With COVID-19 canceling this year’s fair, the creation of the first-ever (and quickly sold out) Minnesota State Fair Food Parade cemented what most already knew: Minnesotans aren’t giving up their fair food that easily — or their fair food loyalties.
This particular decades-old question is a nearly guaranteed way to start an argument in the group chat — corn dogs or Pronto Pups?
We recently asked the question to followers of the Star Tribune’s Instagram account. “Pronto Pups all the way,” one person replied, while another person said, in similar but noticeably more emphatic language: “CORN DOG ALL THE WAY!!!”
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We took a look at the debate after one of our readers turned to Curious Minnesota, our community-driven reporting initiative, to ask, “What’s the difference and why are people so loyal to one or the other?”
“You can eat a Pronto Pup for breakfast, but not a corn dog,” said Danielle Fitzgerald, a recent St. Olaf graduate.
That’s likely because Pronto Pup batter only uses a dash of sugar in comparison to the sweeter corn dog crusts. While there is cornmeal in the Pronto Pup batter, according to Minnesota franchise owner Gregg Karnis, there’s also corn, wheat and rice flours, giving it a more grain-forward taste.
While the Pronto Pup is considered a type of corn dog, the Midwest has a particular claim on it, with the sausage blended fresh in Wisconsin. Pronto Pup also claims to have debuted at the Minnesota State Fair in 1947 as the original corn dog on sale.
According to Karnis, Pronto Pups make up roughly 55% of hot dogs sold each year at the fair, despite having at least eight competitors.
Still, some people are not sold on the Pronto Pups’ promotion as “America’s Original Corndog.”
“The more I think about it, the more I hate Pronto Pups,” Fitzgerald said. “What a rip off of a corn dog.”
In fact, the early history of the corn dog vs. Pronto Pup debate isn’t quite clear. Pronto Pups came to be in the early 1940s when a hot dog vendor, frustrated after a storm ruined his buns, had an idea for cooking the batter on the spot as needed. Meanwhile, Texan cooks were experimenting with corn dogs (likely without sticks) around the same time and other iterations were showing up in California and Illinois.
So while the differences between corn dogs and Pronto Pups are cut and dry, the origin of these loyalties are less clear — although there are always some Minnesotans, like Piper Hennings, who simply appreciate both for what they are.
“I do not have strong feelings,” Hennings said. “Any kind of meat with breading is good with me.”
Anna Ta is the Star Tribune’s Instagram local news fellow.
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