America’s Weirdest Thanksgiving Favorites by State

The most uniquely popular recipes in each state tend to feature a trifecta of maligned products.

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Ambrosia salad
Photo: The Image Party (Shutterstock)

We have previously reassured readers that, despite our modern tendency to look down on convenience foods and the recipes that call for their use, midcentury cooking was not, in fact, some sort of prank pulled by homemakers to enact vengeance upon their families. Though we may recoil at the concoctions in old church cookbooks, the fact is that these recipes have continued to please the masses and make life easier for home cooks. That’s why it’s no surprise that a recent analysis by THC seltzer brand Cycling Frog found that America’s most popular “weird” Thanksgiving dishes by state tend to share some common ingredients: Cool Whip, marshmallows, and Jell-O.

America’s favorite weird Thanksgiving recipes

Cycling Frog analyzed Google Trends data for five years’ worth of popular Thanksgiving dishes that make use of ingredient combinations considered unusual, or which have unique and peculiar names. In each state, uniquely high search data for each dish was ranked in order to find each state’s favorite. Here are the results:

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  • Alabama: Ambrosia salad
  • Alaska: Frog eye salad
  • Arizona: Ambrosia salad
  • Arkansas: Jell-O salad
  • California: Ambrosia salad
  • Colorado: Ambrosia salad
  • Connecticut: Ambrosia salad
  • Delaware: Ambrosia salad
  • Florida: Ambrosia salad/Jell-O salad
  • Georgia: Jell-O salad
  • Hawaii: Frog eye salad
  • Idaho: Frog eye salad
  • Illinois: Ambrosia salad
  • Indiana: Ambrosia salad
  • Iowa: Jell-O salad
  • Kansas: Frog eye salad
  • Kentucky: Ambrosia salad
  • Louisiana: Jell-O salad
  • Maine: Ambrosia salad
  • Maryland: Jell-O salad
  • Massachusetts: Ambrosia salad
  • Michigan: Ambrosia salad
  • Minnesota: Frog eye salad
  • Mississippi: Jell-O salad
  • Missouri: Ambrosia salad
  • Montana: Jell-O salad
  • Nebraska: Frog eye salad/Jell-O salad
  • Nevada: Ambrosia salad
  • New Hampshire: Ambrosia salad/Jell-O salad
  • New Jersey: Ambrosia salad
  • New Mexico: Ambrosia salad
  • New York: Ambrosia salad
  • North Carolina: Ambrosia salad
  • North Dakota: Ambrosia salad
  • Ohio: Ambrosia salad
  • Oklahoma: Jell-O salad
  • Oregon: Jell-O salad
  • Pennsylvania: Jell-O salad
  • Rhode Island: Ambrosia salad
  • South Carolina: Ambrosia salad
  • South Dakota: Jell-O salad
  • Tennessee: Jell-O salad
  • Texas: Ambrosia salad
  • Utah: Jell-O salad
  • Vermont: Ambrosia salad
  • Virginia: Jell-O salad
  • Washington: Jell-O salad
  • West Virginia: Ambrosia salad
  • Wisconsin: Jell-O salad
  • Wyoming: Frog eye salad

Yes, yes, we’re going to tell you what the hell “frog eye salad” is. While it doesn’t have nearly as extensive a Wikipedia page as it should, this is a dessert pasta salad most commonly made with small noodles, egg yolks, Cool Whip, canned citrus fruit, and marshmallows. The name refers to the fact that the tiny noodles, most commonly acini di pepe, resemble frog’s eyes when mixed into the surrounding gloop. Absolutely nauseating comparison, but a delicious addition to the Thanksgiving table.

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Ambrosia salad sailed into the number-one Thanksgiving side dish slot, with 27 states searching for this classic concoction above all others. And what does ambrosia salad contain as its primary identifying ingredients? Mini marshmallows and whipped topping, of course! It wouldn’t be a retro recipe without them.

While we often credit Midwesterners with the proliferation and preservation of midcentury Jell-O salads, it would seem that the influence of these sweet, jiggly dinner/dessert hybrids reaches far and wide. From Arkansas to Oregon, everyone loves a little wiggle, and “Jell-O salad” as a recipe category took the top spot in 16 different states from coast to coast. While the variations on Jell-O salad are nearly infinite, a typical recipe will almost certainly contain some combination of Cool Whip and mini marshmallows alongside the Jell-O, in order to soften the jiggly gelatin texture and mellow out the intense fruity flavors. My Jell-O salad of choice? Green stuff, of course.

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Seeing the data, it’s clear that the ingredients we all like to laugh about for their low-cost simplicity, their uncomplicated sweetness, and their no-chewing-required consistency are the ingredients that endure across generations due to those exact attributes. These shouldn’t be our unspoken or apologetic favorites; these dishes should be the first thing we plunk down on the Thanksgiving table this year.