icon Skip to content
Local Desserts That Are Worth the Trip

Local Desserts That Are Worth the Trip

The United States is a big country with many different regional cultures. Each has their own cuisines which are part of what makes the regions distinct.

But, there’s one thing every part of America has in common – a sweet tooth!

Across the country, you can find delicious local desserts to satisfy your biggest sugar craving. Here are some worth making a trip for!

 

Midwest

The Midwest is known as the “breadbasket of America” for a reason. Producing much of the country’s grain, the region is known for its hearty comfort food and love of casserole-style dishes.

Any Midwesterner knows that a delicious dinner (or supper, as we sometimes call it) must be followed with an equally delicious dessert. Here are some of our favorite desserts the midwestern American regional cuisine has to offer.

 

Buckeye Candy - Ohio

Buckeyes
Image: Steven Depolo, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

If there is one thing true about Ohioans, it is that we love our state’s official tree, the buckeye! When visiting, you will find evidence of this everywhere, even in our food.

Buckeye candy, or simply Buckeyes, are a delicious local dessert made from peanut butter fudge rolled into balls and dipped in melted chocolate, to look like the nut of the buckeye tree. We love them so much that we even have Buckeye ice cream, cake, pie, fudge… The list goes on!

For the best experience, find a small local confectionary and buy at least a dozen (so you don’t regret it later!). Or, head to Columbus on a college football game day and pick some up at a tailgate made by a college student’s mom. You can’t beat homemade!

 

Sugar Cream Pie - Indiana

Sugar Cream Pie
Image: Sarah Stierch, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

This simple and delicious pie, made with vanilla, cream, and brown sugar, has become an iconic part of midwestern regional American cuisine.

Believed to have first been prepared by Quaker settlers from North Carolina who moved to Indiana in the 19th century, sugar cream pie has since become the official pie of Indiana!

The pie only has a few ingredients, so you could try making it yourself, but it won’t be the same as getting one from the source. Over the decades, restaurateurs and bakeries across Indiana have perfected this local dessert. If you want to try the best of the best, here’s a list of places to get the perfect slice of Sugar Cream Pie in Indiana!

 

Gooey Butter Cake - Missouri

Gooey Butter Cake
Image: Amanda, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

When a St. Louis baker inadvertently swapped the amounts of butter and sugar in his cake batter recipe one fateful night in the 1930s, he accidentally created one of the tastiest desserts of all time!

The cake is the perfect gooey, flaky, buttery treat to squash a sugar craving. If you’ve seen this dish outside of Missouri, it may have been made with cream cheese in the recipe, but the traditional recipe sticks to butter.

You can attempt to recreate this perfect accident, or you can make a trip to St. Louis and try the real thing for yourself. Your tastebuds will thank you!

 

Northeast

The Northeast region of the United States is made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These nine states have a diverse selection of regional cuisines to choose from, and delicious desserts are no exception.

Here are our recommendations!

 

New York Style Cheesecake

Cheesecake, New York Style

 

There’s cheesecake, then there’s New York Style Cheesecake.

New York City is home to the American cheesecake as we know it. To this day, it is the go-to spot for foodies looking to get a taste (and Instagram post!) of the best cheesecake in the world.

The local dessert’s recipe is a denser and creamier version of the typical cheesecake found elsewhere. With thousands of restaurants to choose from in the city, here are some with the best cheesecakes in the Big Apple!

 

Blueberry Pie - Maine

Blueberry Pie with a chomp taken out of it tee hee

 

Blueberry pie can be found in every state, but no one does it like Maine. The state produces 99% of the blueberries in the country!

While it’s likely the blueberries you get at your local grocery store are from Maine, nothing beats a pie baked with fresh berries right in the Pine Tree State. If the thought has you drooling, then you’ll want to add Maine to your itinerary as you tour the USA in search of the best regional American cuisine!

While you’re visiting, you can sample an assortment of other blueberry desserts at local eateries and ice cream shops, or try it all at the yearly Machias Wild Blueberry Festival!

 

Salt Water Taffy - New Jersey

Salt water taffy getting the stretchy-stretch

 

New Jersey lays full claim to this tasty candy, as it was first made there in the 1880s! Salt water taffy comes in a huge variety of flavors, but it’s always sweet, a little salty and, above all, chewy.

Despite its name and what the legends behind this local dessert’s origins might suggest, Saltwater taffy does not include actual seawater, though water and salt are separate ingredients in any authentic recipe.

If you ever find yourself in New Jersey with a sweet tooth, you won’t regret stopping by an Atlantic City boardwalk and picking up some fresh salt water taffy! Many places sell it by the pound, so you can easily grab enough for any later cravings, too.

 

Southeast

The Southeastern region of the United States encompasses a large portion of the country. The variety of different cultural influences found here have led to some very tasty and unique regional cuisine.

Here are some you won’t want to miss trying!

 

Key Lime Pie - Florida

A slice of key lime pie with the entire pie in the background

 

While the exact origins of this iconic sweet and tangy pie aren’t known for certain, there are two things we know for sure – it’s delicious and it’s all thanks to Florida!

Key limes were a naturalized species of fruit grown commercially in Florida until a hurricane wiped out all the crops in 1926. Since then, they are commonly found in backyards across the state or imported from southeast Asia.

The fluorescent green pies you find in your local supermarket are tasty, but nothing like the much paler real thing. Head to the paradise of Key West to get an authentic slice!

 

Coconut Cake - South Carolina

Coconut Cake
Image: Sarah Stierch, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

No dessert tastes better after a long day on the beach than a slice of coconut cake! And when it comes to the best local dessert recipe, there is only one place to go – the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina!

At this restaurant, the dish is known by its trademarked name of “the Ultimate Coconut Cake.” Each cake has 12 layers alternating between coconut frosting and butter cake all topped with toasted coconut flakes. One slice alone weighs almost a pound!

If you happen to be traveling in South Carolina, you’ll definitely want to make an after-dinner stop here. If you’re a serious coconut lover you might even want to make it the inspiration for your next weekend trip!

 

Shoofly Pie - West Virginia

Shoofly Pie
Image: Sarah Stierch, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Legend has it that this tasty dessert got its name from bakers having to shoo away so many flies l while the pie cooled on the windowsill. Though the crumbly, sticky dessert did not originate there, West Virginia does it best for a reason: molasses!

Molasses is a traditional ingredient common in Appalachian cooking, especially in West Virginia. The state even celebrates the syrup every September at The West Virginia Molasses Festival Arnoldsburg, West Virginia.

The Molasses Festival is a perfect excuse to plan a weekend getaway and try a slice of Shoofly Pie. While there, you’re sure to fall in love with the scenic views of the mountain forests transitioning into fall!

 

Southwest

The American Southwest region has a unique regional cuisine that features heavy Spanish, Mexican, and Native American influences. This fusion of flavors has led to some very tasty local desserts!

Here are some you’ll want to try for yourself!

 

Pecan Pie - Texas

Pecan Pie

 

Though Georgia technically produces the most pecans in the country, Texas grows a whole lot of them, too. And they are proud of it! San Saba, Texas has even declared itself the pecan capital of the world.

If you are craving a taste of pecan pie made with the freshest and tastiest pecans you can get, you will want to make San Saba, Texas part of your next destination lineup. While you’re there, you can visit the Mother Pecan, a 200 year old pecan tree that has been used to crossbreed several modern varieties of pecans. We can thank “her” for giving us the pecan that we know and love today!

In Texas, pecans are used for an array of tasty local desserts found at any local bakery or eatery, but we recommend starting with the classic pecan pie, then go from there!

 

Bizcochito - New Mexico


Image: John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

In 1989, New Mexico made history by becoming the first state to declare an official state cookie. This piece of the state’s regional cuisine began with the first Spanish settlers in New Mexico, who invented the recipe as a way to celebrate the local flavors and customs.

As settlers arrived from other Hispanic countries, they added their own special touches to the recipe until it became the crispy, buttery cookie that we know today.

This dessert is typically served during celebrations like weddings. But, if your tastebuds lead you to New Mexico, there are a few places where you can find the perfect bizcochitos baked fresh daily!

 

Fried Pie - Oklahoma

Fruit Fried Pies
Image: Ralph Daily from Birmingham, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

You’ve surely had some variation of a fried pie before. It’s a tasty dessert of fruit wrapped in a pie crust-like dough and then fried. But the fried pies you can get from a McDonald’s drive through have nothing on the ones you can find in Oklahoma!

This local classic was created in 1893 in the small town of Springer, Oklahoma. Nancy Fulton inherited the dessert recipe from her grandmother, who made the pies as a way to quickly feed hungry ranch hands in the area.

It turns out, her Grandma’s recipe was absolutely delicious! Today, Nancy is known as the “Fried Pie Lady” and sells these tasty treats at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies locations around Oklahoma and neighboring states. This regional favorite is absolutely worth the trip!

 

West

The Western US culinary scene is known for its emphasis on local ingredients and its tasty fusion of flavors from across the globe. It all adds up to a winning combination when it comes to local desserts!

Here are a few desserts which will inspire you to take your taste buds to the west coast!

 

Chocolate Fondue - Nevada

A fountain of liquid chocolate
Image: Alexander Klink, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

While you might not expect your sweet tooth to take you to Las Vegas, any true chocolate lover should make a point to visit.

At the Bellagio Hotel, you can find a chocolate fondue fountain that stands 27 feet tall and never stops flowing with beautiful, sweet chocolate. It was the largest chocolate fondue fountain in the world until 2019!

While you aren’t (technically) allowed to enjoy chocolate directly from the fountain, you can head to the nearby gift shop and buy some to take with you. Don’t you want to say that you got to taste a treat from the second largest chocolate fountain in the world?!

 

Huckleberry Pie - Idaho

Huckleberry Pie
Image: Bonbon, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

If you’ve never had the chance to experience the sweet, fragrant taste of a fresh huckleberry, there’s a reason – they only grow in the wild! No one has managed to domesticate this delicious fruit.

Huckleberry Pie has become a delicacy in Idaho, where the berries grow naturally in the forests. Locals and visitors alike have fallen in love with the delicious local dessert, and have intense opinions on the best place to get some!

The Pie Hut in Sandpoint, Idaho is at the top of many people’s lists as the best bakery for a slice of huckleberry pie. This dessert is one that you will have a very hard time finding in any other state, so be sure to make your way to Idaho if you're interested in rare pies and great hiking!

 

Blackberry Cobbler - Oregon

Blackberry Cobler
Image: Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

When it comes to blackberries, no place does it like Oregon! It produces more blackberries than any state in the US.

The taste of fresh blackberries is to die for, but there is nothing like that first warm bite of blackberry cobbler! No matter where you are in Oregon, hit up any local bakery or restaurant and you are sure to be delighted by a cobbler made with some of the freshest blackberries you can find!

If you ever find yourself exploring the lush, beautiful wonders of Oregon, you won’t want to miss out!

 

If this list made you hungry, then it’s time to start planning your next adventure! Choose your favorite dessert and plan an entire trip around it. Or pick a region or two and go on an ultimate dessert tour! When it comes to tasting American regional cuisines, the options are endless.

Which dessert do you want to try first?



Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Affiliate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com.

Previous article 5 Ideas for Planning the Ultimate Local Art Tour
Next article Indigenous Peoples' Day: How to Celebrate