Americans consume an average of 24 pounds of fried food every year. There's no recent numbers on how much of that is from state fairs, but given that many vendors compete to see who can fry the weirdest or newest foods, it's likely high.
While many Americans are leaning into the health-conscious mindset, others are deep frying anything they can get their hands on to wow folks at state fairs nationwide.
Over the last 180 years, people have flocked to state fairs for a good time, and the food concoctions only become more bizarre and fanciful every year, from food on a stick to deep-fried oddities and funky flavor combinations in drinks.
The 2023 state fairs did not disappoint, serving some of the most unlikely treats people have ever seen.
2023’s Wildest State Fair Food Creations
While hundreds of peculiar treats appear at state fears year after year, some are more notable and captivating than others.
Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Corn in a Cup
Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Corn in a Cup was a sensational hit at this year’s Indiana State Fair, served by Wilson Concessions.
It is a cup filled with sweet corn, gooey nacho cheese, spicy tajin, and fiery Flamin- Hot Cheetos. The myriad of textures and spicy and sweet flavors come close to the delectable flavor of Mexican elote.
Creole Étouffée Beignets
Beignets are typically a sweet treat, akin to a donut, but this year’s Texas State Fair offered visitors something different. This item combines shrimp, spicy sausage, rice, and Étouffée sauce, rolled together and dunked into beignet batter, deep fried, and dusted with powdered sugar.
It brings together all the bold and zesty flavors of New Orleans, combining salty, savory, sweet, and spicy flavors into every bite.
Sweet Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs are a flexible appetizer; people often add unorthodox ingredients, such as smoked salmon, maple syrup, or avocado. However, the Ohio State Fair took deviled egg flavors to a new level this year.
The Ohio Poultry Association decided to highlight sweet deviled eggs at their Devilishly Good Food stand this year, serving chocolate deviled eggs, s’mores deviled eggs, lemon meringue deviled eggs, and cotton candy deviled eggs.
One of the weirdest state foods served up in 2023 was the Strawberry Chicks-on-the-Stick. This item is easily one of the Texas State Fair’s wildest concoctions.
It is made with seasoned chicken wings coated in funnel cake batter, deep fried, drizzled with a honey-garlic sauce, infused with strawberries, rubbed with sugar and lemon, and finally topped with strawberry syrup and whipped cream.
‘Kind of a Big Dill’ Pickle Lemonade
The Minnesota State Fair featured a pickle-flavored lemonade this year at the Nordic Waffles stand. This unusual non-alcoholic drink was crafted by Urban Growler using a classic lemonade recipe mixed with tangy spices and herbaceous dill, garnished with a crunchy pickle slice.
While many of the state fair flavor combinations are out-of-the-box, this one features a strange ingredient that pushes the boundaries of the definition of fair food.
Scorpion pizza is topped with real scorpions, which are no longer venomous. Most state fair foods are deep-fried and weird, but this pizza broaches a new territory.
Sweet Apple Pie Fries
Compared to scorpion pizza, sweet apple pie fries are tame but still compelling. Instead of potato fries, this dish features apples sliced into fries, wrapped and baked in a delicate pie crust, and glazed with a sugary sauce.
These fries exemplify how not all innovative state fair food features wild flavor combinations. Instead, it simply reinvents a familiar American favorite.
The absurd and intriguing state fair snacks above are a mere fraction of the cockamamie food creations at the dozens of state fairs across America in the summer of 2023. Below are some honorable mentions that appeared at this year’s fairs.
- Turkey Ribs
- Swedish Egg Coffee
- Raspberry Chipotle Grilled Cheese
- S’mores Bourbon Milkshake
- Bratwurst Nachos
- Donut Burger
- Taki Ramen Tostada
- Cotton Candyrita
- Deep Fried Honey Butter Brisket Swirls
- The Fruity Pebble Pickle
- Bacon-Wrapped Waffle Dog
- Cheesecake Curds
- Cloud Coolers In Three Flavors
- Dill Pickle Cheese Curd Taco
- Donut Delights
- Hot Honey Cheese Sticks
- Loaded Lobster Fries
- Miami Mango Pickles Paletas
- Salted Coffee
- S’mores Bourbon Milkshake
- Butterbeer Ice Cream
- Iowa Twinkie
- Korean Bacon Egg Dog
Still, this is not a comprehensive list of the outrageous food at America’s numerous state fairs this year, as thousands of people showcase their dishes ranging from extremely spicy recipes to ingenious flavor combinations every year.
The Culture and History of State Fair Food
State fair food is a category in its own right that explores odd flavor combinations and unorthodox cooking methods that lead to outrageous dishes and snacks.
When state fairs began, they were essentially agricultural conventions where farmers offered crops and shared knowledge and techniques. The first state was the Syracuse State Fair in 1841, which was more akin to a wholesome farmer’s market than the carnival of food state fairs are today.
How did fresh produce devolve into deep-fried fun? It mainly stems from the competition. Farmers would participate in contests that awarded entries like the largest pumpkin or fattest pig. State fairs began hosting pie and chili competitions; over time, people began experimenting with recipes to outshine the competition and attract customers.
Many familiar items were invented at state fairs, such as cotton candy, corn dogs, kettle corn, funnel cakes, elephant ears, and fried Oreos. For many, these treats carry nostalgia and comfort, returning them to childhood.
While concerts are an opportunity to let loose and dance and sporting events allow people to yell and cheer to their heart’s desire, state fairs are where people can loosen their inhibitions regarding eating. It is a chance to indulge in food that most deem unacceptable for regular consumption.
After over 175 years of state fairs and a fascinating evolution, people still flock to these events to eat greasy food, try to win prizes, and experience the All-American atmosphere of a bustling fair in the summer heat.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.