The strangest foods you'll find at the state fair

Kae Lani Palmisano

// By


There are plenty of things to love about summer – warm weather, sunny days at the lake, triangulating the location of Mr. Softee based on music on the wind. But for many of us, the all-time high point of summer is the state fair.


State fairs are a summertime tradition that have been enjoyed for generations. They bring with them nostalgia for older generations and new traditions for younger folks. Games and rides provide a lot of thrills, but the most anticipated part of any modern state fair is the food. Every year, people go nuts for the latest wild and unconventional thing that’s fried and/or served on a stick.

To celebrate state fairs across the country, here are the ten of the strangest state fair foods to look out for this summer:


The strangest foods you'll find at the state fairPhoto courtesy of Photo via Wikimedia Commons

“Pork-Almighty" adequately sums up the reaction most people have upon first glance at this tower of meat. It premiered last year at the Iowa State Fair and was an instant hit, winning the People’s Choice for Best New Food. This heaping helping of crispy beer-battered fries is covered with cheese sauce and a mound of smoked, shredded pork. It’s then topped with sautéed onions, green peppers and BBQ sauce before receiving a final dusting of shredded cheese to finish the whole thing off. Only the brave dare to summit this meat mountain alone.

Pork Parfait

View this post on Instagram

Our famous pork parfait

A post shared by Eat Porky's BBQ (@eatporkysbbq) on

Indiana State Fair’s Pork Parfait – which is now served at state fairs around the country – is exactly what it sounds like. Similar in looks to a traditional parfait – yogurt, oats, and fruit – this version instead features mashed potatoes, pulled pork and BBQ sauce. It’s served in a clear plastic cup so you can see the ingredients swirl together in what looks like a galaxy of tangy pork. Compared to other state-fair staples, the Pork Parfait is actually aesthetically pleasing. Step aside unicorn foods; the Pork Parfait is on its way to being Instagram famous.

SPAM Curds

Considering the fact that Minnesota is home to the SPAM company headquarters and the SPAM museum, it’s appropriate that SPAM Curds are the best thing to eat at the Minnesota State Fair. SPAM Curds combine everyone’s favorite mystery meat with cheese to create a deep-fried “curd.” They’re quite salty, but combined with the cheese and the fried exterior, they’ll satisfy all of your state-fair food cravings.

Deep-fried jelly beans

The strangest foods you'll find at the state fairPhoto courtesy of Photo via Flickr/RoseTulips

At The Big E, the nickname for the Massachusetts State Fair, jelly beans are tossed into funnel-cake batter and deep fried to create oddly shaped balls of cake with bursts of fruity flavor in the middle. The jelly beans melt from the intense heat of the deep fryers, creating colorful splotches throughout the funnel cake that, if eaten too quickly, will make you feel like you’re biting into lava – sweet, tart lava.

Alligator on a Stick

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by juangotti187 (@juangotti187) on

State fairs are infamous for foods served on sticks, and one of the most bizarre things you’ll find on a stick is the alligator served up at the Illinois State Fair. Cajun’s Unlimited sells this deep-fried and skewered gator. and Illinois locals line up for the fan favorite every year.

Hot Beef Sundae

This is not your average sundae. Beloved at the Indiana State Fair, this ball of mashed potatoes – plated to look like an ice cream sundae – is covered in beef that's swimming in gravy and topped with corn and cheese “sprinkles.” There’s even a cherry tomato on top to give it that authentic sundae appeal.

Kool-Aid Pickles

This kissing booth isn’t the only place North Carolina fairgoers are puckering up. Kool-Aid Pickles – also known as Koolickles – are one of the most popular items at the North Carolina State Fair, and these sweet and sour pickles taste better than you’d think. After at least one week marinating in refrigerated Kool-Aid, the pickles will have absorbed the sweet drink, causing them to change color (and flavor). Most people use Tropical Punch Kool-Aid, which turns the pickles red. North Carolinians prefer using locally made Mount Olive Pickles.

Deep-Fried Coca-Cola

Yes, you read that right. Just when you thought there was nothing left to deep fry, Texas has upped the ante and deep fried Coca-cola. Fried Coca-Cola, or Fried Coke, was invented at the 2006 State Fair of Texas by Guerrero Ble, who also happens to be the creator of other bizarre inventions including deep-fried butter and deep-fried beer.

Fried Coke is made by deep frying balls of frozen Coca-Cola-flavored batter, then topping them with Coca-Cola syrup, whipped cream and cinnamon sugar, and finishing them off with a cherry on top. When Fried Coke debuted in 2006, Ble sold 10,000 cups in the first two weeks. By the next year, Fried Coke was sold at at least 47 other state fairs. It’s now available worldwide, but the original can be found at the State Fair of Texas.

Dragon’s Breath

Dragon’s Breath is debuting this year at the New Jersey State Fair. This bizarre treat uses liquid nitrogen to freeze large, multi-colored puffs that look like oversized cereal bites and taste like fruity cereal. When you take a bite of Dragon’s Breath, puffs of smoke will billow out of your mouth. These cold but steamy bites originated in Japan, but are starting to make their rounds at state fairs across the United States.

The Milky Bun


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.

Connect with Kae Lani Palmisano via: Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


incrementing counter