What Food Is Des Moines Known For?

What Food Is Des Moines Known For?

Last Updated on August 4, 2023

As you explore the vibrant culinary scene of Des Moines, the question, “What food is Des Moines known for?” is one that piques the curiosity of every food lover. A gateway to a hearty Midwest cuisine, Des Moines, in the heart of Iowa, boasts a wide array of mouthwatering specialties. 

From the legendary Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, which is a testament to Iowa’s pork production, to the creatively used sweet corn in multiple dishes, these classic meals answer to the keyword “What food is Des Moines known for?” The local food scene, a melting pot of classic Midwestern flavors and immigrant influences, is an unmissable culinary adventure for any gastronome.

Making a move to this food lover’s paradise is an exciting journey, and while the thought of tasting these gastronomical delights makes the relocation appealing, the process of moving can be quite challenging. This is where a reliable Des Moines moving company comes into the picture. 

Professionals in this field take away the stress of relocating, handling your belongings with care, and ensuring a smooth transition into your new home. Thus, you can quickly dive into your culinary exploration and discover “What food is Des Moines known for?” 

The Culinary Culture of Des Moines

Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, boasts a culinary culture that’s a tapestry of its Midwestern roots, agricultural prowess, and diverse immigrant influences. The local food scene isn’t just about feeding the belly; it’s about feeding the soul with dishes that are reminiscent of shared histories and traditions.

What Food Is Des Moines Known For?

In every restaurant, diner, or street food vendor in Des Moines, IA, you’ll find a fascinating array of dishes that are unique to this region.

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

The Pork Tenderloin Sandwich is an embodiment of Des Moines’ love for pork. Thinly pounded pork tenderloin is breaded and deep-fried until golden, then sandwiched in a bun, often with pickles and onions. The proportion of meat significantly exceeding the bun’s size is an iconic sight of this beloved sandwich.

Sweet Corn Delicacies

Iowa is the nation’s largest corn producer, and Des Moines proudly showcases this fact in its food. Sweet corn, harvested at peak freshness during the summer, becomes the star in many dishes. From simply boiled corn slathered with butter to sweet corn ice cream, the city’s creativity with this crop knows no bounds.

Loose Meat and Maid-Rite Sandwich

When it comes to comfort food in Des Moines, IA, the Loose Meat Sandwich, and its variant, the Maid-Rite Sandwich, are must-tries. These sandwiches, consisting of seasoned ground beef crumbled and served on a bun, are a testament to the philosophy of simplicity that often characterizes the Iowa best food.

Corn Dog Legacy

The Corn Dog is a food fair classic born in the Iowa State Fair. It’s a simple sausage on a stick, but once it’s coated with a sweet cornmeal batter and deep-fried to a crispy perfection, it transforms into a delightful handheld treat.

The Iowa State Fair and Its Unique Food Culture

The Iowa State Fair is more than just an annual gathering; it’s a celebration of Iowa’s food culture. This ten-day event showcases some of the quirkiest and tastiest treats you’ll find anywhere. Some of the fair’s unique offerings have included deep-fried butter, double bacon corn dogs, and the infamous hot beef sundae.

Pizza with an Asian Twist

As a symbol of Des Moines’ diverse food scene, Fong’s Pizza stands out. Their signature Asian-inspired pizza blends the comfort of Italian pizza with Asian flavors, creating a mouthwatering culinary fusion that you won’t find elsewhere.

Beyond Des Moines: Food in Iowa

Though this article primarily focuses on the food in Des Moines, IA, it’s worth mentioning that the state of Iowa has more culinary treasures to offer. From regional takes on chili and steak to the ethnic influences found in the Amana Colonies, Iowa’s food scene is as diverse as it is delicious.

Farmers’ Markets: Local Specialties in Des Moines

Farmers’ markets are an integral part of the food culture in Des Moines. They offer the best local specialties and provide a glimpse into the city’s agricultural abundance.

Downtown Farmers’ Market

The Downtown Farmers’ Market is a foodie’s paradise. Here you’ll find everything from fresh produce to homemade pastries and an assortment of local cheeses. Each stall tells a story of Des Moines’ rich food culture and the people who make it possible.

Valley Junction Farmers Market

Valley Junction Farmers Market is another platform for local producers to showcase their goods. This market also features live music, making your food exploration journey even more delightful.

Des Moines: A Mecca for Food Lovers

If you’re a food enthusiast, Des Moines, with its unique dishes and local specialties, should be on your bucket list. From comfort food that warms the heart to innovative creations that excite the palate, this city has it all.


As we draw the curtains on our exploration of the question “What food is Des Moines known for?”, it’s evident that this Midwestern city offers a rich and diverse culinary experience that’s deeply intertwined with its cultural fabric. Each dish tells a tale – from the deep-rooted agricultural traditions mirrored in the sweet corn delicacies and pork tenderloin sandwiches to the infusion of immigrant influences seen in offerings like the Asian-inspired pizza. 

The city’s vibrant food culture extends beyond its restaurants and diners, spilling over into the bustling farmers’ markets. These markets not only showcase Des Moines’ agricultural abundance, but also become a stage for local producers to share their passion with the community. 

The markets’ lively atmosphere and the tantalizing aroma wafting from food stalls and bakeries encapsulate the spirit of Des Moines – a city that celebrates its food with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. To sum it up, Des Moines is more than just a destination – it’s a gastronomic journey. It’s a city that invites you to roll up your sleeves, dig in, and relish the heart and soul of Iowa’s culinary landscape. 

The food in Des Moines, IA is a testament to the city’s history, its people, and their unwavering love for good, hearty food. The city promises an unforgettable food journey – one that will leave your taste buds satiated and your heart warmed with the hospitality of its people.

About Maria Kennedy

Maria Kennedy is the managing editor at Travel for Food Hub. Maria is on a full-tilt mission to share local food and travel inspiration. When she is not writing about food and travel, startups or social media, she is enjoying her time with her boys in sunny Spain.

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