Famous Food From Iowa

Famous food from Iowa, Loose Meat Sandwiches in a Basket with Chips, corn above

Iowa is a midwestern state that was once a part of Louisiana. It was purchased by the United States in 1803 as a part of the Louisiana Purchase. Some see it is a flyover state, as it has over a million acres of cropland. But there is actually some really interesting history in the state. And with all of the farms, there is most certainly delicious food! Much of the most famous food from Iowa comes from the farming communities. But an Iowan fast-food restaurant chain gifted us with one of Iowa’s most famous foods.

Loose Meat Sandwich (Maid-Rite)

One of the first known restaurants featuring the loose meat sandwich was Maid-Rite, in Muscatine, Iowa. According to the Maid-Rite website, owner Fred Engell was bored one day, so he decided to play around with steaming some ground beef. He adjusted seasonings until he had the perfect combination of spices to make a delicious sandwich. His delivery man tasted the sandwich and said, “This sandwich is made right!” And at that point, Maid-Rite was born. Iowans call the loose meat sandwich a Maid-Rite, though in other states it goes by several other names.

If you grew up as a child of the 80s, you probably watched at least an episode or two of Rosanne. And you may know that Rosanne’s favorite sandwich was a loose meat sandwich. This sandwich was the featured menu item at her restaurant, The Lunchbox. The loose meat sandwich is a midwestern classic recipe, so it was fitting that it was featured in the classic midwestern family sitcom.

Famous food from Iowa 2 loosemeat sandwiches on a wooden board


The original Scotcheroos recipe was printed on the side of a Kellog’s Rice Krispies cereal box. Sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter are mixed with Rice Krispies and spread out as a bar. Then butterscotch chips and chocolate chips are melted together and spread over the top of the bar. It sounds delicious! And if you go to a potluck or large gathering in Iowa, you are sure to find Scotcheroos on the table! But I ruined it. I wanted to make it healthier and read a lot of recipes that replaced the corn syrup with other ingredients. So I combined white sugar with maple syrup. When I cut into the bars they crumbled everywhere! And the flavor was not good either. I will link to a popular recipe for Scotcheroos, but cannot attest to their tastiness because my Scotcheroos were a giant fail.

Scotcheroos piled on a plate

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

The midwest salad is a food category all on its own. When you think of salads a large bed of lettuce, mixed with lots of vegetables with a drizzle of dressing may come to mind. But a midwest salad is one of three things: Iceberg lettuce, fruits and/or vegetables tossed in mayonnaise, or something made with gelatin.

The “Joys of Jell-O” cookbook was published in 1962 with an entire section devoted to Two-Way recipes. These are recipes that can be either a salad or a dessert. The Strawberry Pretzel Salad is one of the featured recipes in this section of the cookbook. I spoke to several people from Iowa as I was preparing to make this salad. Some said they always had strawberry pretzel salad as a dessert, and others say it is only a salad. For our dinner, we chose it as a dessert.

3 plates of strawberry pretzel salad

Famous Food from Iowa Menu

Loose Meat Sandwich (Maid-Rite)
Corn on the Cob
Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Iowa State Facts

    • Iowa is the 19th state in the US
    • The hog population in Iowa is huge! There are 4 hogs for every human
    • Iowa is 92% farmland
    • The Grotto Redemption, located in West Bend, Iowa, is called “the eighth wonder of the world”
    • Iowa has a literacy rate of 99%, the highest in America
    • Famous people from Iowa include: Herbert Hoover, Johnny Carson, Shawn Johnson

If this is the first state dinner you have enjoyed with us, check out our journey from the beginning, starting here.



2 thoughts on “Famous Food From Iowa

  1. LOVE THIS!! My favorite bar calls it a “maid perfect” and it is a staple menu item for all Iowans! My friend, never shortcut a scotcheroo, you have to have all the calories, but calories don’t count at a potluck in Iowa!

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