Satisfy Your Carnival Food Cravings

With the state fair scrapped for summer, where can you go for all that delicious food? Your backyard!
1 Carnival Eats


Had everything gone as (re)planned, many of us would’ve been in East Rutherford this week riding a Ferris wheel and watching pig races. Alas, the 2020 State Fair Meadowlands became the latest event chopped down by the coronavirus pandemic’s axe, marking the first time in 30 years that the massive carnival has been canceled. The fair, which was initially scheduled for late June then pushed back to the last week of July, spans 35 acres outside MetLife Stadium and attracts roughly 400,000 visitors each year. Officials say each person spends about $36 per visit. But on to the numbers you really care about: More than 185,000 zeppoles, 50,000 corn dogs and 17,000 bags of cotton candy are consumed every year at the fair. We’re bummed that we’re missing out on those treats, but this is the age of quarantine: You can make all of it at home! Here are five recipes to make healthier fair food that’s just as tasty as the deep-fried goodness—and they’re all guilt-free.

  • A carnival staple, corn dogs are simply a corn meal-coated hot dog that’s speared on a stick and deep-fried until golden brown. For a healthy alternative, try author Maegan Brown’s baked mini corn dog recipe that uses whole wheat flour, non-fat milk and half of a frank per wooden stick.
  • There’s no sugar coating or caramel dip here, but this easy-to-follow soft pretzel recipe by popular food blog Foodie Fiasco calls for whole wheat flour and honey—and it’s only 90 calories per serving! It’s so good that you’ll wish you discovered the recipe during quarantine.
  • Whether you’re at a carnival or living it up down the Shore, you have to eat funnel cake over the summer. But rather than piping dough into a vat of boiling oil, you can follow this EatingWell recipe and bake your funnel cake. A powdered-sugar finish is fun and sweet, but why not try topping your cake with delicious fresh fruit instead?
  • Here’s a recipe for fried pickles from that will make your air fryer worth the purchase. They’re easy to make—all that’s needed is bread crumbs, herbs and a sprinkle of Parmesan—and are pretty low in fat. Just go easy on the ranch dip!
  • This one is just as fun to make as it is to eat because the recipe for baked "deep-fried" Oreos actually involves dunking the cookie into milk. The steps from there are easy to follow, and the result is a sweet dessert to enjoy next to your outdoor firepit.
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