11 Dishes At Knott's Berry Farm's 2023 Boysenberry Festival, Ranked

It all started in 1920 when Walter Knott and his family came to California and started selling berries at a roadside stand. By 1927, that stand turned into a home and a brick & mortar market. Then during the Great Depression, Knott met Rudolf Boysen, who had been experimenting with berries and had created a new berry combining raspberry, blackberry, and loganberry. Knott took some cuttings, planted them at his home, and by 1933 had a whole new crop of berries. While the berry didn't have a name, Knott chose to honor its creator and dubbed it the boysenberry. Over a century later, Knott and his little boysenberry have become an empire that includes jams, jellies, and even an amusement park.

While you may not be able to find the actual boysenberry at your local farmers market, if you take a trip to Knott's Berry Farm between March 10th and April 16th, you'll have plenty of opportunities to try them in various forms. It's Knott's annual Boysenberry Festival — a festival celebrating the berry that started it all. As always, there's an abundance of new food and drinks to sample, and all of them have one thing in common: Every single dish and drink includes the boysenberry in one form or another. Some are amazing, and some aren't. But as always, we're here to help you through. We tasted 11 items on this year's $55 tasting card and ranked them.

11. Vegan Tofu, Wild Rice and Kale Bowl with an Apricot and Boysenberry Glaze

Salads are a great beginning to any meal. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe a few croutons, and a splash of vinaigrette, it's the perfect intro. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with this salad. While it was stunning to look at, once we took a bite, we immediately wished we hadn't.

The tofu was dry and had absolutely no flavor, and it was also cold, which didn't help with its consistency. The greens were soggy, and the wild rice was a weird component that didn't make a lot of sense. But those weren't the biggest problems with this dish.

The biggest issue we had was with that apricot and boysenberry glaze. And when they call it a glaze, they aren't kidding. This dressing is so thick and overly sweet that it reminds us more of a thick jam than a fruit-forward dressing. There's just way too much of it. Maybe if the Knott's chefs had cut back on the glaze, this salad would have been okay, but we just couldn't stomach it the way it is.

10. Buffalo Chicken over Mac & Cheese with a Boysenberry Ranch Drizzle

It's pretty hard to screw up mac & cheese: Cook the macaroni to al dente, add a gooey cheese sauce and maybe some bread crumbs, and you've got a dish that everyone, from kids to adults, will enjoy. Unfortunately, the folks at Knott's didn't follow the basic recipe because this mac was not a mac we're used to. The noodles were an overcooked, mushy mess, the buffalo chicken had a weird consistency that was really off-putting, and the Boysenberry Ranch dressing had no flavor at all.

The only thing we enjoyed in this mac was the cheese sauce. It was thick and gooey and had plenty of flavor, precisely what we want when we think of a macaroni-cheese sauce. As for that Boysenberry ranch, it just got lost. While it was stunning to look at, we were hoping there would be a tart pop to go with the creamy ranch base. But all we got was a cool, plain ranch that reminded us more of sour cream than dressing.

9. Sweet Corn Bites with a Boysenberry Honey Drizzle

These little nuggets were so cute, and they looked like the perfect bite to satisfy any craving you might be having. Unfortunately, that craving won't be sated because these nuggets looked much better than they tasted. While the corn filling was sweet and creamy, it reminded us more of canned creamed corn than the homemade creamed corn we're used to. The breaded coating was chewy and had a strange texture that we couldn't quite figure out.

As for that Boysenberry Honey Drizzle, it was delightful on its own; we're just not sure it works with the corn nuggets. Drizzling it over ice cream or using it instead of that glaze on the salad would have been a better choice. But since these corn nuggets are already on the sweeter side, the drizzle only made it worse. Overall this bite really turned us off, and with so many other options, we just can't recommend it.

8. Boysenberry Panna Cotta with a Shortbread Cookie

Panna cotta is one of those decadent desserts that can be the final chef's kiss to a spectacular meal, so we couldn't wait to dig into it at Knott's preview tasting. We should have waited. This cute little cup was stunning to behold. Layers of pretty purple and lavender filled the cup, which was then topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a wonderful shortbread cookie. Actually, the shortbread was the best part of this dessert. Light, crisp, and subtly sweet, we would have enjoyed several of these cookies with a nice hot cup of boysenberry tea.

After tasting the cookie, we dug into the panna cotta. We're not sure what this dessert is, but it definitely isn't panna cotta. It reminded us instead of fruit on the bottom, yogurt since there's a thick layer of boysenberry preserves at the bottom of the dish. Maybe that bottom layer is supposed to be stirred into the dessert. We're not really sure. All we do know is that this treat was no treat at all and tasted more like a bowl full of unsweetened whipped cream than that smooth, luscious pudding-like panna cotta it was supposed to be.

7. Boysenberry Blondie

Another dessert we couldn't wait to try was the boysenberry blondie. Similar to a brownie, the blondie is pretty much a chocolate chip cookie in brownie form. It's usually got a nice crust on the outside and is sweet and chewy on the inside. That's what we were expecting when we grabbed this cute little square. But the texture of this blondie was all wrong; it reminded us more of a classic coffee cake you'd find at a bakery.

While it was lovely to look at, this blondie was overly moist, might we say even soggy and cloyingly sweet. You couldn't taste the boysenberries at all, which is sad because we really wanted to bite into an actual berry or two. So, it wasn't just the texture that bothered us; it was the flavor as well. This bar just tasted artificial, making us wonder if the Knott's chefs had enough actual berries for this dessert.

6. Boysenberry BBQ Beef Tips over Parmesan Grits with Green Onions

Barbecued beef is one of our favorite dishes. Tender beef smothered in a thick barbecue sauce, especially if the sauce is good; there really isn't anything better. Luckily, this sauce was absolutely delicious! Sweet, tangy, and full of boysenberry flavor, we couldn't get enough. It covered those slow-roasted beef tips which were cooked to melt-in-you-mouth tenderness.

We often say that amusement parks should bottle their best sauces. Well, Knott's does! That delectable boysenberry barbecue sauce is actually available to purchase at the Knott's market, and we highly recommend it. The savory beef covered in that luscious sauce was amazing but did get sweeter with every subsequent bite. Happily, those beef tips weren't the only thing on the plate. All that meaty goodness was piled on top of some seriously mouthwatering grits!

Now, we know that grits may sound like an odd choice for barbecued beef, and mashed potatoes seem like the more obvious choice. But that's the great thing about the Knott's chefs: They take the obvious and spin it on its head. Instead of some heavy, creamy mashed potatoes, we got a large spoonful of warm, cheesy grits! These grits were awesome! The Parmesan cheese added the perfect salty bite to those sweet beef tips, balancing the whole dish out. We finished off this plate and were ready for more.

5. Chicken Wings with a Boysenberry Sweet Chili Glaze

Chicken wings are those great little finger foods that are the perfect bite before the big game or a great snack to tide you over until the main course appears. They can either be dripping with sauce or covered in a dry rub. But however they're prepared, they're usually finger-licking good.

The wings at Knott's have all that and more. They're everything we want in a chicken wing. Dripping with a luscious boysenberry sauce that's both sweet and spicy, you absolutely taste the boysenberry first. That sweet-tart berry flavor packs a powerful, fruity punch, but after a couple of bites, the heat kicks in. While the spice is definitely there, it doesn't have us downing a jug of water. Instead, it adds a nice heat that gives the sauce a beautiful balance.

Then there's the chicken itself. The meat was cooked perfectly, creating a chicken wing that was tender and full of flavor. At three or four wings per serving, this delectable dish will definitely satisfy your hunger and keep you going for hours. Especially when paired with one of Knott's boysenberry beer options.

4. Beignets with a Boysenberry Sugar

The chefs at Knott's know how much we all love a deep-fried treat; it's why they always include a funnel cake or two at their festivals. Well, this year, they not only have funnel cakes but also added these scrumptious beignets, which are crispy little pillows of yumminess. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, we're convinced the chefs added some boysenberry to the dough because there was a definite hint of fruity sweetness, which really enhanced the overall flavor. Unlike the classic powdered sugar that you so often find blanketing beignets, Knott's version was covered with boysenberry sugar.

That sugar was absolutely amazing, and it was tart and sweet at the same time. And the bright purple made these beignets even more inviting. Too bad there are only two per serving because we could have easily devoured a half dozen. The other downside to these beignets is that they're not part of the tasting card. If you want to sample these crispy squares, you'll have to buy them separately.

3. Boysenberry Mango Lemonade with Mint

Flavored lemonades have become all the rage in recent years. There are strawberry, watermelon, and even alcoholic versions. We just can't get enough. But when we first heard about Knott's Boysenberry Mango rendition, we were a little nervous. Lemonade, boysenberries, and mangos? That's a recipe for a super sweet fruit punch, not a nice, tart lemonade. Boy, were we wrong!

A stunning shade of purple thanks to the boysenberry, this lemonade was bursting with flavor. Upon our first sip, we got the zing of those tart lemons, then the sweet mango mellowed out the tartness, and finally, the sweet-tart berry tied the whole drink together. It may sound like a strange combination, but it totally worked.

We especially liked the subtle herbal notes that came from the mint. But you don't just taste the mint; the drink is garnished with a sprig as well, bringing a beautiful pop of green to contrast against that royal purple. It doesn't matter if you're young or young at heart; this drink is a delightfully refreshing sipper that will keep you going all afternoon.

2. Boysenberry Margarita

If you'd rather have a boysenberry cocktail, there are plenty to choose from. There's a mule, a mojito, and a mimosa, just to name a few. If you'd prefer something with a lower ABV, there's a variety of beers and wines to choose from as well. But since we love margaritas, that's the drink we tasted. Another stunning drink to behold, this margarita looks like something out of a fairy tale. A gorgeous shade of lavender, the drink comes with a lime wedge and an optional salted rim.

While it's definitely a beauty, we don't get a cocktail just to look at; we want it to taste good, too. And it's absolutely delicious! A welcome twist to the classic margarita, it's Knott's boysenberry punch that really kicks this drink up a notch. It's sweet and tart without being too syrupy. We were impressed with how well the boysenberry melded with the tequila, as it's not a combination we ever would have thought of. It was so good, in fact, we plan on buying some of Knott's boysenberry punch just so we can start making them at home.

1. Boysenberry Sausage on a Boysenberry Hoagie with Boysenberry Mustard

This sausage was our favorite dish of the festival. You may wonder what's so great about a simple sausage on a bun. Well, this sausage was anything but simple! Thanks to the boysenberry mixed into the meat, the flavors of this particular sausage were absolutely mindblowing. With boysenberry in every aspect of the dish, from the bun to the mustard, this bite could have been sweet to the point of sugar shock. But the boysenberry was so subtle, adding hints of fruit to each and every bite.

The sausage was a tender, savory cut of meat that had a sweet, fruity undertone. But it was that mustard that really won us over. As we mentioned earlier, all the dishes at the festival are made with products you can buy at Knott's Berry Market, including this boysenberry mustard. And we want to buy it! Like the sausage, the condiment has a subtle berry flavor. But it doesn't overpower the tangy mustard. Instead, it enhances the topping, making it a delectable choice that improves a basic sausage and any meat you choose to put on.