July 4th is a day made for embracing your patriotic side, setting off fireworks, and, of course, eating like it’s your civic duty. There are plenty of recipes out there that honor the occasion with some sort of food coloring-heavy red, white, and blue dessert thingamajig. But a real American feast takes it to the max. If you really want to express your love of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through food, only a thirteen part bonanza that pays tribute to the culinary specialties of each of the original colonies will do.
Alright, so most of these dishes would have been unknown to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I have a feeling, however, that noted gourmand Thomas Jefferson would be a fan of New Haven clam pizza were he still alive. Read on for a menu that he and the other founding fathers would have found to be nothing short of revolutionary.
1. South Carolina: Pimiento Cheese Spread
Whether you prefer to plop it on a burger, tuck it into a sandwich, or set it out with crackers while the festivities are getting started, pimento cheese is the South’s gift to cheese lovers everywhere. Get our Pimiento Cheese Spread recipe.
2. Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak Potato Skins
A trip to Philadelphia revolves around two things: touring Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed) and eating a Philly Cheesesteak. Pay homage to both by making these cheesesteak potato skins, which declare independence by revolutionizing and reinventing the iconic sandwich. Get our Philly Cheesesteak Potato Skins recipe.
3. New York: Easy Grilled Buffalo Wings
Although the Buffalo wing originated in its namesake city, nowadays, it has its place as an all-American snacking staple. They’re usually deep fried, but you can make them extra American by throwing them on the grill (because if there is anything more American than deep fried everything, it’s char-grilled everything, right?). Get our Easy Grilled Buffalo Wings recipe.
4. Delaware: Strawberry Salad with Grilled Chicken
Delaware doesn’t really have a definitive dish that it can call its own. But since this list is pretty lacking on things that are green and healthy, let’s use this spot as an excuse to slip in a salad. Plus, it’s not totally out of place: strawberries are Delaware’s state fruit, while the commercial chicken industry has its origins in the state’s Sussex county (which is still the largest broiler producing county in the nation). Get the recipe here.
5. Connecticut: Grilled Pizzas with Clams and Bacon
The clam pie can be traced back to one place: legendary New Haven pizza joint Pepe’s. If you can’t make the pilgrimage, it’s also a pizza worth recreating at home. Bonus points for cooking this one on the grill. Get the recipe here.
6. Virginia: Grilled Glazed Ham
For the big and meaty main, it doesn’t get much better than a smoky Virginia ham. This recipe finishes it off with a sweet Coca-Cola-based glaze. Get the recipe here.
7. New Jersey: Italian Style Hot Dogs
Do you seriously call a wiener boiled in some cloudy water and topped with a meager squiggle of ketchup a hot dog? Fuggedaboutit. Loaded up with potatoes, peppers, and onions, these dogs have lots of big Jersey personality to spare. Get the recipe here.
8. Massachusetts: Lobster Rolls
Maine was a part of Massachusetts up until 1820, when it opted to split. Even if the two states are no longer together, they are still linked by their seafaring cuisine. From Portland to Boston and all up and down the New England coast, the lobster roll is a must eat in the summertime. Get our Lobster Rolls recipe.
9. Maryland: Basic Steamed Blue Crabs
Maryland can lay claim to many uber-American things: the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner, the films of John Waters, and crabs, lots of crabs. Ideally, you’d pound at these while belting out the national anthem and doing your best Divine impersonation all at the same time. Get our Basic Steamed Blue Crabs recipe.
10. New Hampshire: Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting
New Hampshire may get drowned out by it’s attention-grabbing neighbor Vermont when it comes to food, but it still offers all those quintessentially New England flavors that we know and love. These cupcakes feature Granite State favorites like apples and maple syrup. Get our Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting recipe.
11. Georgia: Peach Pie with Pecan Streusel
Down south, it’s the peach and the pecan that reign supreme. This dessert has a bit of both, for a confection that’s full of southern charm. Get our Peach Pie with Pecan Streusel recipe.
12. Rhode Island: Frozen Lemonade
Rhode Island may be tiny, but it has a lot going on for it food-wise: quahog stuffies, johnnycakes, coffee milk, and more. But come summertime, the state’s signature source of brainfreeze, the frozen lemonade, is where it’s at. Get the recipe here.
13. North Carolina: Cheerwine Bourbon Cocktail
North Carolina’s Cheerwine may not have any alcohol in it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be jazzed up with a little booze. Its cherry-flavored fizz provides a nicely fruity and sugary backdrop to bourbon and a squeeze of lime. Get the recipe here.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.