A unique state known for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and scenic getaways, there’s a lot to love about Maryland. Of course, one of the best aspects of exploring any new place is the food scene.
Maryland is home to a number of iconic dishes, many of which include crab, that is loved by locals and tourists alike. Often using locally sourced ingredients, in no particular order, here are 12 of the most famous foods in Maryland:
Maryland Pit Beef
Meat prepared in different ways is loved by Americans in general, but no one does pit beef quite like Maryland. Pit beef is roasted on a charcoal grill and seasoned only with salt. This iconic meat is cooked until it’s crispy on the outside and rare in the middle.
Traditionally shaved into thin slices and piled high on a simple sandwich consisting of just beef, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, and thin-sliced raw onions on a roll, the sauce is what sets it apart from other BBQ, as most use one that consists of ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar. while its exact origins are unknown, pit beef continues to thrive on MD menus today.
Smith Island Cake
Few states have their own officially designated dessert, and even fewer have one as delicious as Smith Island Cake. Named after Maryland’s last remaining inhabited island group in the Chesapeake Bay, these cakes date all the way back to the 1800s and were meant as a symbol of community and togetherness.
While Smith Island Cakes are now enjoyed for all sorts of occasions, they still manage to bring together anyone who appreciates a beautifully crafted dessert. Comprised of 8-10 super thin layers of yellow cake and chocolate fudge frosting, Smith Island Cakes can be found in a variety of flavors.
Truthfully, we could make an entire list solely on the types of crab Maryland is known for. From crab soup and crab dip to crab fries, if you’re looking to try this beloved crustacean, steamed crab is the way to go. Blue crabs are native to the Chesapeake Bay region, so it’s no wonder that they’ve become a staple in Maryland cuisine.
Locals will tell you that the best way to enjoy steamed crab is as a communal experience, gathering together with other crab enthusiasts to steam them in large quantities. Then eat them straight from the shell, seasoned liberally with Old Bay. If steaming your own crabs is too intimidating for a first-timer, there are plenty of places that serve them all over the state.
As we’ve already established, Marylanders love crab. There may be conflicting opinions on the superior crab form, but we thought crab cakes deserved a spot on this list. Crab cakes can be found around the country, but Maryland crab cakes have something that sets them apart – giant chunks of blue crab.
While other cakes are often packed with filler and contain fine shreds of crab, the Maryland variety really lets the crab be the star of the show. The crab meat is held together with ingredients like breadcrumbs, eggs, mayonnaise, Old Bay (again), and other seasonings. Once you try a Maryland crab cake, you’ll never want to get them anywhere else.
National Bohemian Beer may not technically be a food, but it’s a staple on Maryland tables and bars everywhere. Dating back all the way to 1885, the beer affectionately referred to as “Natty Boh” is an icon of Chesapeake traditions that center around food, friends, family, and leisure.
If you order a bottle of National Bohemian at a Baltimore bar, you’ll know you’re in a real locals’ spot if the bartender provides you with the bottle cap along with your beer. An iconic feature of a Natty Boh bottle is the tiny puzzle printed on the underside of the cap. Sit back with a plate of crab legs and a Natty Boh, and settle in for a perfect Maryland evening.
Crab Potato Chips
We couldn’t quite make it to the end of this list without the addition of one more crab item. However, crab potato chips are a bit different from the others. Utz Snacks are originally from Hanover, PA, though their crab potato chips have become iconic symbols of Maryland just like National Bohemian and Old Bay.
Utz flavors their crab chips (amazon link) with Chesapeake Bay Crab Seasoning, sticking with the true theme of Maryland. If you want the actual Old Bay brand seasoning on your chips, look no further than Herr’s Old Bay Potato Chips (amazon link), another local favorite.
The quick and easy satisfaction of grabbing a bag of crab chips from a convenience store certainly has its appeal, but if you’re looking for a dining experience, you might even be able to find a Maryland restaurant that makes its own in-house.
Attention all kettle corn fans! If you’ve never had Fisher’s Popcorn before, you’re in for a real treat. The original storefront for this salty, sweet snack was opened in 1937 by Everett Fisher in Downtown Ocean City, Maryland. The now third-generation-owned business continues to use the original “secret caramel recipe” to the delight of Marylanders and tourists from around the country.
Fisher’s can be identified by the delicious aroma that drifts across the Ocean City boardwalk, making it a must-see for passersby. Their classic caramel popcorn has been joined by several other flavors over the years, including white cheddar, caramel apple, and (you guessed it) Old Bay.
We’ve lost count of how many times Old Bay has been mentioned in this list and has rightfully earned its own spot. Despite being just a seasoning, Old Bay® Classic Seafood Seasoning is one of the most iconic foods synonymous with the Maryland culinary scene.
This classic seafood seasoning blend includes celery seed, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and paprika, though its exact ingredients are somewhat ambiguous. Their official ingredient list includes the word “spices” which is rumored to be some combination of laurel leaves, mustard, cardamom, cloves, and ginger.
While Old Bay is most often associated with seafood, Marylanders have been known to add it to just about anything. You might come across a sprinkling of Old Bay on pasta dishes, fried chicken, and even cocktails.
Thrasher’s French Fries
Another food that Maryland has become known for is Thrasher’s French Fries. Much like Fisher’s Popcorn, Thrasher’s came to life in Ocean City, Maryland. Originating in 1929, Thrasher’s makes the bold claim of labeling their fries “the best french fries on the planet.” The pure dedication and attention to detail that goes into the production of their fries put some possibility behind that claim.
The journey of a Thrasher’s fry begins with the potato, where only the highest quality spuds are selected. These crispy, delicious snacks are fried in 100% peanut oil, then served with salt and 100% apple cider vinegar. Stop by and grab a bucket of these legendary fries to see for yourself what separates them from the rest.
One of the most unique treats that Maryland is known for is the lemon stick. The food is as simple as the name suggests, consisting of a short peppermint stick inserted into half of a lemon. This striking sweet and sour combination is an assault on the senses, yet somehow impossible to put down.
The brightly flavored peppermint blends with the tart lemon juice creating an intriguing and tongue-tingling experience. The exact origin of these unusual treats is unknown, although there is a record of them dating back to 1911. They are most often spotted during the annual Flower Mart Festival in Baltimore, but lemon sticks can be enjoyed any day of the year.
If you find yourself in Baltimore in the summertime, you’ll want to beat the heat with a cold and refreshing snowball. There are cities and states across the country that have their own version of a crushed ice treat, each with its own unique qualities. The Baltimore snowball is less creamy than Italian ice, less coarse than a snow cone, and less watery than a slushie.
The iconic snowball consists of finely shaved ice and flavored syrup, sometimes topped with marshmallow cream or chocolate sauce. Dating all the way back to the 1800s during the Great Depression, these sweet treats have gone by other names in the past, including “penny sundaes” and “hard-time sundaes.”
Another beloved sweet treat from Maryland is the iconic Berger Cookie. Dating back to East Baltimore in 1835, these classic cookies continue to be produced with the original, homemade recipe with just a few small adjustments. This cake-like cookie has a soft texture and is hand-dipped on one side in rich chocolate fudge icing.
Berger Cookies are available in locations around Baltimore, as well as their online shop which ships nationwide so you can enjoy these soft, classic cookies anywhere.
Whether you’re a Maryland local or a foodie from the other side of the country, these iconic foods have something for everyone. In the spirit of the Chesapeake Bay lifestyle, crack open a Natty Boh, get out the Old Bay, and prepare the crab steamer pot for a day of friends, family, food, and leisure.