The Centennial State is home to remarkably diverse landscapes, so it makes sense that its cuisine also varies widely across the state. From fresh-grown produce and locally brewed beers to Southwest-style comfort food, the most famous dishes in Colorado are as different as the land they’re served on.
Some of the state’s best food is seasonal, in particular its fruits and vegetables. So plan your trip to Colorado during the appropriate time of year for what you’d like to savor. In no particular order, here are ten of the most famous foods in Colorado:
In Western Colorado, just outside Grand Junction, sits the quaint town of Palisade. When driving through town, you’ll be offered sights of towering red cliffs, the winding Colorado River, and acres of lush orchards and vineyards.
Visit the downtown farmers’ market during the summer to find locally grown produce of all kinds, from cherries and grapes to tomatoes and cucumbers. The most famous product in the town, however, is undeniably the Palisade peach.
Thanks to the region’s fertile soil and 300+ days of sunshine a year, the peaches in Palisade grow big and sweet, perfect for baking or enjoying on their own. Farmers in the area have grown peach trees since the late 1800s; the fruit has been a cultural and culinary staple there ever since.
Each August, the town holds a peach festival. Vendors sell just about every kind of peach product you can imagine, like ice cream, salsa, wine, and pies. There are carnival rides for the kids, as well as a peach-eating contest, a parade, and a street dance.
Even if you don’t find yourself in Palisade during the peach festival, you’ll probably still be able to find some of their signature peaches. In the summertime, tents labeled “Palisade Peaches” pop up in towns throughout Colorado. In addition to peaches, these vendors often sell other fresh-grown goods from the town.
There are more than 400 breweries throughout the state, and while it varies from year-to-year, last we checked Colorado had the fourth-highest number of breweries per capita. Golden is famous for being the home of Coors beer, which is also the name of the Rockies baseball stadium. Go a brew tour for an unforgettable experience.
Colorado loves beer so much that Denver hosts the Great American Beer Festival each year. Hundreds of breweries from throughout the country (including many from Colorado) set up booths and pour thousands of different kinds of beer for attendees.
Ticket holders can sip unlimited one-ounce samples, compete in a costume contest, and enjoy live music during the three-day event. Hundreds of craft beers compete for gold, silver, and bronze in their respective categories.
Additionally, several other cities hold their own beer festivals throughout the year. When it comes to beer, Colorado unquestionably has something for everyone. If you miss the festivals but still want to try some excellent local drinks, don’t fret. Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs are each home to dozens of breweries.
Many cities have signature dishes– Buffalo wings, Cincinnati chili, and Boston cream pie are all well-known (and delicious) regional foods. Colorado has the Denver omelet. It’s a simple dish to make: combine eggs, ham, cheese, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers. Its history, however, isn’t exactly clear.
One theory goes that the omelet actually started as a sandwich. Egg foo yong, a combination of eggs, ham, and vegetables, was a popular dish among Chinese immigrants near the turn of the century. Railroad workers in the Mountain West may have put their egg foo yong on sandwiches to carry to work with them. Eventually, the bread was done away with and the Denver omelet was born.
Another story says that pioneer women added meat and vegetables to the dish to mask the scent of stale eggs. There’s even a plaque on California Street in Denver that recounts this narrative.
Regardless of where the Denver omelet got its start, today it’s a city staple. Sam’s No. 3 is an award-winning diner that has been in operation in the city since 1927. They have an extensive menu with huge portions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They serve 10 different kinds of omelets, including the Denver omelet.
Though its name may not sound exactly appetizing, the slopper is a favorite in Pueblo, Colorado. The “Steel City” is known for its green chilies, which are a key ingredient in its also-famous green chili (don’t get confused– chilies are a pepper; chili is a sauce).
The slopper is an open-face cheeseburger smothered in Pueblo green chili and cheese, sometimes topped with onions or avocado. Many eateries serve their sloppers with French fries on the side. It’s not a dish you eat with your hands– a fork and knife are required.
Many attribute the invention of the slopper to Gray’s Coors Tavern and its owners, Johnnie and Joe Greco. Supposedly in the 1950s, a local shop owner would often come into the tavern and ask for a hamburger and chili in a bowl so that he could “slop it up.” Others say the Star Bar invented the dish sometime in the ‘70s.
sJust about every tavern and restaurant in Pueblo offers the slopper on their menu. The Gold Dust Saloon serves three variations of the dish, along with craft beer, sandwiches, and salads.
Olathe Sweet Corn
The tiny western Colorado town of Olathe (o-LAY-tha) nearly disappeared in the 1970s. At the time, the town’s main crops were sugar beets and barley. Demand for these crops was in sharp decline and the local economy was suffering. Enter Dave Galinet and his sweet corn.
Galinet was a farmer who developed several varieties of sweet corn and chose Olathe for its ideal growing climate. Seeing Galinet’s success, other farmers in the area began growing corn as well.
The crop took off and put Olathe back on the map. The town began hosting an annual Sweet Corn Festival in 1992 to celebrate the vegetable that brought business back. After more than 20 years, the festival moved briefly to neighbor Montrose, but organizers brought it back to Olathe in 2021. The event includes a parade, live music, and a corn-eating contest. There are vendors and activities for both adults and children.
Colorado is known for its Rockies– both the mountain range and the major league baseball team. The latter inspired the name of another iconic state dish: the Rockie Dog.
Coors Field first opened in 1995 and sold “jumbo dogs”, a footlong Hebrew National hot dog topped with sauerkraut, grilled peppers, and onions. A few years later, they rebranded the hot dogs as Rockie Dogs.
You can get Rockie Dogs at Extreme Dog and Grill Works vendors throughout the baseball stadium. They also sell five other versions of hot dogs, including the Denver Dog, which comes piled high with shredded cheese, green chili sauce, and jalapenos.
As with most concessions purchases in major stadiums, Rockie Dogs and their variations aren’t cheap. Additionally, most concession stands are cashless, so you will need a credit or debit card handy.
Rocky Ford Melons
Western Colorado is characterized by some of the tallest mountains in the country, but eastern Colorado looks much like the Midwest: flat plains and valleys as far as the eye can see. Rocky Ford, Colorado sits in the Arkansas River Valley and grows some of the biggest and sweetest melons in the state.
Cantaloupes are likely the most famous melons to come from the area. However, Rocky Ford gained its melon-growing fame from watermelons and muskmelons in the late 1800s. Early pioneers set up a trading post along the Arkansas River and used the river to irrigate fields for farming.
By the turn of the century, Rocky Ford melons were being shipped as far as New York. The melons are particularly sweet, thanks to the valley’s hot, dry days and cool nights.
Each August, during the Arkansas Valley Fair, the town celebrates Watermelon Day. The day features several watermelon-themed activities, like a carving contest and seed-spitting competition. There are other events as well, including a fun run, bingo, and horse races.
You can find Rocky Ford melons at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and roadside stands throughout Colorado. Some farms sell them on-site, directly to customers.
You may hear the word “pie”, and immediately think of flaky crust, sweet fruit, and piles of whipped cream. Spaghetti pie involves none of the above. The pie is an iconic Colorado dish that’s exactly what it sounds like– a mound of spaghetti, tomatoes, ground meat, and cheese, baked into a gooey, lasagna-like casserole. Eggs are used to bind all the ingredients together.
It’s unclear where spaghetti pie came from. One theory says that it was born of a need to use up leftover pasta and sauce. Another credits church potluck goers, saying they invented the dish as a more convenient way to serve spaghetti to many people.
Dat’s Italian in Colorado Springs serves a number of pasta dishes, including spaghetti pie. They also offer meat dishes, salads, and a selection of wines and cocktails. Reservations can be made online.
Colorado Mountain Pie
New York has thin-crust pizza, Chicago makes deep-dish, and Detroit is known for its rectangle-shaped pie and crispy cheese edges. It seems that wherever Americans gather, a unique, regional version of pizza will eventually appear. In the Rockies, mountain pie is king.
Founded in 1973 in Idaho Springs, Beau Jo’s Pizza is the go-to favorite for this style of pie. It differs from other regional dishes in that the outside of the crust is thick and puffy, while the inside of the pie is thin. The crust is crispy, slightly sweet and often enjoy with honey drizzled on it. It’s a favorite among skiers and other outdoor recreationalists after a day spent burning calories.
If you want mountain pie, why not go all the way and get it from one of the highest pizzerias in the country? High Mountain Pies in Leadville, Colorado is a local favorite that sits at more than 10,000 feet elevation. Their dough is handmade and topped with a variety of fresh vegetables and hearty meats.
In the summer months, the pizza shop can get busy, so it’s wise to call ahead. They offer dine-in, carry-out, and delivery. In addition to their pizzas, they serve salads, breads, and chicken wings.
From spicy green chili sauce to sweet fruits and vegetables, Colorado’s famed cuisine offers something for everyone. Whether you find yourself in sprawling Denver or one of the state’s quaint mountain towns, the local eateries are sure to leave you hungering for more.