These State Fair Recipes Can Keep the Delicious Summer Fun Going All Year Long

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Why contain the fun to a mere week or two come summer? These homemade state fair recipes showcase exactly how easy it is to make state fair snacks (cheese curds, anyone?), mains (pork tenderloin, for the win!), desserts, and drinks.

A collage with a funnel cake, smoked turkey legs, and a cream puff.


 

When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, no summer vacation was complete without at least one visit to the county, or ideally, the state fair. (Go big or go home, right?!) From the baking and photography competitions to the rides and animals, every corner held a new surprise.

Fair seasons was something I look forward to all year long for the above attractions, of course, but mainly for the food and drink. With a constantly-evolving menu of foods on a stick, over-the-top sweet treats, ice-cold lemonade, and snack stands galore, each year I made it my mission to find a new favorite.

By the time I grew into adulthood and moved away to California, I had amassed a whole arsenal of Midwestern state fair recipes. To bring those nostalgic, crowd-pleasing flavors with me, I tested and perfected homemade state fair recipes to share with my own family and friends. Every time I share them, friends and family seem to agree; these state fair recipes are definitely blue ribbon-worthy.

Best State Fair Snacks and Sides

Caramel corn in a paper boat.

A fair amount of walking, exploring, and adventuring goes on at the fair, which means that meals alone won’t suffice. To fuel all of that action, try a mix of sweet and savory snacks, including Caramel Corn (which can double as a thoughtful food gift!), and its more au natural cousins, straight from the cob.

Caramel corn in a paper boat.

1

Caramel Corn

This easy homemade Caramel Corn makes an excellent food gift or favor as well as a stellar game-day or party snack.
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4 ears of corn on a white plate.

2

Corn on the Cob (4 Ways)

Few things are as wonderful as fresh Corn on the Cob in the heat of summer. Here are four different ways to cook it (grill, instant pot, microwave, and stove), all of them foolproof and completely delicious.
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Mexican corn salad in a brown bowl.

3

Mexican Corn Salad (Esquites)

Straight from the streets of rural Mexico, this Mexican Corn Salad (known as esquites by the natives) is super simple to make and so delicious. If you're looking for the real deal, look no further.
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Of course, every course at the state fair has to include at least one fried option, and in my home state of Wisconsin, cheese reigns supreme! And my rendition of another one of my favorite state fair snacks, Homemade Soft Pretzels, comes complete with a side of Homemade Cheese Sauce for dunking.

Fried cheese curds in a silver bowl.

4

Fried Cheese Curds

An easy recipe for deep fried cheese curds for anyone not fortunate enough to live in or near Wisconsin. These crispy little bites are legendary in America’s Dairyland!
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A platter of soft pretzels with a bowl of cheese sauce.

5

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Homemade Soft Pretzels that are soft and chewy on the inside and crackly brown on the outside. Knot or twist your way to the BEST soft pretzels you’ve ever had!
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Tortilla chips next to homemade cheese sauce.

6

Homemade Cheese Sauce

An easy Homemade Cheese Sauce for appetizers, cooked vegetables, pasta, and baked potatoes. It's ready in 5 minutes with just 3 ingredients.
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Best State Fair Main Dishes

2 hot turkey sandwiches piled on a plate.

For lunch or dinner at the fair, there’s something very tempting about the Smoked Turkey Legs that are always larger than life! The legs shouldn’t get all the glory, though. Hot Turkey Sandwiches put the tender breast meat to tasty use.

Smoked turkey legs on a baking rack.

7

Smoked Turkey Legs

You don't need to wait for the State Fair to enjoy juicy Smoked Turkey Legs! Start with a simple, flavorful brine, then add the legs to your smoker for a couple of hours.
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2 hot turkey sandwiches piled on a plate.

8

Hot Turkey Sandwiches

These slow cooker Hot Turkey Sandwiches start with a can of beer and end with a stick of butter. So great for your next party! Or serve the shredded turkey for a fuss-free, delicious holiday meal any time of year.
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Why stop at turkey, though? Sandwiches, ideally coated in gravy, cheese, or fried, are classic state fair recipes for good reason: they’re irresistible and something we don’t usually whip up every day at home. But now you can any day the mood strikes…

A pork tenderloin sandwich on a wooden cutting board.

9

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Crispy, crunchy, and oh-so-delicious, this Pork Tenderloin Sandwich is a Midwestern classic and popular at the Iowa State Fair.
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The best bacon cheeseburger in a paper wrapper.

10

Best Bacon Cheeseburger

The Best Bacon Cheeseburger has a thin and crispy smashburger-style patty, plenty of bacon, gooey cheese, and all your favorite toppings.
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A chili dog on a plate with a pickle and chips.

11

Chili Dogs

Try this homemade beef Chili Dog recipe the next time you're craving comfort food, for a tailgate menu, or any time you fire up the grill.
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Best State Fair Desserts and Drinks

A funnel cake topped with chocolate syrup, strawberries and powdered sugar on a paper plate.

The only thing more enticing than the aroma of sweet fried dough emanating from funnel cake stands? The flavor of the Funnel Cakes themselves! For the full fair experience, don’t forget a dusting of powdered sugar, a generous scoop of ice cream, and a shower of chocolate sauce. For a burst of seasonal and sweet-tart flavor, I love to add some strawberry slices.

A funnel cake topped with strawberries, ice cream, and chocolate syrup on a paper plate.

12

Funnel Cakes

It’s summertime, and that means outdoor fairs, festivals, and carnivals are popping up in just about every town throughout the Midwest. My favorite part about a summer fair is the food, especially the sweet and crispy Funnel Cakes, served piping hot with a thick dusting of powdered sugar.
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Fried desserts are a mainstay along the midway, but there’s also a generous dose of classic sips and sweets like refreshing lemonade and better-than-grandma’s apple pie (shh…don’t tell her we said that!).

Lemonade in glasses on a silver platter with yellow and white straws and lemon garnish.

13

How to Make Lemonade

Learn how to make Lemonade with just lemons, sugar, water, and ice. It's so easy to make, you'll be sipping it all summer long.
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A slice of apple pie on a light blue plate.

14

The Best Apple Pie Recipe

The best Apple Pie Recipe can be on your table in just one hour. No one will guess this classic apple pie starts with store-bought pie crust; the filling is just like your favorite bakery's desserts!
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And in the running for the best-fried dessert recipe, we have two of my all-time personal favorites. In case you couldn’t guess from my Dairy Queen Copycat Easy Ice Cream Cake and Oreo Cookie Balls, I’m a bit of a fan of those cream-filled sandwich cookies. Well, they only get better once battered, deep-fried, and coated in powdered sugar! Also perfectly powdered: My luscious Cream Puffs, which are inspired by an award-winning state fair recipe that’s been drawing crowds at the Wisconsin State Fair since 1924.

A stack of deep fried oreos.

15

Deep Fried Oreos

If you're looking for the ultimate outrageous dessert experience, look no further than Deep Fried Oreos. This State Fair Favorite is just 5 ingredients (plus powdered sugar for dusting) and couldn't be easier to make.
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A cream puff on a plate.

16

Cream Puffs

If you’re looking for the irresistible cream puffs that have been served at the Wisconsin State Fair since 1924, you’ve come to the right place. These light-as-air pastries are filled with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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