fall foods

Fall, in most of the United States, brings about a host of seasonal changes. The leaves change, scarves are brought out and the days become short and cold is familiar to anyone who has experienced a fall in Nebraska. However, one change that is also integral to fall is the food. Throughout the United States, there are many different seasonal fall foods specific to the region.

West Coast and Pacific Northwest

Seafood is a staple along the coasts of California, Washington and Oregon. One dish that seems to be favored along the Pacific Northwest is hazelnut crusted salmon, since the salmon season ends in mid-November and reopens in January. In fact, both hazelnuts and salmon are plentiful on the West Coast. The largest producer of hazelnuts is Oregon, while Washington heads the salmon production. The dish itself is sometimes served with a maple glaze, which is a traditional New England-style dressing. A recipe for hazelnut crusted salmon incorporates honey and panko bread crumbs for a distinct taste.

Another special dish with roots in the Pacific Northwest are aplets and cotlets. These tiny, crunchy candies were originally invented by two Aremians named Armen Tertsagian and Mark Balaban. Similar in appearance to Turkish Delight, these white, powdered candies have a Northwestern twist. They are made from apples and walnuts rather than the traditional rosewater-flavored lokum in Turkish Delight. Given their more abundant ingredients, aplets and cotlets can be made from home.


Casseroles are common in the Midwest, and one fall food associated with this idea of a casserole is a hotdish. Originating in Minnesota, a hotdish is basically a casserole with a golden crispy crust, typically provided by a layer of tater tots. While all hotdishes are casseroles, not all casseroles are hotdishes. The basics for hotdish include a creamy sauce, vegetables, meat and a crust. While a hotdish does not typically have a set recipe; the toppings can range from potatoes to dried Chow Mein noodles. Due to the popularity of hotdishes in Minnesota, there is an annual hotdish competition

In addition to the hotdish, another fall food can be directly traced to the Midwest: the Runza. A Runza is a stuffed bun filled with ground beef and cabbage. The trademark Runza sandwich, however, originated in Nebraska, with a woman named Sarah “Sally” Everett credited to jumpstarting the Runza business. “Runsa” is a German word for “belly,” and the Runza sandwich is round, so the name may have derived from the word. Even though it’s easy to buy a Runza from the restaurant, Runzas can also be made at home.

South and Southwest

The South boasts Texas, and Texas boasts Texas Smoked Brisket. Smoked brisket is specifically from the breast of the cow, and is seasoned with a variety of savory spices. Different regions of Texas use different types of wood to smoke the meat, such as pecan or oak, which will give the meat a different flavor. Not only is the smokiness signature to the brisket, but the seasoning, or rub, is also an essential component. The rub usually consists of the typical salt and pepper along with a variety of other spices like onion, garlic powder, brown sugar and paprika. Afterward, the brisket may be slathered with barbeque sauce and eaten alone or plopped between buns.

The Southwest also is a major producer of pecans, which means pecan pie. The sweet dessert is often served at fall gatherings and Thanksgiving celebrations. The United States is the world’s largest producer of pecans, with the largest harvests coming from Texas, South Carolina and Georgia. The pie is usually made with a rich, buttery and sugary base filled with a center of baked pecans, and topped with whipped cream. 

East Coast

New England is home to traditional fall foods that are typically associated with the colder months and Thanksgiving such as apples, pumpkins and stuffing. One of the most common fall foods is pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is pumpkin pulp mixed with oil and spices to create something like “pumpkin pudding.” This “pudding” is then put in a crust and baked. This dessert can trace its roots back to the Plymouth Colony settlers in the 1620s, who made the early precursor to the pumpkin pie. They hollowed out pumpkins and filled them with spices, milk and honey and then cooked them over embers. Originally, the Native Americans gifted pumpkins and squash to the settlers and showed them how to make the concoctions. Today, pumpkin pie is served during Thanksgiving fall months, and is usually topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Lastly, a widely consumed fall staple is apple cider. This drink can easily be consumed both warm and cold, with a cinnamon stick added to spice up the beverage. For a more acidic flavor, apples such as Pink Lady, Braeburn, Jonathan or McIntosh apples are used. For a sweeter flavor, apples such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, or Fuji apples are used. 

In addition to apples, the cider is also made with oranges, spices and a sweetener like brown sugar or maple. The east coast has near-perfect weather for apple cultivation, with New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania sitting among top-10 apple-producing states in the U.S. apple cider is so prevalent in the East that New Hampshire has named the tangy, brown delicacy its official state drink.