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12 Foods That Have Serious New Jersey History

by Jordan and Joelle Hernandez
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Although one of the smallest states in the country, New Jersey is full of food — and delicious food at that. Most noteworthy New Jersey food originated in the state or is closely tied to it. From healthy home-grown produce that is native to the farms of New Jersey to more comfort and nostalgic tastes, The Garden State has no shortage of options for the most adventurous to the pickiest of eaters. We rounded up a dozen foods that have connections to New Jersey. Some may take you for surprise.

Pork Roll — or dare we say — Taylor Ham Sandwich

taylor ham pork roll history

Beyond the argument of Central Jersey existing (spoiler: it legally does as of 2022), if the Statue of Liberty belongs to New York or New Jersey, and the pronunciation of Newark is perhaps the greatest duel in the state–is it pork roll or Taylor Ham? Either way you call it, this salty and tangy meat is a true Jersey delicacy. The difference in name comes from the actual meat itself, pork roll or the name of its creator John Taylor. The invention of this beloved ham dates back to 1856 in Trenton. Shortly after George Washington Case of Belle Meade, NJ created the version of pork roll we know and love today. Pork roll is most commonly enjoyed in the morning on a breakfast sandwich accompanied with egg and cheese. 

The Ivy at Chatham

Sloppy Joe Sandwich

sloppy joe sandwich nj

While many people know the Sloppy Joe sandwich to consist of ground beef and a tomato based sauce, New Jerseyians know it a bit differently. For those unfamiliar, think of a combination of a reuben and a Cuban–rye bread, a combination of deli meats usually turkey, ham, pastrami, and/or roast beef, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing. The origins of the sandwich are unclear, but legend has it that back in the 1930s the mayor of Maplewood, NJ fell in love with a multi layered cocktail sandwich that was served to him at a bar in Havana, Cuba called Sloppy Joe’s. He brought the idea back home to a local deli in South Orange where he commissioned the owners to recreate the dish resulting in their most popular item. Variations of the sandwich can be found throughout New Jersey with each deli putting its own spin on the classic. Travel outside of Jersey and it is rare this version of the sloppy joe can be found. Stop into most any northern NJ deli to taste this specialty.

Disco Fries

disco fries

Like a few other New Jersey staples, disco fries derived from classics in other parts of the world. Arguably, Canadians can take credit for the first french fry, cheese, and gravy combination with poutine. New Jersey wasn’t too far behind. Dating back to the 1970s, disco fries in NJ got the name from the dancing era when party goers would stumble into bars after a night out for a snack. The main difference between poutine and disco fries is the type of fry and cheese. Jersey residents prefer their snack with crinkle cut fries and mozzarella cheese vs. poutine’s straight cut fries and cheese curds. Diners across the state still take part in the New Jersey tradition of disco fries, most of which have their own spin on the dish.

Salt Water Taffy

Despite its name, there is actually no salt water in salt water taffy. Hailing from Atlantic City, New Jersey the old story goes that a candy store was flooded with ocean water and when a kid came in looking for taffy, the owner said “sure, salt water taffy,” As quickly as the joke was made, the name stuck. Other stories say that the candy store owner just rinsed off the ocean soaked candy and sold it. The chewy snack is made of sugar, corn syrup, butter, and cream flavor and can be found all around the Jersey shore. For over 139 years visitors and residents “down the shore” have enjoyed the wax-wrapped candy. 

Read More: 13 Unique Finds at the Montclair Farmer’s Market

Blueberry Muffin


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The blueberry muffin’s origin story is undistinguished, but historians guess its roots to be in New Jersey as early as 1916. The blueberry itself started in New Jersey with crop growers Elisabeth White and Frederic Coville. Yearly, New Jersey produces about 41 million pounds of blueberries and is a top grower of the fruit in the country. In 2018, 12-year-old Delize Patterson learned that only six states have an official state muffin and New Jersey was not on that list. She teamed up with Assemblywoman Carol Murphy to get the bill passed. While it did not make it far in the process, it still showed New Jersey’s love for the muffin.  

Tomato Pie

Sometimes called just a Tomato Pie or a Trenton Tomato Pie, this New Jersey original is a thin crust pizza pie built a little differently than a traditional pizza. All toppings are added first and then tomato sauce is added over it before heading into a wood fired grill. Home to two of the country’s oldest pizzerias, Trenton, NJ has some of the best tomato pies. Now, pizza lovers can enjoy tomato pies across the region. Check out pizzerias in NJ for your own unique version.  

Jersey Based Fruits

sweetleaf farm

Despite snowy cold winters, New Jersey produces some of the nation’s best crops, so it comes by its Garden State nickname honestly. Top of the list is Jersey tomatoes, blueberries, corn, and cranberries. From those crops, many dishes have been created. Everything from Jersey corn ice cream to the blueberry muffin, and fresh marinara sauce. 

Jersey Hot Dogs


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Jersey hot dogs also go by the name Italian hot dogs. This beloved meal was born in Newark, NJ where huge loaves of pizza bread were made in Italian delis and bakeries. For those unfamiliar, an Italian hot dog consists of a fried hot dog, a healthy serving of peppers and onions, and topped off with fried potatoes. All items are enclosed between the sides of a fluffy pizza bread bun. Despite its huge flavor, the Jersey Hot Dog has never really made it out of the state. If you can get your hands on a true original from Newark, be sure to savor it. 

Candied Apples

New Jersey candy-maker William W. Kolb is to thank for the invention of the candied apple. Although originally intended to be enjoyed during the winter holiday season, this ooey-gooey and sticky treat has become more of a Halloween staple since its inception in 1908. Its roots are traced back to Newark, NJ, but it became a country favorite after its popular appearances throughout the Jersey shore. The cost of candied apples has risen over the years from its start at just $0.05, but the taste is still just as good. 

Campbell’s Soup

The invention of the popular condensed soup almost didn’t happen at all. Joseph A. Campbell, founder of the well-known brand that bears his name, started the company in 1869 in Camden, NJ. Just a few years later in 1897 the general manager of Campbell’s reluctantly hired his 24-year old chemist nephew Dr. Dorrance. It was Dorrance who invented the idea of condensed soup which revolutionized the soup industry. 

See More: Carnivals + State Fairs in New Jersey for Your Summer 2023 Bucket List

Fat Sandwich

For anyone who has been a little intoxicated late at night and made a snack, you know interesting combinations are prone to come up. Perhaps the most famous drunk late-night snack creation is the fat sandwich. Historians know the origin of this sandwich is Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, but it is legend that in the 1970s a drunk student asked a local food truck to pile a heaping of greasy foods onto one roll. The rest is history. Others say it was a local restaurant that created the original “Fat Cat” consisting of a double cheeseburger, fries, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and ketchup. Today, fat sandwiches can be enjoyed for any meal with breakfast ones usually hosting chicken fingers, bacon, eggs, cheese, and fries, between two pieces of bread.. 


st ann festival hoboken zeppoli

A summer in New Jersey is not complete without the smell of an Italian festival, more specifically the smell of zeppoles at an Italian festival. The little doughy balls fried up and covered in powdered sugar originated in Italy, but have become closely tied to New Jersey. With the influx of Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s to New Jersey, many Italian festivals began popping up in the area. The zeppole took off in popularity from these events and visitors have come to love them. St. Ann’s Feast in Hoboken and La Festa Italiana in Jersey City are the must-visits for zeps.

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