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What Food is Boston Known for? (18 Foods it’s Famous for)

With Boston’s long history, it’s not surprising there are many foods this city is known for.

Seafood is plentiful in Boston with the Massachusetts Bay and Atlantic Ocean steps away. And a number of other foods Boston is well-known for continue the traditions carried down from early settlers and Native Americans.

The following are eighteen foods Boston is known for:

Clam chowder

A bowl of clam chowder

One of Boston’s most iconic foods is New England Clam chowder (or as the locals say “chowda”). You’ll find this soup made primarily of clams, potatoes, cream, and bacon on many menus throughout the city.

See related: Where to Eat New England Clam Chowder in Boston

Oysters

A plate of oysters

Boston is certainly known for its oysters. City dwellers have been cultivating these crustaceans since the 17th century and the city has a reputation worldwide for producing high-quality oysters. You’ll find this delicacy served throughout the city, but these seventeen oyster bars are considered the best.

Fenway franks

A man holding a Fenway frank

Fenway Park is an icon in Boston – a bastion of baseball and Red Sox fame. It’s not surprising then that the franks, or hot dogs, sold in Fenway are a culinary delight the city is proud of.

Cannolis

cannolis stacked on top of each other in a bakery

Boston has a significant Italian population of 8.2%. So it’s no surprise that one of the city’s favorite desserts is cannolis. These sweetened ricotta-filled pastries can be found in the city’s Italian neighborhood, the North End. Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are two of the most popular places to pick up the dessert.

Yankee pot roast

A pot full of Yankee pot roast

A food that Boston is known for is Yankee pot roast. Nothing says comfort food in New England more than this dish. It’s made by slow-cooking a beef roast, typically a chuck roast, with vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, in a flavorful broth.

Boston cream pie

A Boston Cream Pie on a plate with a slice removed. Given the name it's not surprising that this is a food Boston is known for.

The Boston Cream Pie, which is actually a cake, is a beloved dessert not only in Boston but worldwide. Given its name, it’s undoubtedly a food that Boston is known for. The “pie” consists of sweet custard filling layered between yellow cake and glazed with chocolate. The origin of the Boston Cream Pie is a bit of a mystery, including its name, but the Omni Parker House is believed to be the originator of this dessert.

Boston baked beans

Boston baked beans

Beans slow-baked in molasses aren’t only a staple in Boston, they’re also the source of the city’s nickname “beantown”. This dish is thought to have originated during the colonial period when New England settlers would cook beans in large iron pots over an open fire. Boston Baked Beans are typically served as a side dish and occasionally as a main meal.

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Roast beef sandwiches

a roast beef sandwich cut in half

Legend has it that American roast beef sandwiches are rooted in Kelly’s Roast Beef just north of Boston. The story goes that a last-minute wedding cancellation caused the restaurant to be stuck with three whole roast beefs. To use up the meat, the owners sliced the beef thin and put it on grilled hamburger buns. To their surprise, the sandwiches sold out in an hour. Today, you’ll find restaurants and delis throughout the city selling sandwiches piled high with roast beef slices.

Chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies stacked on one another

This iconic American cookie was “discovered” in Whitman, MA when Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, made a batch of butter drop cookies and ran out of baker’s chocolate. She instead substituted broken pieces of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate, expecting the chocolate to melt and spread throughout the cookie. Instead, the chocolate held its shape and created the now-famous chocolate chip cookie.

New England clambake

a plate full of New England clambake. Undoubtedly a food Boston is known for.

It’s not surprising a food Boston is known for is the traditional clambake. No other culinary experience evokes authentic New England more. First, a pit is dug on a sandy beach and filled with seafood – typically lobsters, clams, and mussels along with potatoes, corn on the cob, and onions. Hot rocks and seaweed are then placed on top to cook the food. The process takes several hours and is both a social event and a meal. While Boston doesn’t have enough sand to replicate the true experience, many Bostonian restaurants serve kitchen-based versions of this meal.

Fried clams

a plate of fried clams

Fried clams are especially popular in Bostonian’s favorite vacation spot, Cape Cod. So it’s unsurprising that the dish is also a staple in the city. Traditional fried clams consist of shucked clams dipped in a cornmeal-based batter and then deep-fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.

Frappes

the top of three frappes also referred to as milkshakes

Boston is known for its ice cream, but you may find ordering your favorite ice cream-based drink a little confusing here. That’s because what the rest of the country refers to as milkshakes, Bostonians and most New Englanders, call frappes. Milkshakes, on the other hand, are simply a mixture of milk and flavored syrup.

Boston cream donut

Boston cream donuts lined up in a display case. Given the name, it's not surprising this is a food Boston is known for.

Bostonians love their donuts so it’s no surprise that there’s a donut with “Boston” in its name. These cream-filled donuts are essentially a smaller version of a Boston Cream Pie but with fried donut dough instead of cake.

Parker House rolls

Parker House rolls on a pan

Parker House rolls are a classic dinner roll with a crisp, buttery exterior and a soft interior. They’re believed to have originated from Boston’s Parker House Hotel during the 1870s when an angry, distracted baker threw a batch of unfinished rolls into the oven after a quarrel with a guest.

Indian pudding

A dish of Indian pudding with ice cream

While less widely available in Boston today, Indian pudding was a common New England dessert in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s made with cornmeal, molasses, milk, and spices and is believed to have been a staple food for Native American tribes.

Boston brown bread

Boston brown bread with cream cheese
photo credit: jeffreyw/Creative Commons

Another food Boston is known for that has roots in early colonial New England is Boston brown bread. Unlike most bread that’s baked, Boston brown bread is steamed in a can, giving it a unique cylindrical shape. It’s made with a mixture of whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and rye flour, sweetened with molasses, and sometimes contains raisins.

Fluffernutter sandwiches

A fluffernutter sandwhich made with marshmellow fluff and peanut butter.

Although more of a novelty today, for years New England school children looked forward to the day when their lunches would include a fluffernutter sandwich. As the name implies, these distinctly regional sandwiches include peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on two slices of bread. The fluff part of the sandwich comes from a 100-year-old business based in Lynn, Massachusetts that has been selling marshmallow fluff for over 100 years.

Boston lettuce

A head of Boston lettuce

While not a food typically eaten on its own, Boston lettuce takes on the city’s name. This tender, delicate lettuce was first cultivated and popularized here in the mid-19th century and became a popular choice for salads and sandwiches in the Boston area.

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See related:

34 Fun Facts About Boston You Probably Don’t Know

22 Boston Slang Words You Need to Know Before Visiting

What is Massachusetts Known for? (14 Things it’s Famous for)

73 Famous People From Massachusetts

The Best (and Most Unique!) Stores on Newbury Street in Boston

A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

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.

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