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Break out the deep fryer (and skip the sunburn).
State fair food immediately conjures images of fried food and things on sticks…and fried things on sticks. Most of the edible wonders encountered at the average fairground are greasy, crispy, and super salty or super sweet (sometimes both). They’re not every-day treats, is what we’re saying—but they’re not out of reach when the carnival’s packed up and left town, either.
Whether you get a corn dog craving mid-winter that those freezer aisle specimens just won’t satisfy, or you’re missing out on your favorite funnel cake during the summer of social distancing, you can recreate all your favorite state fair grub at home with these recipes. Bonus: There’s a lot of overlap with boardwalk food faves too (but saltwater taffy and fudge are in their own categories).
You won’t have to break out the deep fryer for all of these, but if there was ever a time to invest in one, it’s now.
Presto FryDaddy Electric Deep Fryer, from Amazon. It does things an air fryer can only dream of. Buy Now
Barring that, a deep Dutch oven will work perfectly for frying in larger amounts of oil.
The pinnacle of state fair foods from coast to coast, corn dogs are really not that hard to make at home. Plus, you get to choose whatever hot dog (or hot dog alternative) you want. And you can make these up to two weeks ahead and freeze them, to insure against future late-night cravings. See our guide on how to make corn dogs—with four different recipes, including one for cheese hounds.
If a corn dog is the savory king of state fair foods, funnel cake is the sweet queen. You can’t pass up either, but you can customize your fried dough too. Get our Cinnamon Funnel Cake recipe, for instance (similar to a popular Disney dessert, with the addition of dulce de leche), or try this more traditional Funnel Cake recipe topped with whipped cream and berries (or whatever else you want).
OK, these are more boardwalk food than state fair, but anything fried technically falls under that umbrella. And though this is a tamer option than many stunt foods found at fairs (fried butter or fried Kool-Aid, anyone?), it’s an all-time classic that’s well worth making at home. Get our French Fries recipe.
Speaking of stunt foods, there’s nothing wrong with trying them at least once. Battered and fried candy bars are a super gooey, optimum sugar rush experience, but you’ll probably want to share. Get the Deep-Fried Candy Bar recipe.
So-called squeaky cheese is still fairly firm yet pliable when deep-fried, and delicious even without a dipping sauce (though marinara works for a mozzarella stick vibe, and ranch goes with pretty much everything). Get the Fried Cheese Curds recipe.
Good & Gather Cheese Curds, from Target. More and more mainstream stores carry curds these days. Buy Now
Frickles are fun in every way, and still tasty even if you don’t deep-fry them. This Fried Pickle recipe calls for a buttermilk batter, but if you don’t want to deal with bubbling oil, try Chrissy Teigen’s recipe for potato chip pickles that are baked in the oven.
It is possible to produce homemade cotton candy without a machine, but it’s not what you’d call easy. As a happy (and less messy) medium, you could try this cotton candy ice cream recipe, which definitely seems like the kind of headline-grabbing creation you’d find at a fair.
The Candery Premium Cotton Candy Machine, from Amazon. If you REALLY love fresh cotton candy, this could be a great investment. Buy Now
Perhaps more strongly associated with fall fairs, pumpkin patches, and Halloween, candy apples and caramel apples are easy to find at state fairs too—and fun to make at home. You can go with a basic Easy Caramel Apple recipe, or gild the lily (in keeping with the state fair spirit of excess) and make something like our Peanut Butter Chocolate Caramel Apples with Honey Roasted Peanuts.
Equally at home at a baseball game, on the boardwalk, or at the amusement park, crunchy, sweet caramel corn is delicious enough to risk your fillings for a few bites. Get our Caramel Corn recipe. (And if you’re feeling nutty—and even braver when it comes to your dental work—try our Cracky Snack Cracker Jack Copycat recipe.)
Prize-winning pies can come out of your own kitchen when you perfect your pie crust and get the right formula for the filling. Whether you like chocolate or fruit (or something nutty), you’re bound to find your own blue ribbon winner among our pie recipes.
If you have a stand mixer and aren’t afraid to work with dry ice, you can make soft serve style ice cream at home—but if that sounds like a bit too much trouble, you can at least make the crisp chocolate shell it’s often dipped in it at state fairs and on boardwalks all summer long. Homemade Magic Shell is a two-ingredient wonder that goes great with any ice cream flavor you desire, even if it’s scooped instead of swirled into a twist. They might be more like the Drumsticks you used to get from the ice cream truck, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Get the Dipped Ice Cream Cone recipe.