While Nebraska is known as the “Cornhusker” state due to its abundance of (you guessed it!) corn, there are plenty of other foods and drinks that the state is famous for. Home to some of the United States’ best farmlands, much of the area’s cuisine is centered around its agricultural products.
And while you won’t have many options during a road trip across the state besides drive-throughs, although you can find some of the dishes mentioned at these locations, you would be remiss to skip out on trying NE’s best-known meals.
In no particular order, here are the ten most iconic foods and drinks in Nebraska:
Nebraska is one of the largest beef and dairy-producing states in the nation with a butcher industry dating back over 100 years. Home to one of the oldest nationally recognized companies that tout the title of “America’s Original Butcher”, Omaha Steaks is known for its premium cuts and variety of options.
It was opened in the early 1900s by a Latvian immigrant by the name of J.J. Shames. In over 50 years, he grew Omaha Steaks from one brick-and-mortar location to a nationally recognized brand.
Not only known for its high-quality cuts of beef but also for pioneering the direct shipping model in 1963, Omaha Steaks has both prospered and been able to expand its business due to this tactic. In addition to steaks, the company also carries various meats, appetizers, sides, and desserts and is regarded as a gourmet food retailer.
Although most of their products are shipped (affiliate link), there are about 40 storefront locations located throughout the US with the most notable being their Omaha location. If you’re looking to try some of the best steaks in the country shipped right to your door, then Omaha Steaks should be your top choice.
Children and adults in America have been drinking this beverage for close to one hundred years and it has been a staple in American households for the majority of that time. Invented in 1927 in Hastings, NE by Edwin Perkins, Kool-Aid was actually the successor of another one of his creations: Fruit Smack.
A liquid concentrate that often had transportation problems due to leaking bottles, Perkins decided he wanted to find a way to reduce his shipping issues. Choosing to dehydrate the beverage, he not only removed packaging issues but also made his most successful product.
Such a beloved drink mix and company to Hastings, the city holds an annual festival called Kool-Aid Days. Typically hosted on the second or third weekend in August, there are all kinds of events such as a 5K run, car shows, and Kool-Aid drinking contests.
Even though Kool-Aid was sold to another company over 50 years ago, Nebraskans still have a lot of pride in this incredibly famous drink being created in their state. Named the official soft drink of the state, even though it lacks carbonation, Kool-Aid can be purchased across the state and throughout the US in a variety of flavors. There’s even a zero-calorie unsweetened lineup (affiliate link).
Dorothy Lynch Salad Dressing
Created in 1940 by local restaurant owner Dorothy Lynch, this salad dressing has become something of a Nebraskan staple over the years.
Described as having a sweet, spicy flavor with a thick and creamy consistency that looks similar to French dressing, Dorothy Lynch’s product is made from tomatoes instead of oil. And being tomato-based, there are plenty of uses for the dressing, many of which are listed on the website’s recipe guide.
Dorothy Lynch dressing is only produced in the small town of Duncan, Nebraska. And while they distribute throughout the country and state, only select retailers carry it. However, you can purchase a bottle or three (affiliate link) from their website or Amazon.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
In other states throughout the Midwest as well as in Canada, this dish goes by many names, but in Nebraska, it’s known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. However, do not let the name fool you, there are no oysters in this dish.
Made from bull testicles, there are a variety of ways to prepare Rocky Mountain Oysters. In NE, the most popular way involves flattening the meat before tossing it in seasoning and breading. Fried until golden brown, the dish is often served with a glaze or a side of cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge.
Found across the state, the best places to try this dish are in areas with large cattle populations or restaurants that have been around for a while. Other names for Rocky Mountain Oysters include prairie oysters, cattle fries, or even cowboy caviar. Even though they may seem a little daunting, they are surprisingly delicious and should be tried at least once in your life.
The Rueben sandwich has been around for over 100 years and has multiple origin stories. However, the people of Nebraska will argue that their state should take credit for this creation.
NE legend has it that a man named Rueben Kulakofsky asked for this sandwich during a poker night he frequented at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha. The combination was so uncommon for the time that the owner put it on his menu and named it after the man who ordered it.
Typically using rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing, the sandwich is grilled and served hot. While there are many different ways to prepare a Rueben, Nebraska likes to keep things classic. Incredibly popular and found on lunch menus almost anywhere, be sure to visit Omaha’s top places to get a Rueben.
The Cheese Frenchee is a deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich that’s battered in eggs, milk, and cornflakes or crackers. The name of the sandwich supposedly came from the fact that the sandwich resembles the Croque Monsieur, a French sandwich with ham and fried cheese on the outside of the bread.
While origin stories about dishes like the Reuben sandwich might be hotly contested, Nebraska is the only state that can take credit for the creation of the Cheese Frenchee. First made in the 1950s at a restaurant called King’s Food Host in Lincoln, NE, which is now closed, you can now find the dish at other local restaurants across the state.
Two regional fast-food chains that still carry the sandwich are Don and Millie’s and Amigos/Kings Classic, although it can sometimes be found at diners throughout the state. Inexpensive, filling, and delicious, this is one item everyone can enjoy.
Runza Restaurants was established in Lincoln, NE in 1949 and has been run by the Everett Family ever since. Becoming a chain restaurant over the years, Runza’s focus on freshness has kept its franchises within or near the state. While there are many items on the menu, the most famous, and its namesake, is the Runza sandwich.
Made daily with fresh ingredients, the bread is typically shaped into a square before being hollowed out and filled with cabbage and ground beef that’s been seasoned with a secret blend of spices. Other popular add-ons include cheese and onions. Moreover, the restaurant offers multiple variations including the Barbecue bacon Runza, Swiss and mushroom Runza, and cheeseburger Runza.
Considered the unofficial food of the state by many Nebraskans, there are about 80 Runza locations primarily in NE as well as in Colorado, Iowa, and Kansas. Due to its popularity and the number of establishments throughout the state, this is a meal you cannot miss.
Butter Brickle Ice Cream
As one of the largest dairy producers in the country, ice cream is incredibly popular throughout Nebraska. In the same location where the Rueben Sandwich was supposedly first made, Butter Brickle ice cream was also discovered.
Butter Brickle candy is a chocolate-covered toffee that was created in Iowa during the 1920s. It’s said that a chef at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha was the first person to chop up Butter Brickle candy and mix it into vanilla ice cream. Found in creameries throughout the state, to this day, Nebraskans still take credit for this ice cream flavor.
Tin Roof Sundae
One of the most famous places to get ice cream in Nebraska is called The Potter Sundry. Located in the town of Potter, and selling an assortment of meals throughout the day, the restaurant’s most iconic invention is called the Tin Roof Sundae.
Served in an old-fashioned soda glass, the Tin Roof sundae is comprised of a layer of vanilla ice cream that’s topped with chocolate syrup. Pilled on top are multiple scoops of chocolate ice cream that are smothered in marshmallow fluff and Spanish peanuts.
Served for over 100 years at the same location is was invented, the restaurant has become a popular destination. If you’re near Potter and want a unique, one-of-a-kind experience, we recommend taking a short detour for this sweet treat.
Created by the Amish community, this dish has been a staple in Nebraska kitchens for many years. Raisin pie is made by combining sugar, salt, cinnamon, and raisins together before baking the mixture in a pie shell. Because of the simplicity of the recipe, it’s an incredibly fast and easy dessert to make at home.
Nicknamed the funeral pie, since it’s mostly served at funerals and other gatherings, part of the reason it’s so popular at these events is that it does not need to be refrigerated.
Even though raisin pie is also commonly served as a local tradition, it’s sometimes found in some older diners and restaurants throughout Nebraska. If you want to try this Cornhusker favorite, but cannot find it, this dish can be easily made with a few basic kitchen ingredients.
While Nebraska might not be a typical tourist destination, its food and drinks are really what put them on the map. With many different items ranging from intriguing to delectable, there are plenty of dishes to enjoy when visiting. Make sure to add any of these meals to your must-eat list for your next trip to NE.