A Guide to Famous Must-Try Foods in Montana

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: April 26th, 2024

Embarking on an upcoming trip to Montana?

Known as Big Sky Country, The Treasure State, and Land of the Shining Mountains – Montana has even more to offer than its breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures.

For travelers planning a trip to this ruggedly beautiful state, delving into the world of Montana cuisine offers an exciting opportunity for your tastebuds!

You’ll get to try the most famous flavors of the region, while also uncovering Montana’s surroundings and culture. From hearty cowboy classics to home-baking involving local wild fruits – the state’s culinary scene offers many worthwhile flavors to experience.

Meat-eaters and carnivores heading to Montana especially: make yourself at home!

As an avid foodie who enjoys exploring new dishes – we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn about 8 famous foods that are a must-taste while you’re here.

Famous Foods in Montana

Huckleberry Desserts (Pie)

Huckleberry Desserts

These tiny, sweet berries are closely related to blueberries and cranberries. In Native American practices, Huckleberries were used predominantly for traditional medicine.

Look out for huckleberries along Montana’s hiking trails, mountainsides, and state parks. These thrive in Montana’s wild due to the ideal climate, soil, and even fires.

Huckleberry Patch, an iconic Montana bakery, is known for its made-from-scratch Huckleberry pies and ice creams. It is located in the town of Hungry Horse, the ‘huckleberry capital’, near Glacier National Park.

If you miss out on any of these berrylicious fan favorites — don’t worry! They ship their popular pies across the country too!

Other sweet treats using the Huckleberry include jellies, jams, syrups, candy, and pancake mix.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Don’t let the name mislead you — this certainly ain’t seafood! We’ll give you a hint: there are more cows than people in Montana – and many cattle reside in the Rocky Mountains range.

Also nicknamed “cowboy caviar”, “dusted nuts” and “Montana Tendergroins” — Rocky Mountain oysters are made from deep-fried bull testicles.

The testicles are often served as an appetizer at Western-themed events – after being skinned, battered, salted, deep-fried, and sometimes pounded flat.

Brave tasters often review this dish as gamey, while commonly noting a texture similar to calamari (squid) and a flavor similar to Venison.

According to Montana’s legends, this meal purportedly came about from ranchers’ “no-waste” policies. Rocky Mountain Oysters are even served as a prank food and also as an aphrodisiac.

Although Montana’s testicle festival has come to an end, you can still enjoy this classic rancher’s dish all over. Wherever you are in Montana– check out a local steakhouse menu!



More into seafood than red meat?

For fish enthusiasts, Montana’s pristine rivers, lakes and reservoirs offer an abundance of fresh trout. In fact, so much so that the native cutthroat trout have suffered a population reduction.

The rainbow trout is this state’s number one game fishMontana rivers are particularly popular for fly-fishing.

Montana leads the way with wild trout conservation, habitat enhancemen, and fisheries research practices, especially in response to the Bull trout population decline.

Whether pan-seared, grilled, or smoked – trout fish is popular for its delicate, mildly nutty flavor and tender texture.

With such trout-rich waters, the species is an essential staple of Montana cuisine. Many restaurants throughout the state serve trout on their menus, so be sure to balance all of that beef with some mouth-watering fish!

Flathead Cherries

Huckleberries, step aside for a moment. The largest freshwater lake of the Mississippi has even more to offer than its impressive size.

Along the shoreline of Flathead Lake, you’ll find sprawling cherry orchards.

How do these cherries grow in such a climate? Flathead Lake allows them to grow without aggressively fluctuating temperatures. A combination of glacial-fed waters and fertile soil is what produces this wonderfully sweet cherry.

Many varieties are grown along Flathead Lake including Lapin, Sweetheart, Rainier, Van, Stella, Lambert, and Skeena cherries. They are known for their delectable sweetness.

Grab a friend and a basket to go – these famous cherries are ready to pick from late July through till September.

Whether enjoyed fresh off the trees or used to make pies and jams, flathead cherries are a beloved symbol of Montana.

Bison burgers, Bilton, and jerky

Bison burgers

North America’s largest land animals, with recorded weights over 1000kg, make for a pretty popular meat source. Montana is home to one of North America’s largest bison herds, boasting a population of around 5000.

Bison play a significant part in shaping Montana’s ecosystem – through their grazing and migration patterns, as well as providing food and habitat for other species.

Montana’s burger joints and eateries serve up the incredibly popular bison burgers. They’re grass-fed, paired with local toppings and freshly baked buns.

After a long adventure in the outdoor scene, taste-testing the mouth-watering bison burgers is the perfect way to fuel up. From Billings to Bozeman, you can quite easily get some, with Ted’s Montana Grill a tourist favorite.

Not quite hungry enough for a burger joint? Bison jerky and biltong are popular cured meats – a favorite for high-protein fanatics!

Bison jerky is made by slicing strips of bison meat, marinated in a mixture of spices and salts. The meat is dried until it becomes a typically firm and chewy jerky. It is known for its high protein value, chewy texture, and intense flavor.

Bison biltong, originally from South Africa, is traditionally made by marinating strips of meat in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and spices. Like jerky, it is then dried, typically without any heat.

Compared to jerky, however, it is slightly more soft and tender, with a rich, earthy, and savory flavor profile.

For outdoor explorers, campers, and travelers: Bison jerky and biltong are both highly convenient and long-lasting snacks to take on your next expedition after Montana.

Wild Game Specialties – Venison, elk, and other game meats featured in local cuisine

For the real carnivores reading, there’s more in Montana’s burgers than just Bison.

Wild game meat from Montana includes specialties of bison, trout, venison and elk.

Due to the wildlife’s active lifestyles and natural nutrition, these are lean meats. The flavor, texture, and overall quality of game meat is considered unrivaled.

Venison, specifically from white-tailed deer, is a popular source of lean protein. The flavour is often described as having ‘grassy’ notes, with hints of the deer’s diet (acorns, browse, herbs, etc).  From steaks and sausages to burgers and stews, white-tailed deer is a low-fat and highly nutritional top pick of Montana.

Elk, a larger member of the deer species, has a similarly lean and nutritional red meat. Elk is distinguished by its dark red hue. It is often described as ‘cleaner’ than beef – as well as sweeter, richer, and more flavorful. In Montana, hunters traditionally go elk hunting between October and November.

Craft Beer and Microbrews

Craft Beer and Microbrews

Enough about berry treats and cowboy classics – the question now is what to drink?

Craft beer has emerged as a popular feature and cultural attraction of Montana’s culinary scene. Many breweries here produce a wide range of innovative and flavorful brews, boasting malted grains grown in Montana.

Apart from the few macrobreweries, the state is known for its many independent microbreweries.  The Montana Brewers Association reported 97 breweries (excluding 4 planned) just last year.

For avid beer fans – you can receive tours and tastings to sample these local brews.

For those less eager on beer, consider trying the Montanans’ signature drink: a ‘whiskey ditch’. It’s comprised of whiskey, with one special addition… water!

Final Words

As you prepare to embark on your journey to Montana, remember that this beautiful state has even more to offer than its incredible mountains and lakes!

From the wild delights of huckleberry pie to the rather adventurous taste of Rocky Mountain oysters: Montana’s famous foods are loved by locals and tourists alike.

Montana’s culinary scene is a treasure trove, particularly for the meat-eaters – with red meat options as diverse as its landscapes. For those with a love of wild game specialties, Montana delivers rich flavor, especially for you.

With burgers, steaks, sausages, and stews made from the state’s very own bison, venison, and elk, there is something special for every meat-lover.

Whether you plan to sample their latest craft beer at a local microbrewery or cast your line for rainbow trout in Montana’s rivers: be sure to pair your culinary adventures with your taste for the great outdoors, for the ultimate experience in the land of the shining mountains!

About The Author

Mark Barnett

Mark Philip is a writer and lifestyle enthusiast from the Midlands in the U.K. With a background in martial arts and fitness, Mark headed out to Bangkok, Thailand where he now lives and works. Mark has authored e-books, articles, and blogs across a wide range of topics for commercial, educational, factual, lifestyle and leisure-based purposes.

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