Did you ever dream of being a cowboy or cowgirl when you were a kid? You can bring those dreams to life in Houston each spring at the Rodeo! You don’t have to ride a horse or even wear boots to enjoy rodeo food like a local, so grab your phone and loosen your belt buckle – it’s time to dive into delicious food at the Rodeo in Houston!
Rodeos bring to mind cowboys and cowgirls, horses and mutton bustin’, but what about rodeo food? If you think rodeo food is only barbecue, it’s time to explore the other unique foods you can find at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Last year, over 25.5 million fans attended the event at NRG Park, making it the largest livestock exhibition and rodeo in the world. This year’s event, running from March 3 through March 22, 2020, is expected to be even bigger, with many new food options to try.
The rodeo food fun starts Thursday, February 27, with the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. The first of more than 20 days of entertainment and food, the cook-off showcases some of the best barbecue in the country.
You’ll find the standard fare of Texas barbecue chicken, pork, ribs, and sausage, plus steak and brisket dinners, turkey legs, burgers, and giant pretzels dripping with cheese. And food on a stick. Always a rodeo favorite, food on a stick offers the dining convenience of coming with its own handle – no more messy fingers! You’ll find chicken or sausage on a stick at the top of many menus. Or try a new a twist on potatoes (a literal twist), that is, of course, on a stick. Twisted potatoes on a stick, or twisted potatoes and hot dog on a stick are among the new food items for this year. But Houston’s rodeo food isn’t just great barbecue; there’s so much more to explore!
Visitors to the Rodeo Carnival, in the parking lot of NRG Park, can enjoy the usual carnival foods of turkey legs, corn dogs, funnel cakes, cinnamon rolls, cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, and caramel candy apples. Last year 3,400 corn dogs, 47,480 tamales, 38,000 cinnamon rolls, and more than 8,000 funnel cakes were consumed. And 122 slices of bug pizza. Yes, bug pizza, complete with worms and scorpions.
Rodeo food is not like anything else. It’s fun food. Food you want to snap pics of and be seen with. Take the deep-fried, ice-cream-stuffed cupcake. You’ll want to snap a shareable pic before you bite into this fried confection, so your friends will believe deep-fried, ice-cream-stuffed cupcakes are really a thing.
Rodeo foods are proof that just about anything can be eaten deep-fried. Deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, Moon Pies, red velvet cake, ice cream-stuffed cupcakes, cheesecake, or deep-fried apple, pumpkin, key lime, pecan and chocolate pie, plus deep-fried strawberry shortcake, brownies, cookie dough, and bread pudding are just a sampling of the deep-fried treats you’ll find at the rodeo. New for this year are the black gold truffles — sweet deep-fried chocolate truffles served with whipped topping, hot fudge sauce and a cherry on top are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
If you’re craving something savory but still from the deep-fried foods family, you can also find deep-fried pickles, nachos, boudin, and zucchini, plus almost any fried fruit or vegetable you can imagine. If deep-fried veggies aren’t your thing, try the fresh corn. On the cob, in a cup, or spicy-seasoned with cheese, it’s all good.
Are you looking for something spicy but not deep-fried? Cheetos cheese pickles should fit the bill. A bed of sliced pickles is topped with Flaming Hot Cheetos, then topped again with melty cheese. If that’s not enough flaming hot cheesy goodness for you, you can also find Flaming Hot Cheetos corn dogs and Flaming Hot Cheetos fries.
Check out the mac and cheese egg rolls that are also new this year. Picture a golden-brown flaky deep-fried egg roll, then picture it stuffed full of macaroni and cheese. If that’s not rich enough yet, did I mention it also has bacon?
Into the new trend of nitro-infused foods? Don’t miss the nitro pop, nitro sour bombs, nitro Dole Whip bars, and nitro slushies. Make sure you order the unicorn breath cotton candy balls, it’s a social media must-share treat!
Other Food Events
Not all rodeo food centers on deep-fried and on-a-stick delicacies. Other rodeo-related food events in Houston include wine tastings at the Champion Wine Garden, featuring award-winning wines from the Rodeo Uncorked international wine competition, and the Vegan Rodeo Weekend featuring vegan barbecue.
Ride all of the carnival rides first, then dine your way through the food tents before heading over to see the Livestock Show. Browse through the wares of more than 300 vendors selling everything from western boots to cowboy hats. You’ll also want to get some candy to munch on later in the evening, so take a stroll down memory lane through the 2,000 square feet of candy maze aisles of the World’s Largest Traveling Candy Store, selling old-fashioned candies you’ll remember from your childhood.
If you haven’t eaten enough yet and feel like taking on the challenge of trying all eight Gold Buckle Foodie award-winning creations, there’s a prize in it for you; make sure you stop by the Social Station at NRG Center for more details before you dive in. And when it’s time for the day’s rodeo competition and musical entertainment to begin, if you’re still hungry, there’s much more food inside!
Houston locals know that the best way to end a fun-filled, food-filled Rodeo visit is…filled! Try it yourself; you won’t go home hungry.