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Food in Nebraska

Nebraska's cuisine is made up of a diverse range of dishes, each with its unique flavor and history.

When it comes to the American heartland, Nebraska shines not only for its sprawling plains and welcoming communities but also for its burgeoning culinary landscape. Home to a rich tapestry of flavors that echo the state's diverse heritage, Nebraska’s gastronomy is as varied as its landscape. 

Nebraska's nickname, the Cornhusker State, comes from corn, which is the leading crop, and from cornhusking contests held in rural Nebraskan towns in the fall. Nebraska is well known for growing corn and raising beef cattle. Other crops include soybeans, wheat, sorghum, oats, and potatoes. Nebraska also raises hogs.

Food processing is a major industry there. ConAgra, one of the largest food companies in the world, has its headquarters in Omaha. As for drinks, Kool-Aid, the sof drink in powder form, was created in Nebraska.

The farm-to-table movement in Nebraska

Nebraska's cuisine spotlights freshness and sustainability, thanks to the state’s dedication to the farm-to-table movement. Local restaurants and farmers markets are pivotal players in ensuring that Nebraskans and visitors enjoy high-quality, locally grown produce, meats, and dairy. Chefs across the state take pride in crafting their menus around seasonal ingredients sourced from nearby farms, offering patrons an authentic taste of Nebraska.

Nebraska foods

Nebraska recipes make use of local ingredients such as beef and corn to create delectable dishes that have become part of the state’s cultural heritage.

What food is Nebraska known for? People from Nebraska love to eat a good Reuben sandwich, ribs, steak, hamburger, pizza, corned beef, barbecue, and runza, a sandwich of beef, pork cabbage, sauerkraut and onions in a bread pocket. They drink pop, milk, beer, Kool-Aid, and wine.

One of the most iconic dishes in Nebraska is the runza sandwich, neatly tucked away in a pocket of dough, blending together flavors of seasoned beef, cabbage, and onions, yielding a portable meal that’s perfect for a quick lunch or a bite on the go. Runzas have been around since 1949. They are a popular lunchtime food that can be found in restaurants, gas stations, and just about anywhere else.

Nebraska boasts some of the best-quality meat in the country, and for good reason. The state's prime steakhouses are renowned for their locally sourced, steak, chops and other world-class cuts, offering carnivores an epicurean experience unlike any other.

Nebraskan home cooks are experts at creating comfort in a casserole dish, with creative recipes that often include a variety of meats, vegetables, and a creamy sauce, topped with a golden crust of cheese or breadcrumbs.

The Reuben sandwich is another Nebraska staple that has been around since the early 1900s. This classic sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on toasted rye bread - a combination that's hard to beat!

A staple on many Nebraska tables, cornbread here is a hearty and subtly sweet bread made from locally grown corn, often served warm with a generous slathering of butter.

The native Omaha and Ponca tribes have contributed to Nebraska’s culture since the days of early European settlement. Their influence on the state's cuisine is seen in both traditional dishes like fry bread, which uses corn flour as its main ingredient, and more modern recipes such as tamale pie. Omaha-style steak is another popular dish, featuring a juicy cut of steak cooked to perfection and topped with sautéed onions. You could also try the traditional Native American fry bread in Nebraska City or Lincoln.

Nebraska's cuisine also includes some unique dishes that have become part of the state’s identity. Omaha potholes, for example, are deep-fried dough pockets filled with an array of sweet or savory ingredients. Another popular dish is hot beef sundae, which consists of mashed potatoes, ground beef and gravy topped with lettuce and tomato slices.

The influence of German immigrants on Nebraskan cooking is evident throughout the state, as many of their traditional dishes have become a beloved staple of local gastronomy. Popular dishes include Nebraska’s famous German-style roast beef, which is often served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. For those who prefer something a bit sweeter, the state's delicious apple strudel is a must-try. And of course, no trip to Nebraska would be complete without sampling its delicious homemade bratwurst. Visit a small Nebraskan town to sample authentic German sausages and pierogies at one of the many restaurants in Schuyler or Columbus.

Another beloved Nebraska dish is Kool-Aid, which was invented by Edwin Perkins in 1927. This sugary beverage has become an icon of the state and is enjoyed all over the country. It's bright colors and sweet taste make it a favorite among kids and adults alike.

…and food events

Nebraska plays host to a variety of food festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating everything from its agricultural roots to its contemporary cuisine. The Nebraska State Fair is a mélange of food competitions, tastings, and farm and food exhibits where you can sample the state’s finest. In Omaha, the Taste of Omaha event brings together local food vendors, live music, and culinary demonstrations, offering an eclectic snapshot of the city’s food culture. Whatever your taste, there’s a Nebraska food event that’s certain to whet your appetite.

The Wayne Chicken Show is an annual, family-oriented event celebrated in Wayne, Nebraska. It's a unique festival that provides a relaxed atmosphere and friendly environment suitable for all ages. The show is known for embracing the quirky and fun aspects of chicken and poultry themes, often incorporating elements of Arthurian Legend, medieval times, and the renaissance era into its celebration of arts and community.

The Cornhusker State
Capital: Lincoln
State bird: Western Meadowlark
State tree: Cottonwood
State Flower: Golden rod


Nebraska sites

Nebraska history
Official Nebraska site
Nebraska tourist site

Other Nebraska facts

Nebraska got its name from the Oto Indian word nebrathka, which means "flat water," and that native American flat water is now called the Platte River.

It is all about the crop in Nebraska. You hear "How's the crop?" or "How's harvesting?" as often, if not more, than "How are you doing?" If lost in the country, look for a grain mill. It will stand close to a town.


Unearthing hidden culinary gems

While renowned for its steakhouses, Nebraska’s hideaways and local joints offer an equally enchanting, albeit less celebrated, array of culinary offerings. Explore the eclectic food scene in Omaha's burgeoning Blackstone District, or head out to Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket for a diverse mix of cafes and eateries. For those venturing off the beaten path, small-town diners and family-run restaurants serve up a homely, one-of-a-kind dining experience where the food is as rich in character as the stories the locals will share with you.

Omaha, where one can find some of the biggest livestock markets and meat-processing centers in the world. It also has a friendly market area with plenty of nice small shops at the Old Market. Visit the Benson neighborhood for homecooked meals, ethnic foods and local brews.

Get a taste of Nebraska history by visiting one of the state's oldest eating establishments - The Drover Restaurant in North Platte, which opened its doors over 100 years ago!

Take part in an authentic steak dinner experience with fellow travelers at Cowboy Village restaurant in Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford where you'll get traditional cowboy fare, such as beef brisket, ribs and all-you-can-eat fried chicken alongside craft beers from around the world.

Enjoy some unique gastronomic experiences like tasting wild elk chuckwagon dinners near Valentine or tucking into fresh catfish caught out on Lake McConaughy near Ogallala.

Sample gourmet burgers, made with local Nebraska beef, at one of the many burger bar restaurants in Omaha.

Wrap up your culinary tour of Nebraska with a visit to the iconic runza chain, where you can try their signature sandwich, the runza. This combination of beef, cabbage and seasonings is a Nebraska classic that you won't find anywhere else.

Recipes from Nebraska

Reuben sandwich with Russian dressing - runza with a white bread base - cornbread.

Nebraska recipes

Beer, wine and spirits in Nebraska

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