When exploring Florida, one thing you absolutely cannot miss is the delectable array of iconic foods that define the state’s unique culinary identity.
Florida’s food culture is created by its diverse influences.
Whether you’re a seafood enthusiast, a lover of tropical flavors, or simply eager to immerse yourself in local cuisine, knowing which iconic Florida foods to savor on your visit is the key.
Florida’s culinary offerings are an adventure from the day’s fresh catch to its Caribbean-inspired creations.
As a Florida resident traveling across the Sunshine State, I always appreciate the unexpected cultural influences I discover.
Read on to discover the most iconic Florida foods that should not be missed.
Factors That Influence Florida’s Cuisine
Florida’s delightful fusion of flavors is influenced by the state’s geography and history.
The Sunshine State’s weather and climate are pivotal in determining what can be grown, caught, and savored on your plate.
With over 13,000 miles of coastline, Florida’s access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico provides an abundance of seafood that inspires countless dishes.
Moreover, Florida’s cuisine is a melting pot of regional influences.
Its proximity to the southern U.S. states, the western flair from Mexico, and the irresistible Caribbean zest to the south all contribute to a diverse and distinct menu of flavors.
Throughout the centuries, explorers, immigrants, and migrating Americans have converged upon Florida, each bringing their own culinary traditions.
This has resulted in a food scene that genuinely reflects the state’s varied history and culture.
Citrus is not only a fresh and delicious food, it is an iconic symbol of Florida as well.
Oranges trees were originally brought to and planted in Florida hundreds of years ago by the Europen Spaniards who came to settle in what is now the city of St. Augustine.
A pair of oranges displayed on most of the Florida license plates is just one indication of how important they are to Floridians.
As the State Beverage a fresh squeezed glass of Florida orange juice is a great way to start your day before you head to the beach.
Oranges are the State fruit and the orange blossom the State flower.
Limes are also in abundance and a slice of famous Key Lime pie will put a smile on your face. Creamy and tart, it is a perfect way to end any meal.
Limes are also used to flavor the popular tropical cocktails, mojitos and margaritas.
These culinary treats help Florida’s citrus production to reach nearly a billion dollars a year.
With 13,000 miles of coastline, seafood is a natural and abundant food for Floridians.
Mahi-Mahi, also known as Dorado or Dolphin, is very popular and widely available.
Grouper is also a mild white fish found on just about every Florida seafood menu.
Both of these fish are found in restaurants all over the state and are often served grilled, blackened, fried, and in fish tacos.
Key West Pinks are tender sweet shrimp sold on the gulf and southern Florida in season from November to June.
Be it St. Pete Beach or Siesta Key, sitting at a seaside cafe with a basket of fried shrimp, watching the sunset on the Gulf and nibbling on a grouper sandwich is a classic Florida experience.
Cuban food is a Florida staple and many Cuban restaurants are found throughout the state.
Over the years the large population of Cuban immigrants has greatly added to Florida’s food culture.
Southern Florida, in particular Miami, and Tampa both have many residents of Cuban heritage.
A Cubano is not to be missed as a must-try food- ham, swiss, roasted pork, pickles, and mustard on crunchy cuban bread is delicious!
Pastelitos are yummy pastries filled with guava jelly and cream cheese. Wash them down with a strong cuban coffee.
Take home these pastries as a yummy treat from your trip to Florida.
Floribbean food is a fusion of Latin American, Floridian, and Caribbean food. Asian influences and cooking methods are incorporated.
It is heavily based on fresh seafood, vegetables, and spices. Locally grown produce and fruits are emphasized. Mangoes, honey, scallions, papayas, key lime, and coconut are used
Common ingredients are fresh local seafood and poultry. Spices such as red curry, ginger, and lemongrass.
Floribbean food is unique as it does not represent a specific country but a true blending of culinary cultures.
If you are traveling in the Tampa/ St. Pete area, try some Floribbean style food at a restaurant named exactly that: The Floribbean
Go North to Eat Southern
Although most people immediately picture images of Florida as coastal and beachy it is also very much a part of the American South.
Bordering the southern states of Georgia and Alabama many northern Floridians have adopted the food culture and traditions of the South as well.
Well-known Southern dishes like grits, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and chicken and dumplings are a few of the many foods loved in northern Florida regions.
Food Truck Culture
So many Florida residents have traveled from other places to live there.
Maybe it’s the warm weather, the adventurous spirit, or the desire to try new things but Floridians love food trucks.
Whether is a permanent fixture or a pop-up BBQ on the weekend, food trucks can be found everywhere.
As the unofficial street food of Florida, they have an enormous diversity of cuisine and often mind-blowing quality.
Looking to try one out while visiting the Sunshine State?
Here is a state list of where many can be found. There is almost certainly one nearby wherever you may be vacationing. Florida Food Tuck Listings
The Florida State Fair hosts plenty of food trucks that are found around the state during the rest of the year.
Disney World Dole Whip and Citrus Swirls
Two iconic Florida foods are desserts that were made famous in the Disney theme parks.
Many visitors will arrive and feel their vacation in Florida was not complete without these yummy frozen treats.
Both treats have amassed somewhat of a cult-like following in their popularity.
The Dole Whip, which is similar to a pineapple soft serve.
The Citrus Swirl is half vanilla soft serve and half frozen orange juice.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention this Florida culinary obsession.
The grocery store chain Publix is famous for its made to order sub sandwiches.
They have created quite a following as evidenced by the long lines snaking from the deli counter at lunchtime.
A great lunch to bring to the beach or an edible souvenir to nibble on the plane ride home.
Floridians love this iconic Florida food nicknamed the “pub sub”.
Go Forth and Eat!
Florida is known for its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful landscapes, and warm people but is more than just theme parks and beaches that make Florida famous.
From Southern fried chicken to Cuban cuisine, Florida is a melting pot for delicious traditional ingredients.
Vacationing in Florida will expose you to an unending variety of food and drink as interesting as the people who live there.
Which one of these iconic Florida foods will you choose to eat on your next visit?
Do you love everything Florida? Check of this interesting list of Florida themed books.
Florida Agriculture Overview and Statistics – Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. https://www.fdacs.gov/Agriculture-Industry/Florida-Agriculture-Overview-and-Statistics. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.
Food Trucks. https://www.floridasmart.com/food/trucks. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.
“Savor the Sunshine State: What to Eat in Florida.” Food Com, https://www.foodnetwork.com/restaurants/packages/best-food-in-america/photos/what-to-eat-florida. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.