Known for its many lakes, beautiful landscape, and cold winters, Minnesota is also a hotspot for culinary curiosities and delicious food. Often having cultural significance and using products locally sourced, some of the state’s best cuisine has a long, rich history.
Although many of the most popular dishes are heavily influenced by the area’s Scandinavian roots, there are some other pretty interesting meals that originated in the state. In no particular order, here are the 8 most famous foods in Minnesota:
Traditionally served with mashed potatoes and gravy, lingonberry jam, and pickled cucumbers, Swedish meatballs are a classic dish in Minnesota. It’s the perfect comfort food for icy cold winter days and can be easily prepared at home or can also be found at many different restaurants in the Twin Cities.
Although originally introduced to Minnesota by Swedish immigrants, the dish has a long history that dates back to the 18th century in Turkey. The king of Sweden at the time, King Charles XII, loved the food so much that he brought it back to Sweden and thus the Swedish meatball was born.
Swedish meatballs are traditionally comprised of both ground pork and beef, but there are some meatless options for vegetarians and vegans. One of the best places in the area to get authentic Swedish meatballs is FIKA Café at the American Swedish Institute. They serve theirs with cucumber, lingonberries, and pureed potatoes. What’s not to love about that?
Wild Rice Soup
Wild rice is a staple in Minnesota, and wild rice soup is a celebration of this grain. In truth, wild rice is not even exactly rice. It’s technically an aquatic grass that is native to Minnesota. For thousands of years, native people here have carefully cultivated and used this food as a staple in their day-to-day lives.
The Ojibwe people revere wild rice, and it plays an integral role in their culture. In 1977, the state of Minnesota officially adopted it as the state grain. Over the years, locals have used this food to create something truly delicious – wild rice soup.
Traditionally, this soup includes wild rice, vegetables, and sometimes chicken. Although it is pretty easy to find anywhere in the Twin Cities, French Meadow Café is a great spot to stop in for a bowl. Their soup has chicken, wild rice, carrots, onions, cream, and scallions. Be sure to pick up a baguette to pair with your soup while you’re there – it will not disappoint.
Hotdish, an amalgam of meat, canned soup, and vegetables all topped with tater tots, is the Minnesotan version of a traditional casserole, but better. This strange but oddly delicious meal is the ultimate comfort food. If you’ve never heard of or tried hotdish before, imagine a creamy pot pie-type base topped with crispy tots.
It’s exactly the type of meal you’d want in the dead of winter. Due to its innate simplicity, hotdish is usually best prepared at home, preferably with whatever ingredients you have on hand. The point of hotdish is to use what is available. It’s perfect for large gatherings or for feeding hungry kiddos.
If you haven’t tried this Eastern European specialty yet, Minneapolis is the perfect place to try it out for the first time. One of the best establishments in the area to get Polish sausage is Kramarczuk’s in Northeast Minneapolis. Established in 1954, Kramarczuk’s was originally founded by Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk after they moved to Minneapolis from Ukraine.
Combining their skills in cooking and sausage-making, they opened their own shop to sell both their homemade creations as well as imported goods from Europe. Today, their legacy lives on and you can visit either their deli or restaurant to try out some of the many different types of Polish sausage.
If you stop by, be sure to try either the Polish Kielbasa or the Bratwurst – these are some of the most popular options. But you also can’t go wrong with a side of one of the pierogis they have to offer, especially the potato and cheese.
If you’re from anywhere other than the Midwest, cheese curds may not be something you’ve ever tried or even heard of. But if there’s one thing a Minnesotan will tell you about, it’s their love of cheese curds. You can find them virtually anywhere here – from bars to restaurants and beyond.
So what are cheese curds exactly? They are basically little balls of fresh cheese that are deep-fried and usually devoured within minutes. You can dip them in whatever sauce you desire. When scouting out the next spot to source this delicious treat from, be sure to make sure your curds are fresh. Nothing is worse than stale cheese curd.
One of the best spots to try is Red Cow in Minneapolis. They serve theirs with triple-berry ketchup and it’s probably the best thing ever. Another great spot is Blue Door Pub, which serves its curds with a side of marinara.
The Honeycrisp apple, which became the state fruit in 2006, was originally made in Minnesota. It was created in 1960 by the University of Minnesota because they wanted to create an apple variety that could withstand the harsh winters. They combined Macoun and Honeygold apples to birth this new variety.
Over the years, the Honeycrisp apple has gained popularity both throughout the state and around the world. Its hardiness makes it easy to grow and its delicate flavor makes it versatile for culinary use. Apple picking season usually lasts from late summer to early autumn and there are a number of orchards you can choose from.
Minnetonka Orchards is a local family orchard that opens its doors to the public during apple season for autumnal fun for the whole family. It’s the perfect spot to take kids in the fall for hayrides, autumnal activities, and even apple cider donuts!
Nothing is quite as authentically Minnesotan as indulging in a cheesy hamburger mass, lovingly referred to as the Juicy (or Jucy) Lucy. Essentially a huge hamburger with two patties, in between is a slab of gooey cheese. The result is an incredible, cheesy wonder that you likely won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Now, there’s a bit of an ongoing debate about where this burger originated from. Some claim that it came from a spot called Matt’s Bar, where it’s called the Jucy Lucy. Others swear that the 5-8 Club invented this culinary wonder. Referred to as the Juicy Lucy at 5-8 Club, this rivalry has been going on since the 1950s.
In 1954, Matt’s Bar claims to have invented the burger when a customer came in and asked for some cheese between two patties. The 5-8 Club refutes this claim and declares that they are, in fact, the masterminds behind the Lucy. Not sure who to believe? Well, that just means you may just have to try both and decide for yourself which Lucy is best.
There are also other restaurants around town that have put their own spin on the Lucy. Some like to keep it classic and some choose to use different cheeses to give it a unique flavor. Whichever one you end up trying, you’ll be sure to love every last bit of this juicy, cheesy wonder.
Named the official state fish in 1965, Walleye is native to the lakes and rivers of Minnesota. Easily found, if you’re into fishing, you can go out and catch some yourself. However, for those who prefer having their fish prepared for them, there are plenty of restaurants that serve Walleye.
Mac’s Fish and Chips is a great place to get a classic fish-and-chip-style Walleye meal. Another popular spot is Gluek’s Bar and Restaurant serving Walleye fingers with a side of dill-caper tartar sauce, although they do offer a classic fish and chip style as well.
The next time you make a trip to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” be sure to check out the best foods this state has to offer. While some of our classics may sound a bit odd or unique to visitors, rest assured that these meals are, in fact, tried and true and will leave you feeling like you’ve been missing out on something amazing.
Whether you’re looking to compare and contrast Juicy Lucy’s or you’re more into trying cheese curds for the first time, you’ll leave here with a fresh culinary experience.