The North Star State, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Gopher State, the Bread-and-Butter State—though Minnesota has numerous trademarks, its culinary scene is also unlike any other.
We’re no stranger to comfort foods (I’m talking about you, tater tot hotdish!) and easy-to-make meals, but Minnesota also offers unexpected discoveries, such as Indigenous and Asian foods, and crave-worthy dishes.
Though our favorite foods may be off the beaten path, these tried-and-true favorites are tasty, home cooked and quintessentially Minnesotan.
Dessert bars: Cut like a brownie with ingredients like a cookie, dessert bars are something special to Minnesota. They can be fruity (lemon and cherry pie bars) or salty (salted caramel or Nut Goodie bars). How about cereal- or peanut butter-based (Scotcheroos or Special K bars)? Find them at school cafeterias, kaffeeklatsches or around dinner tables. The options are truly endless.
Hamm’s beer: Hamm’s—a household name in the 1950s through the 1980s—has been the choice of Minnesotan’s since Theodore Hamm first arrived in St. Paul from Germany and had a goal to create a high-quality American brew. Beginning in 1865, Hamm’s has been a staple for Minnesotans for generations—and its resurgence is just beginning. The popular beer is still brewed in its traditional way, according to the Hamm’s Beer website, from the “purest water and the choicest barley malt, grain and hops.”
Hotdish: This traditional dish has a hundred different names, but true Minnesotans only call it by one—hotdish. From church gatherings to family reunions, you betcha! will see this starch meets meat and vegetable concoction. The options are endless.
Juicy Lucy: First place for the most controversial Minnesota staple goes to the Juicy Lucy, a dish with ongoing debates about who first invented the delicious cheese-stuffed burger. Was it Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club, each located on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis? Though we won’t choose a side, Juicy Lucys are a must-try for any visitor or local. Pro tip: Try not to scorch your mouth on the first bite!
Lefse: Potatoes, flour, cream and butter—the simple ingredients make up this traditional Norwegian flatbread, often served with butter, sugar (white or brown—the latter is traditional) and cinnamon. Try it with lingonberry sauce—another Norwegian favorite—or topped with salty foods, including smoked salmon, spiced meat, cheese, onions or mustard. Sweet or savory, the choice is yours.
Pho: Minnesota is home to a large Hmong and Vietnamese community, which has made our great state a hot spot for pho (pronounced “fuh”), a Vietnamese noodle soup with rice noodles, vegetables, spices and meat, similar to the popular Japanese ramen dish. It is a national obsession, and Minnesota is lucky to have several delicious pho spots and varieties. Whether you are craving traditional pho or a modern variation, there’s a bowl for it all.
Polish sausage: Eastern Europeans have been settling in Minnesota since the 1800s, and immigrants brought over an abundance of delicious foods and recipes—including polish sausage. You have probably dug into a Kramarczuk polish sausage at a Twins game, but its Minneapolis establishment has been serving polish sausage for over 60 years.
Porketta: Made popular in the Iron Range from Italian immigrant miners, porketta (also known as porchetta) is typically pork roast seasoned with fennel, garlic and other herbs and cooked, (mostly) slowly, to perfection. Though you’ll find Minnesota’s favorite porketta at the 108-year-old Sunrise Bakery in the Iron Range, there are plenty of delicious options closer to the Metro or in your own kitchen.
Walleye: We are the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and we have the dish to prove it. Walleye is the official state fish, and the most popular fish entrée. It is also the perfect complement to many traditional dishes, including wild rice (see below) or served between two artisan buns as a sandwich.
Wild rice: Wild rice has been a staple in Minnesota for hundreds of years, dating back to the traditions of the Anishinaabe (Indigenous tribes including the Odawa, Saulteaux, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree and Algonquin peoples). Though wild rice, “good berry,” is a nutritious grain, it was originally gathered during the wild rice moon and has since been a crucial ingredient in Indigenous and Minnesotan foods. From wild rice soup to wild rice pilaf, there are endless ways to use this wholesome grain.
If you’re inspired by our list of state favorites, consider adding these recipes to your menu mainstays. After all, beer isn’t just for drinking or adding into batter for fish fries. And two of our Advisory Board members, LuAnn Svendsen and Emilie Kastner, weigh in with their takes on a crockpot go-to and a hotdish classic.
This no-fail recipe pairs well with hearty soup, salad or entrées. It also makes a great slice of toast—with a generous swipe of soft butter! —Renée Stewart-Hester, editor
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur.)
- 1 T. baking powder
- Kosher salt
- 12 oz. beer (Try Hamm’s, and Harp Lager works well, too.)
- ¼ cup honey
- 6 T. cold salted butter (sliced into 8 pieces)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with butter. Add flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl. Pour in the beer, and add the honey. Mix until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the butter slices on top of the dough. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 45–55 minutes, or until the top of the bread is lightly browned.
Easy Crockpot Turkey
This is a popular recipe in the Schmidt Lake Hills Neighborhood. —LuAnn Svendsen, chairman of Plymouth Reads
- Turkey breast
- Gravy packet
- 12 oz. beer
- ½ c. butter
Put the turkey breast in a crockpot. Add the gravy packet that comes with the turkey, beer and butter. Cook on low for eight hours. (If using a boneless turkey breast, use 6 oz. of beer.) Enjoy!
Tater Tot Hotdish
This recipe was passed down from my mother, who got it from my late step-grandmother, Mabel Gehring. It’s easy,
comforting, warm and super Midwestern. —Emilie Kastner, City of Plymouth
- 1 lb. hamburger
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- ½ cup milk
- 1 can green beans (or substitute 1 cup of celery)
- 1 lb. package of tater tots
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brown the hamburger and onion together on the stove. Mix in the soup, milk, green beans, salt and pepper. Scoop ingredients into an oven-safe baking dish, top with tater tots, and bake uncovered for one hour. Serve while hot. (Cheese topping optional.)