North Carolina famous food! Discover the unique flavors of North Carolina.

Is there any state in the United States more unique than North Carolina?

Uncovering North Carolina famous foods! From its checkered history to its fantastic culture, North Carolina stands out as one of the most memorable states in our union. Today, with an estimated population of over 10 million, North Carolina is the ninth-largest state in the U. S. and continues growth.

North Carolina cuisine has a lot of exciting dishes that are different from those typically eaten in other states. While many types of food can be found here, some uniquely North Carolina foods might surprise people unfamiliar with the state. Here is a list of several unique and iconic dishes and a few side items that make North Carolina cuisine exceptional. These are just some fantastic foods that can only be found in North Carolina.

Whether fried onion burgers or pimento cheese grits, you will indeed find something unique and different to enjoy!


Iconic and unique foods in North Carolina


A staple dish in North Carolina is a barbecue that uses different wood types of meats to smoke them. So, depending on where a person lives in the state, the type of barbecue they enjoy will change from an eastern style that uses a vinegar-based sauce to a western style that uses a thicker tomato and ketchup-based sauce.

Popular side dishes for barbecue include coleslaw, potato salad, beans, and sometimes cornbread.

In the state of North Carolina, barbecue is more than a dish – it is a way of life. Except those who self-identify as “barbecue purists,” most North Carolinians would agree that barbecue encompasses more than just pork.

It is common for North Carolinians to barbecue chicken, beef, shrimp, and other non-pork items. However, it is essential to note that North Carolina’s most popular barbecue dish is pork.

The Debate Between Whole Hog and Pulled Pork

Traditionally, North Carolina’s most popular barbecue dish is whole hog barbecue, though many believe pulled pork is more popular. In North Carolina, people frequently debate the difference between authentic hog barbecue and pulled pork.

There are significant differences between these two barbecue dishes. Typically, the whole hog is the more involved and challenging process, and this is why many people believe that pulled pork is now more popular than complete hog barbecue.

A whole hog barbecue can be defined as a hog that has been slow-cooked over an open flame while the meat is basted with a sauce. The result is tender, succulent meat that falls right off the bone.

Carolina bbq can be served either hot or cold, though traditionally served hot. The meat is placed on a plate and covered with coleslaw; the side dishes can vary, but a traditional North Carolina barbecue meal must include coleslaw.

In contrast, pulled pork is barbecued in chunks rather than as an entire hog, and the cooking process is done at a much faster rate. Thus, the meat does not fall off the bone as quickly because it has not been slow-cooked over an open flame.

The meat is generally shredded rather than cut into pieces, and it may or may not be served with a sauce. The bbq meat is often served on a sandwich, though it can also be a side dish.

North Carolina Famous Food

Central NC BBQ 

Lexington Barbecue, Lexington —

Eastern NC BBQ

Bum’s Restaurant, Ayden —

Western NC BBQ

Buxton Hall Barbeque, Asheville —


People who don’t live in North Carolina might find this hard to believe, but one place people can get doughnuts here is at Krispy Kreme, which was started in North Carolina by Vernon Rudolph in 1937.

They still have locations throughout the state so that visitors can try their food here and support a local business. Another popular spot is Duck Donuts which serves gourmet doughnuts in various flavors and has locations in Carolina Beach, Wilmington, and Belhaven.

Cheerwine float 

This soft drink is only sold in North Carolina at the Cheerwine Bottling Company. It can be served plain or mixed with vanilla ice cream to make a float which some people think tastes like root beer though they’re different drinks. If you want to try this beverage, you’ll have to stop by one of these two places: Thomasboro, NC, where it’s bottled, and Salisbury, NC, where it’s based out of its headquarters.

Cheerwine Festival, Salisbury NC
Saturday, May 21, 2022 from 12:00 -10:00 p.m.

Chicken-fried steak 

This dish garners a lot of attention due to its name. It’s breaded beef steak deep-fried in oil. In addition to being served with white gravy, it can also be topped with salsa or chili beans and french fries on the side.

Pimento cheese grits

While cheese grits are famous around the south, pimento cheese is not, which seems unusual but tasty. After trying this dish, you might want to try it again because people get hooked on them and won’t stop talking about how delicious they are!

Hatteras style clam juice 

Another North Carolina staple that’s different from other places is clam juice, clam chowder, which can be made in various ways depending on where someone lives. One famous soup people like to eat here is Hatteras style clam chowder, which has clams, potatoes, onion, celery, and carrots mixed in with pepper and thyme. This dish can also be eaten during breakfast by using grits instead of potatoes as the base.


Many who don’t live in North Carolina haven’t heard of this dish of pork liver, salt, pepper, and other spices. It’s often served for breakfast and biscuits or eaten on a sandwich at lunchtime if someone prefers to eat it hot instead of cold. If you try this food, you’ll find that the taste is similar to spam but healthier for you!

Pepsi bbq chicken 

This type of barbecue has its roots in western North Carolina, where people like to eat chicken with coleslaw and french fries on top of it. It’s also common to see someone use lemon pepper instead of traditional salt and pepper in this area. Blend cola into their sauce to make it sweeter than normal barbecue sauce. One popular way people enjoy eating Pepsi bbq chicken is by pouring some onto French fries.

Appalachian Kilt 

Wilted fresh lettuce or leafy greens and spring onions combined with hot bacon grease and crispy bacon pieces.

Apple stack cake

Another unique thing about North Carolina cuisine is its cakes which can be sweet or savory, with one example being apple stack cake. This dish comprises layers of thinly sliced apples, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and streusel topping, often used to make muffins. Fruit cakes are also famous for special occasions such as weddings where people will bake them in molds with fruit inside!


Appalachian tradition is sweet baked dessert.

Not as fussy as pie and juicier than cobbler. But the good news is they are just as effortless and delicious as they sound.

A variety of foods you can find when you live and travel through North Carolina definitely sets it apart from the rest of America, like grabbing a fresh Krispy Kreme and a Cheerwine float.