You no longer have to wait for the fair to roll into town to enjoy a deep-fried Twinkie. Now, you can buy a prepackaged version of the treat in the freezer aisle at Walmart. The snack cakes, which are dipped in batter, flash fried, and then frozen, just need to be heated in the oven — no deep fryer or trip to the state fair required.
But what if your favorite state fair snacks can’t be found in the store? Never fear. We’ve pulled together recipes for some of the best fair snacks from corn dogs to corn on the cob. If you can’t make it this year, try on of these can’t-miss state fair recipes.
1. Corn Dogs
Corn dogs are the quintessential fair food, and this recipe from Epicurious may just improve on the original. Grilling the dogs before battering them enhances the flavor, while the cornmeal-buttermilk coating is crispy on the outside yet still fluffy on the inside. You’ll need a grill pan, wooden popsicle sticks, and a deep-fry thermometer to make this meal.
- 8 hot dogs
- ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
- About 8 cups vegetable oil, divided
- 1½ cups cornmeal
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 large eggs
- 1¼ cups well-shaken buttermilk
Directions: Oil grill pan, then grill hot dogs over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and cool slightly, then insert a wooden stick into each hot dog. Put 3 tablespoons flour on another plate and roll hot dogs in flour to coat, shaking off excess.
Heat 3 inches oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a deep 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together cornmeal, remaining ½ cup flour, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, cayenne, and ¾ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in buttermilk.
Transfer some of the batter to a tall glass, filling it almost to the top.
Working in batches of two or three, dip hot dogs, one at a time, into glass of batter to coat (add more batter to glass if necessary), then fry, turning occasionally, until batter is cooked through and golden-brown all over, about 3 minutes. Transfer corn dogs to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and refill glass with batter between batches.
2. Funnel Cake
Fried dough in all its various forms, from elephant ears to churros, is a staple at fairs and carnivals. Funnel cake, one of the more popular variations of this sweet treat, is made by pouring a stream of batter into hot oil, frying it until golden brown, then sprinkling it with powdered sugar. The dessert is fair food at its most basic and is “almost comically easy” to make at home, according to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, who shared this recipe.
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup milk (non-dairy milk like soy or almond milk also works)
- 1 cup water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or a small scraping of fresh vanilla bean seeds
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
- Shortening or oil for deep-fat frying (About 1½ cups for an 9-inch skillet)
- Confectioners’ sugar
Directions: Whisk the eggs, 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, milk, water, and vanilla in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt and baking powder over, then whisk together until smooth.
Add 1 inch of oil in a heavy-duty skillet. The pan should be roughly the size you want your finished funnel cakes to be. Heat until the oil reaches between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ladle the batter into a funnel (holding a finger over the bottom opening) or into a plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Use about ½ cup of batter per 8-inch cake.
Drizzle the batter in a squiggly pattern into the hot oil. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden. Flip and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from oil and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Check the temperature of the oil and continue cooking the funnel cakes until all the batter is gone. Cover with a generous amount of confectioners sugar, then serve.
3. Deep-Fried Mini Candy Bars
Deep-fried candy bars may be a common sight at state fairs now, but these over-the-top treats are actually a Scottish import. The owners of a chip shop in Stonehaven, Scotland, first had the idea of battering and deep-frying a Mars bar back in 1995, and the idea soon made its way across the pond. If the idea of eating an entire fried Snickers is a bit much, try this recipe for more manageable, mini fried candy bars from Food Network’s Claire Robinson.
- Mini candy bars, such as Twix, Mars, Snickers, or Almond Joy
- 1 whole egg
- 1 cup milk
- Pinch salt
- 1½ cups self-rising flour
- Peanut oil, for frying
Directions: Freeze the mini candy bars.
Combine the egg and milk in a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whisk in the flour and refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
Heat about 4 cups of oil in a large pot to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dunk the frozen candy bars into the chilled batter, and then gently drop them, in batches into the oil. Cook just until light golden in color, then remove them to a brown paper bag to drain and cool for at least 1 minute.
4. Cherry Pie
State fairs have competitions for everything from livestock to baked goods, with eager participants fighting to take home a blue ribbon. You can keep the spirit going by whipping up a prize-winning pie yourself at home. This cherry pie recipe from Kate McDermott of Art of the Pie took home top honors at her county fair.
For the pie dough
- 2½ cups (363 grams) unbleached all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt
- 8 tablespoons (112 grams) of Kerrygold or other salted or unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
- 8 tablespoons (112 grams) leaf lard (optional; see below for how to make an all-butter crust)
- 8 tablespoons (118 grams) of ice water (you may need a little more or less)
For the pie
- 6 cups sour cherries, fresh and pitted, canned and drained, or frozen
- 1 cup sugar, plus a few teaspoons
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of grated whole nutmeg
- 2 to 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg white wash
Directions: To make the crust, combine all ingredients except the ice water in a large bowl. You can also eliminate the lard and up the butter to 14 tablespoons. After washing your hands, blend the ingredients together until you have a mixture that resembles coarse meal with a few pea-sized lumps. Sprinkle ice water over the dough. Lightly stir with a fork. Grab some dough with your hand and squeeze together. If the mixture doesn’t hold together, add more water.
Divide the dough in half. Form into two chubby discs about 5 inches in diameter. Wrap each in plastic and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for about 1 hour.
As the dough chills, make the pie filling. Combine cherries, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice, nutmeg, quick-cooking tapioca, salt, and orange liqueur into a bowl. Gently mix until well coated. Set aside.
Lay a board, pastry cloth, large piece of parchment paper, or plastic wrap on your work surface. Sprinkle with flour. Remove one disc from the fridge and unwrap. Sprinkle the top of the dough with some flour. Hit the disc with your rolling pin a few times, then turn over and repeat. Sprinkle some more flour onto the dough and roll the crust out into a circle that’s about 1 inch larger than your pie.
Brush off any extra flour. Fold the dough over the top of the rolling pin. Carefully transfer to the pie plate. If you need to, use a little water to patch the crust back together. Fill with the pie filling, being careful not to overstuff. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
Roll out remaining dough circle. Lay crust over fruit, or cut strips to make a lattice top. Trim any excess dough and crimp edge to seal. Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer pie to refrigerator to chill while oven preheats.
Bake pie on the middle rack of the oven until crust is just golden, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit; bake until golden brown and the filling is bubbly steadily, about 30 to 35 minutes more. Let cool before serving.
5. Jamaican-Style Chicken Hand Pies
Pam Woodberry won a blue ribbon at the 2013 Texas State Fair for these chicken hand pies, which are seasoned with curry and served with a fruit chutney. The easy-to-make crust is created with boxed baking mix. Recipe from State Fair Recipes.
For the dough
- 3 cups biscuit mix
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅔ cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit)
For the hand pies
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeño
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 small oven-roasted chicken (skinned, de-boned, and chopped)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 jar fruit chutney
Directions: Place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
To make the dough, combine the biscuit mix, 1 teaspoon curry powder, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Mix in the warm water until dough forms. Sprinkle a work surface with more biscuit mix, then roll the dough in the biscuit mix and knead 15 to 20 times. Set aside.
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, jalapeño, and garlic to the pan, then cook until onion softens. Add the flour, curry powder, and allspice. Stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and water. Cook for about 1 minute more, until the mixture thickens. Add the chicken and stir until combined. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Lightly flour a work surface. Roll the dough out into a 12-by-14-inch rectangle that’s about ⅛ inch thick. Cut into 6-by-3-inch rectangles (you should have 8). Spoon about ¼ cup of filling onto each rectangle, fold over to enclose, and press edges with a fork to seal. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown in color. Serve hot or at room temperature with the fruit chutney.
6. Mexican-Style Corn on the Cob
Not all state fair food is breaded and deep fried. Roasted corn on the cob is the perfect summer fair food, and it’s even better when it’s seasoned with chili powder, lime, and cotija cheese. This recipe is from Domestic Dream Boat can be made either in the oven or on the grill.
- ⅓ cup light mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 6 large cobs of corn, shucked
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ounce queso fresco or cotija cheese, crumbled
Directions: Mix the mayonnaise, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
To cook the corn in the oven, move oven rack to highest position. Set oven to broil. Lightly spray or brush corn cobs with olive oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Place baking sheet on the top rack in oven. Broil for about 10 minutes, until tops of corn start to brown. Turn cobs over and continue to broil until the other side browns, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Remove from oven and brush mayonnaise mixture over each corn cob. Sprinkle crumbled cheese over. Serve.
To grill, set all burners to high and preheat for 15 minutes. Lightly spray or brush corn with olive oil Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Once grill is hot, place corn directly on the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, until the bottoms start to brown. Turn cobs and continue to grill for 5 to 10 more minutes.
Transfer cobs to a platter. Brush mayonnaise mixture evenly over each, sprinkle with crumbled cheese, and serve.
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