Wondering what to eat in Oklahoma? Oklahoma cuisine can be a bit tricky. The best dishes from Oklahoma can be from the South (hello, sweet tea), the Southwest (quest), or even Midwest (yes, we casserole). Here are the best traditional Oklahoma food and drinks to try when you’re here.
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The Official Oklahoma State Meal
The rumors are true…Oklahoma has an official state meal, and it has a whopping twelve items on it! While Oklahoma might not be the state that comes to mind when an American thinks of US cuisine, we have nominated ourselves for that honor by being the only state to emblazon our favorite meal into law.
So what will you be having if you choose to indulge? The official Oklahoma state meal isn’t complete until you’ve had:
- fried okra
- barbecue pork
- sausage and gravy
- black-eyed peas
- chicken-fried steak
- pecan pie
You know you grew up in Oklahoma when you could get fried okra through a drive-thru (Grandy’s), pecan pie is served more often than just Thanksgiving, and you know what a chicken-fried steak is.
While all of these dishes are quintessentially Oklahoma food, I’m not going to put all of them on my list for the best Oklahoma food and drinks. If you’re coming to visit the state for a few days, you definitely need a few of these, but Oklahoma cuisine is bigger and more delicious than just our state meal!
The Best of Oklahoma Food & Drink
This is my list of the best Oklahoma dishes. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.
Okra came to the American colonies from Africa via the Caribbean. It’s a popular item all across the South, and while Oklahoma is technically in the Midwest, many Black people moved to Oklahoma after the Civil War, bringing their Southern Cuisine with them.
This is one of the main reasons there is so much crossover between traditional “Southern” foods and Oklahoma foods: both Black and White Americans settled here after the US renegade on its treaties with the Native Americans. Many of them came from the former Confederacy.
Fried okra is served on the side. The breading is made from cornmeal, and the best fried okra is cooked in a cast iron skillet.
I honestly had no idea that you could be served unsweet tea by default until I was in my teens. I still actually don’t know why someone would want a cold glass of ice tea to not be sweet. I don’t have the words, to be honest.
Another crossover with Southern cuisine, Oklahoma’s sweet tea is best served out of old, gigantic pitchers with enough to keep an entire baseball team hydrated.
Cowboy caviar goes by many names: Oklahoma Caviar, Texas Caviar, and even Redneck Caviar. This delightful bean salad is made with black-eyed peas, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, corn, onions, and spices. It’s extremely versatile, and you can even use it as a dip or salsa with tortilla chips.
Whether you eat it as cornbread, corn muffins, or even the top of a Tamale Pie (more on that below), you can’t come to Oklahoma and not have some cornbread! I remember baking this on baking pans shaped like corn-on-the-cob in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Oklahoma cornbread tends to be on the sweeter side, and serve it with a bit of butter (farm-fresh if you can get it).
An Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger
Considered by some to be a national treasure, this humble-yet-astonishing burger reaches for perfection. Don’t skip the pickles, and the cheeseburger version is just as authentically Oklahoman.
One of my favorite meals when I was as young as seven or eight, it never dawned on me that people from other states might have no idea these even existed. Imagine a childhood without white gravy and fried beef: nothing short of a tragedy.
Made from pan-frying beef, you might think this heavy dish is another dish inherited from the South. However, it’s more likely that it came from Germans and Austrians imitating their native wiener schnitzel with ingredients available in Texas and Oklahoma.
And if you’re thinking that you’re familiar with it because you’ve had country fried steak, well, they are not the same thing. According to the Food Network:
Country fried steak and chicken fried steak are similar. … The other distinction that sometimes comes up is that, where country-fried steak is flour-dusted and usually served with brown gravy and onions, chicken-fried steak is breaded with eggs and served with cream gravy.
Frito Chili Pie
A southwestern dish thought to have been invented in New Mexico, Frito Chili Pie is a staple all across Oklahoma. This dish was even served as a school lunch when I was in middle school. I’m not sure if it would meet healthy school lunch standards today, as it’s a dish made from chili, heaps of melted cheese, and topped with corn chips.
A popular holiday staple, pecan pie is part of the official state meal of Oklahoma, which means in Oklahoma you shouldn’t save it for Thanksgiving!
And as one of my favorite Oklahoma activists, Ryan Red Corn, noted on Twitter recently, “If the person you learned it from didn’t call it “pee can pie,” you didn’t get the right recipe.”
Oklahoma is famous for “Okie Noodling,” where the angler literally catches a catfish with his hands. However, I prefer mine brought to me on a platter, preferably with a side of french fries.
Fried Oklahoma catfish is delicious, and you can find it all over the state.
Growing up, we always bought Frybread tacos at the Oklahoma State Fair and at public Powwows. Sometimes these are marketed as “Indian Tacos” or “Navajo Tacos,” but if you are not Native American than I would refrain from using these terms.
Frybread is fried dough, and it fabulous on its own. To make it a “taco,” add ground beef, sour cream, veggies, and shredded cheese.
The best way to enjoy a Frybread taco is if you know the money you’re spending on it is going directly to supporting a Native American chef or organization.
Oklahoma Fried Pies
Invented in the Arbuckle mountains, it’s still the most fun to get these original Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies at their locations in Oklahoma and the surrounding states. The most famous flavors for fried pies are peach, cherry, and apple, but you can get them in many different flavors.
The most convenient place to get a Cherry Limeade is at Sonic, the Oklahoma fast food chain that’s been serving them for decades. You can also make your own, combing Sprite and maraschino cherry juice.
Oklahoma Tex-Mex restaurants are famous for offering a set-up before you order your food. This consists of free chips, salsa, and queso. Many of the Tex-Mex restaurants in Oklahoma will even offer a variety of salsas, flour and corn tortillas, and pickled relish. And yes, all of this is free.
If all you want is the set-up, you can usually pay somewhere between $5-10 dollars to have this as your meal instead. This is what we’d do in high school when we were broke.
Pecan Ice Cream
Braum’s is an Oklahoma institution. There are drive-thru ice cream shops all over Oklahoma and parts of our neighboring states. Even after traveling to over fifty countries, Braum’s ice cream is the gold standard.
You can enjoy any of their many flavors. I’m partial to pistachio and rocky road.
Oklahoma was on the route for cowboys driving cattle herds north from Texas to Kansas City, so Oklahomans are used to having access to high quality meat. The official steak of Oklahoma, the Rib-Eye, is a perfect (and delicious) way to celebrate this bit of history.
Fried okra might be part of the state meal, but you haven’t experienced enough Oklahoma cuisine if you’ve only eaten it fried. You also need to enjoy some pickled okra, especially in the summertime! An Oklahoma refrigerator isn’t fully stocked unless there’s a jar of pickled okra in the door.
The American bison, or what many people think of as an American buffalo, is not something that you might normally think of eating for lunch. But Native Americans have been eating these animals for centuries.
The govenrment carried out violent policies against Native Americans nearly lead to the bison’s extinction, but these animals have been preserved. Today there are places where you can try out a bison burger or bison jerky.
Dating back to the early twentieth century, Tamale pie was likely invented in Texas and made its way north to Oklahoma. This casserole dish is usually baked in a cast iron skillet, though it can be made in a typical casserole dish.
The dish is traditionally topped with cornmeal, but it’s more popular for the last few decades to use a cornbread mix on top instead. The filling is made from beef, corn, black olives, onion, garlic, and tomato sauce.
Note that the dish has no actual tamales in it, rather the name has more to do with the Southwestern flavors than anything else.
If you’re coming through Oklahoma on a Route 66 trip, then make sure to add drinking a soda at Pops to your Route 66 Bucket List. Officially called the “Pops 66 Soda Ranch,” there are a seemingly infinite number of sodas to try.
The official state dessert of Oklahoma, peach cobbler is a great summer dish. Perfect with or without vanilla ice cream, the best cobbler in the state comes from the Cobbler Mom in Tulsa.
The deer is the official state game animal (though watch out for them on the road and not just in the woods). Venison steak, venison meatballs, and even venison jerky are great ways to enjoy this versatile meat.
Part of the official Oklahoma state meal, make sure to get some fresh local strawberries. If you’re looking to start a home garden, strawberries are the best fruit to try to grow at home. Here are OSU’s recommendations for starting your own strawberry patch.
A Glass of Milk
This might seem like something you can have literally anywhere, but a fresh glass of milk is the official drink of Oklahoma. It’s even better if you can pick it up at a farmer’s market of a Braum’s.
A Garbage Breakfast
Jimmy’s Egg is one of the most famous Oklahoma City breakfast spots. While their fluffy pancakes and giant waffles are the stuff of dreams, it’s the Garbage breakfast that’s unique and worth trying to make at home.
Start with crispy hash browns and top with grilled onions, bell peppers, and sausage crumbles.
Leonard Mountain Mix Soup
You’ll find Leonard Mountain soup and dip mixes in almost every Oklahoma pantry. While I’m partial to the Green Chili stew and the Enchilada stew, you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
This is the perfect Oklahoma souvenir to bring back a taste of Oklahoma with you when you’re leaving the state, whether you’re going back home or you’re moving away.
If you’re researching Oklahoma dishes because you’re homesick for the state, you can pick up a Soup Sampler on Amazon and have it shipped anywhere in the world.
Oklahoma Travel Resources
What to Pack for a Trip in Oklahoma
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
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Stephanie is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has traveled to over fifty countries. She is in the process of moving back to Oklahoma after living in Europe for the past four years. She can’t wait to share the beauty of the Sooner State with her family.