Many of the foods Maine is known for are deeply connected to the identity of the state. With its vast shoreline, deep forests, and ideal climate for growing certain produce, Maine foods are often one-of-a-kind. While some are world-renowned, others tend to only have gained notoriety in within the state.
In any case, be sure to try as many of these thirteen foods Maine is known for on your next trip to experience everything this state has to offer.
No doubt lobster is one of the primary foods Maine is known for. The state provides a whopping 80% of the world’s lobster. Driving along coastal Maine roads in the summertime, you’re bound to see signs advertising lobster for sale as well as countless lobster shacks. Lobster rolls are also a beloved favorite with much debate over the correct proportion of mayonnaise to meat. Don’t assume you can eat any lobster and have the same experience – Maine lobster is undoubtedly a step above the rest.
See related: 10 of the Best Maine Lobster Shacks
Another beloved food Maine is known for is blueberries. But not just any blueberries – wild blueberries are the preferred choice in Maine. What’s the difference? Cultivated blueberries tend to be bigger, are often tarter, and are a little less flavorful. Wild blueberries, on the other hand, are small in size, concentrating the classic blueberry flavor in each bite. The wild blueberry season typically runs from late July into August and early September.
Whoopie pies – a treat that consists of two domed circular cakes sandwiched together with a creamy filling – are not only a food Maine is known for, they also originated here. In Maine, whoopie pies are sold in bakeries, convenience stores, cafes, supermarkets – just about anywhere that sells food. And they’re also a common sight at festivals, fairs, and other events. Whoopie pies are so famous in Maine, that they were even designated the official state treat in 2011.
Fiddleheads are the curled young shoots of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), which grow wild in many areas of Maine during the springtime. The practice of harvesting and eating fiddleheads is a tradition that’s been passed down through generations of Mainers. It’s not unusual to see fiddleheads for sale in grocery stores in Maine in the springtime. And many restaurants feature fiddleheads on their menus.
As one of the northernmost states in the continental United States, Maine has ideal weather conditions to produce the sap used to make maple syrup. The state is the third largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S., following only New York and Vermont. With such high maple syrup production, it’s not surprising to see this ingredient showcased in dishes and drinks at restaurants throughout the state.
When Americans think “potato” they usually think Idaho but potatoes are also a big industry in Maine. Aroostook county, the northernmost county in Maine, is where the majority of potatoes in the state are grown. Here, the soil is naturally low in acidity and the summers are cool, creating ideal conditions for growing spuds. Not surprisingly, a number of other foods Maine is known for use potatoes as the main ingredient (see below).
Moxie soda is a uniquely Maine beverage and definitely a food that Maine is known for. This soft drink, often described as having a bitter, slightly medicinal taste, was the first carbonated beverage produced in the United States in 1884 and made in Maine. Mainers often think of Moxie as a cultural icon, not just a drink. In fact, Lisbon Falls holds an annual Moxie Festival each year and Moxie became the official soft drink of Maine in 2005.
See related: What does Moxie Taste Like? Is it Good?
Potato donuts have been a specialty of Aroostook county for centuries, but they’ve seen a resurgence in popularity throughout the state over the past decade. The Holy Donut chain in the Portland area accounts for this revival as it specializes in potato donuts. To outsiders, it may seem odd to add potatoes to a donut recipe. But spuds add a unique sweetness and make the donuts a bit moister in the middle and crisper on the edges.
Another use of Maine’s abundance of potatoes is Maine Needhams Candies. These uniquely Maine candies have an interior filling of potatoes and coconut that’s enrobed in chocolate. Needhams are often described as more substantial Mounds bars with a greater variety of flavors. These candies were created in the kitchen of Seavey’s Sweets in the early 1870s and have been a beloved treat in the state ever since.
Maine Italian sandwich
Most Americans have had a submarine sandwich, but few have had a Maine Italian sandwich. While the two are similar, Mainers insist theirs is better and that Maine is the birthplace of the Italian sandwich. The difference between the two is in the specifics of the sandwich. A Maine Italian consists of ham with American or provolone cheese, very thinly sliced onions, green peppers, and pickles, topped with olives, oil, salt, and pepper on a long bread roll or bun. It’s believed that Giovanni Amato, a grocer in Portland invented the Italian sandwich in 1900, and his store, Amato’s, is still selling Italian sandwiches today.
With a “tidal shoreline” 3,478 miles long, it’s not surprising that a food Maine is known for is seafood. In addition to lobster which is most closely associated with Maine, the state is also known for haddock, cod, mussels, and oysters. It’s not unusual to find a good variety of seafood on restaurant menus or encounter seafood markets featuring freshly caught fish.
Given Maine’s bountiful seafood supply, fish chowder is another specialty of the state. This thick soup is made with milk or cream, a roux, a variety of seafood, and a few vegetables such as onion. Often the combination of seafood in the soup varies, and it’s traditionally served with oyster crackers on the side.
Finally, here’s another food you’ve undoubtedly heard of before but probably haven’t tried the Maine variety. Brown bread, as in bread that comes in a can, is a Maine tradition dating back more than a century. It’s made with cornmeal, molasses, and rye flour, and is often steamed in a can. B & M is the most common brand of brown bread in Maine, offering both plain brown bread and brown bread with raisins.
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.