Close up view of fried seafood platter showing one of the most popular foods in North Carolina

North Carolina Food (Local Guide to 19 Best Dishes to Try)

As a North Carolina native, I grew up eating all kinds of North Carolina food! 

In this guide, I share the 19 best and most popular North Carolina dishes to try. These include seafood from the coast, country dishes from the mountains, and famous brands that originate from my home state. 

Food’s a big part of our culture, and enjoying local fare is one of the best things to do in North Carolina. Time to dig in! 

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19 Best North Carolina Food & Dishes to Try

North Carolina-Style Barbecue

North Carolina’s best-known dish, served eastern or western style.

Lexington pulled pork with barbeque sauce on a trey
Pulled pork Lexington barbecue with classic fixins

🍽️ Where to Find North Carolina Style Barbecue: Buxton Hall Barbecue (Asheville), Lexington Barbecue (Lexington)

North Carolinians are serious about their barbecue. There are two styles: eastern style and western style. Eastern style has a vinegar-based sauce and is often prepared as a whole hog barbecue. Western style (also known as “Lexington style”) is known for its sweet and smoky tomato sauce. This style is typically prepared using only the pork shoulder. 

You can expect most North Carolina barbecue to be served as pulled pork on its own, or inside a sandwich. Barbecue is a staple in North Carolina cuisine, so be sure to try it!

Calabash Seafood

Lightly battered seafood originating from North Carolina’s east coast.

Close up view of fried seafood platter on a plate with dip
Lightly battered seafood platter

🍽️ Where to Find Calabash Seafood: Calabash Seafood Hut (Calabash), Ella’s of Calabash (Calabash)

Calabash-style seafood is fresh, Atlantic seafood that’s caught locally off North Carolina and South Carolina coasts. This dish is lightly battered and deep fried, and typically served as a mixed seafood platter. The best place to try this is at one of the many Calabash seafood restaurants within the small, coastal town. 

📚 Related Reading: 29 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina (in 2023)

Texas Pete

A thin, tangy red hot sauce used to accompany bbq and other dishes.

Bottles of Texas Pete hot sauce displayed on a store
Bottles of Texas Pete (photo: Billy F. Blume Jr. / Shutterstock)

🍽️ Where to Find Texas Pete: Any grocery store

This legendary sauce isn’t actually from Texas — it’s from Winston-Salem, North Carolina! An advisor of the company originally suggested calling the hot sauce “Mexican Joe.” However, the family business wanted something that spoke to its American origins. Texas had the spice reputation, and so Texas Pete was born. 

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Classic glazed doughnuts with a cult following.

Glazed doughnuts displayed on a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store
Glazed doughnuts (photo: Brian LoganPhotography / Shutterstock)

🍽️ Where to Find Krispy Kreme: Krispy Kreme (original location, Raleigh), most cities

Krispy Kreme is a household name, but did you know it’s a North Carolina food? Krispy Kreme began in Winston-Salem and is known for its classic and delicious glazed donuts. The perfect combination? A hot donut and a cup of coffee. 

Carolina-Style Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

A tasty topping mix featuring chili, onion, and coleslaw.

Carolina hamburger with coleslaw and potato chips on a small tray
Carolina hamburger with coleslaw and other toppings

🍽️ Where to Find Carolina Style Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs (Wake Forest), Snoopy’s Famous Hot Dogs (Raleigh)

“Carolina-style” is a topping combination that’s used to Carolina-ify hot dogs, hamburgers, and more. It’s typically a mix of chili, onion, coleslaw, and sometimes, mustard. Whether you get these condiments for hot dog sausages, burgers, or barbecue, it’s worth trying if you’re up to it. 


North Carolina has its own apple country.

The author standing at the middle of Justus Orchard
Justus Orchard in Hendersonville, NC

🍽️ Where to Find NC Apples: Justus Orchard (Hendersonville), Sky Top Orchard (Hendersonville)

Henderson County in Western North Carolina is also known as “apple country.” In fact, it’s one of the top growing regions in America! Here, local orchards grow numerous apple varieties. Apple picking season takes place in the fall and many orchards are “U-pick.” 

📚 Related Reading: 17 Best Towns in Western North Carolina (in 2023)


One of America’s favorite cola sodas.

A glass of cold Pepsi cola on a table
A cold glass of Pepsi

🍽️ Where to Find Pepsi: Any grocery or convenience store

The original formula for Pepsi was invented in New Bern, NC! Today, Pepsi is an international soda phenomenon. It’s a classic refreshing beverage, but it started from humble beginnings. The original recipe mainly consisted of water, caramel, sugar, kola nuts, nutmeg, and lemon oil. 


A cola soda with a cherry twist.

Bottles of Cheerwine on a case with ice
A cold case of Cheerwine (photo: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

🍽️ Where to Find Cheerwine: Any grocery or convenience store

During WWI, sugar prices were high. So, a man named L.D. Peeler in Salisbury, NC got crafty. He substituted some of the sugar in cola soda with wild cherry flavor. Cheerwine was born. Each year, a Cheerwine festival is held in downtown Salisbury. 

Craft Beer

North Carolina has the most craft breweries in the South.

Asheville beer displayed on a store
Local Asheville beer (photo: Kristy Blokhin / Shutterstock)

🍽️ Where to Find Craft Beer: Highland Brewing Company (Asheville), Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Mills River)

In recent years, North Carolina has become a craft beer mecca, with hundreds of breweries around the state. Western North Carolina is a particular hotspot, with Asheville being named “Beer City, USA” multiple times. 

Biscuits and Gravy

Fresh biscuits covered in savory gravy.

Biscuits topped with gravy on a plate
Biscuits covered in gravy

🍽️ Where to Find Biscuits and Gravy: The Southerly Biscuit & Pie (Carolina Beach), Biscuit Head (Asheville)

Biscuits and gravy originates from Southern Appalachia. This breakfast dish is made up of hot, fresh biscuits drenched in a savory white gravy. It’s a quintessential North Carolina food and a popular part of Southern cuisine. 

Fried Green Tomatoes

Unripe or “green” tomatoes, fried in cornmeal.

Battered green tomatoes being fried on a pan with oil
Green tomatoes being fried

🍽️ Where to Find Fried Green Tomatoes: Tupelo Honey (Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh), Sunny Point Cafe (Asheville)

Fried green tomatoes are a favorite in Southern cuisine. It’s prepared using unripe tomatoes, which are coated in cornmeal and fried. This dish is typically accompanied by something like a remoulade, eggs, grits, and other side dishes. 

Sweet Potatoes 

The official state vegetable of North Carolina.

View of sweet potatoes on baskets
Farmers market sweet potatoes

🍽️ Where to Find Sweet Potatoes: Any grocery store

North Carolina is the #1 producer of sweet potatoes in America! Truthfully, sweet potato dishes aren’t as popular as others on this list, but they’re still North Carolinian. They’re usually served mashed or baked with things like butter and sugar.

Pimento Cheese

A cheese spread made with pimentos and mayonnaise.

A homemade pimento cheese sandwich on a wooden board
Pimento cheese sandwich

🍽️ Where to Find Pimento Cheese: Musten & Crutchfield Food Market (Kernersville), Conrad & Hinkle Food Market (Lexington)

Pimento cheese is a bright orange spread made of cheese, mayo, pimentos, and spices. It’s a staple in the South and is typically served as a sandwich or with crackers. 


Side dishes that often accompany barbecue, and are star foods in their own right.

Southern-style collards served on a plate in North Carolina
Southern-style collards

🍽️ Where to Find Fixins: Tupelo Honey (Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh), Luella’s Bar-B-Que (Asheville)

In the South, “fixins” refer to the side dishes served with other typical Southern dishes. This includes things like barbecue, fried chicken sandwiches, and more. Some staples include mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, coleslaw, and deviled eggs.

Fried Chicken 

Southern crispy chicken, fried to perfection.

Crunchy fried chicken on a plate
Golden fried chicken

🍽️ Where to Find Fried Chicken: Magnolia 23 (Asheboro), Buxton Hall (Asheville)

A favorite North Carolina food is fried chicken. This golden brown chicken is most popularly served on its own, or in a brioche bun with snappy pickles, lettuce, and mayo. 

North Carolina is also the home of Bojangles, a popular fast-food joint that is best known for its fried chicken and biscuits. 


A fruit dessert topped with a golden crust.

View of Strawberry sonker topped with vanilla ice cream
Strawberry sonker/cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream

🍽️ Where to Find Sonker: Sonker Festival (Mt. Airy), The Purple Onion (Saluda)

Sonker, or cobbler, is a sweet, baked dessert that’s traditional in Southern Appalachia. The filling is made up of cooked fruit (peaches, berries, etc.) and it’s topped with a crisp, golden batter. Vanilla ice cream usually tops it off. Yum!


A pork loaf made from pork liver, scraps, and other spices.

A Livermush loaves on a plate
Livermush loaves

🍽️ Where to Find Livermush: Brooks’ Sandwich House (Charlotte), Circle G Restaurant (Charlotte)

Livermush is a southern cuisine staple. It’s a type of meatloaf made from pork scraps like pig liver, bits from the pig’s head, cornmeal, and other spices. It’s fried and typically served on its own or in a sandwich. 

Mt. Olive Pickles

One of America’s most popular pickle brands, originating from North Carolina.

Mt. Olive Pickles displayed on a grocery store
Mt. Olive pickles at the grocery store (photo: Billy F. Blume Jr. / Shutterstock)

🍽️ Where to Find Mt. Olive Pickles: Any grocery store

This famous pickle brand is based out of Mount Olive, NC. The flavor of these pickles is similar to kosher dill, but they come in a variety of flavors and styles. Nonetheless, they’re all crunchy, tasty, and make a great condiment. 

Scuppernong or Muscadine Grape Wine

Grape variety found in eastern North Carolina.

Bottles of Duplin wine displayed on a store
Duplin wine, made with muscadine grapes (photo: Billy F. Blume Jr. / Shutterstock)

🍽️ Where to Find Scuppernong or Muscadine Grapes: Duplin Winery (Rose Hill), Twisted Vine Winery (Lenoir)

The names “Scuppernong” and “Muscadine” are used interchangeably for North Carolina’s Southern variety of grapes. They can be eaten on their own, but they’re most popularly used to make sweet wine. 

FAQs About North Carolina Food

What foods is North Carolina famous for?

North Carolina is famous for foods like pulled pork barbecue, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Pepsi, and Cheerwine.

What food is most popular in North Carolina?

North Carolina barbecue (eastern and western style) is the most popular food in North Carolina, along with all the “fixins.” 


If you’ve reached the end of this article, you’re probably hungry. Sorry about that! I hope this guide gave you some North Carolina food and drink ideas to help you plan your trip!

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