10 Famous Illinois Foods To Try: Dishes Illinois Is Known For

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Food is an integral part of any culture, and Illinois has some unique dishes that have been passed down through generations. From classic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza to the ever-popular beef sandwiches, foods in Illinois are sure to please even the pickiest palate. 

Whether you’re a local or just visiting, it’s worth exploring all that this state has to offer when it comes to gastronomy. Here are some of the most iconic foods from Illinois to try. Come along for a tasty journey as we dig into what makes Illinois foods so delicious!

Most Famous Illinois Food

Deep-Dish Pizza

Deep-dish pizza is arguably the most famous Illinois food. What makes it so special is the way it’s prepared – instead of a thin, crispy crust like you might find with New York-style pizza, the crust on a deep-dish pizza is thick and buttery. 

It’s almost like a pie crust, and it’s cooked in a deep dish (hence the name) so that it can hold a lot of toppings and sauce.

Speaking of toppings, that’s another thing that makes deep-dish pizza so great – it’s absolutely loaded with them! You’ll typically find layers of cheese, meat, veggies, and sauce all piled high on top of that delicious crust. It’s a true feast for the senses.

This hearty, thick-crusted pizza has become a symbol of the Chicago food scene and it’s no wonder why. The combination of cheese, sauce and any topping you can think of makes it a truly delicious treat.

The original deep-dish was created in 1943 at the Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. Since then, this style of pizza has been adopted by many other restaurants across the state. 

Now, we should warn you that deep-dish pizza is not exactly a healthy food – it’s definitely on the indulgent side. Be sure to grab a slice or two of this iconic food in Illinois. It’s sure to be one of the best meals you have while visiting! 

Other Popular And Famous Illinois Foods

Chicago-Style Hot Dog

The Chicago-style hot dog is another famous food Illinois is known for. This classic street food consists of an all-beef frankfurter served on a poppy seed bun.

And here’s where things get interesting: the toppings. A true Chicago-style hot dog is loaded up with yellow mustard, bright green relish, chopped onions, tomato slices, a pickle spear, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt.

The blend of ingredients may sound odd, but locals swear by this classic dish. It’s a colorful and flavorful combination that really sets it apart from your typical hot dog. 

The whole thing is a true work of art and a must-try for anyone visiting Chicago. You can get these at many restaurants throughout the state as well as from local vendors. Give it a try if you want to experience some of the best local food in Illinois!  

The Horseshoe

The horseshoe is a unique Illinois food that’s sure to make your mouth water. This open-faced sandwich is an absolute monster that’s not for the faint of heart. 

It consists of two slices of thick-cut toast and a protein (usually a burger patty, ham, or chicken), then piled high with French fries, all smothered in a creamy cheese sauce and whatever other toppings you can think of. 

That’s right, it’s basically a heart attack on a plate, but it’s so delicious that it’s worth the risk.

The classic version comes with sliced ham or hamburger patties, but there are plenty of variations out there that stretch the boundaries even further.

From deep-fried macaroni and cheese on top to roasted pork belly in between, you can find all sorts of interesting ways to customize this meal. Some will even top it with things like bacon or jalapenos.  

No matter how you have it, one thing is certain: this sandwich will fill you up! It’s a hearty meal that is also a staple amongst Illinois foods.

Italian Beef Sandwich

The Italian beef sandwich is another famous food Illinois is known for, that’s guaranteed to make your taste buds sing.

This overstuffed sandwich consists of cooked, thinly sliced roast beef that’s been doused in a delicious gravy and then served on a crusty Italian roll with optional toppings like giardiniera (a spicy pickled vegetable relish) or sweet peppers.

What sets the Italian Beef Sandwich apart is the way the beef is cooked. It’s typically slow-roasted for hours until it’s incredibly tender and flavorful, and it’s sliced thin enough that it practically melts in your mouth. 

It’s a popular takeout dish that you can find all over the state, but it tastes best when made with freshly baked bread from one of the many local bakeries. 

The flavor combination – salty and flavorful beef, tangy giardiniera, sweet roasted peppers, and the softness of the fresh-baked bread – make this sandwich totally unique and impossible to resist! 

It’s a real taste of the Midwest and a true classic that’s been satisfying hungry diners for generations. Give it a try if you’re looking for foods from Illinois that are bursting with flavor in every bite. Many Chicago food tours will encompass this dish in the itinerary.

Chicken Vesuvio

This Italian-American dish from Chicago is a must-try for anyone looking to sample some iconic foods in Illinois. The name “Chicken Vesuvio” comes from the famous volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, near Campania, Italy.

The dish itself is made with chicken, potatoes, garlic cloves, and white wine that’s been cooked until everything has a nice golden-brown color and the chicken is tender and juicy. Herbs like oregano and parsley are added as well to give it an extra layer of flavor. 

It’s then served over a bed of fluffy white rice that soaks up all the delicious sauces and juices. The result is an irresistible combination of savory flavors that always satisfy. 

Just imagine juicy, succulent chicken infused with fragrant herbs and garlic; mixed with the crispy, golden potatoes that give a satisfying crunch. When you add in the subtle tang of the white wine, you’ve got a dish that’s bursting with flavor in every bite.

Overall, Chicken Vesuvio is a delicious and classic Illinois dish that’s definitely worth a try. Whether you’re a fan of Italian-American cuisine or just looking for a tasty meal, don’t miss this one!

Snack And Street Foods Illinois Is Known For


Illinois is known for its scrumptious popcorn! This snack food has deep roots in the state; corn farmers have been cultivating their crops with kernels specifically suited for popping into popcorn since ages ago.

The popcorn industry in Illinois continues to this day, with a variety of flavors and types available for all tastes. 

For starters, there’s the famous Garrett Popcorn brand. This Chicago-based company has been making their signature “Garrett Mix” for over 70 years, which is a delicious blend of caramel and cheese popcorn. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and it’s so addictive that you can’t help but keep coming back for more.

But even beyond Garrett, there are plenty of other popcorn shops and stands throughout the state that serve up delicious popcorn in all sorts of flavors. Whether you like it buttered, caramelized, cheesy, or spicy, Illinois has got you covered! 

Popcorn is an incredibly versatile snack – you can enjoy it at any time of day, from breakfast to late-night munchies. It’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular foods in Illinois! 

Maxwell Street Polish

This delicious sausage sandwich is named after the historic Maxwell Street market in Chicago, where it’s been a beloved staple for decades.

The Maxwell Street Polish is made with a grilled or fried Polish sausage that’s served on a bun with generous toppings like mustard, grilled onions, and pickles. Sometimes additional toppings like sports peppers or sauerkraut can be added. 

It’s a simple yet incredibly satisfying sandwich that’s perfect for a quick lunch or midnight snack after a night out in the city!  

This famous sandwich was invented by Eastern European immigrants to Chicago during the late 1800s and has remained popular ever since. 

There are plenty of variations on the Maxwell Street Polish, too. Some places will serve it with extra goodies like cheese or bacon, and some will even swap out the Polish sausage for a different type of sausage altogether.

You can find this iconic dish all over Chicago, but it tastes best when purchased from one of the original vendors who have been around for decades. 

In any case, the Maxwell Street Polish is an absolute must-try if you’re looking for a taste of classic Illinois foods. 


Pierogi are definitely a fan favorite here in Illinois! These little dumplings are a staple of Polish cuisine, and they’re one of the cultural Illinois foods among locals and visitors alike.

Pierogi are made with a dough that’s filled with a savory filling, such as mashed potatoes and cheese, sauerkraut, and mushrooms, or ground meat. They’re then boiled or pan-fried until they’re tender and crispy.

It can also be topped with melted butter and onions, sour cream, applesauce, or even bacon and chives for added taste. 

The soft, doughy exterior gives way to a delicious, savory filling, and when you add in the tangy sour cream or rich butter, you’ve got a perfect combination of flavors.

Pierogi are usually served as an appetizer or side dish, but there are all sorts of variations on the classic pierogi recipe, too. 

It’s can work as a main course if you stuff it with things like ground beef or sauerkraut, while some places will make sweet pierogi with fillings like fruit or cheese.

No matter how you have it, this simple yet delicious Polish food in Illinois is sure to hit the spot! 

Sport Peppers

Sport peppers are one of the most iconic foods from Illinois. They’re small, spicy peppers that have been pickled in a vinegar-based brine for months until they’ve taken on an unforgettable flavor.

These small, green pickled peppers are typically used as a condiment for all sorts of dishes, from hot dogs to Italian beef sandwiches. You can also find them served alone as an appetizer.

Despite their small size, these peppers pack a serious punch, with a flavor that’s spicy, tangy, and slightly sweet all at once. They are about 2-3 times hotter than jalapeños. These little peppers add a nice crunch and zest to any dish, plus they look great when served up with some thinly sliced vegetables. 

Sport peppers are a unique and fiery addition to the Illinois food scene. So don’t be afraid to give these little firecrackers a try – you’ll never forget it! 

Desserts And Sweet Foods In Illinois

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are a sweet treat that’s beloved all across the United States, and Illinois is no exception. These fluffy rolls make for a great breakfast or dessert. They’re a classic comfort food that’s sure to put a smile on your face.

Cinnamon rolls consist of a buttery, gooey dough that’s rolled up with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar between each layer. It is then topped with a rich and creamy frosting made from confectioners’ sugar and cream cheese. 

The result is a delicious concoction of irresistible aroma and sugary sweetness that melts in your mouth! 

One particularly famous bakery in Illinois that’s known for its cinnamon rolls is Ann Sather’s. The Chicago storefront has been serving up these incredible treats for decades, and they a well-loved by both locals and visitors.

So if you’re looking for something sweet to add to your plate while you’re in Illinois, these delicious rolls are always a good choice.

Discovering Delicious Foods From Illinois

This is only scratching the surface when it comes to famous foods in Illinois.

From hot dogs to Italian beef sandwiches, there are so many delicious options unique to the state. With all these tasty treats, it’s easy to see why foodies flock here! One of the fun facts about Illinois is that the term “Sundae” was coined in the state.

In addition, Illinois is also known for its vibrant food culture, with a diverse array of restaurants, cafes, and food trucks serving up delicious dishes from all around the world. There’s no shortage of iconic dishes that make Illinois food and cuisine special.



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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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