Midwestern cuisine is a regional cuisine of the American Midwest. Midwestern cuisine generally features simple but hearty dishes. Meals tend to be served family-style or smorgasbord rather than in courses. Seasoning is typically light, very rarely (according to stereotype) featuring hot or spicy flavors.
The Midwest is frequently referred to as the breadbasket of America . As such, grain production, particularly wheat and corn, has dominated the agriculture and the food. Native American influences are not unknown, as the Midwest is a major producer of wild rice.
Beef and pork processing always have been important Midwestern industries, with Chicago and Kansas City as traditional stockyard and processing centers of the beef trade, while Iowa is the center of pork production in the US .
Dairy, especially cheese, forms an important group of ingredients, with Wisconsin traditionally known as America 's Dairy Capital (though California actually produces more cheese).
As with most American regional cuisines, Midwestern cooking is heavily influenced by the immigrant groups which settled there. Strong Scandinavian influences exist in Minnesota and Wisconsin . Throughout the northern Midwest , Northern European immigrant groups predominated, so Swedish and Norwegian lutefisk, or Polish paczki are common. Missouri , Kansas and Illinois were destinations for many ethnic German immigrants, so sausages and potatoes are more prevalent. Miners looking for a convenient meal to bring to work popularized the pasty, which is now the iconic dish of Michigan 's Upper Peninsula .
Major urban areas in the midwest have distictive cuisine that can be very different from the areas surrounding it.
Kansas City is an important barbecue center with a distinctive style, while Omaha is well-known for its unique steakhouses, several of which are Sicilian in origin.
The greater Chicago area features many items exclusive to the area like Italian Beef, Chicago-style hot dog, and Chicago Style Pizza.
Saint Louis , Missouri , reflecting its varied immigrant influences, is known for dishes such as "toasted ravioli" (which is actually breaded and fried), frozen custard, and for making the ice cream cone a popular food. Saint Louis style barbecue competes with the nearby Kansas City style in popularity. The large number of German immigrants have made "beer and brats" (bratwurst) the standby at baseball games and street festivals. St. Louis-style pizza has a crispy thin crust and is usually made with provel cheese instead of traditional mozzarella cheese.
Italian cuisine is popular in both Chicago and St. Louis . Neighborhoods like The Hill have many Italian restaurants, and Chicagoland Italian restaurants offer pizza all ways — thin-crust, deep-dish, or stuffed.
Seymour , Wisconsin claims to be the birthplace of the modern hamburger, although several other locations make similar claims.
Distinctive cuisine of Indiana includes the pork tenderloin sandwich, consisting of a lean, tenderloin-cut pork chop which is pounded flat, breaded, and deep fried before being served on a seeded hamburger bun with ketchup, mustard, mayo, and a dill pickle slice. It is interesting to note that the main ingredient of this dish bears a striking similarity to schnitzel and as such, may be related to the large population of German immigrants that originally populated central Indiana
Cincinnati chili is another popular regional urban specialty found originally in its namesake town.
Milwaukee's cuisine has strong German influences; bratwurst and beer flow freely at Brewers games. Hot summer nights provide the opportunity to enjoy frozen custard.
Minneapolis and Saint Paul are odd in that despite being major cities they do not yet have a traditionally associated cuisine, however because of the strong influx of Asian immigrants over the past few decades, a form which combines traditional Midwestern dishes with Asian techniques and spices is developing. The Twin Cities-based University of Minnesota has been a strong location in food research in recent years, such inventions as the Honeycrisp apple have come from the "U of M." Additionally, many important agricultural conglomerates including General Mills make their home in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. One dish associated with the Twin Cities, although it couldn't be called very popular, is the Jucy Lucy (or "Juicy Lucy"), a hamburger with a core of melted cheese (as opposed to the traditional cheeseburger, which features the cheese on top of the patty). Twin Cities residents eat more ice cream per capita than in any other region of the country (despite the area's notoriously long and cold winter), and most cities - in fact most neighborhoods - have at least one and often many ice cream parlors, each with its own house style of ice cream.
These dishes, while not exclusively Midwestern, are commonly thought of as typical Midwestern fare. Many, however, are actually shared with Southern cuisine.
- beer cheese soup
- macaroni and cheese
- wild rice
- morel mushrooms
- mashed potatoes
- chicken fried steak
- sweet corn
- hotdish or casserole
- Chicago-style pizza
- St. Louis-style pizza
- creamed corn
- cheese curds
- potato salads
- fried gizzards