Ranked: State fair foods that pack the most calories

Kae Lani Palmisano

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“Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet” is a phrase we see on every nutrition label. The FDA says that some people require more calories –  like Michael Phelps, who ate anywhere between 8,000 - 10,000 calories per day while training for the Olympics – and some require less.  Either way, we all have a calorie budget that can easily be blown the minute we step into the state fair.


It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to eating at the state fair. Your senses become overloaded with the sights and smells of delicious, deep-fried delights that you only get to enjoy once a year. An average day at the state fair means eating everything on a stick, washing it down with a beer and treating yourself to a battered and fried dessert. And before you know it, you’ve consumed five days worth of calories, but, honestly, it was worth it.

Here’s a quick guide to the state-fair foods that are packing the most calories, so you can indulge wisely.

Fried Twinkie (2 oz.): 420 calories | 34 g fat

The fried Twinkie is a classic at state fairs across the United States, but this invention hails from Rugby, England. According to the New York Times, Christopher Sell spent his teenage years inventing new deep-fried concoctions while working at a fish and chips shop. Years later, when he moved to the United States to open his own shop, he deep-fried everything he could get his hands on: Peppermint Patties, M&Ms, Snickers, Twix and, of course, Twinkies.

When it comes to calories, the fried Twinkie is actually one of the more reasonable treats one can enjoy at the state fair, but it does have a whopping 34 grams of fat in a tiny 2-ounce package.

Fried Snickers (5 oz.) | 444 calories | 29 g fat

It’s incredible, the things you can fry. As long as you can coat it in funnel cake batter and plunge it into hot grease, then you’ve got yourself a state-fair classic. In the case of a fried Snickers, that means a gooey caramel center and melted chocolate permeating the funnel cake exterior.

Twinkie Dog: 500 calories | 14 g fat

Weird Al Yankovic is famous for decades of parodying pop classics, but one of his greatest contributions to humanity is the Twinkie dog.  Now a favorite at state fairs across the United States, the Twinkie dog is lifted straight from Weird Al’s movie UHF. In the film, Weird Al’s character makes a "Twinkie weiner sandwich” by cutting a Twinkie in half to create a bun, sticking a hot dog in the middle and then topping it with cheese whiz.

You may find a few variations of the Twinkie dog, including the Twinkie dog sundae, which turns this dish into more of a dessert by topping the dog with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Double bacon corn dog: 508 calories

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A hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried and sprinkled with bacon bits – that’s what you get when you order a double bacon corn dog. It’s a pork-centric dish that pushes the limit of how much pig you can pack onto a stick. It’s the state-fair food you didn’t know you needed.

Fried cheesecake (6 oz.): 655 calories | 47 g fat

Cheesecake must not have been decadent enough for the palate of state-fair visitors, because someone decided to take an already rich slice of cheesecake and deep fry it, turning the creamy dessert into a downright gooey mess encased in a fluffy gob of funnel cake. There are plenty of variations to this dessert, including a slice of fried cheesecake on a stick or a mound of cheesecake balls that are perfect for popping right into your mouth. However you eat it, you’re going to have to do a few laps around the state fair to burn it off!

Hot Beef sundae: 710 calories

This comfort food is an entire meal served up to look like an ice cream sundae. The hot beef sundae starts with a mound of mashed potatoes drenched in gravy and beef, topped with cheese and corn, and finished with a cherry tomato on top.  It’s a popular feast at the Indiana State Fair, while at the New York State Fair, fairgoers race to see who can finish this 710-calorie dish the fastest.

Funnel cake: 760 calories | 44 g fat

Funnel cake is a cornerstone of most state-fair foods, because without funnel cake, how would we batter and fry everything else?  Though the fried cake batter makes everything taste incredible, it’s a dessert that can stand strong all on its own.

The crispy confection was brought to the United States by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 19th century. The first ever funnel cake appeared in a German cookbook in 1879, but the recipe didn’t appear in an English cookbook until 1935. It was originally served during harvest festivals and during the holidays, but it’s quickly became a favorite at street fairs, carnivals and, of course, the state fair.

Giant turkey leg: 1,136 calories | 54 g fat

Biting into a giant turkey leg feels medieval, hence why it’s a favorite not just at state fairs, but at renaissance faires as well. One would think that turkey is a healthier, lean meat, but devouring the entire leg means you’ve eaten the most caloric dish on this list. Consume if you dare. In addition to 1,136 calories and 54 grams of fat, a whole turkey leg means eating around 13,800 mg of salt – six times the recommended da


Kae Lani Palmisano

About Kae Lani Palmisano

Kae Lani Palmisano is the Emmy Award-Winning host of WHYY's Check, Please! Philly, a television show that highlights dining throughout the Philadelphia region. She also writes and hosts WHYY’s Delishtory, a digital series exploring the history of food.  As a freelance food and travel writer, she has been published in KitchenAid Stories, Resy, USA TODAY, 10Best, Roads & Kingdoms and more.  

Read more about Kae Lani Palmisano here.

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