Pronto Pups at the Minnesota State Fair: Everything You Need to Know

pronto pup minnesota state fair

The state fair is coming up!

Which means two things:

  1. If you’re a Minnesota native visiting the fair, then you know this simple truth: The Pronto Pup is, without question, one of the “must-eat” foods at the Minnesota State Fair.
  2. If you’re new to the Minnesota State Fair, you might be wondering what on earth is with Pronto Pups? What exactly, are they, and why do Minnesotans seem to be so obsessed with them?

Don’t worry. As someone who’s been visiting the State Fair since before I could walk (and also a long-time Pronto Pup addict) I’ve got all your answers about Minnesota’s sort-of-corn-dog.

What is a Pronto Pup?

The Pronto Pup is one of the Minnesota State Fair’s many fried foods on a stick.

In fact, at an event that thrives on foods on a stick, The Pronto Pup is the most popular food-on-a-stick of them all!

At its simplest, The Pronto Pup is a skewered hot dog that’s dipped in batter and then deep fried to a golden brown perfection.

“But wait, isn’t that a corn dog?” I can hear you asking.

Oh no it isn’t, dear reader. And if you think it is, then are you in for a treat…

Pronto Pup vs. Corn Dog

what is a pronto pup vs. corn dog

At first glance, these two cousins sure look similar.

I mean that literally. They’re both breaded and fried hot dogs on a stick. Judging on looks alone, I’d bet that all but the most avid of Minnesota State Fair goers would struggle to correctly identify the pronto pup versus the corn dog.

So what’s the difference?

Most folks would claim that a corn dog uses corn meal in the breading, while a pronto pup does not. But that’s not actually true, and instead appears to be our state fair’s version of an urban legend.

The real difference? According to the StarTribune’s interview with franchise owner Gregg Karnis, the Pronto Pup and Corn Dog both use corn meal in the crust. But the Pronto Pup also adds corn flour, wheat flour, and rice flour. The Pronto Pup also uses much less sugar than the corn dog. And true to its Midwestern roots, the sausages themselves are blended fresh in Wisconsin.

Can you taste the difference?

I bet you can.

I sure can.

At the Minnesota State Fair, you can find both Pronto Pups and Corn Dogs galore. Which means if you’re a truly dedicated fan, like yours truly, you can taste one immediately after the other.

I’ve done just that, and there’s no denying that the Pronto Pup has a much less sweet flavor overall.

As a result, the pronto dog / sausage take on a much more front-and-center spot in each bite, which is a rightful improvement in my opinion. 

Meanwhile, the Pronto Pup’s fried breading itself also has a more… grainy?… flavor, and I mean that in the best way.

Franchise owner Gregg Karnis claims it has a more “adult flavor,” and I totally agree with his biased assessment. 🙂

To me, the super sweet flavor of the corn dog resembles the freezer isle stuff you ate as a kid, while the Pronto Pup’s authentic Wisconsin dogs and grain-forward taste resembles what you can only call state fair royalty.

The difference is in the taste, and the Pronto Pup delivers that in spades!

P.S. – The Pronto Pup vs. the Texas Original Corny Dog

Here’s the part of the article where I really rile up my southern friends.

For fun, I’ve visited the Texas State Fair, home of the “Original Corny Dog.”

You see, The Texas State Fair likes to claim that its the only fair in the country bigger than Minnesota’s (it’s not) and then they double down on the rivalry by claiming that their version of the corn dog is better than our Pronto Pups.

So, I went there and checked it out myself.

And I learned two truths:

  1. Not only is that Texas State Fair smaller (they eek out our total attendance record by a couple thousand, but their fair lasts a whole month whereas we reach nearly the same number of visitors in just 12 days!)
  2. The Pronto Pup tastes way better! Come at me, Texans! 💪

More History on the Pronto Pup

In case you’re still curious about that Pronto Pup, here’s the cliff notes version of that history:

By all accounts, the Pronto Pup technically originated in Portland, Oregon. Or at least that’s where Jack Karnis and his wife first tasted a fried hot dog on a stick.

The two immediately fell so head over heels in love with the treat that they developed their own recipe and brought it back to their hometown in Chicago, Illinois.

Another guy by the name of William Breede tried the dog in Chicago, and immediately convinced Karnis to bring the Pronto Pup to the Minnesota State Fair.

In 1947, they did just that. 

Fun fact: The Pronto Pup also claims to be the first booth to use flashing lights to draw in customers, which is now a staple at fairs all over the country.

Pronto Pup’s Sales & Popularity

Today, the Pronto Pup Franchise is operated by Jack Karnis’s son, Gregg. And the lovable classic is as popular as ever, regularly racking up over $2 million dollars in just 12 days of sales at the Minnesota State Fair. (Of all the fair vendors, its second only to Sweet Martha’s Chocolate Chip Cookies)

In fact, the franchise owner told the StarTribune that Pronto Pups alone make up over half of all the hot dogs sold at the Minnesota State Fair each year.

Pronto Pup Locations at the Minnesota State Fair

minnesota pronto pup locations

Mouth watering yet? Ready to get your Pronto Pup Fix?

Every year, Pronto Pups have multiple locations scattered all around the Minnesota State Fair.

Just look for those golden-yellow booths, complete with a cartoon drawing of a corn dog pronto pup(!) and a line around the block!

P.S. – Don’t miss our complete guide to the best foods at the Minnesota State Fair.

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