Ahhh, state fairs… That annual mix of thrilling rides, midway games, butter cows, 4-H battles royale, and fried everything-that-isn’t-nailed-down. And the fairs have been stretching their food creativity as far some of the booths stretch old-timey taffy (spoiler: that’s pretty far). No longer are fairgoers satisfied with mere corn dogs and giant turkey legs. Insane fair foods are actually becoming the thing that gets many visitors in the gate. Here are 10 of the most outrageous crowd-and-stomach-pleasers you'll find at a state fair near you (hopefully).
1. Mac & Cheese Cupcake
Obviously the cupcake trend is fully ancient now, but food knows no time (or space, for that matter) at state fairs—which is why a mac & cheese cupcake invention at the Minnesota State Fair is cause for coveting. The pasta is nestled in a breadcrumb crust, sprinkled with more crumbs on top, and then finished off with a flourish of Cheez Whiz, because of course.
2. Fried Jellybeans
Turns out you don’t need a giant mythical bunny around to enjoy some jellybeans—at least not when there’s a deep fryer on hand. At The Big E in West Springfield, MA (a.k.a. New England’s biggest fair), the beans are covered in funnel cake batter, fried up, then dusted with powdered sugar. Expect highly gooey, highly colorful innards.
3. Spaghetti & Meatballs on a Stick
At a fair, does it REALLY count as food if it doesn’t come on a stick? No need to ponder that big question while you’re walking around with your Spaghetti & Meatballs on a Stick at the Wisconsin State Fair. The ultra-portability magic happens as cooked noodles are actually added directly to the meat mix, which is then garlic-battered, deep-fried, and drenched in marinara. Just BYO bib.
4. Hot Beef Sundae
You know how sometimes you crave meat so much you wish it could also be dessert? Your prayers have finally been answered by the Indiana State Fair’s Hot Beef Sundae. This food-fake-out is actually marinated beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, cheese and a cherry (tomato) on top. So go crazy and eat “dessert” first, you mad carpe-diem-er…
5. Kool-Aid Pickles
Awesome news: No walls need to be harmed in order to get your hands on “Koolickles” at the North Carolina State Fair. Pickles are marinated in real Kool-Aid in this southern tradition that provides a zingy sweet-and-sour kick—plus amazing colors to boot. Oh, yeah!
6. Fried Beer
Sipping your beer and chewing your deep-fried delicacies separately isn’t exactly the height of efficiency. And that’s why fried beer exists. Blowing minds at the Texas State Fair, the booze hits the oil in a pretzel dough pocket (creating an extraordinarily deceptive ravioli look), and it can even be topped with cheese sauce when it comes out of the fryer. So basically all your fair food groups in one.
7. Double Barrel Burger
When it comes to fair eats, if you’re not going big, you might as well go home (and then you’ve simply wasted your money). The Double Barrel Burger at the Florida State Fair is just waiting to help the hungry masses step up to that challenge. With a glazed doughnut, two beef patties, mac and cheese, and a mess of bacon all sitting between two OTHER doughnuts, this is maybe not the snack to eat right before you hop on a ride that flings people upside down…
8. Kimchi ‘n’ Curry Poutine
International flavors are not typically what you might expect to find next to fried curds of both the Spam and cheese variety, but leave it to the Minnesota State Fair to always deliver the unexpected. The surprisingly-elevated Kimchi ‘n’ Curry Poutine boasts braised pork and potatoes covered in curry gravy and cheddar cheese, then topped off with kimchi and a poached egg. Passport definitely not required.
9. Bacon Bottom Pizza
The line starts here, bread-haters… The Wisconsin State Fair is giving the people what they want—an utterly crustless Bacon Bottom Pizza. As you might imagine, the anti-crust is formed by weaving together strips of bacon, and then piled with marinara sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, and sausage to complete the pizza experience. Just be sure to grab (more than) a few extra napkins.
10. Fried Butter
Just when you thought people had run out of dairy products to fry, the Texas State Fair started dropping butter into hot oil. Yep, actual fried butter. Technically, it’s a sizable chunk of butter that’s mixed with cinnamon and sugar, battered, and flash-fried. So the final product is a sweet, doughy bite that has a molten buttery center. (Related: If living the fair life is wrong, we don’t ever want to be right.)
Main photo credit: Susan Knight York/Facebook
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