20 Midwestern Dishes You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Written By Jill Taylor

The Midwest has a collection of unique and delectable dishes that often fly under the radar. If you want to know what the heart and soul of midwestern cooking is really like, you should familiarize yourself with these 20 surprising, mouthwatering regional specialties.

Cornish Pasty

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Cornish pasties are a mixture of seasoned steak, potatoes, and swede (or rutabaga) that originate from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Some people love theirs with extra bits of butter, and although these portable meals were traditionally enjoyed by miners, they’ve become beloved by everyone. The Spruce says they’re a perfect fit for lunchboxes, whether for work or school.


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The runza is almost endemic to Nebraska, and it’s so respected that it’s been selected to represent the state in revered taste events. It’s a baked bread filled with ground beef, onions, cabbage, and a blend of tasty spices. And it’s a dish that offers a unique combination of textures that makes it different from the familiar-looking pasty.

Jucy Lucy

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Made for the first time by Matt’s Bar, Jucy Lucy came from a customer requesting a piece of cheese between two hamburger patties in 1954, and midwesterners have loved it ever since. It’s a mouthwatering burger that gives you a gooey, cheesy delight with every bite, and it’s a must-try if you’re looking for something different and delicious.


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Hotdish is a comforting casserole that blends ground meat, vegetables, and a creamy sauce, all crowned with crispy tater tots. Ideal for cold evenings and family gatherings, this hearty dish delivers a taste of homestyle cooking that’s both satisfying and nostalgic.

Gooey Butter Cake

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Gooey butter cake, a St. Louis specialty, is a rich dessert with a chewy, gooey center and a crisp, buttery crust. This indulgent treat is perfect for satisfying sweet cravings, and it showcases St. Louis’s great love for all things thick, creamy, and buttery.

Beer Cheese Soup

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Wisconsin is known for its cheese, and beer cheese soup is a testament to the state’s dairy prowess. If you need a comforting bowl of warmth that’s perfect for chilly midwestern days, this creamy, flavorful soup that combines sharp cheddar cheese with beer is perfect for you.


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Lefse is a traditional Norwegian flatbread made from potatoes, flour, and cream. Yes, it has Scandinavian heritage, but it also has immense popularity in parts of the Midwest, with variations often served with butter and sugar. Lefse’s soft and tender feel makes it a cherished holiday treat and a delicious reminder of the region’s dynamic cultural roots.


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Chislic, a beloved South Dakota specialty, features deep-fried or grilled cubes of seasoned meat, typically lamb or beef. Often accompanied by crackers or bread, this straightforward yet flavorful dish celebrates the state’s rich agricultural heritage and passion for hearty, meaty fare.

Cheese Frenchee

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Tasting Table calls the cheese Frenchee a Nebraska classic, and for a good reason. Taking grilled cheese to a whole new level, the cheese Frenchee is a fried cheese sandwich coated in a crunchy Cornflake crust and deep-fried to perfection. This indulgent treat is a must-try for cheese lovers seeking a unique and crispy twist on a favorite.

North Dakota Kuchen

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Kuchen, a German word for cake, is North Dakota’s official state dessert. This delightful treat features a sweet dough crust filled with custard and fruit, offering a delicious combination of creamy and fruity flavors that reflect the state’s strong German heritage and love for baked goods.


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Also known as a loose meat sandwich, the Maid-Rite sandwich is a savory dish that hails from Iowa and features seasoned ground beef served on a soft bun. It’s similar to a sloppy joe but without the sauce, and it’s also a simple yet flavorful treat that showcases the state’s love for hearty, no-fuss meals.

Butter Burger

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Wisconsin’s butter burger is a rebellious twist on the classic hamburger. Featuring a generous pat of butter melted over the patty, this rich and savory burger puts Wisconsin’s dairy-loving traditions on full display and should be a go-to for anyone seeking a different and truly indulgent burger experience.

St. Paul Sandwich

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The St. Paul sandwich is a unique creation featuring an egg foo young patty served between slices of white bread with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. This fusion of Chinese and American flavors is a delicious and surprising treat that originates from Missouri, and Sauce Magazine shares that it’s particularly loved by residents of St. Louis.

Horseshoe Sandwich

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A Springfield specialty, the horseshoe sandwich is an open-faced sandwich featuring thick slices of toasted bread topped with meat, French fries, and a generous amount of cheese sauce. It’s an indulgent and hearty dish that proves perfect for satisfying big appetites and showcasing the region’s love for comfort food.

Double-Crusted Peach Pie

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Double-crusted peach pie is a midwestern favorite that features sweet, juicy peaches encased in a flaky, buttery crust. This classic dessert highlights the region’s abundant fruit harvests and love for home-baked treats, and it’s a delicious, rare way to enjoy your summer.

Chicken and Noodles Over Mashed Potatoes

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As simple as it is, this dish that combines tender chicken and homemade noodles served over creamy mashed potatoes has been a surprising comfort for many. It’s a hearty favorite in many midwestern homes, seen as the perfect meal for cold weather. And it showcases part of the region’s talent for creating delicious, simplistic comfort food.

German Potato Salad

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The German potato salad features tender potatoes dressed in a tangy, warm bacon vinaigrette (oil mixed with vinegar or lemon juice). This flavorful salad is a delicious alternative to the classic, all-too-popular mayonnaise-based version, additionally reflecting the region’s strong links to German cuisine.

Sour Cream Raisin Pie

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Sour cream raisin pie is a regional dessert favorite, featuring a creamy, tangy filling studded with plump raisins and topped with a cloud of meringue. This delicious blend of sweet and tart flavors is a unique pie that showcases the Midwest’s love for creative, flavorful, and boldly curated desserts.

Indian Fry Bread

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Indian fry bread, a beloved staple in Native American communities across the Midwest, offers a delightful combination of crispy and chewy textures. Served with either savory or sweet toppings, this versatile dish exemplifies the rich Indigenous culinary traditions of the region and is great for anyone seeking treats that predate modern alternatives.

Persimmon Pudding

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Persimmon pudding, a traditional dessert in parts of Indiana and Illinois, features ripe persimmons baked into a dense, sweet pudding. This is another seasonal treat that showcases the region’s love for using local fruits in its desserts, and it offers a delicious way to enjoy the unique flavor of persimmons.

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