Most people recognize the change of season when the days get shorter, the weather gets brisk and the leaves put on a colorful display. But for many food lovers, they know fall has arrived when seasonal ingredients are harvested, and their favorite autumnal dishes are on the menu.
There are some local favorites that are available only during the fall months, and every corner of the country happens to have a seasonal dish that is best enjoyed locally. Here are 10 fall favorites.
Apple cider doughnuts | New York
Apple cider doughnuts are best served warm — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / bhofack2
Apple cider doughnuts seem to be available all over the country, but the best place to enjoy these warm, spiced delights is in New York, where the apple happens to be the official state fruit. Around fall, you can find apple cider doughnuts everywhere from farmers markets to bakeries.
Just follow your nose – you’re likely to catch a whiff on the autumn breeze.
Pecan pie | Southern United States
Both the flavor of its syrupy filling and the texture of the pecans makes the pecan pie an American classic — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / bhofack2
Pecan pie is a fall favorite, especially for Thanksgiving. But pecans are a big deal throughout the south, especially in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, where they produce the most of this delicious nut.
Road trip to the south where the pecan pie can serve as a blank canvas for southern bakers’ creativity. At Julia Belle’s inside the Pee Dee State Farmers Market, they do pecan pie with a White Russian twist. And in Georgia at Chester Brunnenmeyer’s, they’re infusing their pecan pie with bourbon.
Gumbo | Louisiana
Creole gumbo is typically a tomato-based stew, while Cajun gumbo is made with a dark roux — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / mphillips007
When most people think of gumbo, they think of Louisiana, and locals in the Bayou State know that fall is truly the best season for a pot of gumbo.
Appearing in both Creole and Cajun cuisines, gumbo is a specialty stew that incorporates seafood, vegetables and other meats. So, it’s only fitting that a fall foodie road trip to Louisiana be centered around warming up with this hearty meal.
Huckleberries | Rocky Mountains
You’ll find huckleberries used in a wide range of recipes throughout the Rocky Mountains — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / MeganBetz
The most prized wild berry of the Rocky Mountains is the huckleberry, a fruit that happens to love the acidic soil and high altitude. Come August and throughout the fall, huckleberries are turned into all kinds of sweet treats.
In towns and cities along this majestic mountain range, you’ll find huckleberry pie, huckleberry jams and jellies, huckleberry teas, huckleberry candies, huckleberry ice cream and even huckleberry beer.
Cranberries | Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s cranberry harvest is quite possibly one of the most beautiful harvests to witness in the United States — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / YinYang
When most people think about Wisconsin, they think of cheese and all of the delicious dairy that comes from this state. But not many people outside of Wisconsin know that the state is the nation’s largest producer of cranberries.
Wisconsin loves the cranberry so much, there’s an official Wisconsin Cranberry Trail. The trail takes road trippers along Wisconsin’s Cranberry Highway, a 50-mile stretch that is lined with crimson red cranberry marshes during the fall harvest season. You can travel to cranberry towns that throw huge cranberry festivals (during a typical year) and to the Sand Creek Brewing Company where cranberry lovers can try their Hard Cranberry Lemonade.
Biscochitos | New Mexico
If New Mexico were a cookie, it would be the biscochito. In fact, in 1989, New Mexico declared this butter cookie their official state cookie.
First introduced by the early Spaniards, biscochitos quickly became part of New Mexico’s unique cuisine. Though they’re served during most special occasions, their aromatic spice blend of cinnamon and anise lend to their seasonality.
Lutefisk | Midwestern United States
Come Thanksgiving and Christmas time, this Scandinavian tradition carries on in kitchens across the Midwestern U.S., specifically in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Lutefisk is a pretty labor-intensive dish that can take over a week to prepare.
It’s made from air-dried white fish soaked in water and lye for around one to two weeks. At the end, you’re left with somewhat translucent, jelly-like pieces that are then simmered until firm. The salty fish is a comforting dish, especially when the weather is cold and the nights are long.
Chili and Frito pies | Texas
The chili and Frito pie is perfect for potlucks and gameday parties! — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / Jupiterimages
Though chili and Frito pies are enjoyed in states across the Midwest and Southwest, it’s believed that the dish was born in Texas, created by Daisy Doolin, the mother of the founder of the Frito Company.
Chili, cheese and Frito corn chips, along with salsa, refried beans, sour cream, onions, rice and sometimes jalapenos are served in a casserole dish or sometimes served right out of a single-serving bag of chips. It’s a popular gameday treat, so you’ll often find this dish when tailgating at the big game, but the chili at the heart of this dish is the perfect way to warm up in the brisk fall weather.
Brunswick stew | Southern Appalachia
The longer that Brunswick stew simmers, the more tender the meat and vegetables become — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / rudisill
Brunswick stew has become synonymous with fall in Southern Appalachia because it was a dish served to early settlers before they went hunting. It was traditionally made with squirrel, opossum or rabbit meat, but nowadays chicken and pork are used.
The tomato-based stew also incorporates butter beans, corn and okra, popular ingredients throughout the south.
Michigan pasty | Michigan
The ultimate Michigan comfort food is a doughy pocket full of meat — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / bhofack2
The pasty is commonly known as a working class meal from Cornwall, England, but come fall, Michigan locals from the Upper Peninsula are eager to get their hands on a Michigan pasty, also known as the “Yooper pasty.”
The meaty hand pie came to the Upper Peninsula by way of miners from Cornwall who settled in the area during the 1800s. Pasties are full meals of seasoned meat and vegetables all wrapped up in a flaky pastry, and they’re commonly found at restaurants across Northern Michigan. Their portability makes them the perfect road trip food.