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10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair

Let's face it: Food is the number-one reason we attend the Minnesota State Fair. Food on a stick, deep-fried bites, giant legs and chops of meat, gallons of dairy, buckets of sweet confections -- we love it all. But what about the vegetables? Where are the fruits, beans, whole grains? Isn't bountiful agricultural production what the fair is supposed to be all about? To answer that question, we posed ourselves a challenge: Could we eat vegan at the Minnesota State Fair for one day and still love it?

See also: The 10 new State Fair foods we can't wait to try

Produce has been part of the fair since its beginning in the late 1800s, when agriculture associations would compete to have the most bountiful displays in the Horticulture Building. Photographs from the Minnesota Historical Society show aisle upon aisle of grain sheaves, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, pumpkins, roots, seeds, and fruits of all kinds, piled into temples of abundance. Why did this bounty never make its way into the food concessions of the fair?

The fair followed the national post-WWII trend of fast food mechanization, leading to a heavy focus on refined foods and sweets. The now-famous corn roast did not even make an appearance at the fair until the mid-1980s.

Fast forward to today. With the rise of clean eating, local sourcing, and a multitude of dietary considerations, fair food has begun to change with times. The list of delicious vegan options is growing fast. From minimally processed fruits and vegetables to deep-fried snacks, from thirst-quenching drinks to globally inspired dishes, vegan food has finally arrived. After eating our way through over 20 offerings, we satisfied our fair-food cravings. Vegetables, fruit, beans, and grains are finally taking their rightful place at the Minnesota State Fair.

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

10. Island Noodles, Island Noodles This stand's signature Hawaiian-style wok-fried noodle dish is made from yaki-soba buckwheat noodles, fresh vegetables, and a savory-sweet ginger garlic sauce. It's nutless, eggless, meatless, and 100 percent vegan.

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

9. Pineapple Piña Colada, Manny's Tortas Hollow out a giant pineapple, blend it with pineapple juice, coconut milk, and ice, and you have the best vegan smoothie on the planet. Frothy, fruity, and worthy of sharing, this piña colada drink goes down real smooth on a hot summer's day at the fair.

8. Sweet Dream peach, Produce Exchange Dripping with sweet peachiness, this softball-sized fresh peach is something to behold. Bring a wet nap -- your chin will need it.  

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

7. Vegetarian tamale, La Loma at A Taste of Midtown Global Market Local tamale kings La Loma have a very tasty vegetable tamale filled with fresh sweet corn, red, and green bell peppers, and vegan corn masa. We could easily eat a dozen of these fresh Mexican treats.

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

6. Frozen apple cider, Minnesota Apples For us, the Minnesota Grown Apple section of the Ag Hort building exemplifies and celebrates the deep agrarian roots of the fair. And considering how blisteringly hot the weather is, this frozen, 100 percent local apple cider treat is just the ticket.

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

5. French fries, Fresh French Fries French fries are a no-brainer junk food for vegans, and it goes without saying that these particular fries are addictive. A 41-year-old fair institution, Fresh French Fries uses a special frying variety of white potatoes that are locally grown near Big Lake, Minnesota and fried in a four-stage process, making these crispy, delicious fries perfect from the inside out. Pass the salt, please.   4. Kombucha on tap, Prohibition at Produce Exchange Brought to you by the folks who make kombucha at Verdant Tea in Minneapolis, this fermented tea drink is all the rage with the health crowd. But don't let that stop you -- this stuff is like drinking nature's cocktail, a carbonated, extra sweet-sour lemonade with jazz hands and probiotics. Flavors change daily, but on our visit we got to choose from the guava-flavored Pink Robot, the Sicilian with lemon, rosemary, and orange blossom water, and our favorite, the Ginger Vesper made with ginger juice, lemon, elderflower, and juniper. These drinks are fancy and healthy.

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

3. Roasted sweet corn (hold the butter), Corn Roast Roasted Sweet Corn is the original food-on-a-stick, and it's all vegan so long as you hold the butter. Although corn is easy to get in Minnesota this time of year, there is nothing like the camaraderie of biting into a hot, sweet ear of corn right in the middle of a street packed with people doing the same. Corny, we know.

2. Falafel on a stick, Holy Land Holy Land has got it going on in the vegan department. Their entire vegetarian menu is vegan if you hold the tatziki cucumber yogurt sauce. Falafel on a stick totally satisfied our deep-fried and kitschy fair "stick food" requirements. Crispy, fried vegan goodness.

10 best vegan/vegetarian foods at the Minnesota State Fair
Tammy Kimbler

1. Chickpea Roti, Harry Singh's We'd heard tell of Harry Singh's vegan Chickpea Roti from a number of foodies and had to check it out for ourselves. This humble wrap is loaded with flavor from its stewed chickpeas in a spicy curry sauce to its rich roti flatbread. Ask for extra Carribean hot sauce. You'll thank us later.

Honorable mentions: Chili-dusted whole mango at A Taste of Midtown Global Market, cinnamon roasted almonds from the aptly named Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, the local beer sampler at Land of 10,000 Beers Craft Beer Hall, the vegan oatmeal scone from French Meadow, the Fruity Tooty Smoothy from Fried Fruit, the red or white wine flight from Minnesota Wine Country, fresh apples from Minnesota Apples, frozen fruit on a stick at Veggie Pie, pickle on a stick from Fried Pickles, and kettle corn from Two Rivers Kettle Korn.

Visit the state fair website to track down your food options.

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