When it comes to American cuisine, it’s barbecue; America’s food is a melting pot of influences, resulting in a variety of regional flavors. Outside BBQ, America brags culinary gems like Soul Food, Cajun Cuisine, Pizza, and the California Mediterranean Diet. With its diverse influences and premium real estate, Florida stands out as a fantastic culinary destination, offering the most special Florida foods you will not find elsewhere. Are you curious about what food is Florida known for?
Keep reading to see what to try on your next food adventure!
Tarpon Springs Greek Salad
The Tarpon Springs Greek Salad is famous for adding potato salad, creating a fuss about its origin story, with some attributing it to chef Louis Pappas and others suggesting a Black kitchen worker’s influence.
It’s an iconic Florida dish worth trying, turning a standard Greek salad into a heartier option.
Ceviche is made with raw fish and veggies “cooked” in citrus juice. The most famous types are Peruvian, with seabass or sole and veggies like onion and aji pepper, and Mexican, with shrimp or tuna, plus jalapeños, green tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.
For homemade ceviche, use healthy, white fish like cod or mahi-mahi that can handle the acidic marinade. The key is picking fresh, sushi-grade seafood for flavor and safety.
Florida Orange Juice
Florida orange juice is iconic and traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Its fresh-squeezed taste is like the juiciest orange, the quintessential Florida food known worldwide.
Across a vast area, Florida grows different orange varieties, including Navel, Temple, Valencia, Hamlin, Pineapple, and Ambersweet. Savor fresh Florida orange juice year-round, although the official orange season is from October to June.
Florida’s Apalachicola Bay in the panhandle produces some of the world’s best oysters. The bay’s ideal prerequisites yield briny, flavorful oysters that supply most of Florida’s restaurants and seafood places.
When eating oysters, it’s best to chew them to savor their sweet flavor.
You can enjoy raw oysters, fried chowders, and Po’Boys in Florida. They’re always fresh from Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Cedar Key Clams
Cedar Key is an authentic coastal town worth visiting on the upper Gulf Coast of Florida. Whether on a Gulf Coast road trip or a day trip from Tallahassee or Crystal River, it’s a must-see.
Cedar Key, where the Gulf Coast meets tidal marshes in Florida’s Big Bend, is a charming, rustic spot known for its prized Cedar Key clams.
Cedar Key, known for its marshy mudflats, is a major hub for clamming in Florida. These sweet and succulent Cedar Key clams are a must-try Florida delicacy but mainly find them in this area, not elsewhere in the state.
For a memorable sea-to-table adventure, visit Southern Cross Sea Farms, a top producer of hard-shell clams in Florida.
After spending a day at Florida’s beautiful beach, regale with some inexpensive beach feasts and a cold drink. Conch fritters are the way to go!
Conch may not look appetizing in its shell, but when chopped and fried into fritters, this tough shellfish turns tender and tasty, making it a key appetizer in Floribbean cuisine.
Conch fritters, originally from the Bahamas, are made with the Queen conch found offshore in Florida; no wonder they are popular in South Florida.
The Cuban Sandwich
The Cuban Sandwich, or Cubano, is a tasty ham and cheese sandwich in Cuban immigrant communities in Florida, like Tampa and Key West. Over time, Cuban emigres brought it to Miami.
The Cuban Sandwich is like a sub or hoagie, with ham, Swiss cheese, roasted pork, pickles, and mustard sauce on Cuban bread.
The Cuban Sandwich uses special bread, like a baguette with a soft crust, but it’s unique because it has lard in the dough. If Cuban bread is unavailable, ciabatta can be used as a substitute.
Florida is known for its vibrant Hispanic edibles, with multiple restaurants and bakeries. One famous delicacy found here is empanadas – savory hand-sized pies that make for tasty finger food or appetizers.
Empanadas can be fried or baked and filled with delicious ingredients, catering to unique tastes.
While the exact sources of these delightful intricacies stay unclear, they are believed to have been crafted in Argentinian kitchens by Spanish immigrants. The word ’empanada’ itself decodes to ‘bread wrapped.’
A classic Florida empanada is made with ground beef, eggs, raisins, olives, and spices, all wrapped in homemade dough and deep-fried.
Don’t miss the chance to savor these delicious hand-held pies at any Latin-American restaurant in Florida.
Florida Bay Scallops
Visit Florida’s Nature Coast in the summer for the world’s most succulent bay scallops lover.
For an even more unforgettable experience, try scalloping by diving in and gathering them. It’s a refreshing summer activity and a fun complement to your family vacation.
Kids of all ages can have fun collecting scallops in a 2-gallon bucket per person. Enjoy a refreshing swim or float in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters in July.
Fried Gator Bites
Alligator meat used to be very popular, leading to overhunting and endangerment in the mid-20th century. Today, it’s sourced from alligator farms since they were drawn from the Endangered Species List 1987.
Alligator meat does taste like chicken because both alligators and chickens likely share a common ancestor: dinosaurs. While we never know if dinosaur meat tastes like chicken (as in Jurassic Park), it’s an exciting thought!
Fried Grouper Sandwich
Grouper is a tasty tropical fish and can be cooked in many ways, like poaching, broiling, pan-frying, grilling, or baking. It’s deep-fried in Florida and served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce.
Grouper, a tasty but pricier fish, is a target for fish forgery—cheaper fish like Asian catfish falsely tagged as grouper. While illegal, this practice still happens. Knowing your fish is the best way to avoid falling victim to grouper fraud.
Grouper is meaty with large, bone-free flakes and a mild, chicken-like taste. Contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services if you suspect fish fraud in Florida. But finding the real grouper is worth the effort.
The Frita Cubana is a unique Cuban-style burger that Florida has embraced. It features a Cuban roll with a crispy crust, a spiced beef patty, onions, and crispy fried potato strings. This burger originated as a Cuban street food in the early 20th century, sold as a snack to workers.
Cuban bakeries are well-known for Pastelitos, flaky pastries with various fillings. The most iconic is guava Pastelitos, filled with guava preserve and cheese.
When making Pastelitos at home, you can shape them as you prefer. Latin grocery stores usually have guava preserves for these treats. But you can also make it by simmering fresh guava with water, sugar, and a thickener like gelatin. Ripe guava should feel slightly soft when squeezed; very soft means it’s extra sweet.
Miccosukee Fry Bread
Desiring adventure and an authentic view of pre-development Florida, head south to the Florida Everglades, often called the ‘River of Grass.’
The Native American tribes that originally inhabited this land were here long before any others, and some descendants of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes still reside here today.
Try freshly fried bread at the Miccosukee village in the heart of the Everglades for authentic and local cuisine. This restaurant, near the Shark Valley Visitors Center and Everglades National Park entrance, serves up tasty fried pumpkin bread made to demand.
Minorcran Clam Chowder
Minorcan Clam Chowder, an iconic Florida dish from Saint Augustine, uses seafood stock, vegetables, clams, and a must-have spicy datil pepper. Emigrants from the Spanish island of Minorca carried this Mediterranean-influenced recipe to Florida’s indigo plantations centuries ago.
Chowder is a historic American dish with regional variations. The most famous are Manhattan clam chowder (tomato-based) and New England clam chowder (cream-based).
Arguments about chowder can get heated, like a Maine politician once trying to ban tomatoes in New England clam chowder. They often use quahog clams in the Northeast, but Florida’s chowders feature the iconic Cedar Key clams.
Pink shrimp from the Gulf Coast of Florida are highly valued for their sweet meat, often called “pink gold.” Their pink color even twists some into thinking they’re already cooked. These shrimp are considered sustainable seafood and are available year-round per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In the ’50s, a village on San Carlos Island near Fort Myers served shrimp boats, and it’s still busy today.
Florida markets offer fresh seafood or frozen pink shrimp. According to airport security rules, if adequately packed, you can even bring frozen shrimp on a plane.
Stone Crab Claws
Florida is your seafood heaven if you love crab, but only from October 15 to May 15. That’s when the famous and sustainable Florida stone crab is in season, a must-try Florida food!
Florida stone crabs are found in the western North Atlantic, spanning from the Eastern United States to Belize, including the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, and Texas. However, they are particularly famous in Florida.
Stone crabs get their name from their rock-hard, ceramic-like shells, which are hard to crack and handle.
What makes stone crabs famous isn’t just their succulent claw meat and their sustainable and highly regulated harvesting process in Florida. Only one claw is taken, not both, and the crab is returned to the sea, where it regenerates the second claw. The full crab is not harvested, making it a sustainable seafood industry.
Stone crabbing in Florida is heavily regulated, making this delicacy pricey, at about $10-15 per claw. But the meaty, delicious experience and support for a sustainable fishing industry make it worth the expense.
One of the world’s petite appealing fish is surprisingly delicious in the Sunshine State! Florida has various Grouper species on its Atlantic and Gulf coasts, a local choice for dining. These tasty fish are prized worldwide but are at their best in Florida.
Most menus list the fish as ‘Grouper,’ scintillating debates about the most delicious. Black, Red, and Gag Grouper are among the top contenders, with many seafood lovers preferring Black Grouper as the top dining choice.
Grouper is served in different ways: grilled, blackened, fried, in tacos, and as Grouper Bites at many casual restaurants. Grouper is meaty, with a sweet and mild flavor, no matter how prepared.
Florida’s Gulf Coast boasts diverse snapper species like Mangrove, Mutton, Lane, and Yellowtail, each with a separate flavor. However, the most sought-after choice, Red Snapper, dominates Florida menus.
Snapper, including Red Snapper and Yellowtail, is enjoyed blackened, grilled, fried, and even in tacos. Originated in the Florida Keys, Yellowtail is a favorite for tacos and sushi bars.
Florida’s well-known fish, Dorado in Spanish and Dolphin in English, is called Hawaiian Mahi-mahi. Anglers from Florida’s northeast Atlantic Coast to the Florida Keys catch these fish offshore. Key West is a top spot for anglers and Mahi-mahi fans looking for their favorite dishes.
Mahi Mahi is a vibrant and appetizing fish found in the ocean and comes in different sizes, from small to over 30 pounds. Enjoy them grilled, blackened, or fried. In Southern Florida, Mahi Mahi tacos are a favored choice. Don’t miss out on trying this tasty fish, especially the tacos.
Feast your taste buds to a high! Nothing beats the fresh Florida orange juice and farm-fresh cream combo, especially when frozen and served in a wafer cone. Florida’s rendition of the Creamsicle, the Citrus Swirl from an orange grove stand, is a classic and delicious treat!
Don’t miss out on a Dole Pineapple Whip at Walt Disney World in Florida. This frozen pineapple treat has a devoted following and is a must-try. While copycat recipes are online, visit a Disney park for the most original taste. This creamy and refreshing pineapple delight is the perfect way to beat the heat, whether in a cup or as a float.
Rum cakes, originally from the Caribbean, are popular in Florida, mainly from the Tortuga Rum Cake Company. This company, held in the Cayman Islands, set up shop in Miami in 1997. Their rum cakes are a local delight and a sought-after edible souvenir for Florida and Caribbean visitors.
Making rum cake is easy! Just mix white cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, water, rum, and oil, then bake it in a Bundt cake pan.
Pan Con Minuta
Fish sandwiches usually get much attention, but they have a notable history. McDonald’s came up with the Filet-O-Fish for Lent. The famous fish sandwich in Florida is the Pan Con Minuta, beloved by locals.
Cuban immigrants popularized the Pan Con Minuta fish sandwich in Florida. It’s made with butterflied, battered, deep-fried snapper with the attached fishtail.
Sauces vary; some use tomatoes, onions, and tartar sauce, while others opt for ketchup and onions. The key is Cuban-style bread; Miami’s lively Little Havana neighborhood is the best place to try it.
Key Lime Pie
Key Lime pie, the Official State Pie of Florida, is a delightful treat with a crunchy graham cracker crust and a sweet, creamy filling. It’s made from smaller, yellowish-green Key limes, giving it a pale yellow color, not green. If you love Florida citrus, you’ll adore this pie!
If your Key Lime pie is green, it’s not the same. Real Key Lime pie is pale yellow, not green. The green ones might use gelatin instead of real lime.
While the origin of Key Lime pie is not certain, what matters is how delicious it is in Florida. Some of the best can be found in Key West, where flavor testing is a joy, even if it adds a few pounds—it’s worth it!
Sour Orange Pie
Sour Orange Pie is a Florida classic, similar to a key lime pie, but made with sour oranges not meant for eating alone. Two types are used: Seville and calamondin oranges. Seville oranges came with Spanish settlers, and calamondin oranges are from Southeast Asia and are also popular in Filipino cuisine known as calamansi.
To make sour orange pie at home, substitute sour orange juice in your key lime pie recipe. You can top it with meringue or whipped cream, based on your preference. If the filling is tart, whipped cream can hover the sweetness.
Early spring in Florida embraces the dawn of strawberry season, a beloved time when Florida’s strawberries shine. Most strawberries come from Plant City near Tampa, earning the title “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World,” second only to California in strawberry production.
We have listed the best foods you must taste in Florida. Whether you’re visiting Florida or are a resident, treat your taste buds to these delicious dishes. They’ll create unforgettable moments, and you’ll find yourself craving these foods occasionally.