Last Updated September 14, 2018 9/14/2018

Top 10 Native Arizona Foods You Must-Try

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Native American, Mexican, Frontier, and contemporary influences have created quite the unique culinary history for Arizona. True indigenous foods almost disappeared after natives were forced to flee, and recipes from Mexico have heavily impacted what the state’s dwellers consume. We love the majestic blend of southwest flavors.


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Sonoran Hotdog

The Sonoran Hotdog originated in Mexico, but became a strong staple in Arizona years ago. A bacon wrapped hotdog is placed in a bread pocket and topped with mayo, mustard, beans onions and tomato. You’ll find no shortage of vendors in Phoenix or Tucson.


Cholla is a cacti which can be found in many variations in the Sonoran Desert. Remove the spines from the small orbs after picking, then boil them to remove an acid that serves as a natural protector for the plant. Many enjoy the gooey delicacy straight, or incorporated into other desert cuisine such as salsa.

Mesquite Flour

Mesquite Flour

Mesquite Pods taste a bit sweet and warm, mimicking flavors of caramel. Pods can be ground into a fine flour and used to make healthy baked treats. For a completely authentic Arizona experience, pick your own long, thin pods from June through September and have them properly milled by
the non profit group Desert Harvesters, which promotes native Sonoran Desert foods. Barrio Breads Tucson sells the best ready made loaves of mesquite bread.

Chiltepin Peppers

Chiltepin peppers grow wild in Arizona, and are incorporated into many flaming hot dishes. Be prepared when you try a food with these super spicy balls of fire—however, they are delicious and make for a vibrant salsa!


You can call them cochinitos, puerquitos or…Mexican Piggy Cookies. Shaped like adorable pigs, of course, the light cookie is puffy, fluffy and downright fun. Slightly sweetened with molasses and spiced with cinnamon, it’s a heartwarming treat best enjoyed at La Estrella Bakery.

Navajo Taco

In 1864, Navajo Indians were forced to take the “Long Walk”, from their native land to New Mexico. With minimal ingredients to work with, they created Frybread with flour, sugar and salt by frying it in lard until bubbly and golden. Top it with beef, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese—that’s a Navajo Taco.


Originating in Mexico, Pozole, or Posole, has established itself as a staple in Arizona. Made from lime infused hominy, a hearty meat broth and robust peppers, it’s one heck of an awesome stew.

Prickly Pear

Ah, the Prickly Pear Cactus, Arizona’s cacti candy sets on top of the plant with an alluring purple hue. Also known as Opuntia Cactaceae, you’ll find it used in dishes and treats all over the state—but you should definitely try it in its original form, too. Vovomeena tops their breakfast corn cakes with prickly pear syrup, and we’re in love.

Tepary Beans

Before pinto beans were introduced, Southwest Indians relied on Tepary beans, a much more nutritious, low glycemic carbohydrate source. Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona has been growing the almost extinct bean since the 1970s—brown, black and white strains can be tossed in stews, casseroles or simply enjoyed alone for their nutty flavor.


While of Mesaamerican decadent, the maize based delicacies are wrapped in a corn husk and filled with a variation of ingredients, from meats to veggies—tamales are an Arizona staple. They are a starchy comfort food, and you’ll find the most delicious and unique variations at the Tucson Tamale Company, like Vegan Green Chili, or Chocolate Cherry! (You have to top dessert tamales with vanilla ice cream!)


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