Beyond its borders, Minnesota isn't widely known for its homegrown cuisine. Remember when the New York Times suggested that the most popular food on Minnesotans' Thanksgiving tables was grape salad?

Considering how much the rest of the country knows (or doesn't know) about our state's food-producing prowess — its verdant fields, wild rice, dairy farms, turkeys and even Spam — maybe they can be forgiven for elevating a potluck staple into a pop culture phenomenon and not even crediting Minnesota.

Alas, the time has come for the pickle roll-up to step into the spotlight.

The humble snacketizer is made from just three grocery store staples: pickles, ham and cream cheese. Want the recipe? Slather the cream cheese on the ham. Lay a pickle on top. Roll it up, and slice crosswise into a maki roll as exciting as white bread, celery and unsalted rice cakes.

And yet, these little pinwheels can be surprisingly flavorful — a bundle of acid, cream and umami that is so intrinsic to holiday gatherings, office parties and summer picnics that they're known, in local circles, as "Minnesota sushi."

In wider circles, the name may be broadened to "Midwest sushi." Iowa's salami version is dubbed a "pickle wrap." In Nebraska, it has the name of "Frog Eyes" because of the look when it's sliced. In Michigan, where it's known as a Polish Rose, the pickle is swapped for green onion. But by many accounts, the pickle roll-up is most commonly linked to Minnesota potlucks.

"In my family, there wasn't a family function without them, so it just felt weird to not have them on the menu," said Breanna Evans, co-owner of Wrecktangle Pizza.

When the restaurant first opened, it served a pizza inspired by another Minnesota achievement, tater tot hot dish. That laborious pie has come and gone, but one key topping remained on the menu at all three Minneapolis locations: a single roll-up made from store-bought dill pickles, bricks of cream cheese and Hormel ham (hey, it's local). It's one of their best sellers.

"It's our really bland, Midwest heritage," said Wrecktangle chef and co-owner Jeff Rogers.

A heritage worth writing about. Eater's national site recently did a trend piece, followed by local alt-news site Racket with the headline "MN Sushi: The Nation Is Once Again Horrified How We Eat."

Rogers thinks the pickle roll-up's unexpected rise to fame is "hilarious — any publicity is good publicity."

A pop-culture moment

Buzz about pickle roll-ups began to swell last month when the dish came up on two television shows. First, in some brief "Jeopardy! Masters" banter, a player talked about being introduced to "Minnesota sushi" by a fellow competitor.

The game show followed up on Facebook with a troublesome recipe. Never mind that it tells you to smear the cream cheese ON THE PICKLE — it ends with "alienate friends and loved ones."

Around the same time, HBO's "Somebody Somewhere" released an episode in which the main characters, Sam and Joel, go to a potluck in Kansas and try their first pickle roll-ups. Again, the information is shaky. They call it "St. Louis Sushi."

After giving it a try, Sam describes the party snack as "kind of good but kind of gross."

"What gives, HBO? You didn't have to come after St. Louis like that," said a think piece in St. Louis' Riverfront Times. But there's a reason "Somebody Somewhere" credits one of Minnesota's finest exports to a city that wants nothing to do with it. Blame New Yorkers.

According to Bridget Everett, the show's Kansas-born star and one of its executive producers, St. Louis Sushi can be traced to her longtime friend Larry Krone, an artist and designer — and St. Louis native.

Krone is known for his New York City parties, and Everett has attended many of them over the past 20 years. He always passes a plate of what he calls St. Louis Sushi.

"It is always a crowd pleaser but kind of a curiosity at first, at least here in NYC," Everett wrote in an email. "People look at it (when seeing it for the first time) and never really know what's going on. But I have to say, once you've had it, you're hooked."

Both recent pop culture sightings of Minnesota sushi occurred after a non-Minnesotan was introduced to the revolutionary roll-up. But with a snack this crowd-pleasing, word spreads faster than a softened block of cream cheese.

On the menu

While it may be a staple at family functions and backyard potlucks, the pickle roll-up has also made the leap to a handful of Twin Cities restaurants.

At the Birdhouse Eat & Drink in Robbinsdale, co-owner Nell Currey-Dykhuis knew she had to include it on a menu trading in "familiar food with those nostalgic vibes." Her Grandma Phyllis "wasn't the world's best cook," but pickle roll-ups were her forte. Grandma Phyllis fancied them up with herbed cream cheese, and so does the Birdhouse, which serves them on retro floral stoneware.

Down the street, Travail Kitchen & Amusements doesn't have a pickle roll-up on the tasting menu, but chef/co-owner Mike Brown recently served a cheffed-up version to his staff: thinly sliced serrano ham wrapped around Alemar Bent River cheese and black truffle pickled asparagus, wrapped once more in sliced wagyu beef.

But his youth in Savage and Prior Lake served up a very different version. "From my deepest archives of my brain, I remember there being tortillas involved most of the time" — an "outer layer," he said. Go ahead, debate.

At Apostle Supper Club in St. Paul, Brian Ingram wanted to serve a twist on the Minnesota State Fair classic, the Pickle Dog, thanks to his family's deep love of pickles. "My 2-year-old and my wife are good for a large jar every other day," he said. At Apostle, he gives the pickle and cream cheese a spin in prosciutto.

Rogers tried some nicer-than-usual ingredients at Wrecktangle, including Neufchatel cheese, but it didn't work. "We were gonna do something fancy, but it's already fancy enough," he said. He cuts them on the bias and calls it a day.

Even if the sudden ascendance of pickle roll-ups is surprising, Rogers and Evans see it earning its rightful place in the hyper-regional food pantheon.

"Everybody's got their thing," Rogers said. "They're eating chili spaghetti in Cincinnati, and Bolognese is that same [thing]. You're probably eating a pickle roll-up in some capacity, like pickled vegetables in a cream sauce with another cured meat, or something like that."

Apparently, we've all been eating Minnesota sushi this whole time and didn't even know it.

"Trick," said Evans. "Psych. Gotcha."

Find them in the wild

Apostle Supper Club, 253 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul,, available on the happy hour menu of the False Eyedoll tiki bar.

The Birdhouse Eat & Drink, 4153 W. Broadway, Mpls.,

Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, 1900 NE. Marshall St., Mpls.,

Wrecktangle, 703 W. Lake St., Mpls.,

Minnesota Sushi

Makes plenty.

Half of the fun of making Minnesota Sushi is adding your own touches — try other meats, flavored cream cheese, other pickled vegetables. But nothing beats the classic.

• 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

• 16 whole pickles

• 16 slices of ham


Lay slices of ham on a hard surface (you may need to pat dry with a paper towel). Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese over the ham; an offset spatula works best. Place a pickle on one end of the ham slice and roll up.

If serving right away, slice into equal parts and serve on a platter. If serving later, store roll-ups whole and slice closer to serving.

Minnesota Sushi Puffs

Makes 24.

This recipe pays tribute to two Minnesota iconic foods: the ham-pickle roll-up and Totino's pizza rolls. They are at their crispy best when fried or cooked in an air fryer. From Nicole Hvidsten.

• 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

• 1/4 c. finely chopped dill pickles

• 1/3 c. finely chopped ham

• 1/4 tsp. onion powder

• 1/4 c. finely chopped green onions, optional

• Freshly ground pepper, to taste

• 1 egg, beaten

• Wonton wrappers

• Vegetable or peanut oil for frying, optional


Place the cream cheese in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 20 to 30 seconds, until it stirs creamy.

Add onion powder, pickles, ham and green onions, if using, and stir to combine.

Working in small batches, place wonton wrappers on a flat surface. Lightly brush both sides with egg wash. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons of filling in the center of wonton wrapper. Grab two opposite corners of the wrapper and fold inward, pressing to seal so it's tight around the filling (the goal is to have no air in the pocket). Fold remaining two corners, pressing to seal tightly.

To air fry: Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees. Place puffs in the basket of the fryer in a single layer. Cook for 6 minutes, flipping halfway through.

To deep fry: Preheat oil to 325 to 350 degrees. Working in small batches, put puffs in the hot oil and fry for 3 minutes, carefully stirring to ensure they're browning uniformly. When browned, remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Let sit for 1-2 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

Variation: If you're short on time or not one to make a fuss, use the recipe to make a cheese ball. Just combine all the ingredients, shape into a mound and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. It's particularly tasty with Ritz crackers.

Next Level Minnesota Roll-up

Makes 12.

Travail Kitchen and Amusements chef/co-owner Mike Brown took Minnesota Sushi to a new level with pickled asparagus, wagyu beef and black truffles. It's a long way from the "pinwheels" he grew up eating in the Prior Lake-Savage area. You'll need to start these in advance to give the pickled asparagus time to cool.

• 6 slices Jamón Serrano

• 4 to 6 oz. Camembert cheese, such as Bent River from Alemar Cheese Co.

• 6 spears peeled asparagus

• 1/4 oz. black truffle

• 2 c. apple cider vinegar

• 1/2 c. granulated sugar

• 1/2 c. water

• 1 tsp. salt

• 2 tbsp. truffle oil

• 4 to 6 oz. sliced wagyu beef, uncooked

• 2 tbsp. chopped chives

• Maldon sea salt, to taste

• 12 cocktail picks


On a large cutting board, thinly slice serrano ham and lay it out flat on parchment, overlapping each slice by about a 1/2 inch, creating a 5- by 12-inch bed. Refrigerate.

Microwave Camembert cheese for 30 to 90 seconds, until it's spreadable. Spread cheese on one side of the ham slices, all the way to the edges. Set aside at room temperature.

Finally, pickle some asparagus. Slice the black truffle as thin as possible; set aside. Lightly peel the asparagus, and place it, along with the black truffle, in a glass container at least 6 inches wide.

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, water and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the asparagus and black truffle; place the container in the refrigerator until cooled.

Once the asparagus and truffle have cooled, remove from juices and drain briefly on paper towels. Cut asparagus spears in half lengthwise and place on the cheese-covered Serrano ham and top with truffle slices. Drizzle the black truffle oil over asparagus. Starting with the long end, roll up the ham as tight as possible.

Lay the thinly sliced wagyu out the same way as the ham, in a 5- by 12-inch bed. Place the Serrano roll-up on the wagyu and roll it once again as tight as possible.

Season the top of your final roll lightly with truffle oil, sliced chives and Maldon salt.

Skewer with the cocktail picks and cut the pinwheels. Serve cold — on a silver platter.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed "Somebody Somewhere" star Bridget Everett's role. She is an executive producer.