Midwestern cuisine has simple roots—the region’s strong connection to agriculture has defined its hearty, locally-driven cooking. In the American heartlands, find
an abundance of fresh produce that’s used to feed the entire hungry nation—from crisp vegetables to juicy fruits and leagues of heirloom wheats. While synonymous with “American food,” Midwestern cuisine has historically been influenced largely by the cuisines of central and eastern Europe. Today, there are very few rules: the region is an incredibly diverse place that also celebrates the traditional foodways of immigrants ranging from Japanese to Filipino. From venison loin to beer cheese soup, here are our very best Midwestern recipes.
Wild Rice with Roasted Buttered Onions
This custardy ice cream gets its tropical flavor from paw paws, a musky-sweet fruit native to the American Midwest that tastes somewhere between a banana and a mango, with a plush, creamy texture.
Get the recipe for Paw Paw Ice Cream »
Wood-Roasted Apples with Burnt Cinnamon Caramel
Good venison is buttery and beefy, hardly gamey at all. Amy Thielen likes to freeze then wet-age wild venison to allow its fibers to relax, thawing it in its vacuum-sealed package in the refrigerator for at least a week. Because the loin is so lean, it is best cooked over a steady push of medium-high heat—not high heat, which creates a bull’s-eye effect. To help the outside caramelize, Thielen adds malted milk powder to the spice rub, which also adds a subtle, nutty richness to the final sauce.
Get the recipe for Spice-Rubbed Venison Loin with Red Wine Sauce »
Despite the name, Boston Coolers are as about Midwestern as Marge Gunderson and repressed emotions. And they’re our favorite kind of soda shake—a milkshake with a soft drink replacing the milk. Ginger ale adds a warm, spicy bite that cuts through all the vanilla richness.
Get the recipe for Boston Cooler »
Black coffee spike
Japanese comfort food meets the all-American burger. Get the recipe for
Japanese Pretzel Tonkatsu Burger
Bacon Fried Rice
As Indiana’s state pie, this rich, nutmeg-dusted custard pie also goes by the name “Hoosier Pie.”
Birch Syrup and Soy Sauce-Glazed Roast Duck
Kvass is a fermented drink traditionally made from rye, but in this version, we use beets, which lend their beautiful red color to the finished cocktail.
Get the recipe for Beet Kvass Gimlets »
This hearty, chicken stock—braised kraut is smoky, spicy, and well balanced, with sweet onions, garlic, and bacon fat nicely contrasting the brightness and brininess of jarred sauerkraut. If you prefer the end result even more sour, feel free to add a splash more brine from the jar.
Get the recipe for Braised Paprika Kraut »
Turn tough chard leaves tender by giving them a light pounding, then dress them in this light sesame-flavored vinaigrette. It’s the perfect side to Amy Thielen’s Japan-meets-Midwest tonkatsu burger.
Get the recipe for Japanese-Style Swiss Chard and Sesame Salad »
Peanut Butter Buckeyes
Peanut Butter Buckeyes
Have you ever tried toasted ravioli? How about crawfish Monica?
A Field Guide to America’s Weird and Wacky Pasta Innovations
Invented by Mark Schiffler, the original chef of
Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, Colorado, this Wisconsin-inspired soup has been traded and tweaked over the years into its current state: a thick, cheddar-based soup cut through with piquant Gorgonzola. Get the recipe for Beer Cheese Soup »
When making these buttery little biscuits, opt for a true American cheese—fourth-generation Wisconsin cheesemaker Sid Cook, of Carr Valley Cheese, advised us to use a three-year-old extra-sharp cheddar.
Get the recipe for American Cheddar Cheese Biscuits »
The addition of buttermilk in this ultra-retro dessert keeps it from being too cloying and renders cookie salad totally appropriate for the adult palate.
Get the recipe for Buttermilk Cookie Salad »
Pulled pork stands in for the burnt ends of barbecued brisket in this robust Kansas City-style bean chili.
Get the recipe for Kansas City-Style Chili »
Summer peaches pair remarkably well with sweet caramelized onions and crisp green beans in this salad from Deb Miller of Lawrence, Kansas.
Get the recipe for Green Bean and Peach Salad »