The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in All 50 States

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Chocolate chip cookies are comfort food at its best: classic, simple and satisfyingly sweet. But taking a bite out of a stale, cloyingly sugary, or rock-hard cookie is a major bummer. These places bake some of the country’s best chocolate chip cookies though, no matter what state you live in.

1. ALABAMA // CHURCH STREET COFFEE & BOOKS

Cary Norton

Location:

Birmingham, Alabama

A coffee shop and bookstore hybrid, Church Street Coffee & Books serves an excellent chocolate chip cookie called the Breakup Cookie. Even if you’re not nursing your way through a recent breakup, the cookie’s chewiness, luscious melted chocolate chips, and salt sprinkled on top are sure to help you forget your troubles.

2. ALASKA // GREAT HARVEST BREAD CO.

Frank Flavin/Visit Anchorage

Location:

Anchorage, Alaska

Opened in 1994, Great Harvest Bread Co. serves fresh breads (they mill their own wheat) and cookies. Each day, Great Harvest sells an alternating lineup of specialty cookies, but their classic chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are so popular they’re available every day. Made with 100 percent whole grain and rolled oats, the cookies are sweet, filling, and even healthy-ish.

3. ARIZONA // SUPER CHUNK

Super Chunk

Location:

Scottsdale, Arizona

The husband/wife team at Super Chunk creates small batches of handcrafted mesquite chocolate chip cookies. Made with mesquite flour and nutmeg, the cookies have an earthy, smoky, and completely delicious taste.

4. ARKANSAS // DEMPSEY BAKERY

Dempsey Bakery

Location:

Little Rock, Arkansas

Housed in a 1940s building, Dempsey Bakery has offered specialty baked goods (that happen to be free of gluten, soy, and nuts) since 2011. Their classic chocolate chip cookie, which contains sorghum flour, white rice flour, and goat’s milk, is made fresh daily. Dempsey Bakery also serves the Jai Cookie, a dairy-free and egg-free version of their chocolate chip cookie.

5. CALIFORNIA // ERIN MCKENNA’S BAKERY

Sadiyya Ameena

Location:

Los Angeles, California

Formerly called Babycakes, Erin McKenna’s Bakery serves a unique vegan, gluten-free, and kosher chocolate chip cookie. Instead of the typical flour, eggs, and butter, Erin McKenna’s recipe contains garbanzo bean flour, fava bean flour, coconut oil, and applesauce, creating a surprisingly delicious and authentic tasting chocolate chip cookie … it might be even better than the “real” thing.

6. COLORADO // MERMAIDS BAKERY

Tomasz Stasiuk via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Location:

Denver, Colorado

Mermaids Bakery sells cakes, cupcakes, pies, and brownies, but their chocolate chip cookies are the best in all of Colorado. Although Mermaids offers a traditional chocolate chip, sea salt chocolate chip, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, the standout is their chocolate chip pretzel cookie, which is the perfect mix of sweet chocolate and salted pretzel pieces.

7. CONNECTICUT // SWEET MARIA’S

Denis Tangney Jr./iStock

Location:

Waterbury, Connecticut

For over two decades, Maria Bruscino Sanchez has sold her cookies at Sweet Maria’s. Her chocolate chip, white chocolate chip, and chocolate chocolate chip cookies are delicious, but her magic cookie bars—made with chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts, and graham cracker crust—are truly out of this world.

8. DELAWARE // SWEET SOMETHINGS DESSERTS

Denis Tangney Jr./iStock

Location:

Wilmington, Delaware

Although Sweet Somethings Desserts focuses on designing custom wedding cakes, they also sell scrumptious chocolate chocolate chip cookies. And because they’re dark chocolate cookies made with white chocolate chips, they're also visually striking knockouts.

9. FLORIDA // MATTHEESSEN’S

Mattheessen's

Location:

Key West, Florida

With two locations on Key West’s Duval Street, Mattheessen's is an incredibly popular spot for key lime pie, fudge, and ice cream. Their dense chocolate chip cookies, weighing in at half a pound, have a taste as big as their size. And, they can be customized by adding optional pecans and macadamia nuts.

10. GEORGIA // MUSS & TURNER’S

Michael Mussman

Location:

Smyrna, Georgia

While eating brunch at Muss & Turner’s, you’ll definitely want to save room for their excellent chocolate chip cookie and the "evil cookie" (a quarter-pound double chocolate chip cookie, with optional pecans). Muss & Turner’s also works with The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit charity to help Atlanta’s restaurant owners with emergency assistance, so you can feel good about ordering some extra for the road.

11. HAWAII // MT VIEW BAKERY

YinYang/iStock

Location:

Mountain View, Hawaii

Mt View Bakery inspires strong feelings, both positive and negative. Those who didn’t grow up eating the bakery’s legendary chocolate chip stone cookies don’t understand them—the cookies are harder and less sweet than your usual cookies—but most of the newbies are eventually converted into stone cookie lovers. To eat a chocolate chip stone cookie, dip it in coffee, hot chocolate, or milk, which will soften the cookie and create a deliciously crumbly texture.

12. IDAHO // SWEET VALLEY COOKIE CO.

vkbhat/iStock

Location:

Eagle, Idaho

Sweet Valley Cookie Co.’s jumbo chocolate chip cookies are made with tasty semisweet chocolate chips, and you can kick them up a notch by ordering a "brookie." Half brownie and half chocolate chip cookie, the brookie is made by baking a brownie into the bottom of their regular chocolate chip cookie. You can get Sweet Valley Cookie Co.’s cookies at their Eagle store, at the downtown Boise farmers' market, and on their website.

13. ILLINOIS // COOKIE BAR

Mampfred/iStock

Location:

Chicago, Illinois

Although Cookie Bar is an entirely gluten-free bakery, their classic chocolate chip cookies have the crispy edges, chewy insides, and overall deliciousness of a cookie made with wheat. The Belgian chocolate, grade AA butter, and Mexican vanilla extract (made in-house) really put the cookie over the top. For a giant version of their chocolate chip cookie, order Cookie Bar’s giant cookie pizza with chocolate chip crust.

14. INDIANA // THE CAKE BAKE SHOP

Becky Batchelor

Location:

Indianapolis, Indiana

The Cake Bake Shop’s owner and founder, Gwendolyn Rogers, serves delicious chocolate chip cookies that combine Callebaut Belgian semisweet and Valrhona French bittersweet chocolates, loads of butter, and are sprinkled with fleur de sel from the south of France. Très luxurious!

15. IOWA // NAN’S NUMMIES

Ron_Thomas/iStock

Location:

West Des Moines, Iowa

Proud of its traditional, Midwestern roots, Nan’s Nummies makes cupcakes, cookies, and bars. Nan’s chocolate chip cookies are made with crispy rice and oats, providing a crunchier-than-normal texture, and their almond chocolate chip is a butter cookie made with mini semisweet chocolate chips.

16. KANSAS // J. RAE’S BAKERY

ricardoreitmeyer/iStock

Location:

Wichita, Kansas

J. Rae’s Bakery happily bakes cheesecakes, cupcakes, and custom-made cookies, but they definitely shine with their chocolate chip cookie, a chewy concoction of medium thickness, and will bake special holiday batches, like heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies for Valentine’s Day.

17. KENTUCKY // PLEASE & THANK YOU

Josh Merideth

Location:

Louisville, Kentucky

The chocolate chip cookie at Please & Thank You is a truly stellar chewy cookie, not too thin and not too dense. Because it’s so loved, you can buy a bake-it-yourself version, which consists of mix or dough that you can make in your own oven.

18. LOUISIANA // EMERIL’S DELMONICO

Emeril’s Delmonico

Location:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Since chef Emeril Lagasse renovated the historic Delmonico restaurant in 1998, Emeril’s Delmonico has served Creole food and the best cookies in Louisiana. On the dessert menu, the chocolate chip cookies, which are served with ice cold vanilla milk, contain dark, milk, white, and semisweet chocolate chips, brown sugar, local walnuts, and salt. Bam!

19. MAINE // STANDARD BAKING CO.

Standard Baking Co.

Location:

Portland, Maine

Standard Baking Co. has made artisanal breads, scones, and pastries since 1995. Their sea salted chocolate pecan cookie is made with 70 percent Valrhona chocolate chunks and crunchy pecans, and is dusted with Maldon salt flakes. Get 'em while they're hot!

20. MARYLAND // OTTERBEIN’S COOKIES

Otterbein's Cookies

Location:

Baltimore, Maryland

The most popular cookie at Otterbein’s Cookies is their crispy chocolate chip. Available in specialty grocers and major grocery stores throughout Maryland, the cookie contains Guittard semisweet chocolate chips, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // WHEN PIGS FLY

BDphoto/iStock

Location:

Somerville, Massachusetts

If you pick up a loaf of bread at When Pigs Fly, don’t forget to also grab their salted caramel triple chocolate chip cookie. Truly decadent, this signature cookie features dark, milk, and white chocolate chips, caramel, and salt. Thankfully, with numerous locations across Massachusetts (Kittery, Freeport, Brookline, and Jamaica Plain), you’ll never be too far from this pleasing treat.

22. MICHIGAN // AVALON INTERNATIONAL BREADS

Bekah Galang

Location:

Detroit, Michigan

The baked goods at Avalon International Breads are made with 100 percent organic flour, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each cookie. Avalon’s chocolate chunk cookies are substantial in size and contain chunks of Callebaut chocolate. You can customize your cookie by adding pecans, or opt for a sea salt chocolate chunk cookie for a smaller, chewier version (with coarse sea salt on top).

23. MINNESOTA // RUSTICA BAKERY

jpellgen via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location:

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The bittersweet chocolate chip cookie at Rustica Bakery is a dark, rich cookie that has the mouthfeel of a fudgy, unbaked brownie. Made with bread flour, brown sugar, butter, cocoa powder, and ScharffenBerger 70 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate, this cookie is perfect for dark chocolate lovers.

24. MISSISSIPPI // CAMPBELL'S BAKERY

Campbell's Bakery

Location:

Jackson, Mississippi

Specializing scrumptious cakes, cheesecakes, petit fours, and more since 1962, Campbell's Bakery offers a classic all-butter cookie with semisweet chocolate chips that is so rich it almost melts in your mouth.

25. MISSOURI // COMET COFFEE & MICROBAKERY

f11photo/iStock

Location:

St. Louis, Missouri

At Comet Coffee & Microbakery the couverture chocolate chip cookies are made with high quality couverture dark chocolate so they’re a totally gooey, melted masterpiece. And because the cookies contain more brown sugar than white sugar, they’re chewier and darker than typical cookies. Bakers sprinkle flaked fleur de sel on the cookie dough before the cookies bake, rounding out the seriously intense flavors.

26. MONTANA // BERNICE’S BAKERY

Redfishingboat (Mick O) via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location:

Missoula, Montana

The chocolate chip cookies at Bernice’s Bakery are classic, traditional, and made from scratch. Since 1978, the bakery has focused on making quality goods in a warm setting, and biting into their chocolate chip cookie will remind you of your grandmother’s timeless cookies.

27. NEBRASKA // CARSON'S COOKIE FIX

Carson's Cookie Fix

Location:

Omaha, Nebraska

Carson's Cookie Fix (formerly Kristen's Cookies) completely revamped their business recently, but kept their beloved old-fashioned cookie recipes—all 17 varieties—that date from the early 1900s. Carson's caramel chocolate chip cookie, made with semisweet chocolate chips and bits of caramel, is mouthwateringly chewy in the middle and crisp around the edges.

28. NEVADA // SUGAR BEE’S BAKERY

Miss Shari via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location:

Las Vegas, Nevada

Seven miles off of the Las Vegas strip, Sugar Bee's Bakery sells desserts, scones, and croissants, but eating Sugar Bee’s chewy double chocolate chunk cookie feels like hitting the jackpot. Big chunks of chocolate melt into the cookie, giving it a marbled appearance. To ensure the highest quality and freshness, Sugar Bee’s is only open Friday and Saturday for walk-in customers.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // GONE BAKING

Gone Baking

Location:

Bedford, New Hampshire

Former elementary school teacher Jenny Cheifetz now runs a dessert truck company, Gone Baking, delivering chocolate chip cookies to residents of Bedford, Amherst, Nashua, Manchester, and Merrimack. The tagline on Gone Baking’s van is, aptly, “Taking sweets to the streets.” The Get Loaded cookie is their chocolate chip cookie made with dark, milk, and white chocolate chips, sure to please all types of chocolate lovers.

30. NEW JERSEY // THE BENT SPOON

Gab Carbone

Location:

Princeton, New Jersey

Located in Princeton’s Palmer Square, The Bent Spoon sells a thick chocolate chunk cookie that’s smooth, buttery, and layered with chocolate. For a slightly lighter bite, their thin and crispy chocolate chunk variety is the way to go. If you’re in the mood for even more decadence, add artisanal ice cream—flavors range from sweet potato to crème fraîche—and turn your cookie into a choco-chunk ice cream sandwich.

31. NEW MEXICO // RUDE BOY COOKIES

Rude Boy Cookies

Location:

Albuquerque, New Mexico

One day every week, Rude Boy Cookies gives a portion of their sales to a local charity, so buying their cookies is altruistic and delicious. Also available as gluten-free and vegan options, Rude Boy’s chocolate chip cookies taste delicious on their own, or you can pair them with a glass of milk from the milk bar.

32. NEW YORK // TATE’S BAKE SHOP

Tate's Bake Shop

Location:

Southampton, New York

If you like thin, crisp, buttery chocolate chip cookies, Tate’s Bake Shop has exactly what you’re looking for. Consumer Reports and Rachael Ray deemed Tate’s chocolate chip cookie the best in America. If you’re not near Southampton, all isn’t lost. Tate’s packages and distributes their cookies to grocery stores across the country, including Whole Foods.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // LOAF

SeavPavonePhoto/iStock

Location:

Durham, North Carolina

Loaf got its start as a vendor at the Durham Farmers’ Market, and people loved their products so much that Loaf has been a brick and mortar bakery since 2011. The chocolate chip cookies are thin, crispy, and come in a bag so you can enjoy them over and over… and over, until you run out.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // NICHOLE’S FINE PASTRY

Michael R via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location:

Fargo, North Dakota

Chef and owner Nichole Hensen’s Nichole’s Fine Pastry boasts the best chocolate chip cookies in North Dakota. Big chunks of melted chocolate give the cookies a marbled appearance. You can purchase them for $4 for a bag of 13 cookies, or you can order cookie trays for a larger gathering.

35. OHIO // SASSAFRAS BAKERY

Can Pac Swire via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Location:

Worthington, Ohio

To get your chocolate chip cookie fix in Ohio, Sassafras Bakery has two perfect options. Their chocolate chip chunk cookie is made with toasted walnuts and pecans, and the salted chocolate chip cookie is a tantalizing mix of sweet and salty. Even better, every weekday afternoon is Milk and Cookie Happy Hour, where you can enjoy a free glass of milk or cup of coffee when you buy a cookie.

36. OKLAHOMA // TRENCHERS DELICATESSEN

suesmith2/iStock

Location:

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Trenchers serves breakfast, sandwiches, and salads, but you’ll want to save a lot of room for dessert. Employees make the cookies fresh every morning (and throughout the day if they sell out), and the dense chocolate chip cookies, made with dark chocolate and tons of butter, are their most popular cookie.

37. OREGON // PEARL BAKERY

sfgamchick via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location:

Portland, Oregon

Opened in 1997, Pearl Bakery serves handcrafted breads, sandwiches, and most importantly, cookies. Customers line up each morning to buy Pearl Bakery’s thick chocolate chunk cookies, which include ingredients like toasted pecans, orange zest, local butter, eggs, and Mexican vanilla extract.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // THE FROSTED FOX CAKE SHOP

Frosted Fox Cake Shop

Location:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Run by a husband-and-wife team, the Frosted Fox Cake Shop specializes in designing cakes, but their cookies (available Tuesday through Saturday for walk-in customers) are seriously delicious. Based on family recipes, Frosted Fox’s thin, soft, chewy oatmeal chocolate chip, regular chocolate chip, or double chocolate chip cookies will make this a regular guilty pleasure.

39. RHODE ISLAND // MEETING STREET CAFE

Denis Tangney Jr./iStock

Location:

Providence, Rhode Island

To prove just how serious Meeting Street Cafe is about their cookies, they devote a separate page on their website to their Cookie Store. Meeting Street’s chocolate chunk cookie weighs half a pound, measures 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and has big chunks of dark chocolate.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // SAFFRON CAFÉ & BAKERY

Yamin Kegley

Location:

Charleston, South Carolina

At Saffron Café & Bakery, the owners’ Persian roots give a uniquely international twist to standard baked goods. Saffron’s “infamously giant” 4-ounce chocolate chip cookie and chocolate chunk cookie are homemade "with lots of buttery love," so you won't be surprised that they're insanely tasty.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // COFFEA ROASTERIE

Joseph Bartmann via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

At the artisanal chainlet called the Coffea Roasterie, the baked treats are as elegant and refined as the beverages. Their sophisticated chocolate chip cookie is a dense disk of chocolate chunks and mellow sweetness made from scratch each morning.

42. TENNESSEE // MUDDY’S BAKE SHOP

Janine Smith

Location:

Memphis, Tennessee

Muddy’s Bake Shop makes everything from scratch each morning, so you’ll want to cross your fingers that they don’t sell out of their deluxe chocolate chip cookies before you arrive. The oversized cookies blend brown sugar, lots of butter, chunks of melted chocolate, and sea salt flakes for a truly decadent treat.

43. TEXAS // FRENCH GOURMET BAKERY

Paul Cooper via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Location:

Houston, Texas

Since 1973, French Gourmet Bakery has been family owned and operated. The bakery’s chocolate chip cookies are soft and doughy, making them more like cookie dough than full-on cookies.

44. UTAH // RUBYSNAP

Tami Mowen Steggell

Location:

Salt Lake City, Utah

RubySnap sells specialty cookies with flavors inspired by 1940s and 1950s pin-up girls. The Tommy combined an old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie with bacon for a smoky-sweet treat. 

45. VERMONT // SWEET CRUNCH BAKESHOP

Debbie Burritt

Location:

 Burlington, Vermont

At Sweet Crunch Bakeshop, the classic gooey chocolate chip cookie overflows with delectable semisweet chips. Choose the pecan or walnut variety for even more richness in every bite.

46. VIRGINIA // SUGAR PLUM BAKERY

Denis Tangney Jr./iStock

Location:

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sugar Plum Bakery employs people with physical and mental disabilities, offering them long-term, stable jobs that allow them to support themselves and integrate into the community. The bakery offers various cookies by the pound (as well as cookie cakes), but the Chesapeake chocolate chip cookie—made with coconut and walnuts—is the most delicious.

47. WASHINGTON // HOT CAKES

Krista Nelson

Location:

Seattle, Washington

Founded in 2008, Hot Cakes uses ingredients from local, organic farms, and you can taste the quality. The chocolate chip cookie at Hot Cakes is legendary for its large size, buttery taste, and rich toffee and caramel notes. For an extra special dessert, order a warm chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // SUGAR PIE BAKERY

dszc/iStock

Location:

Charleston, West Virginia

Since 2012, Sugar Pie Bakery has delighted customers with cakes, brownies, cupcakes, and pies, and their chocolate chip cookie is no exception. Julia’s Famous Chocolate Chip cookie is so good that it appears elsewhere on Sugar Pie’s menu—their brown sugar cupcakes are stuffed with the chocolate chip cookie dough, and their Insanity Brownies are drizzled in peanut butter, fudge frosting, and chocolate chip cookie crumbles.

49. WISCONSIN // TANK GOODNESS COOKIES

Tank Goodness Cookies

Location:

Madison, Wisconsin

From its kitchen in downtown Madison, Tank Goodness Cookies bakes their premium Cerealized chocolate chip cookies with three types of Ghirardelli chocolate and Froot Loops mixed in by hand—a whole concept suggested by a loyal customer. But the best part is that Tank Goodness delivers—the company will travel throughout the greater Madison area with your order in a box with a heat chamber so the cookies are still warm and gooey when you get them.

50. WYOMING // PERSEPHONE BAKERY

Persephone Bakery

Location:

Jackson, Wyoming

Persephone Bakery churns out rustic, artisanal breads and high quality pastries, and their chocolate chip walnut cookie is classic, comforting, and made with lots of semisweet chocolate and toasted walnuts.

The History Behind 10 Thanksgiving Dishes

VeselovaElena/iStock via Getty Images
VeselovaElena/iStock via Getty Images

Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.

1. Turkey

A roasted turkey on a platter.
612645812/iStock.com

Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as … served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!

2. Stuffing

Pan of breaded stuffing.
mphillips007/iStock.com

Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.

3. Cranberries

Dish of cranberry sauce.
bhofack2/iStock.com

Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. Mashed Potatoes

Bowl of mashed potatoes.
bhofack2/iStock.com

Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting president to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.

5. Gravy

Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.
cislander/iStock.com

Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to create a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!

6. Corn

Plate of corn.
PeopleImages/iStock

Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.

7. Sweet Potatoes

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
bhofack2/iStock

In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.

8. Green Bean Casserole

Plate of green bean casserole.
DreamBigPhotos/iStock.com

Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you probably know was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at Campbells.com), contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.

9. Pumpkin Pie

Slice of pumpkin pie.
bhofack2/iStock.com

Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. Wine

Two glasses of wine.
Moncherie/iStock.com

Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

Why Do We Eat Cranberry Sauce on Thanksgiving?

MSPhotographic/iStock via Getty Images
MSPhotographic/iStock via Getty Images

While plenty of people eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie year-round, it seems like cranberry sauce almost exclusively exists in the Thanksgiving universe. Although we don’t know for sure whether it was eaten at the very first Thanksgiving, the jiggly, gelatinous side dish does have deep roots in the history of America’s fruited plains.

According to Insider, cranberries are one of only three commercially grown fruits native to the United States, and the Wampanoag tribe had been using them for food, dye, and medicine long before feasting with the Pilgrims in 1621. If there were cranberries at the party, they probably didn’t taste much like the sweetened sauce we’re (circumstantially) fond of today; at that point, the settlers hadn’t yet succeeded in growing sugar cane in the New World.

But a little more than 50 years later, according to a 1672 account cited by The Washington Post, the new Americans and Native Americans had both started to enjoy cranberries much like we do at Thanksgiving dinner: “Indians and English use it much, boyling them with Sugar for a Sauce to eat with their Meat.”

In 1796, Amelia Simmons—author of American Cookery, the first-ever American cookbook—took it one step further by recommending that roast turkey be served with cranberry sauce. Considering that the Library of Congress included the book on its list of “Books That Shaped America,” it’s possible that Simmons’s suggestion reverberated through kitchens across the nation, and the tradition gained momentum from there. She does mention pickled mangoes as an alternate side dish for turkey, but the then-Indian import was likely less common than the locally-grown cranberry.

Then, in the early 1800s, Ocean Spray revolutionized the labor-intensive process of hand-picking cranberries from vines with what’s called a wet harvest. Basically, farmers flood the bogs where cranberries grow, and then they wade into the water to collect the floating berries en masse.

farmer wet-harvesting cranberries
A farmer gathering cranberries during a wet harvest.
kongxinzhu/iStock via Getty Images

This was a more efficient technique, but a mass harvest meant that more cranberries got damaged. So in 1912, Ocean Spray began crushing them into canned, jellied cranberry sauce—maximizing the yield and making it easier than ever for every home in America to slice up a cylinder of solid, sugary, berry goodness.

Explore the stories behind your other favorite (or least favorite) Thanksgiving foods here.

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