Journey Through the Flavors of Arizona

From Navajo tacos to prickly pear margaritas and beyond, the flavors of Arizona range from indulgent to energizing. We dig into the highlights and one particular controversy–the origin of the Hatch Green Chile–below.
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Discover the flavors of Arizona before planning your next trip to the Southwest. After reading this article, you’ll know to keep an eye out for fry bread, Sonoran hot dogs, and blue corn tortillas—and you’ll ask for salsa with just about everything! No matter where your travels take you, you’re sure to encounter tasty flavors and creative twists on classic favorites.

This story was created in partnership with Visit Arizona

Don’t Miss these Arizona Specialties

It’s true, the Grand Canyon State isn’t necessarily known as an agricultural hot spot, but it should be. With terrain ranging from nearly sea-level to mountains at more than 10,000 feet and a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Arizona specializes in producing a number of delicious items. 

Medjool Dates

If the word “Yuma” only brings to mind a gritty western flick, think again. This city in western Arizona produces 15 million pounds of Medjool dates each year! Described as the “candy snack that grows on trees” by Martha’s Gardens, these delicacies make sumptuous road trip fuel. Stop by the farm to learn how Arizona creates the perfect environment to produce these treats en masse.  

Saguaro Cactus in Arizona

Saguaro and Prickly Pear

An icon of the Southwest, the Saguaro cactus provides more than just a great photo opportunity. It also produces fruit that was historically boiled down into syrup or dried into a type of candy by the Tohono O’odham people. Today, you might find it on a menu incorporated into barbecue sauce. Sample it at La Posada in Winslow. Additionally, prickly pear fruit is a prominent ingredient in jams, jellies, and syrups. You may have already tasted it infused into tequila for a margarita of note! 

Try Some Traditional Fare

Many flavors of Arizona date back to ancient times. The best part is that today, you don’t have to search long to find these specialties. Take your tastebuds for an adventure in Arizona with traditional fare. 

Fry Bread is a Delicacy in AZ

Fry Bread

The most iconic traditional dish in the Navajo Nation is fry bread. This airy staple is not to be confused with funnel cake. Originally crafted out of necessity during tumultuous times in America’s past, fry bread continues to be a common meal. You’ll see it offered with a variety of toppings, from sweet honey and sugar to what you might normally imagine in a savory taco: beans, meat, shredded lettuce, and salsa. Additionally, restaurants are reintroducing this culturally significant food in modern menus with a nod to Arizona’s rich history. Pick up some fry bread on your journey through the Navajo Nation, or try Cafe Santa Rosa in Tucson, who created the fry bread shown above.

Blue Corn

Another traditional item you may find on the menu in this region is blue corn. Originally cultivated by the Hopi and Pueblo Indians, this heirloom item is integrated into everything from tortillas to pancakes. Not only is this beautiful variety more fun to eat, but it features up to 30 percent higher protein content than its lighter-colored counterparts. 

Spice Things Up, Southwestern Style

Not to be confused with Tex Mex, Southwestern cuisine features bold flavors like cilantro, lime, chili, and salsa. These colorful and often healthful plates (there’s no queso) are at the intersection between Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cultures. And what better place to enjoy these savory dishes than in the heart of the American Southwest? 

BOCA by Chef Maria Mazon

Chilis and Salsa

Arizona is the origin of perhaps the most famous personality in all of Southwest fare—the Hatch Green Chile. While New Mexico enjoys much of the spotlight for this essential pepper, one notable Arizona farmer produces all the seeds: Ed Curry. In fact, almost 90 percent of all chilis grown commercially in the United States can be traced back to Curry’s farm! 

All this chili heritage is a source of pride for Arizona locals, and comes through in a prominent salsa culture nearly anywhere you can find Southwestern dishes. Don’t miss BOCA Tacos and Tequila in Tucson (above) for fresh daily salsas featuring innovative twists. 

Indulge in Arizona’s Casual Eats

Whether tending to a grumbling stomach after visiting a museum or traveling specifically to the birthplace of your favorite Mexican dish, the most indulgent flavors of Arizona do not disappoint. 

Indulge at the El Charro Cafe in AZ


Chimi-what? Also known as simply a “chimi,” this decidedly unhealthy dish is essentially a deep-fried burrito. According to local lore, the chimichanga was born in the early 1920s when a burrito accidentally fell into a deep fryer at El Charro Café in Tucson. Surely, a happy accident that has cured many hunger pains since. Served today with sour cream and guacamole, you probably won’t find yourself needing seconds!

The Flavors of Arizona include Hot Dogs!

Sonoran Hot Dog

While hot dogs aren’t exactly unique for the American traveler, Arizona puts a finger-licking twist on this late-night classic. Forget the ketchup and pickles—instead, this dog comes piled with pinto beans, jalapenos, onions, and more. It’s all nestled into a delicious split-top roll called a “bolillo.” Originally hailing from Sonora, Mexico in the 1940s, you can rest assured you’re indulging in a part of history. Order one at El Guëro Canelo, whose James Beard Award-winning dog is worth a trip to Tucson in itself.

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Photo courtesy of @Ronakp967 via Instagram.


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