Let’s face it. The annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, which runs this year from March 3 to 22, is filled with the absolute best of Texas, from cowboy boot shops to sheep-wrangling. There are tons of reasons why more than 100,000 people stream into the NRG Stadium every year, but we’d be amiss if we ignored that the real reason behind a great number of these visits: the greasy, excessively caloric, heart-stopping succulence of deep-fried Rodeo food.
Last year alone, visitors to the HLSR midway consumed a staggering 16,000 pounds of deep-fried pickles, 100 pounds of fried, chocolate-dipped bacon (though that's less than the 150 pounds consumed in 2013), and—no joke—enough deep-fried Twinkies to fill one and a half 18-wheeler trailers.
With new deep-fried snacks on the horizon like fried Sriracha balls and Belgian waffles on a stick, it’s easy to forget the snacks that started the craze in the first place. Rodeo vendors have managed to fry just about everything, from classic desserts to vegetables. Take a look at some of our favorites, and make sure to wear your stretchiest Wranglers (or jeggings, we're not judging) when giving them a try.
Oreos are good. Deep-fried Oreos are even better. The classic lunchbox snack has become a star of an elite line of fried foods. Dipped in a homemade pancake batter, the classic cookie becomes a concoction of chocolatey goodness. As with any cookie snack, pair it with a cup of milk for better enjoyment.
This veggie snack is perfect for a lighter fried treat. Cooks make extra caution when making these, because over-frying them makes them almost impossible to eat. Typically zucchini slices are dropped in oil for no more than two minutes, making them more like a chip. They’re also served as whole zucchinis, making the snack a surprisingly refreshing choice amongst the fried bunch.
According to Snickers, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It sounds like a fair analysis, and deep fried Snickers certainly makes a sizeable attempt to assauge those hunger pangs. The candy bar is coated in batter, then fried until golden in hot oil for about two to three minutes. We’ve found that many Rodeo fans split this dessert between two because it’s so sweet, but, if your hunger is just that intense, it’ll certainly satisfy only one.
Deep-Fried Red Velvet Cake
Whoever came up with the idea to dip the layers of spongy, decadent cake into what’s essentially a pancake batter is a honorary Texas hero. You’ll see the it in the form of cake balls, but ordering it as a slice with drizzles of chocolate on the fried layer on top is when the real mouth-watering magic happens. If red velvet cake isn’t your choice of dessert, fried cheesecake is also a showstopper. These fried delights are some of the most difficult to make, so be sure to tip your hat to whomever you purchase them from.
The folks at the carnival go crazy for these balls of pork and rice sausage, a Cajun classic (though not normally deep-fried). Don’t forget to pair it with our personal favorite, remoulade sauce, and you’ve got a mini delicacy in your hands.
Deep-Fried Cookie Dough
When you’ve tried the fried cookie dough, you’ve reached the gold mine of fried treats. Cookie dough—the raw food that our parents would tell us to stop eating when we’d sneak a bite just to get a taste of its craveable gooeyness—is now in a form even better than we could’ve dreamed. The dough is completely coated in a rich batter, then topped with powdered sugar. The fried cookie dough is a personal favorite, and, thanks to its huge popularity, it’s available at nearly all of the food stands.