33 New England Foods You Need To Try Once

New England is home to breathtaking views, honest people, and a diverse landscape of cities, towns, and oceanside boroughs. But the only thing better than hiking the Green Mountains of Vermont or watching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is the food you'll find nestled into the culture of the six small New England states. 

Although New England is a comparatively small region (at roughly one-fourth the size of Texas in terms of square miles), there is an impressive diversity of food and food culture. You can drive a few hours and sample Connecticut's best pizza, Rhode Island's coffee milk, and Massachusetts' baked beans and brown bread within a day. And with the sheer amount of food options in such a small region, you might just have to take a couple of trips to sample all of it. So here are some of our favorite New England foods that everyone needs to try. 

1. Brown bread

Sorry, Cheesecake Factory, but New England did it first. Brown bread is a culinary staple in New England — especially when paired with a crock of Boston baked beans. Brown bread, often sold canned, has a surprisingly long history dating back to colonial times. Since the New England climate was not ideal for growing wheat, farmers cultivated rye in the fields, along with an Indigenous staple: corn. In addition, the movement of molasses through the early New England colonies and the ingredient's relative low price compared to sugar contributed to this bread's dark color and slightly sweet flavor. 

2. Sugar-on-snow

Sugar-on-snow is as much of an eating experience as it is a sweet treat. This confection is made by pouring hot, boiling maple syrup on freshly fallen snow. The chill of the snow makes the syrup seize up into a taffy. Then, the sugar is rolled onto a popsicle stick and served. This treat is popular in northern New England, like in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire during the spring sugaring season. It's a must-try for anyone who loves maple syrup.

3. Coffee milk

Coffee ... milk? You heard it right. Coffee milk is the official beverage of Rhode Island and is made by mixing milk with coffee syrup to make a chocolate milk-like beverage. The syrup itself is made by heating coffee grounds, sugar, and water until the mixture cooks down. 

The caffeinated coffee milk tradition dates back to the 1930s with brands like Autocrat and Eclipse. The beverage was initially utilized as a way to encourage children to drink more milk, but it has since been turned into an Ocean State staple for all ages.

4. Boston cream pie

Boston cream pie may have been a spinoff of the Washington Pie, but it is a dessert equally loved by Boston and New England residents. The Boston cream pie was first invented in Boston by French chef M. Sanzian at the Parker House in Boston. 

Chef Sanzian introduced the dessert — a two-layer French sponge cake filled with custard and topped with chocolate ganache — in 1856. Although there is some clear French influence on the cake (notably the sponge and the cream), the dessert is considered uniquely New England and found in the states around Massachusetts, too.

5. Clam chowder

You're wrong if you say your favorite clam chowder variety is anything but the creamy New England style. This iconic New England soup is made with whole chunks of clam, clam juice, potatoes, salt pork (or bacon), and seasoning. The critical difference that sets New England clam chowder apart from Manhattan style is the inclusion of milk or cream and the omission of the dastardly tomatoes. 

The other popular type of chowder is the Rhode Island style, which includes the same ingredients as New England chowder, just with a clear broth. It's second place to the New England clam chowder, which is best eaten hot with a side of oyster crackers. 

6. Del's Lemonade

You can get lemonade outside New England, but there isn't a brand quite like Del's. Del's Lemonade is a staple in the Ocean State of Rhode Island and is often served frozen from trucks parked near beaches or popular tourist destinations. 

The summer beverage was originally brought to the United States from Italy in the 1840s and has since grown into nothing short of a lemonade empire. Although you can find Del's Lemonade bottled and sold in stores, there's nothing like a frozen one right from the truck.

7. Boston baked beans

Boston baked beans are not the same ol' beans you get from a can. The ingredient that makes Boston baked beans special is molasses. This critical ingredient gives the beans their brown hue and sweet taste. The calcium in the molasses also helps the beans maintain their sturdy shape rather than turning into mush, which is perfect for eating at a summer barbecue alongside a hot dog and a slice of brown bread.

8. Cider donuts

Cider donuts are a fall staple for anyone living in New England, particularly in the Northern states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Although you can find a cider donut at the grocery store, the best ones are made by local cideries. Plus, you can get a side of hot spiced cider or our personal favorite — a cider slushie. 

Apple cider donuts are cake donuts that don't taste too much like apple cider, apart from a slightly acidic undertone. After these donuts are fried, they are covered in cinnamon sugar and served single or by the dozen. We recommend the dozen, of course, since you probably won't be able to stop eating them. 

9. Fluffernutter sandwiches

The state that claims the invention of the fluffernutter sandwich is Massachusetts, but you will likely find this sandwich in the lunch boxes of children across New England. The person who created this sandwich was Emma Curtis, the great-great-great-grandaughter of the revolutionary Paul Revere. Curtis and her brother created Snowflake Marshmallow Creme, which re-printed recipes like the fluffernutter sandwich to distinguish their product from competitors. 

The original fluffernutter sandwich was called the "Liberty Sandwich" and was popularized during World War I. The peanut butter and creme sandwich stuck around and is still one of the most recognizable sandwich varieties.

10. Frappes

We should first start out by saying frappes and frappuccinos are not the same thing. Frappes (pronounced "frap") are Massachusetts beverages that are essentially made with ice cream, milk, and syrup. But isn't that a milkshake? For people outside of Massachusetts, yes. But in the Bay State, a milkshake does not include ice cream. So order a milkshake if you want shaken, frothy milk and syrup served ice cold. Like other New England foods, the vernacular is important here. 

11. Hoodsie cups

No child's birthday party in New England is truly complete without Hoodsie cups. These ice cream cups, made by the Hood Company, are 3-ounce containers of chocolate and vanilla ice cream neatly spaced and packaged with a wooden spoon. 

Hoodsie cups (or just "Hoodsies") are available in most New England grocery stores in packs of 10. We think there's just something nostalgic about pulling back that paper lid and enjoying a Hoodsie with family and friends at a cookout or as an after-dinner treat. 

12. Johnnycakes

Johnnycakes are cornmeal pancakes with a mysterious origin. They're made of cornmeal, water, and salt and cooked like a pancake on a griddle. The cakes are then topped with butter or syrup and served in the New England states — most notably in Rhode Island. 

Johnnycakes were originally made by Indigenous tribes living in New England, who were able to cultivate corn plentifully. The climate was much more hospitable to corn than to wheat, which meant the settlers had to transform many of their recipes — including pancakes — to include ingredients like corn and rye. 

13. Maple candy

Stop by any New England gift shop and you'll likely find maple candy. These tiny treats, which are often shaped with sugar maple leaf molds, are little bites of maple syrup. Maple candy is very hard and crunchy rather than smooth and toffee-like. We think it's best to let a piece of this kind of candy melt in your mouth like a lollipop rather than trying to bite down and break a tooth in the process.

14. Creemees

If you live in the state of Vermont, you know there's no such thing as soft-serve ice cream. It's creemee territory.

Creemees are merely soft-serve ice creams — just with a uniquely Vermont name. It has been suggested that Vermonters used to make their soft serve ice cream with a higher butterfat content, thus making it more creamy, and that's where the name comes from (or someone just called a plain soft serve "creamy" and the name stuck). Don't ask us about the spelling, though, because there's no answer there. 

Vermont has many different creemee flavors, including standard chocolate and vanilla. But, we recommend the ultimate Vermont dessert — a maple creemee — served at a roadside stand.

15. New Haven apizza

We will defend the supremacy of Frank Pepe's thin-crust apizza until our dying breath. This unique pizza pie style originated in New Haven, Connecticut, and has since evolved the city into a pizza capital of the world with restaurants like Modern Apizza, Sally's Apizza, and Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana. 

New Haven-style pizza is so unique because it's cooked in a coal oven and includes a tart tomato sauce. If you order apizza (pronounced "ah-beets") at a New Haven joint, only expect it to come out with mozzarella cheese if you specifically ask for it. The staple cheese, instead, is Pecorino Romano. While we always recommend the original tomato pie, more adventurous eaters (and seafood lovers) will love a white clam pie.

16. Moxie

Moxie is the state soft drink brand of Maine and was one of the first sodas invented in 1884. The beverage's taste is very distinct; some equate it to a carbonated mixture of wintergreen and licorice flavors.  The odd flavor of Moxie was attributed to the inclusion of gentian root extract, which was first marketed as a cure for ailments and diseases. In fact, the beverage was once sold under the moniker "Moxie Nerve Food" and, at one point, surpassed the sales of growing soft drink giant Coca-Cola. 

Now, it is rare to find the beverage outside of the six New England states. We recommend trying at least one sip — but we can't guarantee you'll like it.

17. Red snapper hot dogs

Red snapper hot dogs are a staple of Maine's culinary scene, distinguished by a bright red color and snappy casing. The red color results from copious amounts of food coloring and was believed to have been colored bright red to separate these hot dogs from pink and brown competitors. These beef-and-pork hotdogs are often eaten at barbecues and cookouts across "Vacationland." The most common brand associated with red snapper hot dogs is W.A. Beans & Sons, which has been serving up these dogs since 1918. 

18. Stuffies

Stuffies, otherwise known as stuffed quahogs, are a clam-based appetizer popular along the New England shoreline — especially in Rhode Island. Although there is no exact storyline for how stuffed quahogs came to be, it is very likely that Portuguese and Italian immigrants to the region used the hard-shell Quahog clam to make a seafood stuffing. Stuffed quahogs are made by chopping the hard clam meat into tiny pieces and incorporating it with onions, peppers, garlic, and bread. 

19. Lobster rolls

If you're thinking of New England food, lobster rolls are probably at the top of your list. Two prominent lobster roll styles are found in New England: Connecticut and Maine lobster rolls. Connecticut lobster rolls are always served hot on a bun with a side of melted butter. On the other hand, the Maine lobster roll is exclusively served cold as a chilled lobster salad — with mayonnaise, celery, and lemon juice. We'll let you decide which is the better option.

20. Indian pudding

Indian pudding is the messy dessert you'll only find in New England. The dessert was first introduced to New England by the English colonists, but it evolved to include widely available ingredients like cornmeal and molasses. Indian pudding also goes by Indian Mush, Indian Meal, and Heaven and Hell (topped with ice cream). To make Indian pudding, cornmeal is baked with molasses, brown sugar, butter, and milk into a dessert with a profoundly buttery, sweet, and complex dessert. 

21. Yankee pot roast

Yankee pot roast, otherwise called boiled dinner, is a traditional New England dinner guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter day. The meal is made in a single pot and includes major components like a beef roast (chuck, brisket, or bottom round), carrots, and potatoes. The ingredients cook together in the oven for several hours, infusing the flavors of each component into one another. The Yankee pot roast gained popularity because it utilized many cheap, widely-available ingredients — which some point to as a joke about New Englander's frugality. 

22. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's is called "Vermont's Finest" for a reason. This ice cream brand embodies the reason why New England-style ice cream is so unique — the texture of the ice cream is chewy, dense, and filled with tons of mix-ins. In addition, brands like Ben & Jerry's utilize a higher milk fat in their ice cream and incorporate less air, which creates an ice cream you can bite into and cover with your favorite toppings. If you're lucky enough to visit central Vermont, visit the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury. And remember to treat yourself to ice cream afterward. 

23. Grinders

Every state has a name for its sandwiches served with meats, cheese, and vegetables on a torpedo-shaped roll. Subs? Hoagies? If you're in New England, it's a grinder.

The exact reason why New Englanders prefer the word "grinder" to describe their sandwiches is unclear. It may be because people would have to grind their teeth to cut through the thick (and delicious) Italian bread used in the sandwich. "Grinder" appears in most of southern New England and parts of the northern states, while folks in the greater Boston and Massachusetts area prefer "sub," "hero," or the Boston "spukie." 

24. Steamers

Steamers are soft-shelled clams perfect for serving alongside melted butter and other seafood items. Steamers are plentiful in New England and get their name from how they are prepared. 

Steamers are often allowed to sit in salty water to rinse off grit before being boiled in water for five to 10 minutes. After the clams are adequately cooked, you can pull them out by their phallic-looking siphon (it's how the mollusk eats), swirl the clam in the steaming broth to remove the grit, and dip them in the melted butter. 

25. Whoopie pies

The history of the whoopie pie is disputed with three states laying claim to the famous dessert: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maine. In Massachusetts, the whoopie pie was first made by the Berwick Cake Company of Boston in the 1920s. Meanwhile, the state of Maine claims that its first recipe for whoopie pies appeared in 1925. 

Regardless of what state was the first to make the whoopie pie, there is a clear consensus on how delicious it is. The cake is made by sandwiching a whipped cream filling between two soft chocolate discs. 

26. Split-top hot dog rolls

Without the split-top hot dog roll, there would be no Fenway Franks or lobster rolls. The New England-style hot dog rolls were originally split along the top as a serving vessel for fried clams. The roll was originally created by Massachusetts hotel and restaurant chain Howard Johnson's, who contracted a bakery in Maine to create a roll that could be easily stuffed with fried clams. The bakery made a special pan to bake these rolls, and the traditional bake stuck around. 

27. New England-style pizza

Wait, New England has multiple styles of pizza? Indeed, the region's diverse immigrant populations led to the establishment of a unique kind of pie not often recognized by the pizza lexicon. New England-style pizza is unique because it often contains cheddar cheese in its cheese blend and is cooked in a round pan. This is often referred to as "bar pizza" and is especially prevalent around the Boston area. 

The New England pizza also has elements of Greek-style pizza — a thick, round-crust pizza with lots of olive oil and a diverse cheese blend of provolone and mozzarella. 

28. Steamed cheeseburgers

You probably don't think of other ways to prepare cheeseburgers than cooking them in a pan or on the grill. But the town of Meriden, Connecticut has an interesting way of preparing this classic American food: steaming. 

Steamed cheeseburgers have a storied history. The first burgers were made in Middletown, Connecticut in the 1890s and spread in reach to surrounding towns like Meriden. The steamed cheeseburger, or "hamburg," is made by placing ground meat into a rectangular tin, steaming it for about 10 minutes, and topping it with a gooey layer of cheese. Although the hamburg was initially created as a cheap, calorie-dense fuel for the working class in Connecticut, it has remained one of the region's greatest culinary inventions. 

29. Apple pie with cheddar cheese

Although the expression "as American as apple pie" may not entirely be accurate, one modification to the apple pie is topping it with a slab of cheddar cheese. In Vermont, a 1999 legal statute requires "a 'good faith' effort" to be made to serve apple pie with a cold glass of milk, "a large scoop of vanilla ice cream," or "a slice of cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of 1/2 ounce." Of course, we wouldn't expect anything less from a state with a prominent dairy industry and a love of apple pie.

30. Beef tips

New England-style beef tips are made with sirloin steak marinated and seared over high heat to develop a crispy exterior. In New England, beef tips are often served as a main course at a cookout, as an appetizer, or as an easy weeknight meal with mashed potatoes or a side of macaroni and cheese. The proliferation of the New England steak tips was likely a result of economics. A cheap cut of sirloin could be given new life with a great marinade and a good sear. 

31. Coffee cabinet

If you hear the phrase "cabinet" in Rhode Island, you're likely ordering what any other state would call a milkshake. And since Rhode Island is known for its coffee milk, it only seems fitting to pair the two together for a coffee cabinet. 

There is no exact reason why Rhode Island calls their milkshakes "cabinets," but historians speculate it may be because the cabinet was where the blender was kept. The infusion of coffee syrup and the cabinet was likely also the product of coffee-loving Italian immigrants in the region. 

32. Necco wafers

New England has long been home to the United States' oldest candy: Necco wafers. Necco wafers, which were produced by the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO), are chalky wafer candies that eventually gave rise to Smarties and conversation hearts. The candy was first created in 1847 and eventually ceased production in 2018. However, after the Spangler Candy scooped up the product, Necco wafers returned triumphantly to stores in 2020.

The Necco wafer recipe has remained relatively unchanged since the confection was made and still comes in the eight traditional flavors of lemon, lime, orange, clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, licorice, and chocolate. 

33. Fried clams

Nothing says summer in New England like clam strips. New England-style fried clams were invented in 1916 by Lawerence "Chubby" Woodman in Essex, Massachusetts after a fisherman suggested he fry his clams to drum up more business in his restaurant. The original clam recipe featured Ipswich soft clams dipped in milk before being rolled in cornmeal and fried. 

Howard Johnson's restaurant popularized the clam strip — made from the softer foot of the clam — rather than the traditional clam belly. Whatever cut you prefer, just make sure you have your lemon slices and tartar sauce at the ready.