The 26 Essential Dishes You'll Find at a Midwestern Potluck

Midwestern cuisine tends to reign supreme when it comes to the coziest comfort foods, so it's only natural that the Midwest's iconic regional dishes lend themselves well to potluck-style sharing. From Watergate salad and American goulash to scotcharoos and gooey butter cake, our collection of potluck-perfect, essential Midwestern recipes will make you feel right at home.

close up view of Cincinnati Chili over pasta in a bowl, on hot dogs and in a pot
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If you're unfamiliar with scotcharoos, plan to be delighted by these next-level rice crispy treats. The combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch paired with crispy rice cereal is utterly irresistible.

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A Minnesotan's Beef and Macaroni Hotdish

close up view of a Beef and Macaroni Hotdish on a colorful table cloth

This old-school Midwestern staple is the recipe creator's grandpa's recipe — in other words, you know it's going to be good. It's a single-skillet macaroni meal that's easy to make and easy to share.

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Chicago-Style Hot Dog

mid angle looking at a Chicago style hot dog on a plate
dotdash meredith food studios

While hot dogs are a common staple for potlucks and cookouts around the country, the Chicago-style dog must adhere to specific standards. This iconic frank has to start with an all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun; from there, the dog should be topped with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, chopped white onion, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers, and celery salt. No ketchup allowed.

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Awesome and Easy Creamy Corn Casserole

Corn Casserole in a blue dish
My Hot Southern Mess

This creamy, crowd-pleasing casserole — featuring a staple crop of the Midwest — is like a cross between a corn souffle and corn pudding. Requiring only six ingredients and a few simple steps to make, it's an excellent potluck recipe to keep in your arsenal.

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Watergate Salad

Watergate Salad

Is it a salad or a dessert? We'll let you decide. Whatever you classify it as, one thing's for certain: This sweet, fluffy, intriguingly green dish has earned its place as an American classic.

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Calico Bean Casserole

close up view of Calico Bean Casserole garnished with fresh herbs in a baking dish
Melissa Goff

Whether served as a main dish or a side, this hearty bean bake is a surefire crowd-pleaser. The recipe calls for canned kidney beans, baked beans, and butter beans, but you can substitute a different bean variety for the kidneys or butter beans.

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Chef John's American Goulash

"I was skeptical, but Chef John has never steered me wrong," says reviewer AMH123. "So glad I tried it as I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes fancier than it sounds, and my family loved it."

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Buckeye Balls

close up view of Buckeye Balls on a platter

Buckeyes are an easy-to-prepare confection consisting of peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate coating. You can stash them in the refrigerator and enjoy within about a week or freeze them for up to two months.

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Guinness Beer Cheese Dip

A golden soft pretzel being dipped into a small cast iron bowl Guinness Beer Cheese
Allrecipes Magazine

This decadent slow cooker dip is a delicious way to get the party started. Serve it with chips, veggies, or soft, baked pretzels.

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Cincinnati Chili

close up view of Cincinnati Chili over pasta in a bowl, on hot dogs and in a pot

No list of Midwestern favorites would be complete without Cincinnati chili. Flavored with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and chocolate, the distinctive chili is a tasty change-of-pace from a standard pot of beef and bean. Traditionally, Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti noodles.

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Gooey Butter Cake

Gooey Butter Cake III cut into squares
Dorothy Bridges

The name says it all, this iconic dessert is irresistibly gooey and buttery. Better still, it couldn't be easier to make. You'll only need six basic ingredients.

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Tater Tot Hot Dish

"I've made this recipe a few times and everyone who has had it raved about it!," says rosaliew. "I usually make it for my family/coworkers so I double the batch and use a 50-ounce can of cream of mushroom instead of four smaller cans of cream of mushroom and cream of celery and it turns out perfect."

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Loose Meat On a Bun, Restaurant Style

Loose meat sandwiches are similar to sloppy Joe's, but without the saucy factor. According to tinyscout, "The key to good loose meat [is] tiny tiny chunks of meat. Keep stirring it and breaking it up."

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Pigs in a Blanket

pigs in a blanket
Soup Loving Nicole

This recipe guides you through making a very easy, two-ingredient dough from scratch. However, if you're crunched for time, don't hesitate to reach for canned dough.

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Puppy Chow

closeup of snack mix made from cereal squares and powdered sugar
"Replaced peanut butter with speculoos to make these!". abeard

Make no mistake: This sweet, crunchy snack mix is most definitely not puppy-friendly. That said, your human guests will absolutely love it.

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Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie

Bisquick, or another similar all-purpose baking mix, is the secret to making this family-friendly dish so speedy to prepare. Hearty and comforting, you simply can't beat a good cheeseburger pie.

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St. Louis Style Pork Ribs

Compared to baby back ribs, St. Louis spare ribs are longer, flatter, and straighter — which makes even cooking easier. This style of ribs also tends to be a bit meatier and more succulent.

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Big Al's K.C. Bar-B-Q Sauce

Whether ribs or pulled chicken, if barbecue is on the menu, you can't go wrong with this Kansas City-style sauce. The sweet and tangy, tomato-based condiment will bring any smoked meat to life.

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Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

close up view of Chocolate Covered Potato Chips on a white plate

Opt for potato chips with ridges when making this salty-meet-sweet snack. The plain variety is too delicate to support the chocolate coating.

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Shaker Lemon Pie

This classic pie is for true lemon lovers only! The whole lemon — rind and all — is used in lemon shaker pie, making for a potent punch of lemon in every bite.

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A homemade yeasted dough is stuffed with ground beef, onion, and cabbage mixture to these savory and satisfying handheld pockets.

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Strawberry Delight

Featuring cream cheese, sour cream, whipped topping, and angel food cake, this dessert rings decadent yet surprisingly light. Feel free to use a mix of berries if you'd like.

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Wisconsin Bratwurst

closeup of grilled Wisconsin bratwurst

What distinguishes a Wisconsin bratwurst from a regular brat? These are boiled in beer before hitting the grill. The flavor imparted is out of this world.

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St. Louis Toasted Ravioli

a bowl full of toasted ravioli topped with fresh parmesan and served with a side of marinara
Meredith Food Studios

Prepared ravioli are dredged in bread crumbs and deep-fried to golden, crispy perfection. Serve them with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.

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Real Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds

close up view of Real Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds
Allrecipes Magazine

"I made half a batch of these for my boyfriend (born & raised in WI!) and he loved them! It was my first 'Fried Cheese Curd' experience, but they were fantastic and I would definitely make them again," says reviewer Skie2blu. "One trick I read elsewhere - let the curds get to room temperature & they will sweat a little... use the moisture to your advantage and coat them with a little flour before battering. It makes the batter stick a lot better!"

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Jamie's Sweet and Easy Corn on the Cob

Jamie's Sweet and Easy Corn on the Cob
Photo by Rae.

A touch of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice added to the pot of boiling water makes for exceptionally delicious corn on the cob. Serve with plenty of butter and salt for a simple but mouthwatering side dish.

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