Best known for its impressive foliage, mountainous terrain, and the farmlands of the Champlain Valley, Vermont also boasts plenty of famous foods worth trying. From warm, hearty dinners to delectable sweets, many of the best meals in the Green Mountain State are made from home-grown ingredients.
In no particular order, here are some of the most famous foods in Vermont:
By far, Vermont is the top producer of maple syrup in the United States. Each year, the state contributes more than 2 million gallons of syrup to the country’s overall production.
There are many different legends regarding how maple syrup first came to be, depending on the Indigenous tribe you ask. It’s generally accepted, however, that Native Americans taught European settlers how to make the sugary concoction. Early methods of making syrup involved tapping trees for sap, then boiling it above a fire until virtually all the water was gone.
This process created a dark sugar that would keep indefinitely. Today, syrup production follows the same basic procedure used by the Native Americans and early settlers, with the benefit of more advanced technology. Syrup companies tap maple trees, collect hundreds of gallons of sap, then use reverse osmosis to reduce the liquid down to syrup.
Vermont maple syrup ranges in color and flavor depending on its purpose. Golden-brown syrups are delicately flavored, perfect for topping ice cream or yogurt. Thanks to their strong flavor, dark brown syrups are generally used for cooking. Not just delicious, Vermont maple syrup is versatile and is used as a base for many other local favorites, some of which we’ll get to later.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
One of the most famous ice cream brands in the US, Ben and Jerry’s has nearly 100 different flavors. Sold in scoop shops, grocery stores, and gas stations throughout the world today, in 1978, Ben and Jerry’s was a solitary ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont.
Opening their first shop in a renovated gas station, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield went from owning a local store to selling packaged pints in the area’s grocery stores and markets. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the company expanded across the United States and other countries. Today, there are more than 600 locations worldwide.
In addition to regular ice cream, you can find Ben and Jerry’s pints of non-dairy ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gluten-free flavors. Including candy, fudge, chunks of fruit, and nuts in some of their most iconic flavors, there’s something for just about everyone.
While the original Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop no longer exists, you can find stores in Burlington, Jeffersonville, and Waterbury Village Historic District.
Thanks to Vermont’s proximity to Canada, poutine– a dish of french fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy– is popular in the state. However, before poutine became a staple of Vermont cuisine, gravy fries were the go-to.
Nectar’s, a music venue in Burlington, began serving gravy-covered fries in the 1970s. The dish became a late-night favorite for music lovers. The venue changed hands in 2003 and since then, its menu has changed several times. The gravy fries, however, remain one of the stars of the show.
While it’s certainly not gourmet cooking, greasy fries slathered in turkey gravy are excellent for powering a night spent singing, dancing, and drinking. Nectar’s hosts a variety of events, including music sets, dance parties, and trivia nights. If you’re looking for classic Vermont food accompanied by fun nightlife, don’t miss this local venue.
Maple Baked Beans
Baked beans are prevalent throughout New England, thanks to Native American influence on colonial cuisine. While there are multiple variations of the dish, such as Boston baked beans being sweetened with molasses, the Vermont version of the dish, of course, calls for maple syrup.
Making Vermont-style baked beans on your own can be a time-intensive task, as soaking the beans can take up to a day. Once they’ve soaked and all ingredients have been added, cooking time can last from 4-5 hours.
If you don’t have that time on your hands while visiting the Green Mountain State, many restaurants throughout the area serve some version of the dish. Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington offers maple baked beans as a side dish alongside their highly-rated meat entrees.
White Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar cheese originated in the 12th century in Cheddar, a village in Somerset, England. When English settlers landed in North America, they brought many of their traditions and recipes with them. In 19th-century Vermont, family farms were small, with few resources. As a way for farmers to help each other, co-ops started popping up around the state.
Cabot Creamery, which started as a co-op of 94 farmers in 1919, is a perfect example of how this co-op system flourished. Owning more than 1,500 farms, Cabot produces several varieties of award-winning cheddar. Other popular cheesemakers in the state include Shelburne Farms and Grafton Village Cheese Company.
Some Vermonters claim that their state’s cheddar has a distinct taste, which is reportedly sharper and slightly more bitter, that sets it apart from other cheeses. This unique taste is likely due to regional differences in soil and water. Cows’ milk is affected by the grass they eat, impacting the overall taste of the cheese.
Regardless of the reasons behind its taste, Vermont cheddar cheese is certainly something special. For a truly authentic culinary experience, enjoy your white cheddar with a slice of Vermont apple pie.
Sugar on Snow
If you’re traveling on a budget but have a hankering for something sweet, look no further. Sugar on snow is exactly what it sounds like: maple syrup poured over snow that turns into a taffy-like substance. A sweet treat, many Vermontians eat it with a pickle and donut on the side.
During sugaring season, many sugarhouses open their factories up for tours. Vermont Maple Open House weekends are typically held in late March/early April at sugarhouses throughout the state. At these open houses, visitors can witness syrup production in action, sample maple products, try sugar on snow, and purchase a variety of goods.
Sugarhouses operate in cities throughout Vermont, including Montpelier, Williston, Richmond, and Shelburne. These events are fun for the entire family. If you aren’t in Vermont during sugaring season but would like to try sugar on snow, it’s simple to make. Heat maple syrup and butter to 234° F, cool slightly, then pour in ribbons over a bowl of packed snow. Enjoy!
Apples arrived in the Americas in the 17th century and quickly became a staple ingredient in many desserts, drinks, and sauces. For centuries, farmers and orchard owners in the United States cultivated more than 15,000 types of apples. As technology advanced and apple production became more streamlined, however, fewer varieties were planted.
Today, the older varieties of apples, such as the Gravenstein, Baldwin, and Black Oxford, are increasingly difficult to find. Vermont, along with other New England states, is one of the last places to grow these varieties.
Scott Farm Orchard in Dummerston is a 570-acre orchard that grows more than 100 varieties of heirloom apples. Each year in October, they host Heirloom Apple Day. Visitors can learn about heirloom apple history from expert talks. The event also features a pick-your-own-apples orchard, a farmer’s market, and food trucks. Kids’ activities include cornhole, Jenga, and pumpkin painting.
While Vermont apples are delicious, they may not satisfy a sweet tooth. Enter cider donuts. These little pastries are created by putting apple cider directly into the dough, then frying them and covering them with cinnamon sugar. The cider adds both flavor and softness to the donuts.
You can often find cider donuts at orchards during apple season. The state’s most famous cider donuts, however, can be found at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center, where guests can watch them being made right before their eyes. In addition to cider donuts, Cold Hollow offers other classic Vermont fare, like maple syrup, apples and cheddar, and, of course, cider.
Lake Champlain Chocolates
In 1983, Jim Lampton, owner of the Ice House Restaurant in Burlington, challenged his head chef to improve his chocolate candy recipe. The chef, with Jim’s help, created hand-rolled truffles that would later become known as Lake Champlain Chocolates.
Today there are dozens of flavors and varieties of Lake Champlain Chocolates. Rich, delicious, and beautifully made, they’ve become so popular that the company accepts orders from all over the country on their website. There are three Lake Champlain Chocolate stores in Vermont; two in Burlington and one in Waterbury Center.
The flagship location in Burlington features a video and interactive Storywalk on how their chocolates are made. At their Church Street location, guests can watch the staff make hand-dipped caramel apples and chocolate-covered marshmallows. The stores also feature espresso and hot chocolate cafes.
If all the sweets on this list have you feeling ready to burst, try fiddleheads for a change of pace. Fiddleheads are the tips of fern leaves and in New England, they commonly come from the ostrich fern, which is native to the area. Fiddleheads are rich in many vitamins and minerals, making them a great addition to just about any meal.
Fiddleheads are picked in early spring, while the ferns are still young. They’re often enjoyed steamed, boiled, or sauteed in butter. Their taste is described as similar to asparagus. Often picked in forests and along rivers, fiddleheads can sometimes be found at farmer’s markets as well as occasionally offered as sides at restaurants in the state.
The origins of the maple creemee are debated, but one thing is for certain– they are a can’t-miss when in Vermont! A maple creemee is similar to a soft-serve ice cream cone, though its texture is creamier. The simplest creemee recipes call for maple syrup to be added to a vanilla ice cream base.
Found all over Vermont, Creemee Stand, a seasonal roadside stand in Wilmington, was awarded Food Network’s Best Dessert in the State award for their maple creemee. A cash-only stand that’s only open during the summer, Creemee Stand has large menu of desserts, including soft serve, milkshakes, sundaes, and hard ice cream.
When it comes to decadent desserts and fresh-grown foods, Vermont’s culinary landscape is tough to beat. When traveling in the Green Mountain State, be sure you don’t miss their most famous dishes.