75 Classic New England Foods
With its fertile farmland, coastal waters, and flavorful influence from generations of immigrants, it’s no surprise that New England cuisine has a reputation for being seasonal, hearty, and comforting. From American Chop Suey to Yankee Pot Roast, here’s an A-Z list of 75 classic New England foods worth celebrating. Did your favorites make the list?
75 Classic New England Foods
75 Classic New England Foods
It’s a comfort food dish with many names, but here in New England, a concoction of noodles, seasoned beef, and tomato-y goodness nearly always goes by one name and one name alone – American Chop Suey.
Maybe the most New England of breads, and popular for good reason – sweetened with molasses, Anadama is terrific for toast and sandwiches.
Not to be confused with hard apple cider, which contains alcohol, “regular” apple cider is bold, raw apple juice that hasn’t been filtered to remove the pulpy bits (once filtered, it’s juice). They love it so much in New Hampshire they made it the official state beverage.
Fall is for apples, and apples are for deep-dish pie baked in a buttery, golden crust. Don’t forget the wedge of sharp cheddar on the side!
What do you get when you add Autocrat coffee syrup to ice cold milk? In Rhode Island, you get the official state drink – coffee milk.
In New England, one of the most popular varieties of brown bread is made by B&M in Portland, Maine, and it’s sold in a can.
What do you do with leftover Saturday night baked beans? Put them (cold, of course) between two slices of thick white sandwich bread and call them Sunday lunch.
Baked Beans | Classic New England Foods
Seasoned and simmered to perfection, there’s a reason baked beans are a New England classic. Can you envision a potluck, ham supper, or summer cookout in New England without them? We won’t even try!
A Vermont original that took on the world, one sweet bite at a time. The famous ice cream company got its start in Burlington, Vermont back in 1978.
Anyone who has spent a summer in New England knows what a delightful flavor fresh blueberries can be. One favorite way to enjoy them is in a batch of homemade muffins…
Another (even more popular) blueberry dish is a traditional pie made with wild Maine blueberries. They don’t call it the official state dessert for nothing.
You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy this New England staple made (mostly) with corned beef and cabbage, but it doesn’t hurt. Neither does a pint of frosty green beer.
Boiled Lobster | Classic New England Foods
It’s hard to explain how something so simple could also be a regional culinary icon, but boiled (or steamed) lobster is it. Served with melted butter, a sturdy set of crackers, and sometimes (for tourists and messy eaters) a bib, the lobster dinner is a New England dining experience that’s not to be missed. In a 2015 web poll, our readers voted this #1 of all the classic New England foods.
The original “pie in cake’s clothing,” this beloved combination of golden sponge cake, pastry cream, and chocolate ganache is so popular in New England you can even find it in doughnut form.
Steamed brown bread made with molasses, cornmeal, and rye flour is an old-fashioned favorite, especially alongside a plate of baked beans.
Another New England-born favorite whose fame has spread. Cabot Creamery, now owned by 1,200 farm families, got its start in the northeast corner of Vermont back in the early 20th century. Pass the cheese, please!
Kettle-cooked and extra crunchy, Cape Cod potato chips have been a Cape Cod (and beyond) favorite since 1980. Did you know their logo is a woodcut of Nauset Light in Eastham, MA?
The Chop Suey sandwich, or Chow Mein sandwich, is a bit of a head-scratcher (it’s exactly what it sounds like — chop suey noodles ladled onto a hamburger bun — and just as messy), but it’s shown up on menus in Rhode Island and the Fall River area of Massachusetts since the 1930s.
Cider Doughnuts | Classic New England Foods
It’s a cider maker’s tradition to use some of the freshly pressed juice to make lightly tangy, apple-scented doughnuts, and no trip to the apple orchard is complete without one (or several) of these fall favorites.
A favorite in Rhode Island, clam cakes (or fritters) are kind of like clam doughnuts – a deep-fried batter containing chunks of chopped clam. In 1947, we suggested they be served as part of an Easter menu, but really, they’d be perfect anytime.
It doesn’t get much more New England than this. A warm bowl filled with fresh clams, butter, milk or cream, potatoes, maybe some onions or celery, common crackers to thicken it up… is anyone else suddenly feeling hungry? Fish chowder is pretty good, too.
A popular chowder choice in Rhode Island, clear-broth chowder favors clam broth over cream, but still packs plenty of clams, potatoes, and fresh aromatics.
We love the deep flavor of coffee here in New England, and that includes ice cream. Chocolate chips or crushed Oreo cookies are optional, but encouraged.
Cold lobster roll with mayo (from Bob Lobster in Newbury, MA) | Classic New England Foods
More common in northern New England, this roll typically comes in a buttered and toasted top-split New England hot dog roll, but the lobster meat is cold and lightly dressed with mayonnaise. Variations include a bed of shredded lettuce, diced celery, and dusting of paprika.
Hearty and crunchy, yet subtle in flavor, the common cracker is a true Yankee workhorse. The original way to thicken your chowda.
Each spring, American shad make their way up the Connecticut River to spawn. Named the state fish of Connecticut in 2003, the locally-famous shad is notably celebrated each spring at the Essex Shad Bake.
A lot like clam chowder, but with corn (preferably fresh in the summer). Particularly beloved by Yankee vegetarians.
We know crab cakes are most often associated with the mid-Atlantic coast, but we’ve got ’em up here too, and many (especially the Maine peekytoe) taste just as great.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce | Classic New England Foods
Even if we secretly love the stuff in the can (Ocean Spray, if you please), most New Englanders have a recipe or two for homemade cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving table.
Frozen lemonade never tasted so good – a true Rhode Island classic.
Maybe it’s the daily large regular or the old-fashioned cake doughnut to dip into it. Then again, it could be the hundreds of munchkins consumed throughout the average childhood or the iced coffees we clutch in our adult gloved hands in February. America might run on Dunkin’, but New England got there first, and our love runs a deep orange-pink.
The culinary icon of New England baseball got a fresh start in 2009, and now, thanks in part to a bold, new recipe, Fenway Franks are more popular than ever.
Fluffernutter | Classic New England Foods
Flip open a few lunchboxes in a New England elementary school cafeteria, and I suspect at least one of them will contain a Fluffernutter sandwich – a heavenly, sweet combination of white bread, peanut butter, and marshmallow Fluff. They’re good grilled, too. Either way, you’re going to need that glass of milk…
The quintessential Saturday night tradition is still a classic. Take warm baked beans, then add hot dogs. Brown bread is good, too. This is Yankee comfort food at its finest.
When is a milkshake not called a milkshake? In New England, of course, where it’s a frappe (or a cabinet, if you’re from Rhode Island).
Fried Clams (bellies on the left, strips on the right) from The Clam Shack in Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod | Classic New England Foods
“Go belly or go home!” is the cry of the passionate fried clam belly fan. A summertime favorite made with whole-belly soft-shell clams, lightly battered and deep-fried to sweet, golden perfection. Often served at seaside shacks with a side of tartar sauce.
Fried clam purists turn up their nose at strips (contrary to popular belief, they aren’t rubber bands, just cuts of larger surf clams without the bellies) but strip fans say they prefer the chewy strip to the sometimes sandy belly. You can thank Howard Johnson’s either way.
What do you get when you add nutty Grape-Nuts cereal to a classic custard recipe? The New England comfort food diner favorite, Grapenut Pudding. We like the cereal in ice cream, too.
Harvard Beets | Classic New England Foods
The origins of the name are a little murky, but if you like your beets a little bit sugar-sweet and a little bit vinegar-sour, flavored with a hint of cloves and smoothed with a little butter, then you’re already a fan of Harvard Beets.
With spicy molasses flavor and chock full of raisins, hermits were a popular seafaring New England cookie, noted for their ability to last on long voyages. Not as common today as peanut butter or chocolate chip, but we still love them!
It’s just not Christmas until the first cartons of Hood Golden EggNog appear on store shelves. The recipe’s been a secret for more than 50 years, but as long as Hood continues to churn out batches of creamy, spicy, egg-y goodness, we don’t mind being kept in the dark.
Hoodsie Cups | Classic New England Foods
The saving grace of those who can’t decide between chocolate or vanilla ice cream since 1947. Just add the flat wooden spoon and dig in.
More common in southern New England, where it is served in a buttered and toasted top-split New England hot dog roll, with the lobster meat warm and tossed with butter. Variations sometimes include sherry butter, or a round roll.
A Maine potato chip favorite with a memorable cartoon mascot. Popular flavors include “Sour Cream & Clam” and “All Dressed,” a flavor that combines barbecue sauce, ketchup, and salt & vinegar.
Indian Pudding | Classic New England Foods
Warm and fragrant with molasses, Indian pudding is a traditional cornmeal-based New England pudding. Topped with melty vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, it’s an old-fashioned bowl of heaven.
Sure, you can find sprinkles on ice cream nationwide, but only here in New England do we call them jimmies. Credit for their creation is claimed by Brigham’s, a Boston-area ice cream company that got its start back in 1914.
200-year-old New England cookie royalty, Joe Froggers are large, molasses-infused cookies (originally frog-sized) that date back to colonial times.
Made from 100% Rhode Island Flint Corn (spelled johnnycakes if they’re not), these cornmeal “cakes” are thick or thin depending on what part of the Ocean State you’re in.
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
The Boston-based department store may be long gone, but the recipe for sweet and sugary Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins remains a New England favorite.
Long credited as the birthplace of the “hamburger sandwich,” Louis’ Lunch in downtown New Haven, Connecticut draws hamburger-lovers near and far with their take on the all-American classic — a ground-steak patty between two slices of toast. Condiments are forbidden, so don’t ask.
Prized for its crumbly-meets-creamy texture and deep maple flavor, maple candy is made when the sap is heated beyond the syrup stage to the crystalline stage, where it’s then whipped and poured into decorative molds to harden. Hold on to your cavities!
Maple Creemee Sign in Vermont | Classic New England Foods
In Vermont, maple-flavored soft serve ice cream isn’t ice cream, it’s a creemee (or creamie), and it’s delicious. Local lore has it that the more e’s in the word creemie (or creemee), the better the soft-serve ice cream is.
New England’s own “liquid gold,” maple syrup is what’s left when maple sap is heated until the water evaporates, leaving a concentrated (delicious) syrup behind. One taste and you’ll forget all about Mrs. Butterworth’s, if you ever knew her at all.
More maple? Why not! Another popular New England ice cream flavor, maple walnut is maple-flavored and studded with chunky walnuts.
Moxie | Classic New England Foods
We think Maine’s favorite soda tastes like a subtle, not-too-sweet blend of wintergreen and licorice, but others…well…they toss around words like medicine, motor oil, and “root beer that’s gone really funky.” A true carbonated Maine classic since 1884.
Love ’em or hate ’em, Necco wafers are New England candy classics. Made here since 1847, the powdery sugar wafers also come in chocolate and tropical flavors. We love the Sweethearts come Valentine’s Day, too.
Mainers love potatoes so much that they even found a way to mash them up with coconut and dip them in chocolate. Eat one needham and love them for life.
New Haven Pizza (this one is from Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana) | Classic New England Foods
For many, no visit to New Haven is complete without a stop at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s Apizza, or both! Sometimes, New Haven coal-fired pizza (known locally as apizza) is the reason for the whole trip.
The signature buttery dinner roll recipe at the Parker House Hotel. Famous fans included Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and most of the Kennedy clan.
The first Thanksgiving took place here in New England, so it’s only right that we hold a more recent Thanksgiving tradition – the pumpkin pie – in such high regard. We’re also partial to One-Pie brand.
Ever ask, “What’s the official state mollusk of Rhode Island?” It’s the quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria). These hard-shelled clams are most prevalent between Cape Cod and New Jersey, but they especially love Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. Ever wonder, “How do you pronounce that?” Around here, it’s “ko-hog.”
Red Flannel Hash | Classic New England Foods
What do you get when you swap out some of the potatoes in a batch of corned beef hash with beets? The result has flannel-esque patches of red, so we call it Red Flannel Hash. Crack in a few eggs and call it Sunday breakfast.
Known for their neon red color and natural casing “snap,” Maine’s Red Snapper hot dogs are a backyard barbecue and camp grill favorite.
New Englanders know the sweetest rewards for surviving a long winter are the first fruits of spring. Rhubarb, along with its pal the strawberry, is one of the most anticipated, and nowhere does its tart flavor shine brighter than baked into a tasty pie.
An old-school New England 4th of July favorite, the classic combination of salmon and peas has more to do with the calendar than anything else. The late-June ripening of peas and the annual summer migration of salmon made this dish an inevitable July mainstay.
A staple in frugal Yankee kitchens (well, it used to be), salt cod is cod that has been dried and salted. Before eating, it’s soaked in water and re-hydrated. Popular dishes using salt cod include “Cape Cod turkey” and codfish balls.
Why settle for one flavor when you can get four? A classic “made in New England” candy bar, Sky Bar has four chocolate squares with different fillings – caramel, vanilla, peanut, and fudge.
Steamers | Classic New England Foods
Signs of summer in New England include watching the Red Sox, battling black flies, and sitting down to a heaping tray of steamed clams (known as “steamers”), served with bowls of broth and butter for swishing and dipping.
Stuffed quahogs, a.k.a. “stuffies,” are Rhode Island’s favorite term for a delectable mixture of breadcrumbs, diced clams, and spices baked on the half-shell.
A culinary combination of corn and beans, succotash was one of the first foods that the Native Americans of coastal New England shared with the Plymouth settlers.
Today it’s the most popular cookie in America, but the very first chocolate chip cookie was invented right here in New England by Ruth Wakefield at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts back in the 1930s.
Top-Split Hot Dog Rolls | Classic New England Foods
With a toasted, buttery outside and a soft inside, flat-bottomed, top-loading New England style hot dog rolls are arguably some of the best buns in the world.
Tourtiere is a savory French-Canadian meat pie. It’s thought that Quebec immigrants moving south introduced the recipe to New England, where it remains a holiday favorite.
Whoopie Pies | Classic New England Foods
Two hamburger-sized rounds of soft, domed chocolate cookies (nearly cakes in texture) sandwiching an inch or more of pillow-y vanilla filling has made the whoopie pie one of the all-time favorite classic New England desserts, and the official “state treat” of Maine.
Whether the “Yankee” in Yankee pot roast is a nod to the dish’s American regional origins or (as some suggest) a joke about New England frugality, a good Yankee pot roast embodies the traditions of simplicity and patience rewarded.
Did your favorite classic New England foods make it onto our list? What did we miss? Let us know!
A shorter version of this list was first published in 2015.