It’s worth visiting the Southwest for the food alone. You’ll discover the mouthwatering flavors of Mexican dishes, the subtly different New Mexican cuisine, a hint of Tex-Mex, and the gourmet creations of top chefs in the region’s resorts and hotels, especially Las Vegas.
t Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the Santa Fe Railyard district
New Mexico has its own distinctive cuisine. It is strongly influenced by Mexican cooking but uses local ingredients such as blue corn for tortillas. Sample it in Santa Fe, with its sophisticated dining scene and excellent cooking school.
Tucson was the first of only two US cities to be declared a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015 (followed by San Antonio Texas in 2018). Its food heritage dates back 4,000 years to when Native Americans first cultivated adapted crops to the arid climate. Delicacies include edible cacti such as nopales (prickly pear pads), mesquite pancakes, and Sonoran white wheat tortillas.
While it’s hard to find true Native American food outside private homes, Indian fry bread – a flat, fried dough served with sweet or savory toppings – is often sold at tourist attractions or events. Festivals are the best places to taste indigenous dishes such as fried rabbit meat or Three Sisters Stew, made with corn, beans, and squash.
You’ll often hear this question when you order food in the Southwest. Chile is a staple here, and many dishes can be served with either green or red peppers on top. One is not necessarily hotter than the other; the heat depends on the variety of chile and how many seeds it contains. To try a little of each on the side, just ask for “Christmas.”
The chile pepper is at the heart of Southwestern cuisine. Other main ingredients are similar to those found in Mexican cooking: corn, beans, cheese, and tomatoes. Local additions include ingredients such as nuts from the piñon pine, chayote (a squash similar to zucchini), and tomatillos, a walnut-sized green berry fruit.
There are more than 100 types of chile, including jalapeño, poblano, chipotle, and spicy cayenne.
DISCOVER Southwest USA Your Way
This spicy dried beef is a signature dish in Tucson’s El Charro restaurant.
A traditional Mexican soup or stew of pork, hominy and chile, posole is best sampled at The Shed in Santa Fe (www.sfshed.com).
Pollo en Mole
The classic Mexican dish of chicken in a spicy chocolate sauce is a staple at the Barrio Café in Phoenix (www.barriocafe.com).