Fair Food at Home: 7 Summer Recipes You’ll Love

No matter the geographic location, summer simply isn’t summer without strolling around a fair or two. From oddly specific celebrations you find in small towns (we’re looking at you, Gilroy Garlic Festival) to the massive productions states put on every summer. Fairs are always a blast and offer tons of opportunities to enjoy tasty eats. Because you shouldn’t have to endure swarms of people to enjoy these favorites, we’re sharing seven summer recipes for fair food you can make at home.

1. Grilled Flank Steak Gryos

close up of grilled steak in pitta bread

Grilled steak in a pita with tzatziki and tomatoes | Source: iStock

In order to make truly authentic gyros, you need to be willing to make a meatloaf-like mixture, then cook it using a vertical rotisserie. Most of us don’t have that kind of patience, which is why this speedy version using flank steak from Cooking Light is so great. You’ll be chowing down in just about 30 minutes and, unlike the usual fair food, this one won’t undo your diet.


  • 1 (1-pound) flank steak
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder, divided
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ peeled, shredded cucumber
  • 1 (7-ounce) container 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup vertically sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 (1.5-ounce) flatbread pockets
  • 4 (¼-inch-thick) tomato slices, halved

Directions: Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Season steak with half of salt, half of garlic powder, and half of pepper. Grease grill grate with cooking spray, then cook steak to desired degree of doneness, about 6 minutes on first side and 4 on second side. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut diagonally into thin slices.

Place cucumber on several layers of paper towels and gently squeeze to remove excess moisture. Stir cucumber into yogurt with remaining salt, garlic powder, and pepper. In a small separate bowl, toss onion, dill, oil, and lemon juice to combine.

Divide steak among flatbread pockets. Top with tzatziki, onion mixture, and tomato. Serve.

2. Real Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds

Beer Battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds and white sauce

Battered, fried cheese curds | Source: iStock

Even folks who don’t live in Wisconsin are well aware of how much everyone in the state loves cheese. The squeaky curds are especially popular, particularly when they’re battered and fried. They’re a fair staple, but you can just as easily make them at home with this recipe from Allrecipes.com. The beer is mostly for getting the right texture in the batter, so stick with something inexpensive.


  • 2 quarts corn oil
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup beer
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 pounds cheese curds

Directions: Preheat oil in a deep fryer or large, deep pot to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, whisk milk, flour, beer, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl. You want a smooth, thin batter.

Working six to eight cheese curds at a time, dip in batter, then carefully transfer to oil. Fry until golden and crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter. Repeat with remaining cheese curds and batter. Serve at once.

3. Fair-Style Lemon Shake Up

serving or refreshing summer lemonade garnished with mint

Refreshing lemonade with lemons and ice | Source: iStock

Nothing screams summer more than a frosty lemon drink. The only downside is the hefty price tag you end up paying. There’s no reason to fork over so much money for something you can just as easily make at home. Try it yourself with this simple method from The Southern Illinoisan. If you’re making these for an adult-only crowd, consider adding a splash of vodka.


  • 2 lemons
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Directions: Pour sugar into a large, sturdy cup or a cocktail shaker. Cut lemons in half, then squeeze all of the juice into cup or shaker. Add lemon halves and water. Fill with ice, then cover and vigorously shake to dissolve sugar. Taste and adjust sweetness, if needed. Serve at once.

4. Corn Dogs

Corn Dogs with fries on wooden board

Homemade corn cogs and French fries with ketchup | Source: iStock

Every festival offers new and exciting eats every year, but nothing can replace a classic corn dog. Though few people think to make them at home, corn dogs are actually shockingly simple and manage to taste even better when they come out of your kitchen. Try this simple recipe from Saveur. They taste phenomenal even without ketchup and mustard.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Canola oil
  • 8 (6-inch) hot dogs
  • Yellow mustard

Directions: In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, dry mustard, cayenne, and salt to combine. Add milk, buttermilk, and egg. Whisk just until smooth.

Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a Dutch oven or other deep, heavy pot. Set over medium-high heat and preheat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Skewer hot dogs with wooden skewers. Working one at a time, dip into batter, then fry until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with tongs. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Brush corn dogs with mustard and serve.

5. Grilled Corn on the Cob with Roasted Garlic and Herbs

two grilled corn cobs

Grilled corn on the cob with herbs | Source: iStock

Often the only lighter fare you’ll find at festivals, grilled corn offers a needed reprieve from all the deep-fried treats. We especially like chef Michel Nischan’s version, featured on Food & Wine, because it gets a huge flavor boost from roasted garlic and fresh herbs. You can even make the garlic mixture in advance to keep things super simple.


  • 2 garlic heads
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Finley grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 large eats of corn, in husks

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut off top third of both garlic heads. Place in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of oil. Wrap tightly in foil and bake until very soft, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Squeeze garlic into a small bowl, then stir in lemon zest, butter, cilantro, tarragon, and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a grill to medium heat. Peel back corn husks and remove silk, being careful to keep husks intact. Spread garlic mixture evenly over each ear of corn, then fold husks back over. Tie with kitchen twine, then wrap with foil.

Grill corn, turning, until kernels are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and grill over medium-high heat until charred, about 5 minutes longer. Serve.

6. Funnel Cake

Funnel Cake on white plate

Homemade funnel cake with powdered sugar | Source: iStock

A quintessential summer dessert, funnel cakes are as easy to make as they are to eat. Need proof? Try this recipe from Martha Stewart. Just whisk together a simple batter, transfer it to a squeeze bottle, then fry portions in some hot oil. Add a generous dusting of powdered sugar, and you’re ready to dig in.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • Rounded ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions: Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep cast-iron skillet or other heavy pot. Preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt to combine. Create a well in the center, then add milk, egg, 2 tablespoons oil, and vanilla. Stir until batter is smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle with a ¼-inch opening or a wet measuring cup.

Holding bottle or measuring cup about 1 inch away from oil, carefully create a spiral pattern with about ¼ cup of batter. Fry, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let oil return to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before repeating.

Once all funnel cakes are fried, dust with powdered sugar. Serve at once.

7. Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pops

two hands making pop cake

Dipping cake pops in chocolate | Source: iStock

Not every fair has frozen, chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, but they should. Think of the dessert as ice cream’s more decadent sibling. To make the treat at home, try this version with peanut butter from Food Network. You can make the pops as big or small as you like, but it’s usually a good idea to keep them on the petite side because they’re pretty rich.


  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 1½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups creamy peanut butter

Chocolate coating:

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions: Position rack in the center of oven and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with foil, allowing edges to hang over, creating flaps on each side. Grease with nonstick cooking spray.

Break up brown sugar to remove any lumps in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add cream cheese and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add cream and beat on low speed. Add yolks and vanilla, then beat just to combine. Add peanut butter, and beat on low speed just to combine. Do not overmix or you’ll beat too much air into the cheesecake batter.

Transfer to prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Open oven to release some of the heat, then reduce temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to bake until outside of cheesecake is set but center remains jiggly, about 45 minutes. Turn off oven and let cheesecake cool inside oven for 45 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Use foil overhang to remove cheesecake from pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1½-inch cubes. Skewer each with a wooden popsicle stick inserted halfway through. Freeze for 1 hour.

Melt shortening and chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until just melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring after each increment, until melted.

Dip pops in chocolate, then transfer to a wax paper-lined baking tray. Let chocolate set, about 5 minutes. Keep stored in the freezer or fridge for a cool treat.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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