America’s cultural melting pot brims with winter holiday traditions, each accompanied by delectable foods that make these celebrations that much more festive. Mapped here, eight savory and sweet holiday treats with strong ties to their respective states.
1. Hawai‘i: Kālua pork
In Hawai‘i, Mele Kalikimaka means “Merry Christmas,” and Santa arrives not by sled but, at least in Waikīkī, via outrigger canoe. Island families celebrate the spirit of peace and aloha with a feast featuring the supper star of all lū‘aus: fork-tender kālua pig roasted in an underground pit oven.
Get it to-go at: Kono’s Northshore on O‘ahu.
2. California: Tamales
If they’re not cooking up batches at home, Californians flock to their local Latin market or restaurant for Christmas tamales: corn husk–wrapped, masa-dough pillows of warm goodness most often filled with pork, beef, or chicken. A must for any Navidad spread.
Get it to-go at: La Indiana Tamales in Los Angeles.
3. New Mexico: Biscochitos
Declared the official cookie of New Mexico in 1989, these shortbread-style delights are a family Christmas-baking tradition among generations of New Mexicans. Airy and flaky, the lard-enriched cookies are often made with cinnamon and anise, a Mediterranean spice that tastes like black licorice.
Get it to-go at: Celina’s Biscochitos in Albuquerque.
4. Texas: Besan laddu
The Hindu celebration of Diwali symbolizes the spiritual triumph of light over darkness, and this year’s holiday spans November 2–6. Indians celebrate with feasts that often include besan laddu—a ball-shaped treat made from chickpea or gram flour and a sugar concoction, often with chopped nuts.
Get it to-go at: Bombay Sweets in Houston.
5. Louisiana: Seafood gumbo
A year-round Creole staple, gumbo is practically synonymous with Christmas dinner in much of Louisiana. The stew is frequently made with chicken and andouille sausage, as well as a variety of seafood, including shrimp. Famished after a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass? This is heaven in a bowl.
Get it to-go at: Station 6 in Bucktown.
6. Florida: Buñuelos
An essential dessert at Cuban American Noche Buena celebrations, these fried sweet-dough pastries are typically twisted into figure eights and served with syrup, powdered sugar, or ice cream. If you’ve been nice this year, perhaps you’ll enjoy some with all of the above.
Get it to-go at: Versailles Bakery in Miami.
7. New York: Sufganiyot
A cross between jelly doughnuts and beignets, these deep-fried Israeli doughnuts are a Hanukkah staple around the globe. Topped with powdered sugar, sufganiyot are traditionally filled with strawberry jam, while modern twists can include chocolate cream, pumpkin butter, or even Nutella.
Get it to-go at: Breads Bakery in New York City.
8. Pennsylvania: Pfeffernüsse
German for “peppernut,” these small, crunchy gingerbread-like spice cookies have been warming Deutschland Christmas parties since the 1850s. Immigrants brought them to the U.S., where the Keystone State holds the country’s largest population of German Americans.
Get it to-go at: R. Weinrich German Bakery in Newtown Square.