11 Iconic Foods That Originated In North Carolina

North Carolina boasts a rich culinary heritage, with a diverse range of dishes that reflect its cultural influences and agricultural abundance. From savory barbecue to sweet treats, the state is home to many iconic foods that have become beloved staples both locally and nationally. Let’s delve into the history and flavors of 11 iconic foods that originated in North Carolina, showcasing the state’s unique culinary contributions to American cuisine.

1. Eastern-style Barbecue

North Carolina is known for its Eastern-style barbecue, which is made with slow-cooked whole-hog pork seasoned with a sour vinegar-based sauce. This traditional way of grilling goes back hundreds of years and has deep roots in the state’s farming past. Usually, the meat is smoked over hardwood fires. After that, it is chopped or pulled and mixed with the signature sauce, which is made of vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, and sometimes other spices. Eastern-style barbecue is often served with hushpuppies and coleslaw, which is what true North Carolina eating is all about.

2. Cheerwine

North Carolinians have loved Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored drink, since it was first made in 1917. This fizzy drink was first made in Salisbury, North Carolina, and has become a beloved local favorite thanks to its unique taste profile that mixes sweetness with a hint of sourness. Cheerwine has a cult following and is made with real cane sugar and cherry flavoring. It is often drunk on its own or mixed in with other drinks and sweets. Many people in North Carolina and people who come to visit still see it as a sign of pride and nostalgia.

3. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts began in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1937 as a small bakery. It has since become famous all over the world. Krispy Kreme is famous for their Original Glazed doughnuts, which are so sweet and delicious that they melt in your mouth. Their secret recipe and the famous “Hot Now” sign that lets people know when newly glazed doughnuts are ready to eat are the keys to their success. Krispy Kreme is still proud to represent North Carolina’s food history, with locations all over the world.

4. Lexington-style Barbecue

Another famous North Carolina dish that is different from its eastern cousin is Lexington-style barbecue, which is also called Piedmont or Western-style barbecue. In this type of BBQ, pork shoulder is used instead of a whole hog. It is smoked over hardwood coals and then cut up. The sauce is what makes it different. It’s a tomato-based mixture that’s sweetened with molasses or ketchup and seasoned with vinegar, spices, and sometimes a bit of sweetness. People often eat Lexington-style barbecue with coleslaw, hushpuppies, and a side of barbecue salad. This gives you a tasty taste of North Carolina’s barbecue culture.

5. Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts are a Southern treat that comes from North Carolina and is loved all over the area. When you cook fresh green peanuts in salty water until they are soft and tender, you get a unique snack that is both tasty and filling. Boiled peanuts are often sold at roadside stands, festivals, and sports events. They can be eaten hot or cold. They are a beloved part of North Carolina’s food culture and a sign of how much the state loves peanuts, which are grown in large amounts in the area.

6. Livermush

People in Western North Carolina, especially in the Piedmont area, love livermush, a unique pork-based treat. Similar to goetta or scrapple, livermush is made from cornmeal, pork liver, and head parts. Sage, black pepper, and sometimes onions are added to season the cornmeal. The mixture is shaped into cakes, which are then cut up and fried until the outside is golden brown and crispy and the inside is still soft and tasty. People love the rich, savory taste of livermush, which is often served for breakfast with eggs, grits, or biscuits.

7. Moravian Cookies

You can find Moravian cookies in Salem, North Carolina, which is now Winston-Salem. They are thin and crispy cookies that come from that town. Thin sheets of spiced dough are rolled out and cooked until golden brown and fragrant to make these tasty treats. Traditional flavors like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves make the cookies taste warm and cozy, which is great for the holiday season. Cookies from Moravia are often eaten by themselves or with coffee or tea for a sweet and filling treat.

8. Sweet Tea

There is a special place in the hearts of many North Carolinians for the drink sweet tea. Making this famous Southern drink involves boiling black tea and then adding a lot of sugar while it’s still hot. The result is a sweet and cool drink that’s great for sipping on a hot summer day. Sweet tea is a common drink at family reunions, cookouts, and restaurants all over the state. To make it taste better, people often add a squeeze of lemon or a piece of mint.

9. Chess Pie

Chess pie is a traditional Southern treat that comes from North Carolina, though it’s not clear exactly where it came from. The rich filling of this simple but delicious pie is made with eggs, sugar, butter, and a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. It is poured into a flaky pie shell and baked until it sets. The end result is a sweet, custardy pie with a slightly sour taste that is great for when you’re craving something sweet. Chess pie is a popular dessert for holidays and other special events, and people eat it all year long.

10. Calabash-style Seafood

Calabash-style seafood is a way of cooking that comes from the North Carolina beach town of Calabash. In this way of cooking, fresh seafood like shrimp, crabs, and fish are lightly dipped in a seasoned cornmeal batter and then fried until golden brown and crispy. The end result is a tasty dish that brings out the natural flavors of the seafood and gives you a pleasing crunch. Calabash-style fish is often served with hushpuppies, coleslaw, and tartar sauce. fish lovers who visit the North Carolina coast still like this dish.

11. Pepsi-Cola

New Bern, North Carolina is where Pepsi-Cola, one of the most famous soft drinks in the world, got its start. In 1893, doctor Caleb Bradham mixed kola nuts, vanilla, rare oils, and carbonated water to make the first Pepsi-Cola recipe. He did this to help with digestion and give people more energy. It was first called “Brad’s Drink,” but in 1898 it was changed to Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi-Cola is now enjoyed all over the world and is still a symbol of North Carolina’s innovative spirit in the beverage business.


North Carolina’s culinary landscape is rich and diverse, with a wealth of iconic foods that reflect the state’s cultural heritage and agricultural bounty. From the smoky flavors of Eastern-style barbecue to the sweet indulgence of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, these dishes have left an indelible mark on both local and national cuisine. Whether you’re craving savory barbecue, sweet treats, or refreshing beverages, North Carolina offers a culinary experience that is as diverse as it is delicious.

FAQ 1: What makes North Carolina cuisine unique?

North Carolina cuisine is unique due to its diverse range of flavors, which are influenced by the state’s agricultural abundance, cultural heritage, and regional traditions. From tangy barbecue to sweet tea, North Carolina dishes reflect a blend of Southern, African, Native American, and European culinary influences.

FAQ 2: What are some must-try North Carolina foods for visitors?

Some must-try North Carolina foods for visitors include Eastern-style barbecue, Cheerwine, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, boiled peanuts, and Moravian cookies. These iconic dishes offer a taste of the state’s culinary heritage and are beloved by locals and visitors alike.

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