11 Famous Pennsylvania Food: Dishes Pennsylvania Is Known For

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The delectable dishes and foods in Pennsylvania are known for their comforting nature that just warms the soul. People of the Keystone state love some hearty and strong-tasting cuisines that stem from all parts of the region. In fact, the Pennsylvania food scene is a good reflection of its rich history and diverse culture.

What’s Special About Foods In Pennsylvania

One of the most prominent influences on Pennsylvania’s cuisine is its German heritage, which is evident in the prevalence of dishes like scrapple, sausages, and pretzels. Similarly, the Pennsylvania Dutch community has also contributed goodies such as shoo-fly pie and chicken pot pie. 

Additionally, Pennsylvania is known for its regional specialties. Cities like Philadelphia have their own unique food culture, featuring signature foods like Philly cheesesteaks, roast pork sandwiches, and soft pretzels. You will also find interesting creations like Pittsburgh salad in the western part of the state.

Overall, Pennsylvania’s food scene is characterized by a blend of traditional and modern influences, a commitment to using high-quality, local ingredients, and a deep sense of regional pride. 

If you are ever in the state, here are some of the famous foods in Pennsylvania to seek out and try!

Most Famous Pennsylvania Food

Philly Cheesesteaks

Philly cheesesteaks are one of the most famous foods from Philadelphia and have become incredibly popular all over the world. So you probably have tried a variation of this somewhere. It is a true staple of the Pennsylvania food scene! 

This classic treat consists of thinly sliced steak, gooey melted cheese (typically provolone) and sautéed onions, stuffed into a long hoagie roll. Throughout the years, peppers and mushrooms have also become common and favorite additions to this delish sandwich.

Of course, there is nothing stopping you from customizing it with any personal favorite toppings. Consider packing one to go as well, so you can enjoy it while exploring the famous landmarks in Pennsylvania. It can make for a convenient and fulfilling refreshment.

This dish is believed to have been invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri in 1930. It was created as a new offering for their hotdog stand near the Italian Market of South Philadelphia. The brothers combined grille beef steak with onions and served it on a long roll; which eventually evolved into the delicious Philly cheesesteak we know today. 

This hearty sandwich can now be found almost everywhere, not just in Pennsylvania, but also in other states around the USA. But if you are visiting, you got to try it from the source of origin, don’t you? Many even claim that you haven’t visited Philly unless you’ve dug into one of these iconic sandwiches! 

Famous Foods In Pennsylvania

Scrapple

Scrapple is another traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food that has been around for centuries. It’s a type of mush made from ground pork scraps (thus the name), cornmeal, and spices. This savory dish is usually served as a breakfast option along with morning favorites like eggs and potatoes. 

Now, before you go turning up your nose at the thought of eating something made from scraps, know that this is one dish that has stood the test of time.

It might not look alluring at first glance, but the flavor profile will convince you otherwise! It’s crispy on the outside, and soft and savory on the inside. Some folks like to eat it with syrup, others with ketchup or even mustard.

The origin of this dish dates back to Colonial Pennsylvania when Dutch and German settlers used up every part of their pigs while cooking—including boiling the head, feet, and offal to make a flavorful stock. From there, they added the parts of the pig that couldn’t be eaten and ground it up with wheat flour or cornmeal.

Today, scrapple is a popular breakfast staple; some even stuff it in sandwiches with bacon, lettuce, and tomato! You can find it in any diner or restaurant serving typical Pennsylvanian food throughout the state.

Hoagies

Hoagies are classic submarine sandwiches that are packed with meat, cheese, veggies, and lots of flavor. It’s basically a portable feast that you can take with you wherever you go.

Beyond the convenience, they are also extremely customizable. Stuff your long, crusty roll with any meat, from roast beef and turkey to salami and cold cuts. Fit in your favorite cheese like provolone or American; and finally, top it with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and a variety of condiments such as mayo, mustard, oil and vinegar.

One of the many origin stories of hoagie stems from Philadelphia during the WWI era. It is believed that Italian immigrants working at shipyards started making them.

That said, this filling sandwich makes for a great meal on its own or can be enjoyed as part of an indulgent picnic lunch while exploring the state!

It’s easy to see why this Pennsylvania state food is popular among tourists. And it also goes without saying that Pennsylvanians love their hoagies which come in various sizes, shapes, and flavors. 

So next time you’re in the state, be sure to stop by a local deli and grab yourself a hoagie. It’s one of the most typical and famous foods in Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh Salad

One of the things Pittsburgh is known for is actually its unique salad!

The Pittsburgh Salad is a creative combination of fresh greens, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, and topped with your choice of meat (usually chicken or steak) and French fries. Yes, you read that right – French fries! The fries are placed right on top of the salad, adding a delicious crunch and texture to every bite.

The addition of ranch dressing to this trifecta of meat, fries, and greens completes the dish with a signature flavor. While salads are often seen as light dishes, it may not be so for this one.

The Pittsburgh Salad is said to have originated in the 1960s at a restaurant when a customer ordered a steak sandwich without the bun, but with salad and fries instead. 

This dish has since become one of the staple foods in Pittsburgh. Some variations of the salad today even include hard-boiled eggs or shredded cheese.

Some people can fill up on just this dish, while others like to have this hearty side with sandwiches or burgers during summer get-togethers and cookouts. Regardless, it can serve well as part of an outdoor picnic lunch while exploring Pennsylvania’s beaches and great outdoors! 

An interesting spin on your typical concept of salad but don’t knock it till you try it! The combination of fresh vegetables and crispy fries makes this salad a different yet satisfying food in Pennsylvania to enjoy.

Stromboli

Another classic food of Pennsylvania is none other than the Stromboli. This dish originated in Philadelphia and has since become quite popular across the state.

Picture a golden, crispy dough crust, stuffed with melted cheese, delicious vegetables, and savory meats, such as ham, sausage, pepperoni, or salami. It’s like a pizza, but rolled up into a convenient and portable shape. 

This dish is invented in Philadelphia during the 1950s by Italian-Americans. If you are wondering why the name sounds familiar, that’s because it takes from the Stromboli volcano located on the Isle of Stromboli in Italy.

This baked treat is not just an Italian-American masterpiece, but also super versatile dish that can be served as a snack, lunch, or even as a main course for dinner. It is perfect for sharing with friends and family, and a great addition to any party or gathering.

Stromboli can be customized with different types of meat, vegetables or even sauces to make it unique to your taste buds. Some popular

variations include pepperoni and mozzarella, ham and Swiss cheese, and even a vegetarian version with spinach, feta, and roasted red peppers.

Whether you get one from a local deli or make one at home, be sure to try this delicious food Pennsylvania is known for.

Roast Pork Sandwich

The Roast Pork Sandwich sounds simple but is such a popular choice in the Pennsylvania food scene. This is arguably even a contender to the Philly cheesesteak’s fame, and for good reason.

A perfectly crusty roll, piled high with thinly sliced, tender, slow-roasted pork that’s been soaking up all the flavorful juices and spices for hours. To make things even better, it’s topped with sautéed broccoli rabe and sharp provolone cheese.

It’s a hearty, savory Philadelphia food that is great for lunch or dinner. It can be so filling that it makes for a meal just by itself; but hey, who would say no to some tasty sides? The taste might be simple but its flavor is out of this world.

Roast Pork Sandwiches are also very affordable and widely available throughout the state! Some of the best places to grab a roast pork sandwich in Pennsylvania are John’s Roast Pork in South Philly and DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market.

Popular Sides And Snack Foods In Pennsylvania

Pretzels

Did you know that Pennsylvania produces 80% of the pretzels in the United States? Now that’s what I call pretzel power! Consequently, you can imagine they are one of the most famous foods of Pennsylvania.

These classic twisted treats are soft, chewy, and just the right amount of salty. The secret to their taste is in the boiling process. Before baking, the pretzels are briefly boiled a mixture of water and baking soda, which gives them a shiny, crispy exterior and a soft, warm inside.

While Pretzels were brought to the U.S. by German immigrants around the 1700s and 1800s, the origin of this European pastry dates back to the Middle Ages.

I’m sure we have all seen the iconic twisty ones, but Pretzels can also be baked into various sizes and shapes – from thick rods to small nuggets. There are also many different ways you can enjoy your pretzel – salted or unsalted, with mustard, cheese, or even dipped in chocolate! Some people even use pretzels as buns for their sandwiches.

Although traditional public bakeries used to make fresh ones as part of their daily baking process; today, they can also easily be bought at supermarkets or specialty stores across the region. You can sometimes even find flavored versions such as jalapeno-cheddar or cinnamon sugar!

Many of the big Pretzel brands are also based in Pennsylvania, such as Philly Pretzel Factory, Auntie Anne, Synder’s of Hanover, Herr’s and Utz; offering a range of hard and soft pretzels.

Whether you grab one while strolling through the streets of Philadelphia or enjoy one mid-hike in Lancaster County, this is one traditional Pennsylvania food to indulge in.

Tomato Pie

Tomato pie is a popular dish that is believed to have been brought to Philadelphia by Italian immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The base is form of fluffy focaccia-like dough, and the filling is made up of layers of fresh, juicy tomato paste, seasoned with herbs and spices, like oregano and basil; some like to top it with a sprinkle of grated cheese. It actually looks more like a rectangular pizza than a pie!

Pennsylvania produces a significant amount of tomatoes each year, which makes this dish a great way to enjoy local produce. Every bite is bursting with flavor, and it’s perfect for a summer picnic or as a side dish at a family gathering. 

While it is not extremely difficult to make, you won’t find Tomato pie in every state. It’s one of the foods Pennsylvania is known for and the locals take pride in. Tomato pie has become one of the staple foods in Pennsylvania cuisine as they are tasty and easy to eat.

Desserts And Sweet Foods From Pennsylvania

Funnel Cake

We cannot forget the Funnel Cake when it comes to the famous foods in Pennsylvania. This sweet treat was first introduced by German settlers and it has become almost a street food tradition around the country. 

They are essentially fluffy, crispy dough that’s sprinkled with powdered sugar and served warm. Batter is poured through a funnel into hot oil until it forms circles that are then deep-fried and sprinkled with toppings. 

Fresh ones are the best as the golden, crispy exterior contrasts with a soft, fluffy center that is sure to delight your taste buds! There’s just something about biting into a warm funnel cake that screams “summer” and brings back memories of childhood for locals.

This is because funnel cakes are a staple at county fairs, amusement parks, and carnivals throughout the state. You can even find them at roadside stands, festivals, and state fairs. It has become synonymous with fun events.

Nowadays, there are endless variations of this tasty treat – from chocolate-covered to cinnamon roll flavored, so you might find yourself trying it a bunch of times in different flavors!

Shoo-Fly Pie

Shoo-Fly Pie is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch treat that has been around as early as the 1700s. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re missing out! 

The name “Shoo-Fly” is said to come from the pie’s ability to attract flies with its sugary smell, so people had to “shoo” them away during baking. But don’t worry, nowadays you won’t have to fight any insects to enjoy this delicious dessert!

It’s a classic molasses pie made with a crumbly, buttery crust and sweet filling of molasses and brown sugar. Sometimes warm spices like cinnamon and ginger are added to give an enhanced taste. This dish is believed to have originated from the Amish communities in Pennsylvania.

The contrast between its sweet, almost caramel-like molasses filling and its crumbly, biscuit-like crust is what makes this dessert so appealing.

Today, this delicious dessert is enjoyed all over Pennsylvania and you can find it in many bakeries throughout the state. Some even have it for breakfast, or top it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for a full on indulgence!

Enjoy it warm or cold—it’s an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth! Shoo-fly Pie is undoubtedly one of the iconic foods from Pennsylvania.

Banana Split

Pennsylvania is known for its sweet treats, and the age-old Banana Split is one of them. 

It’s essentially a combination of three scoops of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream in between two halves of a banana, drizzled with hot fudge, strawberry, and caramel sauce. This beauty is then finished with whipped cream, chopped nuts, sprinkles, and a bright red maraschino cherry on top. 

This dessert was invented by David Strickler at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe PA way back in 1904. It quickly became a hit and has since evolved to become an iconic American dish that is enjoyed all over the US and the world. 

When things get so popular, you can be sure there are even variations featuring other fruits and toppings to make it all innovative.

Banana Splits are not just scrumptious but also fun to make. They’re usually served in a long boat-shaped dish, and it’s almost like a game to get all of the toppings in each scoop without spilling.

This dessert is perfect for sharing with friends or family. Eating a banana split even makes you feel like a kid again; taking you back to the good old days. So go ahead and indulge! It is one of the most famous foods from Pennsylvania that is globally recognized.

Enjoying Pennsylvania Food

From the warm and fluffy funnel cakes to the succulent roast pork sandwiches, Pennsylvania has a lot to offer when it comes to unique food experiences. Whether you’re looking for snacks at county fairs or full meals that will fill your stomach with deliciousness, the different foods from PA are worth seeking out.

With all the flavorful options available, be sure to spend some time exploring all that Pennsylvania’s culinary culture has to offer when you visit the state.


PIN THESE FAMOUS FOODS IN PENNSYLVANIA FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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