State Fair of Texas Announces 2023 Big Tex Choice Awards Food Competition Semi-Finalists

The State Fair of Texas announced 36 semi-finalists – 19 savory and 17 sweet entries – who will advance in the 19th-annual Big Tex Choice Awards competition.


Butchers Block

Three-cheese macaroni and cheese, topped with 15-hour smoked brisket, crispy fried chicken, candied bacon bits, jalapeño peppers, and a piece of sausage on the side. The macaroni is then drizzled with a brown sugar chipotle sauce.

Cornbread Sausage Bombs

Pecan-smoked Texas sausage slices are topped with a heaping portion of pimento cheese and a slice of jalapeño, then dipped in a fluffy cornbread batter, fried, and served with jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. 

Creole Etouffee Beignets 

This creole classic begins with onions, bell peppers, and celery. This etouffee sauce is mixed with shrimp, smoked sausage, and steamed rice. The beignets are then dipped into beignet batter and fried until golden brown, and topped with powdered sugar. Served with extra etouffee sauce for dipping. 

Deep Fried Birria Bomb 

Birria bombs are stuffed with birria, Oaxaca cheese, and home-style mashed potatoes. Then they are rolled into a ball, dipped in a special batter, and deep fried until they reach a golden brown. Lastly, they are topped with fire-roasted poblano ranch dressing and fresh cilantro. 

Deep Fried Pho

Made with noodles, slices of beef, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and a taste of aromatic pho broth that has been slowly simmered for hours. It’s served with a side of pho broth for dipping, lime, jalapeños, cilantro, hoisin sauce, and sriracha.

Deep Fried Surf and Turf Empanada

The deep-fried surf and turf empanada combines succulent pulled lobster and crab meat, Palacio Chorizo, sweet corn, heavy cream, cilantro, paprika, and a splash of lime juice wrapped in a traditional corn masa pastry, fried, and served with a side of garlic aioli infused with avocado oil.

Deep Fried Sushi Bombs

Sushi rice is generously topped with imitation crab meat and perfectly seasoned salmon for a quick bake. The sushi bake is then rolled in panko breadcrumbs, deep-fried, and served with a side of seaweed and Yum Yum dipping sauce. 

Deep Fried Cheesy Crab Tater Bites 

This dish starts with a blend of minced crab meat, shredded potato, cheese, and spices that are formed into tater bites, and fried. A cheesy Cajun sauce is simultaneously made, which starts off with the holy trinity: onions, bell peppers, and celery. These ingredients are sautéed with American cheese and a secret Cajun spice mix. As it all comes together, crawfish are added.

Fried Monte Qristo

Layered with brisket, American cheese, and smoked turkey breast with Swiss, then golden fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Served in a recyclable paper tray with raspberry chipotle BBQ sauce for dipping.

Fried Texas BBQ Shotgun Shells 

Made with slow-smoked, shredded, Texas BBQ beef brisket, melted, Velveeta, and cream cheese, seasoned with Meat Church Texas Sugar Rub, then rolled in a pasta sheet, wrapped up in hickory smoked bacon, and rolled in jalapeño breadcrumbs. 

Loaded Fries Pizza 

Pizza dough is hand-tossed and stretched onto a 16″ pizza screen. After ladling on house-made buttermilk ranch dressing, the pie is covered with a layer of freshly shredded mozzarella. Then a pile of salted French fries is added, then a blanket of cheddar cheese, and a topping of bacon, and chives after baking. 

OX’cellent Soul Roll

Beef oxtails are slowly simmered for hours. Tasty chunks of meat and crumbled homestyle cornbread are then added and paired with butter, celery, and onions. The hearty beef mixture is rolled into a spring roll and served deep-fried. 

Raspberry Chipotle Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese

Fresh jalapeños filled with cream cheese & raspberry chipotle jam are wrapped in bacon and roasted until crispy. Then, they’re sandwiched between slices of white bread and cheddar cheese and finally griddled until golden brown. 

Taki Ramen Tostada 

A ramen noodle cake is flash-fried, smothered with made-from-scratch savory seasoned taco meat, and topped with crispy Asian sesame seed slaw and a drizzle of garlic lime aioli. Finally, Mexican queso banco and crumbled Takis® are sprinkled on top.

Texas Thai Up

A combination of pork and beef that’s battered and rolled in pad thai noodles, then deep fried. This is then dipped in a pad thai sauce and finally topped with cashews and freshly chopped green onions.

The Balboa 

Once the bread for the pizza sandwich has been cooked and rested, it is sliced open, and garlic aioli is spread on the top and bottom, then layered with pepperoni, capicola, soppressata, smoked provolone cheese, tomatoes, banana peppers, artichokes, onions, black olives, mushrooms, and arugula greens. This is finally topped with a balsamic reduction glaze.

The Tomato-Tomahto Potato-Potatho Slyder

The buns for the “slyder” are created with Southern fried green tomatoes, creating a base for the two-ounce ground beef patty seasoned with a secret house seasoning, smothered with provolone cheese, and sautéed bell peppers, then layered with pickles and lettuce. Dressed in a secret WAC spread, drenched in a cup of queso, topped off with an olive branch, and served on a bed of seasoned potato-potahtos.

The Triple C 

Start with a homemade waffle cone, then add some award-winning Nashville hot jumbo tenders, hand-breaded, fried, and mixed with mac and cheese. It’s finished with a secret sauce and sprinkles of homemade breadcrumbs.

Turkey Ribs!

Take the portion of turkey, fry it, and serve it with stuffing seasoned fries, homemade giblet gravy, and a secret salsa recipe. You can also order it Texas Style with BBQ sauce fries, jalapeños, and pickles.


Biscoff Delight 

New York-style cheesecake coated with Belgian chocolate. Each bite reveals the symphony of an outer layer adorned with crushed Biscoff cookies and a drizzle of Lotus Biscoff spread.

Bourbon Banana Caramel Sopapillas 

Traditional sopapillas topped with vanilla-caramel-infused bananas, sweet bourbon syrup, crushed candied pecans, sweetened mascarpone cheese, crumbled Nilla Wafers, and dusted with powdered sugar.


Mini churros deep fried to golden perfection and tossed in cinnamon and sugar, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, and cream cheese icing. Finally, it’s topped with crushed Oreos

Cotton Candyrita 

Starting with a cotton candy-pink sugar-rimmed cup with ice, a cotton candy-infused margarita is then added and topped off with a dollop of  cotton candy. 

Deep Fried Honey Butter Brisket Swirls

It’s a buttery, flakey dough layered with 16-hour, slow-smoked, chopped brisket, then rolled, cut, deep-fried, and glazed with secret honey butter sauce.

Deep Fried Texas Oatmeal Pie

An oatmeal cream pie is dipped into Dr. Pepper-flavored pancake batter and fried until golden brown. It is then drizzled with Big Red soda reduction and covered with marshmallow sauce over top, and dusted with powdered sugar. 

Deep Fried Vietnamese Coffee 

The slow-brewed coffee-infused cake is rolled into a ball, battered, and deep-fried. It is dusted with powdered sugar and served with condensed milk. 

Deep Fried Candy Pecan Bacon Bread Pudding

A bread pudding made with French bread and custard is cooled and cut into bite-sized pieces. his recipe begins with making the perfect bread pudding, a marriage of French bread, and a perfect custard recipe. After it cools, it’s cut into bite-size morsels and fried. The bread pudding is then tossed in a blend of cinnamon sugar, candy pecans, and chopped bacon, and  topped with a New Orleans praline sauce.

Fried Cherry Pie in the Sky 

A pie tart mold is lined with flakey, buttery pastry dough, then layered with shortbread cookies, cherries, a layer of blended shortbread cookies and finally topped with more pastry and hand-crimped forming a pie. After a quick dip in the fryer, the dessert is topped with a butter almond shortbread crumble. Presented with a pairing of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream drizzled with cherry preserves, whipped cream, and garnished with sugared cherries.

Fried Fireball® Shot 

After deep frying angel food cake, Fireball cinnamon malt liquor is poured over the top and into a shot glass. Y

Island Delight Deep Fried Piña Colada 

A specialty rum cake recipe is baked and then smashed! Pineapple, creme de coconut, and lime are added, then formed into spheres. These then get dusted in a sweet crumble and are lightly fried. This Island Delight is then decorated with a piña colada-inspired buttercream, sprinkles, and sugar glitter. 

Not’Cho Average Nachos 

A wonton wrapper is filled with cherry or apple filling, deep fried, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Each serving is topped with whipped topping and a dusting of brownie crumbs, then garnished with slices of strawberries, blueberries, and diced peaches, a drizzle of citrus glaze and chocolate sauce, and a cajeta-filled churro stick.

Rest in Heavenly Peach

Two slices of angel food cake are grilled in butter oil and placed on whipped cream topping, topped with cold dollop of peach pie filling. 

Strawberry Chicks-On-the-Stick 

Four seasoned wings are dipped in funnel cake mix, fried, tossed and sauced in honey and garlic, and spiraled on a stick infused with strawberries. They are then sprinkled with a hint of lemon rub and powdered sugar, placed on whipped cream, and splashed with strawberry syrup.

Sweet Encanto 

A waffle is sweetened with caramel dulce de leche that is swirled on a wafer. A specialty cream with slices of strawberry, kiwi, peach, and shredded coconut is added. Then this is topped with raspberry jam and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. 

The Fruity Pebble Pickle

A whole dill pickle wrapped in a Fruit Roll-Up and Fruit by the Foot, drizzled in sugar syrup, and coated in Fruity Pebbles. This is then drizzled again with strawberry snow cone syrup.


A blend of summer fruits, cucumbers, fresh mint, and lemonade served in a souvenir cowboy boot cup.

The contest kicked off in June with an impressive 57 entries represented by 37 concessionaires. It is required that all competitors have at least one year of experience as a concessionaire at the State Fair of Texas to enter the competition. With food as a cornerstone of the annual State Fair, these contenders are more than just successful small business owners; they have proven themselves to be authentic representations of the dedication and passion brought to the table each year. 

The selection process is headed up by a panel of internal judges and requires “blind judging” from start to finish, which means the panel does not know which concessionaire is behind each recipe. 

To vie for a spot in this semi-final round, contestants come up with a name and description for their concoctions, in addition to submitting a photo of their creation. 

The next round of preliminary judging will begin over the next several weeks, and the Fair-food finalists will be announced in mid-August. The top 10 entries will compete in the final round at this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards ceremony. 

The Fair opens September 29 and runs through October 22, 2023.

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