Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.
There's Something for Everybody
There are 50 states in the USA—and 50 different pizzas!
Many of these are well known; however, I'll admit a few of them were made up based on state-favorite foods and regional classics. To eliminate any perceived bias or favoritism, I'm listing them alphabetically. Let’s get started.
What comes to mind when you think "barbecue"? Some people enjoy sweet Carolina sauce or Memphis-style barbecue—thick and sassy with tomatoes and molasses; Kansas City adds liquid smoke, and then there's Texas sauce with spicy-hot crushed red pepper. Alabama white sauce isn't as well-known, and it’s time to fix that. Almost 100 years ago, "Big" Bob Gibson turned the barbecue world upside-down with his unique creation. You won’t find a speck of tomato or mustard in his "cue." Mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and a big hit of vinegar meld together for a tame-looking white barbecue sauce with a bold punch of flavor. This BBQ chicken skillet with Alabama white sauce has all the finger-licking good flavor you want.
Alaska is famous for its vast wilderness, wildlife, glaciers, and the Northern Lights. Let's add Alaska King crab to the list with this King crab and caramelized onion pizza.
If you've never experienced homemade fry bread, you're in for a real treat with this Navaho fry bread pizza.
Arkansas is the state where smoking meats (especially turkey and ham) is a fine art. Let's try the white pizza with smoked turkey.
In the 1980s chefs Alice Waters and Ed LaDou turned the pizza world upside-down. They eschewed traditional pizza toppings and chose instead fresh, local, ethically sourced ingredients. Although now this practice is considered mainstream, it was unheard of 40 years ago. The chicken barbecue pizza was one of their signature creations.
I have a story to share with you, the tale of the Colorado mountain pie. An abridged version from Beau Jo's website follows:
"According to legend, Pete ZaPigh (Za-Pie) was a French fur trapper. who arrived in Idaho Springs, Colorado either by spontaneous generation or a cab from Trenton, New Jersey. He had dreams of capturing a wolly mammoth but after several years recognized this ambition as a fruitless quest. In defeat, he ventured into one of Colorado’s abandoned mine shafts to reconsider his life goals. Two years later he emerged with a uniquely Coloradoan spin on an old world classic pizza recipe.
But in a quirk of fate, just months later Pete was trampled to death by a wooly mammoth. Thankfully, Pete had the foresight to preserve his recipe by carving it etching it on the shell of a box turtle.The turtle, named Beau Jo, wandered the desert for 75 years. And then, he was discovered by a local of Idaho Springs who recognized the etchings as Pete's long-lost pizza recipe. The world rejoiced, and Beau Jo’s Colorado-style mountain pizza was born."
There are many copycats, but Connecticut is the birthplace of the New Haven white clam pizza.
The state of Delaware is famous for its blue crabs so I thought a blue crab and roasted corn pizza should be their famous pizza.
The Cubano originated in Florida, and it might be simply the world's best hot ham and cheese sandwich. With pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles—well, honestly, who could ask for anything more, unless you have it in as a Cubano pizza.
The Vidalia onion is to Georgia what the Delicious apple is to Washington. This recipe for Vidalia onion tomato pizza really showcases the flavor of this beautiful sweet onion.
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What is the first food that comes to mind when you think of our 50th state? I'll bet many of you answered "pineapple," so let's try the pineapple pizza.
Idaho is without a doubt the potato state. This Yukon gold potato pizza might sound a bit odd, but Carb Diva promises that carbs on top of carbs are a good thing.
Chicago is the birthplace of the deep-dish pizza, but I can't give you the detailed history here—the tale is so long and convoluted that it deserves an article of its own. Suffice it to say that there is a feud not unlike the Hatfields and the McCoys when it comes to the truth of who invented the upside-down pizza known as the Chicago deep-dish?
Morels in Indiana are about as common as a Starbucks in Washington State (they’re everywhere) and that’s why I think this morel and asparagus crispy pizza should be declared the state pizza of Indiana.
Iowa is the largest producer of corn in the United States, so it makes perfect sense to me to feature corn on their (unofficial) state pizza. This sweet corn and basil pizza is packed with fresh summer flavor.
Kansas City-style barbecue is rich and smoky and the one instance where burnt ends are not only not a bad thing—they are true perfection. If you like Kansas-style barbecue, I'm sure you'll like this barbecued chicken pan pizza.
A few months ago I wrote an article about the legendary hot sandwich known as the Kentucky hot brown. It's an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and tomato, then covered with a cheese sauce and broiled until bubbly. Ditch the sandwich bread and instead use your favorite pizza crust to make this Kentucky hot brown pizza.
Crawfish is more than a Louisiana delicacy. It appears in countless Cajun and Creole dishes and is a significant part of the economy. Louisiana is the largest domestic producer of crawfish (they harvest more than 90 percent of the crawfish sold in the United States) and with a season that lasts only six weeks (from Mardi Gras to Easter), believe me when I say that crawfish is a really big deal. Here's a quick crawfish pizza recipe that highlights the sweet delicate meat of this local prize.
Maine and lobster are almost synonymous. Lobster pizza with spinach and gouda cheese is luxurious and decadent but incredibly easy to make.
Baltimore's answer to barbecue is pit beef, roast beef prepared over a charcoal fire, thinly sliced, and heaped on a bun with a sauce of mayonnaise, garlic, and horseradish. The answer to what would be a perfect Baltimore pie is the horseradish beef pizza (with the magic sauce, of course).
It’s difficult to identify one type of pizza that can be labeled as Massachusetts-style. The most iconic foods of this Plymouth colony are clams (already taken by Connecticut), baked beans (yummy, but on a pizza?), and Boston cream pie (which is actually a cake). There does exist a Boston-style pie; it's somewhat like the Chicago deep-dish, but what sets this one apart is the crust. Ample amounts of olive oil and butter make the dough extra flaky and cornmeal (actually in the dough, not simply dusting the peel), adds flavor and crunch.
According to food lore, in 1946 Gus Guerra and his wife baked a batch of Sicilian pizza dough in a rectangular pan, topped it with cheese and red sauce and baked it in a super-hot oven. The edges were blackened and crispy, with an almost fried texture, and a new style of pizza was born. Detroit-style pizza is not diet food, but wow, is it good!
We're now going to take a slight departure from the standard pizza pie. Minnesotans love their hot dish, the casserole of tater tots, ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, and cheese. Tater tot pizza is an homage to that dish (which is, admittedly, my guilty pleasure) and uses tater tots (frozen potato puffs) for the crust.
Fried chicken, collard greens, and sausage gravy—each one of those ingredients is representative of Mississippi home cooking. Cast iron fried chicken pizza bring them all together in one tasty bite. The cast-iron skillet helps create a supremely crisp, browned pizzeria-style crust.
St. Louis-style pizza has a distinctive, cracker-like thin crust made without yeast.
According to the Montana Cattle Industry, there about 2.6 million head of beef cattle in Montana (that's three cows for every man, woman, and child living in the state). Of course, the Big Sky Country would have beef steak pizza.
My mother was Volga Deutch and so bierocks (BEE-rocks—ground beef, onion, and cabbage-stuffed yeast rolls) are a part of my childhood. They're also a part of Nebraska (sold at the Nebraska Cornhusker football games in Lincoln). Why not try a bierock pizza?
Nevada = Las Vegas = eggs benedict pizza; at least that's how I do the math. I never eat eggs benedict, except when I visit Las Vegas, and you know what they say about what happens in Vegas.
Much of New Hampshire is rural and thrives on “good old-fashioned Yankee cooking.” An example of that is the traditional pot roast—here this comforting meal is transformed into a pizza. Of course, you can use leftover pot roast (rather than cooking one from scratch as the recipe author suggests).
Last year the state of New Jersey declared itself the “Pizza Capital of the World.” Italy has some questions, but if you know anyone from Hoboken, you’ll understand that even the nation of Italy won’t win this argument. There is not one definitive style of pizza in New Jersey, so I drew a name out of a hat and picked the tomato pie.
The green chili is a part of New Mexico's economy and tradition. They were grown by the Pueblo and flourish in those heritage soils. Green chili is one of the state's largest and most valuable crops and so it seems logical that green chili and chicken would be the New Mexico pizza.
I love thick and chewy pizzas; I also love cracker-crisp pizzas, or (as you’ve probably figured out by now) just about any topping on anything that even slightly resembles a pizza. But the best by far is New York-style. Thin, crusty, slightly chewy, and with that sweet tomato-ey, herby (oregano) sauce. It’s the sauce that makes the New York-style foldable pie a classic.
North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the United States. The sweet potato, balsamic onion, and soppressata pizza is a contrast of flavors. Creamy sweet potato is the perfect foil to salty crispy soppressata (you could substitute Prosciutto di Parma or any dry Italian salami).
Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) wrote of “immense herds of buffalo” in what today is North Dakota. The buffalo (American bison) is the largest mammal on the North American continent. Bbq bison pizza on naan is a high-protein meal the meat-lovers in your house will rave about.
Steubenville, Ohio, may be best known as the home of Dean Martin, but it's also famous for originating the quirky Ohio Valley Style pizza. Hot pizza, cold toppings—a strange combination that somehow works brilliantly. Ohio-style pizza is square (always), tomato-ey (simmered for four hours), and topped "your style" after the crust and tomato sauce come bubbly hot out of the oven.
Fried-onion burgers are popular statewide but were born in El Reno during the Depression. A hamburger patty is pressed on top of a mound of grilled onions and magic happens. The meat juices flavor the onions, and the onions caramelize and infuse the burger patty with their sweet-savory goodness. Why hasn't someone turned this into a pizza? Caramelized onion and sausage pizza comes pretty darned close.
Sweet, salty, spicy, and nutty—this hazelnut cherry ricotta pizza uses fresh Oregon ingredients (cherries, hazelnuts, cheese, prosciutto, and honey).
Philly cheesesteak pizza. Period.
You won’t find Rhode Island’s iconic tomato pie at a pizza parlor. Pizza strips are made in bakeries—bright red, herby tomato sauce is slathered on the focaccia-style dough, baked until the edges are crispy, and then cut into strips.
Did you know that parts of the movie "Forest Gump" were filmed in South Carolina? There are many iconic foods in the Palmetto state, but I think this shrimp and grits pizza is perfect for the State that gave us the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
The foods of the Mount Rushmore State are an eclectic mix of Scandinavian, German Czech, Russian, vegetarian, meat-loving, church-basement potluck dishes with a bit of Native American tossed in for good measure. Frybread, buffalo, and lefse are present. But two of the most prized ingredients are found in the wild—asparagus and morel mushrooms. They work together perfectly in this asparagus and morel pizza with garlic confit.
Thornton Prince III was a handsome man, a pig farmer, a wealthy man (putting a new spin on the saying “living high on the hog). He had a steady girlfriend but had a wandering eye. In the words of Congreve, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; she heavily doused Thornton’s favorite fried chicken with cayenne pepper. There was only one problem—he loved the dish and asked her to always prepare chicken in exactly that way. He opened a small diner, the BBQ Chicken Shack, and the rest…is history. Nashville hot chicken became a thing. Ninety+ years later it’s become world-famous and synonymous with Nashville. You can experience the heat with this recipe for Nashville hot chicken pizza.
There can be only one answer—BBQ brisket flatbread pizza.
The state of Utah has a tradition of family-run dairies (as of this writing there are 183) and artisanal cheese-making. Utah is nicknamed the Beehive State. And the cherry is the official state fruit. This bacon bourbon cherry pizza checks all of the boxes (and more) with dried cherries, goat cheese, and a drizzle of tarragon honey butter.
Vermont is more than maple syrup (although it leads the nation in maple syrup production). Some of the best cheddar cheese in the world comes from Vermont. Did you know that the state is also the home to more than 150 varieties of heirloom apples? Maple Bacon Pizza With Apples and Cheddar has to be the Vermont pizza.
Thomas Jefferson wasn’t the first person to bring pasta to America, but he certainly boosted its popularity. Historians acknowledge that he bought a pasta machine in Europe and brought it back home. With that device, he was able to serve macaroni and cheese to guests at his Monticello home. Carb on top of carb might sound like a dreadful mistake, but trust me—this macaroni and cheese pizza is sinfully good (and I think Jefferson would approve).
I live in the state of Washington, and it was difficult to select just one food that represents the Evergreen State. We are apple country, we lead the nation in the production of red raspberries, Walla Walla sweet onions are just as wonderful as the Vidalia, and Rainier cherries are named for our famous mountain peak. Of course, there is seafood—geoduck, Dungeness crab, and razor clams. But the one food of which I am most proud is the salmon that tops this wild salmon chanterelle pizza.
The pepperoni roll is the “official state food” of West Virginia; the answer is the pepperoni pizza roll.
Sheboygan is the unofficial capital of the kingdom of bratwurst so it goes without saying that the pizza of Wisconsin would be this beer brat and caramelized onion pizza.
The first inhabitants of this area were the Shoshone, who relied on the resident bighorn sheep for clothing, tools, weapons, and (of course) sustenance. They were named “Sheepeaters.” Today the State of Wyoming ranks fourth in the production of lamb. Grilled steakhouse lamb pizza perfectly celebrates the flavor of American lamb.
© 2021 Linda Lum