Minnesota is best known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Next to that, it’s known as the state that gets blanketed in tons of snow from September to June!
Having been there personally, though, I can vouch for two more reasons why you should make the trip to Minnesota. Number one is its natural beauty. Minnesota is absolutely stunning, and several parks and beaches are well worth seeing in person.
The other reason why I think you should plan your trip to Minnesota sooner rather than later is because of all the great food there. Minnesota rarely gets mentioned as one of the top food destinations in the United States, and that’s a glaring omission, in my opinion.
Tourists have so many fantastic Minnesota food options to choose from if they ever find themselves in that part of the US. The sheer number of great restaurants across the state means tons of potentially delicious dining experiences.
I want to take this opportunity and introduce you to the best food in Minnesota. Keep reading and find out what special treats await you there!
Table of Contents
Best Minnesota Foods You Need to Try
1. Swedish Meatballs
I want to start by highlighting one of the most venerable and versatile treats in Minnesota’s culinary arsenal. That treat is none other than the Swedish meatball.
“But with a name like that, aren’t they from Sweden?” Well, yes, originally, they are. However, a good chunk of Minnesota’s population is descended from Scandinavian peoples, including the Swedes, who brought this national favorite to the States.
So good news! You don’t have to travel to another country to dine on this scrumptious delight! Many locals in Minnesota have adapted, chopped, changed, and perfected recipes over the years it and they’re more than happy to share their spin on it with anyone seeking them out.
One of the things I like so much about Swedish meatballs is their versatility. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Swedish meatballs can be served after pan-frying with some small potatoes. They also pair well with velvety smooth mashed potatoes. You can also try coating them with cream sauce and then serving them with pasta.
Swedish meatballs are a popular Minnesota state food, particularly on cold days, when you’ll likely see them served in a hearty soup.
Swedish meatballs are pretty easy to prepare at home, assuming you have the right ingredients. The spices are responsible for imparting the distinct flavor of Swedish meatballs. Pick some of those spices up so you can cook this terrific example of delicious Minnesota food.
PRO TIP: Those “Swedish Meatballs” at IKEA? – Don’t do it, just don’t. You’re much better off making them at home!
2. Wild Rice
Next up on this list of Minnesota’s famous foods is wild rice. This is yet another item that stands out for its versatility.
A lot of folks in Minnesota like to serve wild rice as a side dish. Its inherent nuttiness serves as a great backdrop for stronger flavors. Wild rice also has this great texture when it is cooked right. It can possess a pleasant crispness that makes it more interesting or a satisfying chew that feels grand between your teeth if cooked for longer periods.
Residents have long recognized the greatness of wild rice, and they’ve taken full advantage of it. Wild rice pancakes are very popular in Minnesota and are often served for breakfast.
You will also find wild rice used in soups. The wild rice adds some body to the soup, thus making it more filling. Gourmet wild rice soups are absolutely worth trying if you’re in the area.
Wild rice also belongs on the list of foods to try at the Minnesota state fair. The locals get very creative with it, so you’ll see some exciting dishes that feature wild rice front and center.
See Related: Best State Parks in Minnesota
3. Polish Sausage
Earlier, we talked about the European influence on Minnesota food. We highlighted the state’s love for Swedish meatballs as a prime example of how the residents there have embraced the cuisines of immigrants who settled in the state in the 19th century.
Yet another example of that is the Polish sausage. The hearty Polish sausage in Minnesota pays homage to what you’ll find if you travel to continental Europe. Of course, it has still been tweaked (purists may say dumbed down) to fit the American palate better.
The fantastic Polish sausage I tried in Minnesota had a rich garlicky, and smoky taste, which is always a great flavor combination. You’re sure to love Minnesota’s take on Polish sausage if you’re a fan of that flavor profile.
I would recommend adding Polish sausage to your Minnesota state fair food list. The cooks in the area know just about every way to prepare that treat. Some purveyors in the area have also come up with their own blends for Polish sausages.
Check out some of the Polish restaurants in Minnesota to get a taste of how classic Polish sausage is classically prepared and served. Otherwise, its Americanized cousin is common in many Minnesotan eateries.
4. Jucy/Juicy Lucy
What food is Minnesota known for? Ask residents of the state and folks from neighboring areas; the first thing you’ll likely hear them talk up is the state’s culinary pride and joy; the Jucy Lucy.
The Jucy Lucy, which is also sometimes referred to as the Juicy Lucy, is Minnesota’s signature cheese stuffed burger. It’s a hugely popular dine-in and takeout item there.
The idea behind the Jucy Lucy is rather simple. Instead of placing a slice of cheese on top of the meat patty as you would in a regular cheeseburger (although plenty of places serving Lucies will put a slice on top, too!), the cheese is instead buried between two hamburger patties.
Those meat patties are then molded to create a single hunk of meat with a cheese core. Slowly, that cheese inside the patty melts. The melted cheese adds both flavor and moisture to the entire burger. When you take a bite, you experience that flavor explosion.
Of course, the Jucy Lucy can be a pretty messy meal. Make sure you’re ready for the molten cheese and beef juices to ooze out as soon as you take a bite.
The Jucy Lucy has taken on many forms over the years. You can still get the classic options from many restaurants in the area, including the two bars that have staked a claim to creating it – Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club have been warring over the claim since the 1950s! I guess you could say they’re both right; Matt’s Bar spells it “Jucy” and the 5-8 spell it “Juicy.”
Some higher-end restaurants in Minnesota have elevated the Jucy Lucy. They use higher-grade beef and finer cheeses to enhance its flavor, while other more pubby places have a vast range of meats and cheeses to customize your Lucy with.
Whether you’re going for the classic, the upscale Jucy Lucy, or the wackiest combo you can think of, you will be able to find it almost anywhere in Minnesota!
See Related: Best Hotels in Minneapolis, Minnesota
5. Cheese Curds
Are you looking for Minnesota food that works great as a quick snack? If so, you should direct your attention to cheese curds.
Consuming cheese curds is fairly common in some parts of the country, particularly in the Upper Midwest and other countries such as Canada. You may recognize them as those flavorful little additions to servings of poutine.
In Minnesota, cheese curds are more often served fried in batter than “naked.” Good cheese curd is lightly battered and then deep-fried until they turn golden brown.
After frying, the cheese curds become crisp and oozy. They can also be paired with some tangy dipping sauce to make them extra flavorful. Minnesota locals love having cheese curds as bar food. You may even find them eaten as an alternative to pizza, nachos, or popcorn.
The last few entries have been very rich, fatty, or starchy foods – or all of the above! They are delicious without a doubt, and in a state where winter can be life or death, they keep the cold out, but you should know that Minnesota food is not just about richness, fattiness, or tons of starch.
Some lighter options are available that also pack a flavorful punch and keep out the chills. Pho (pronounced Fuh) happens to be one of them.
You can travel to Vietnam for the real deal, but Minnesota’s offerings are pretty stellar as well. A big reason why that’s the case is that Minnesota is home to sizable Hmong and Vietnamese communities that emigrated following the Vietnam War.
Pho is famous for being a light and refreshing soup dish containing broth, vegetables, protein, and rice noodles. Restaurants can change how they serve pho by including their own blend of herbs. As for the vegetables, crunchy bean sprouts are almost always included in pho.
So yeah, It’s not hard to imagine how giant bowls of hot, spicy soup became popular in a snowy place like Minnesota. The most traditional protein option is beef. Often, thin slices of beef are included with the broth, but some restaurants aim to up the richness of the dish by adding elements such as bone marrow.
Chicken is another popular meat often used in pho. Some restaurants also offer vegetarian versions of the dish, where the protein will take the form of a boiled egg, tempeh, or tofu. Vegan and gluten-free options are also popular and widely available.
Realistically, there are countless types of pho served in Minnesota and a ton of amazing eateries to find it. You will have no shortage of options to choose from if you want to enjoy good pho in Minnesota.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to do in Minnesota
As the land of 10,000 lakes, you would expect that at least some of Minnesota’s favorite food would come from those bodies of water. That is indeed the case. For many residents of the North Star State, nothing compares to walleye if you’ve got a craving for delicious fish.
Walleye is pretty easy to find all throughout the state of Minnesota. You can expect to find numerous dishes starring walleye at many of the state’s top restaurants. Smaller diners and seafood specialists also make it a point to offer some kind of walleye dish on their menu.
It’s well worth your time to look for places that specialize in serving walleye while you’re in Minnesota. Even if you’re traveling with kids who are not fond of fish, they will probably like walleye. Walleye is more appealing to kids because it is sweet and doesn’t present a strong fishy flavor.
The best comparison I can draw is that it’s a more flavorful and exciting alternative to cod – which reminds me that walleye is amazing in fish and chips.
You also don’t have to overcomplicate things if you’re preparing the walleye yourself. One option is to just lightly coat the walleye fillet with a crust before pan-frying it. Grilled walleye is also delicious when it’s served with butter.
See Related: Best Things to do in Lake City, Minnesota
Did you know that Minnesota is one of the largest producers of sweetcorn in the country? Many folks outside of the state may not be aware of that, and Iowans might throw a fit if they found out!
If you’ve checked out county and state festival foods in Minnesota, though, you’ll probably figure out that sweetcorn is a big deal there.
Sweetcorn is used in all kinds of dishes. You’ll find it added to salsas and salads. The sweetness and the pop of the kernels it provides offer a complementary contrast to the acidity of tomatoes or vinegar-based dressings.
There are also many examples of Minnesota food that utilize sweetcorn as a baking ingredient, the most common being cornbread. Baking subdues the flavor of sweetness a bit, but it’s still delicious.
Personally, I like my sweetcorn to be prepared simply. I find that sweet corn is at its best when it’s brushed with a little bit of melted butter and then cooked on the grill. That caramelized char flavor adds a new dimension to the sweetcorn that you can’t unlock via other cooking methods.
Don’t waste any more time, and start planning that trip to Minnesota! Get your fill of sweetcorn there and understand what you’ve been missing out on for so long!
9. Blueberry Pie
We’ve mainly focused on savory items throughout this article, but our lineup of great Minnesota food includes desserts too. If you want some dessert, look up a restaurant or coffee shop in your area and ask if they serve homemade blueberry pie.
Blueberry pie is a signature example of Minnesota state fair food and always shows up in the fair’s pie-baking contests. You should head there if you want to sample the many variations of that state favorite.
Residents don’t even have to leave home to enjoy a freshly baked blueberry pie. Many dining establishments in the area now offer their blueberry pies for delivery.
Minnesotan bakers have long since perfected the art of creating flaky pie crusts, thanks in part to their French, Scandinavian, and Scottish ancestors. When you combine that expertly made crust with fresh blueberries, the result is utterly magical.
Blueberry pies are delicious in Minnesota year-round. However, the best time to order them is during the summer. Blueberries are in season during that time of the year, so you’ll get to experience their full flavor in that slice of pie you ordered.
See Related: Best Lake Towns in Minnesota to Visit
10. Honeycrisp Apples
Does Minnesota tax food? They do have special administrative rules when it comes to certain types of food, but for the most part, food is untaxed!
That means you can save more money by enjoying some fresh produce during your stay in Minnesota. Don’t forget about apples in search of fresh fruits to try in Minnesota. To be more specific, make sure you get your hands on Honeycrisp apples; Minnesota’s other foodie pride and joy.
First created by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, the signature qualities of these delicious apples are in the name; as sweet as honey with a heavenly, crunchy crispness.
The sad thing about Honeycrisp apples is that they don’t travel very well. You have to head to Minnesota if you want to experience what they’re all about. It may seem silly to travel to another state for an apple – but these aren’t your ordinary apple!
Don’t worry about making the trip because you definitely won’t be disappointed. Honeycrisp apples are at their best when eaten fresh from the tree. The balance of sweetness and tartness it presents is not something you can find in other apples.
The Honeycrisp apple is another staple of the Minnesota state fair gluten-free food list. Folks with gluten allergies will want to seek Honeycrisp apples out because they are great on their own and don’t need to be included in pies.
11. Wild Rice Soup
One of the signature dishes of Minnesota is wild rice and mushroom soup, a hearty and creamy soup that is perfect for a chilly winter evening.
The soup is made with a rich broth and hearty true wild rice and garnished with shredded chicken, diced celery, and chopped green onions.
It’s the perfect comfort food for a cold night and will warm you up from the inside out. So if you’re ever in Minnesota, be sure to try this delicious dish!
See Related: Strange Foods in America You Should Try
12. Cream of Mushroom Soup
Another popular soup is cream of mushroom soup. The soup is made with a variety of mushrooms, including shiitake, oyster, and crimini, which gives it a deep and rich flavor.
The mushrooms are cooked in a creamy broth, and the soup is finished with a touch of sherry. This dish is also perfect for a cold winter day.
13. Porketta Sandwich
Porketta sandwich – Photo from Trip Advisor
The Minnesota porketta sandwich is a true Midwestern delicacy. This hearty sandwich features thinly sliced roast pork, topped with a flavorful mix of onions, garlic, and spices.
The pork is then slow-cooked until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the flavors have had a chance to meld together. The result is a sandwich that is both flavorful and filling.
While the exact origins of the sandwich are unclear, it is believed to have originated in the Italian community of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Today, the porketta sandwich can be found at restaurants and delis across the state. If you find yourself in Minnesota, be sure to give this unique sandwich a try.
14. Tater Tot Hotdish
For many people, the words “Minnesota” and “hot dish” are synonymous. This hearty casserole, typically made with ground beef, vegetables, and tater tots in a shallow baking dish, is a staple of MN culture. While the exact origin of the hot dish is unknown, it’s thought to have originated in the early 20th century as a way to stretch food resources.
Today, hot dish is enjoyed by people of all ages and can be found on restaurant menus across the state. If you find yourself in Minnesota, be sure to order a hot dish (or two!) and experience this unique aspect of MN cuisine.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Duluth, Minnesota
14. Craft Beer
Last but certainly not least, this article featuring the best Minnesota food is a drink – yes, I’m cheating, but hear me out. We are devoting this final entry to the craft beers available throughout the Land of 10,000 Lakes because Minnesota may well be home to 10,000 beers!
You can find numerous craft beer breweries in bigger cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth, but most of Minnesota’s smaller cities and towns boast their own craft beers.
The craft beers available in Minnesota feature all kinds of flavor profiles and styles, from porters to lagers to Scotch ales to IPAs. Depending on the brewery, you can enjoy brews that have a decidedly bitter flavor or go with something that almost tastes syrupy. You can have something as thick as soup or crisp and light as spring water – the options are virtually limitless.
Citrus-based brews like hazy IPAs or even sours are also quite popular in Minnesota, along with an increasing number of fruit-infused beers. If you’re a beer aficionado or just like a good brewski, you must explore Minnesota’s craft beer scene as soon as possible. You’ll easily find more than a few options there that will perfectly suit your tastes! And I didn’t even mention the increasing number of distilleries popping up in Minnesota.