Wisconsin has its fair share of signature foods. Have you ever witnessed a non-Wisconsinite try their very first cheese curd? And, doesn’t it seem crazy when people from out of state have no clue about Friday fish fry, chicken booyah or even beer brats!?
Wisconsin’s food traditions are rooted in our culture. They tell a story about our history and are something we should be proud of. It’s part of what makes Wisconsin so original!
Cheese and beer are very well-known food ways of Wisconsin. But here at 16 more foods that are also staples of dining in the Badger State.
FYI – You’ll discover more about each food tradition below the infographic.
1. Fish Fry
Beer battered perch, french fries, tangy tarter, lemon wedges, an onion slice on rye bread and a side of creamy coleslaw.
This familiar plate of food is the type of Friday night fish fry you’ll find at thousands of restaurants all over Wisconsin. It’s been part of our culture for centuries.
And Wisconsinites continue to look forward to it’s deliciousness every week!
- Discover more about the Wisconsin fish fry tradition including some of the best places to dine out.
2. Cheese Curds
There’s nothing like a squeaky-fresh Wisconsin cheese curd – yet another unique Wisconsin delicacy.
The best curds are the ones you eat just 12-24 hours after they were made!
But fresh off the vat isn’t the only way we like to devour cheese curds around here.
We also love them hand battered and deep fried.
MMM. They are so gooey, salty and delicious!
3. Beer Brats
A Wisconsin summer is not complete without grilled bratwurst soaked in beer and onions.
Bratwursts are another delicious food of Wisconsin. Leave it to Wisconsinites to come up with a brilliant beer sauce to cook them in. While the real Germans may scoff at our way of cooking these sausages, once you’ve tasted one, you’ll never want brats any other way.
But there’s more to cooking beer brats than you think… Check out our Definitive Guide to Grilling Great Beer Brats for tips and suggestions.
4. Chicken Booyah
It shows up at almost every church picnic, fundraiser and fair in northeast Wisconsin. Not to mention several restaurants in the area, too.
Chicken Booyah has been a Wisconsin favorite for more than 100 years. The stew-like soup is usually made in a large cast iron Booyah kettle. The cooking begins at least two days before it’s served.
The origin of Booyah can be a big cultural controversy, but we just may have uncovered the real reason we call it Chicken Booyah in Wisconsin.
5. Butter Burgers
It makes sense that Wisconsinites found a way to turn a hamburger into a mouth-watering butter burger topped with cheese too, of course. What do you expect when we live in the Dairy State?!
The Butter Burger is another popular Wisconsin food tradition that goes way back. The butter is either stuffed into the middle of the beef patty before grilling, or placed on top fresh off the grill. The bun is a little toasty and the melty butter drips down the sides as you sink your teeth in.
Oh my gosh, this is making me want to go to Zesty’s or Kroll’s. But those aren’t the only great places serving up the beloved Butter Burger. We’ve complied a list of 14 places to get a mouth-watering butter burger!
6. Blue Moon Ice Cream
It’s bright blue and has a distinct original flavor. But what is it? I think it tastes like the leftover milk after a bowl of Froot Loops. But I’ve heard other people guess almond, marshmallow, amaretto and plenty more.
One thing is for sure, Blue Moon is a Wisconsin thing, which is deeply rooted in our history. But the recipe still remains a mystery.
Or, did someone leak the secret recipe?
Discover a few theories behind its origin and the recipe in Melting the Mystery of Blue Moon Ice Cream.
7. Brandy Old Fashioned
If you order an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin, you’re going to get it with Brandy. A drink that embodies the culture of Wisconsin. You can’t get too far across the border before you start stumping bartenders.
But how did the Wisconsin-style traditional cocktail come to be?
We know it all began with the whiskey cocktail, which turned into the Old-Fashioned. But, somewhere in the process, Wisconsin got creative and it stuck.
Some people wonder if it made its impression on Wisconsinites during the Chicago World Fair of 1893 – when Josef, Antone and Francis Korbel’s brandy was showcased. That, and the fact that Brandy seems to be the German alcohol of choice and Wisconsin has a large German background.
Learn more about the Brandy Old Fashioned and four more Wisconsin-style cocktails.
The Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Recipe
- 2 oz. Korbel or other light-bodied brandy
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 orange slices
- 2 maraschino cherries
The bratwurst might be the most-talked-about sausage in our state, but Wisconsin is actually known for making a variety of sausages. There’s the Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage, Andouille Sausage, Belgian Trippe and the Hot Dog – just to name a few.
Have you witnessed the famous racing weenies at a Milwaukee Brewer’s game. Those sausage links represent a part of our unique Wisconsin heritage!
The European settlers, many German, brought their old-world recipes and link-making methods with them. Small butcher shops opened all over Wisconsin and, like cheese and beer, sausage became a signature food of our state.
You’ll find many specialty meat markets throughout the Badger state. Summer sausage, salami and venison sausage are among the popular Wisconsin variety.
If you know of a great local meat market in Wisconsin – leave a comment and let people know about it!
After lead was first discovered in Mineral Point, Wisconsin in the 1830s, miners from Cornwall England migrated to the area.
The Cornish were tin miners who carried pasties for lunch.
A pasty is similar to a pot pie, but instead of the pot it looks more like an omelet – cooked without a dish. It’s sort of a much-better version of the Hot Pocket.
The traditional “Cornish” pasty is stuffed with meat, potatoes, onions, rutabaga, salt and pepper.
And the edge of the pasty is crimped – which allowed the Cornish tin miners to hold onto it with their dirty fingers. That way, if they had traces of arsenic on their hands, they wouldn’t be poisoned.
I’ve heard about a few really good pasty parlors in the Northwoods and other northern cities in Wisconsin.
Here are just a few…
Red Rooster Cafe | Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Traditional Cornish pasties have been served at the Red Rooster for more than 40 years. It’s a favorite spot in the heart of historic downtown of Mineral Point.
Rocks For Fun Cafe | Tigerton, Wisconsin
You’ll find at least 15 unique pasty varieties on the Rocks For Fun menu. They have breakfast pasties filled with potato, ham, eggs, cheese and onion or bacon, hash browns, eggs, cheese and onion. And other pasty fillings like pizza, Reuben and spaghetti with meatballs. Each pasty is complete with a smiley face.
But that’s not all that will make your family smile. Restauranteur, Don McClellan, has lined the walls with his 322 rock-themed creations. And you’ll eat at a glass tabletop with entertaining and even humorous rock art for the whole family to enjoy!
Joe’s Pasty Shop | Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Joe’s Pasty Shop has been a family tradition since 1946. The Rhinelander location came second after their pasty shop in Michigan. Joe’s makes their pasties from scratch with very fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
Their beef and pork is naturally raised and grass-fed – which means no hormones, steroids or antibiotics!
Check out all of the unique pasties on the menu!
10. Fish Boil
As the story goes, the first fish boil, also locally known as “Poor Man’s Lobster,” took place in Ellison Bay, Door County at the Viking Grill in 1961. The owners then, Annette and Lawrence Wickman, got the idea from the churches that held trout boils in the area. But instead of trout, they used locally caught whitefish.
The restaurant served it up with boiled potatoes, sweet white onions, coleslaw, pumpernickel bread, lemon wedges and Kosher pickles. Everyone loved it!
This fish boil has become a cherished Door County tradition. You can find them at many restaurants in Door County – or make a visit to the original spot – Viking Grill & Lounge at 4:30 PM mid May through October.
11. Broasted Chicken
Have you been to a supper club or family diner in Wisconsin that was serving Broasted Chicken? Yep, Broasted – not roasted.
Broasted chicken came about in 1954, when L.A.M Phelan, founder of the Broaster Company of Beloit, Wisconsin invented the Broaster Pressure Fryer and the method of cooking.
Broasted chicken is marinaded and breaded using The Broaster Company’s recipes, and then cooked in a real Broaster Pressure Fryer. The technique combines deep frying and pressure cooking.
The company actually trademarked the term “Broasted” and licenses its equipment and recipes to more than 5,500 eateries who serve this unique Wisconsin chicken.
12. Frozen Custard
Frozen custard is a lot like ice cream, except it is made with egg yolks in addition to the cream and sugar. I read that the eggs make the ice cream stay cold longer and help give it a creamier texture.
Although this treat was invented in New York, it caught on in the Midwest after the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Milwaukee was even coined the “unofficial frozen custard capital of the world” because the city has so many custard shops.
Wisconsin cranberries may not be as famous as Door County Cherries, but they’re no underdog.
Cranberries are actually Wisconsin’s official state fruit, and the state produces more than half of the entire world’s supply!
Plus, they are one of the three commercially cultivated fruits that are native to the U.S.
14. Door County Cherries
Door County is Wisconsin’s cherry hub. It is the fourth largest producer of cherries in the nation and is home to more than 2,000 acres of cherry orchards!
The peninsula is one of the most ideal places for cherries to grow because of its long, cool spring as well as the warm days and cool nights in summer – thanks in part to Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
Seaquist Cherry Orchard in Sister Bay is the largest in Door County with about 1,000 acres. They process and package about two thirds of the entire state’s cherries.
Watch this video, by the Door County Visitor Bureau, to catch a glimpse of what the cherry industry is all about.
15. Cream Puffs
If you dine at a Wisconsin supper club, there’s a good chance you’ll find some cream puffs for dessert.
Basically, cream puffs are pastry balls filled with whip cream, cream cheese or custard.
Supposedly Wisconsin state fair goers have eaten almost 4-million cream puffs in the last 10 years!
It’s such a popular tradition in Wisconsin that it almost became our official state dessert. Find out what happened in 20 State Symbols of Wisconsin.
It just so happens, the Kringle is Wisconsin’s State Pastry. So flaky and delicious – you can be sure to find them in and around Racine, Wisconsin.
Racine is one of the largest producers of the Kringle and has been a tradition there for more than 100 years.
They’re sometimes filled with cream cheese and topped with icing, fruit or nuts.
Find out more about the Kringle in 20 official state symbols of Wisconsin and the stories behind them.
Let’s Hear From You!
Did we forget any unique Wisconsin foods?
Tell us your stories surrounding these Wisconsin food traditions!
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Featured Image Credit – Michael Newman via Flickr.com