The Minnesota State Fair’s annual new food list is reliably huge (there are 34 official new dishes this year, down from last year’s 38) and peppered with delightfully wacky, cheesy, skewered, melty, and — sometimes — entirely unpredictable bites. Eating through it requires shrewd decision making and budgeting, and there’s a surplus of great foods on the 2023 roster. Here are five (three sweet; two savory; all $12 and under) that stood out on opening day, among 19 sampled.
Amish doughnuts — Peachey’s Baking Co.
These doughnuts are cut and fried on-site, then hung on a rack where they drip vanilla glaze. Made from a traditional Amish recipe, they’re like extra-heavenly Krispy Kremes: weighty but not dense, with a marshmallowy texture that melts in your mouth. The dough is yeasty and — crucially — not too sweet, which makes the thin glaze all the more tantalizing. Peachey’s also serves a dressed-up doughnut that’s topped with vanilla custard, peanut butter crumbles, and whipped cream. $5 or three for $12; In the North End on the north side of Randall Avenue at Cosgrove Street, across from the Swedish egg coffee
Galabao — Union Hmong Kitchen
Chef Yia Vang’s galabao, stuffed with ground pork, spices, and a halved hard-boiled egg, are the size of grapefruits. The recipe comes from Vang’s mom, who rolls the pork with garlic and ginger and expertly wraps the meat and egg in a pillowy bun made with tapioca, rice, and wheat flour. What really takes this dish to the next level is the ever-so-sweet dough, which tempers every spicy, savory bite. Vang is a master of herby, punchy hot sauces, so make sure to smear the bao with crunchy chili oil or hot pepper sauce. $12; International Bazaar, on the south wall in the west corner
Paletas — La Michoacana Rose, at Hamline Church Dining Hall
There’s a glut of pickle-themed foods on the slate this year, likely inspired by the success of Rick’s pickle pizza in 2022. One of the best is the dill pickle lemonade paleta, made by local paleteria La Michoacana Rose and served at Hamline Church Dining Hall. The citrus and briny pickle are a bright, refreshing match, and there’s no puckery taste of vinegar. (This paleta is a great dairy-free frozen treat option, of which there are not enough at the fair, though the new Dole soft serve spot is a fun addition.). The mini doughnut paleta is an easy win — it’s creamy, subtly sweet, and flecked with cinnamon. Be warned; it melts fast. $6; at Hamline Church Dining Hall, on the north side of Dan Patch Avenue between Underwood Street and Cooper Street
Pickle fries — Mike’s Hamburgers
Mike’s fries are another great bet in the pickle arena. Fried pickles are generally the provenance of the Perfect Pickle near the Midway, which slices the pickles crosswise and serves them as breaded chips with a side of ranch. But these little spears are winners. The cornmeal and mustard batter is crispy and adheres to the pickles, which — where they could have turned to hot wet goo in the fryer — are crunchy and fresh. The kick of heat from the chipotle sauce is a plus. $8, just south of the Giant Slide at the northeast corner of Carnes Avenue and Nelson Street
MinneCookieDough pie — Minneapple Pie
This punchy cookie/pie/ice cream affair runs in the vein of the fair’s famous deep-fried candy bars: It’s indulgent and messy and actually good. The golden, flaky crust encases a hot, gooey cookie dough inside; chocolate swirls through the dough as you pull a fork through it. Between the cinnamon and vanilla ice cream, go for the cinnamon for added flavor, and be prepared for this to ooze everywhere, but in the best way. $10; Just outside the Dairy Building on the south side of Judson Avenue between Nelson Street and Underwood Street