Besides being known for the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert, this hot and dry US state can also boast of having amazing food. Arizona’s cuisine is greatly influenced by its geographical and cultural diversity. To be more precise, this country’s cuisine is an interesting mishmash of Mexican influences, classic American staples, and native American foods.
According to the story, chimichangas were invented by accident when Monica Flynn, chef at ‘El Charro Café’, dropped a burrito in a deep fryer. This was back in the 1950’s. Today, these crispy roll-ups appear all over Arizona, from mini to jumbo chimi sizes (the jumbo ones being as big as a newspaper!) Chimichangas are filled with beef, chicken, carnitas, shrimp, or vegetarian beans and are lighter than you’d expect!
#2 Cheese Crisp
Cheese crisps are somewhere between Mexican pizza and quesadilla. They are actually open-faced, flour tortillas covered in shredded cheese. Cheese crisps are cooked on a metal pizza pan brushed with butter or margarine and cooked under a broiler until the tortilla is crisp and the cheese is melted. Perfection!
#3 Navajo Tacos
Navajo tacos are the best example of a food that combines native and Mexican food. It can be described as a tostada served on fry bread. In Mexico, tostada refers to various local dishes which are toasted or use toasted ingredients. On the other hand, fry bread was created in the 1800s using flour, lard, sugar, and salt and was given to the Navajo by the US government when they were forced to relocate. Whatever the story behind the food, it is certainly delicious and absolutely fulfilling!
#4 Piki Bread
Piki bread is a Hopi cuisine staple made from corn meal. The technique used to make it is difficult and has been passed down from generation to generation. This crispy bread is an important part of Hopi marriage ceremonies and is surprisingly nutritious.
#5 Sonoran Hot Dogs
Sonoran hot dogs are the best of both worlds – dogs wrapped in bacon and placed over pinto beans in a Mexican baguette called ‘bolillo’! And this is just the base. The sandwiches can be complemented with cheese, tomatoes, chili peppers, chili salsa, yellow mustard, mayonnaise… Drooling!
#6 Ranch Fries
These crinkle cut fries covered in a homemade ranch dressing may seem humble but they are truly exquisite. In fact, they were the most frequent response to the question “What dish most reminds you of Arizona?”. Eegees, as they’re also called, are delicious on their own, especially when they are complemented with bacon bits, but they’re also perfect for dipping! Throw away the forks and use your fingers!
#7 Cowboy Steak
Also called Tomahawk steak, this dish is a true symbol of the Wild West. Big, rich, juicy, and very flavorful, with marbling all over, this T-bone steak is usually served with charro beans, white bread slices, and fresh salad. We bet it was John Wayne’s favorite dinner choice!
Paletas are Mexican icy treats typically made of fruit, with sweet, savory, and sometimes spicy add-ins. The flavors range from standard to crazy – coconut, cucumber, sweet corn, rice pudding, mango, pecans… There is no better way to refresh during the hot Arizona summers!
Also called ‘pozole’, which means ‘hominy’, this spicy soup is well-loved everywhere in Mexico and throughout the American Southwest. It uses hominy (dried maize kernels soaked in lime) combined with meat (usually pork), garnished with shredded cabbage or lettuce, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, oregano, chili peppers, and salsa. Posole appears in different colors – white, red, and green, depending on the ingredients used.
For those who grew up in Arizona, tamales are a staple holiday food. A properly prepared tamale is so moist and spicy you don’t even need any toppings. However, there’s no harm in enriching it with cheese and sauces!
When it comes to Arizona’s best foods, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to add your own favorite to the list!