In modern Alaskan restaurants, you can dine on a diverse array of delicious foods from all over the world. However, a cruise to Alaska gives you the chance to sample homegrown — and caught — delicacies as well as a few unique highlights of traditional Alaskan cuisine. In coastal communities featured on Alaskan cruises, you can find fantastic fish and seafood options on every menu, while select restaurants present more unusual offerings like caribou steaks and moose stew. Your best bet if you want to sample some traditional Alaskan food is to ask a local where to go. While you’re in a great port city, why not make an adventure out of discovering all the weird and wonderful things you can find to eat?
Tip: Another way to really immerse yourself in the culinary world of Alaska is by taking a food-themed shore excursion, such as the Taste of Juneau walking tour or the Alaska Fishing and Wilderness Dining experience, during which you’ll catch fish and cook it over a fire.
The Freshest Fish and Seafood
Alaska is famous for its incredible salmon, which is shipped all over the world but never more delicious than when you eat it right where it’s caught. This might mean an elegant restaurant meal of wild salmon served with seasonal local vegetables or a rustic feast of wood-grilled salmon at a wilderness lodge with views of glaciers. Smoked salmon is popular too, and it uses a traditional preservation technique that means you can bring a taste of Alaska home. You’ll find lots of choices, including salmon smoked over hickory, alder or apple wood; and different types of salmon too, including king, pink, silver and red. Search through menus for smoked salmon chowder, a delightful Alaskan take on a classic dish.
Pacific halibut is a real prize for any fisherman (you can try to reel one in yourself on a halibut fishing excursion), and a stand-out feature of any menu. Traditional preparations such as grilling, frying and steaming showcase the fish’s delicious flavors, while contemporary restaurants offer fusion dishes starring halibut, such as halibut tacos.
Rivaling fish as Alaska’s most famous catch is king crab, the enormous, knobbly crustaceans made famous by reality television. See real-life crab fisherman haul them in during the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour from Ketchikan, or simply hit any dockside seafood shack to feast on king crab legs the size of your arm. Dungeness crab and snow crab are served throughout Alaska too, whether steamed and cracked and served with melted butter, or transformed into crab cakes, crab bisque, crab rolls and more.
Spot Prawns and Oysters
Other seafood treats to try when you travel to Alaska are spot prawns, which are huge, sweet shrimp caught locally in season, and oysters, which are farmed year-round in cold Alaskan waters and served raw or cooked. Look for oysters from Kachemak Bay, known to be huge and sweet-tasting.
Unusual Alaskan Meat Dishes
Local hunters in Alaska might catch and eat a wide range of game, including moose, caribou, elk and bear. Restaurant menus occasionally feature such dishes as moose stew or caribou chili, but there are a few unusual Alaskan meat dishes that are easier to find. Reindeer sausage is one of them, and in Alaska it often replaces other types of sausage, for example on pizza or as the popular street food, reindeer dogs. Burgers are another American classic available with an Alaskan twist, as yak burgers, sourced from a commercial yak ranch in the Copper River Valley.
Native Alaskan Dishes
The traditional cuisine of Alaska’s native culture centers around fish, seal, whale, game birds and meat that you’re unlikely to find on any restaurant menu in the contiguous United States. However, if you do get the chance, there are a couple of stand-out native Alaskan specialties you might want to sample. There’s muktuk, which is sliced whale skin, blubber and meat, traditionally eaten raw and frozen, but sometimes cooked. And Alaskan ice cream looks and tastes conventionally delicious but its ingredients are far from conventional. It’s a whipped concoction of seal oil, dried fish, moose or caribou, plus snow and wild berries. More approachable is salmon candy and various kinds of jerky, including caribou, reindeer, elk and fish.
Alaskan Craft Beer
Alaska has a thriving craft brewery scene. A few homegrown breweries are famous outside the state, but numerous small-scale craft breweries have their beers featured on local menus as the perfect accompaniment to Alaskan food. Some offer flights of Alaskan beers for a great sampling opportunity. Among locally brewed beers are IPAs, summer ales, amber ales and lagers. Look out for a variety from Sitka infused with spruce tips.
A Bounty of Wild Berries
A great variety of wild berries grow seasonally all over Alaska, some familiar kinds and others you’ve probably never heard of. Wild blueberries and wild cranberries from Alaska tend to be sweeter and smaller than the regular varieties. Look out for cloudberries, lingonberries, mossberries and salmonberries, which look like yellow or orange raspberries but have a flavor that’s quite unique. Dine on fresh berries piled into pies, cobblers or bread pudding made with local sourdough. You might also pick up some jams and jellies to take home as sweet souvenirs from Alaska.
Even the fussiest of visitors will find plenty of delicious foods to eat in Alaska. Travel to the Last Frontier with a big appetite and an open mind and you’ll be ready for an unforgettable culinary adventure.