the Burlington Free Press. This makes it the largest producer of maple syrup in the country, so it's safe to say that every breakfast table across the state has a pot of the liquid gold.
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Virginia: Eggs and ham
Virginia ham is one of the native children of the state. Also known as country ham, it's a heavily salted meat that is cured and smoked. It can be eaten as a main course, be piled high atop a biscuit, or served alongside eggs.
Seattleites know and love their coffee—after all, their city is the birthplace of Starbucks and Seattle's Best. But beyond brand names, the city is famous for its coffee tourism and known as a specialty coffee capital.
West Virginia: Biscuits
West Virginia is a downhome Southern state, so biscuit culture is alive and well. To quote Dwight Garner in the New York Times, West Virginians are "a biscuit-loving people." In fact, Tudor's Biscuit World, a chain throughout the state, has a loyal and devoted following.
In the early 19th century, Wisconsin was home to many migrants from the English town of Cornwall who came to work in the lead mines. They brought with them their pasty tradition, and Wisconsin still holds its breakfast pasties in high regard. These are often filled with potato, ham, eggs, cheese, and onion, or sometimes bacon, hash browns, eggs, cheese and onion, according to WhooNew’s Ashely Steinbrinck.
Wyoming: Chokecherry preserves
If Wyoming is known for one berry, let it be the chokecherry. The entire state is teeming with this small red berry, from Jackson Hole to the Red Desert and Casper Mountain. According to Bob Krumm of the Billings Gazette, Native Americans used chokecherries as a base for a type of pemmican, but today cooks are using the berries for all types of jams, preserves, and syrups to slather over breakfast foods.
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