The very word “Midwest” conjures up images of dairy farms, the Green Bay Packers, and a whole lot of rich, decadent food. Whether you’re familiar with buckeyes or have indulged in a Juicy Lucy before, many of the Midwestern’s most well-known and delectable dishes also have the most inventive names. I mean, where else can you order a horseshoe sandwich?
If you’re curious about how Ozark pudding came to be or want to learn more about the origins of “bumpy cake,” read on.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most iconic and old-fashioned foods you’ll only find in the heart of America. And don’t miss over 20 old-fashioned Midwestern desserts to try.
Cincinnati chili is made like a typical chili with ground beef and spices, but traditionally has a sweeter note due to the addition of cinnamon and sometimes chocolate. But the difference with Texas chili does not end with a hint of sweetness, Cincinnati chili is also served over spaghetti. Technically it’s called “2-way” when served with spaghetti The Washington Post. Cheese, onions, and red beans can be added, and all four are referred to as “5-way.”
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Don’t worry, no tigers were hurt in the making of this iconic Midwestern dish. Tiger meat (or “South Dakota steak tartare”) is a mixture of ground beef, raw egg, and spices often served on crackers. Dakota.
Named after the Ozark region of Missouri, this dry fruit custard made with nuts is a Midwestern delicacy often served as a sweet treat after meals. Ozark pudding became best known in the 1950s when President Truman revealed it to be his favorite dessert.
No boring donuts here! “Long John” is the unexpected name used by Midwesterners to describe a large, rectangular donut filled with cream or custard and then topped with cake frosting or icing.
Don’t expect to find this sweet treat everywhere, though — it’s especially popular in places like the Midwest, Texas, and parts of Canada.
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Ham salad is the traditional Midwestern tuna salad and contains chopped canned ham, pickle sauce, and mayonnaise. The lunchtime staple became incredibly popular in the 1920s when people started making their midday meals at home. It is especially loved in the Upper Midwest in places like Minnesota and Michigan.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “booyah” is used to express joy, but did you also know that it’s a common dish in the Midwest? Made with meat, veggies, and spices, this thick stew can take up to two days to make.
Some people believe that the name “booyah” is derived from the word “bouillon”, which is sometimes used to make the base of this dish.
The name “bumpy cake” might be a bit off-putting, but we can assure you that this cake is delicious. Created in the early 1900s by the Michigan-based Sanders Chocolate Company, this decadent treat is made using chocolate devil’s food cake topped with “bumps” of buttercream, then coated in chocolate ganache. This classic Detroit dessert is perfect to serve for birthdays or during the holidays.
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If you like burgers, you have to go to the Midwest to try a Juicy Lucy. This delicious twist on the American classic features a thick burger patty filled with melted cheese and dates back to the 1950s.
While two bars have stated they are the makers of this tasty dish, you can expect variations in many different Midwestern restaurants and bars.
Here are two words you never thought would appear side by side: “Snickers” and “salad.” Made with chopped Snickers bars, sliced Granny Smith apples, whipped cream, and pudding, this unique dish is often eaten during potlucks and Midwestern parties.
It joins other traditional Midwestern dessert salads such as Ambrosia, cookie salad, and Watergate salad. While its origins are not entirely clear, some people believe it to be a Midwestern rendition of the Norwegian dish “rommegrot.”
If you’re a fan of meat skewers, then chislic might be your next go-to. Made with fried meat that is seasoned and served with toothpicks. This easy-to-make recipe is often served with hot sauce, seasoned salt, or ranch dressing.
Many people believe chislics were introduced to the Midwest by John Hoellwarth, an immigrant who came to South Dakota from Crimea in the 1870s.
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No list is complete without the incomparable buckeye. Made with peanut butter fudge and chocolate, this treat is best known in Ohio. It is even named after the poisonous nut of the Ohio Buckeye tree, the state tree.
Sticky Butter Cake
For nearly 100 years, Midwesterners have been indulging in gooey buttercake, a hearty dessert made with butter, sugar, cake flour, and eggs, and topped with powdered sugar. People often enjoy this rich cake—created by accident in the 1930s by a St. Louis German-American baker—with coffee or tea.
Pasta is delicious, but have you ever tried toasted ravioli? Made with fried ravioli, this beloved appetizer is made by two Italian-American restaurants in St. Louis: Mama Campisi’s and Charlie Gitto’s.
Legend has it that a ravioli was accidentally tossed into a deep fryer by Mama Campisi’s chef, Chef Fritz, resulting in the creation of this delicious twist on an old classic.
In reality, the horseshoe sandwich (fortunately) has nothing to do with horseshoes. Made with two pieces of toast topped with hamburger meat and fries, then smothered in cheese, this tasty sandwich has been a Springfield, Illinois staple for over a century. It was created in the 1920s by chef Joe Schweska at the Leland Hotel, the most famous hotel in town at the time.
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Known as a Midwestern must-try, Blue Moon is a “smurf blue” ice cream that dates all the way back to the 1950s. While a few different places claim to have created the “original” Blue Moon ice cream, many attribute the unique flavor to Bill Sidon, the chief flavor chemist at an old Milwaukee flavor company called Petran Products in the 1950s.
Every ice cream shop that sells this flavor keeps their recipe a secret, so no one knows exactly what Blue Moon is made of. Some swear it tastes like almond extract, while others think it has more of a citrusy vanilla flavor. And those are all old fashioned food terms you only hear in the Midwest!
Chippers are actually chocolate-covered potato chips, which were invented in North Dakota. The best place to get these salty, sweet treats is at Carol Widman’s Candy Company, where they first gained popularity.
An earlier version of this article was originally published on July 27, 2022.