8 Famous Colorado Foods
After searching the four corners for the most famous Colorado foods (and drink!), we’ve created this list to help visitors and locals get the most out of the Centennial State. There’s something for every palate, so grab some Rocky Mountain Oysters, raise a pint of craft beer, and let’s toast to Colorado!
1. Palisade Peaches
On the far west border of Colorado is a quaint town called Palisade located in Grand Valley. A once arid and desert-like plain, Palisade was a less than ideal place for a grove of peach trees, let alone anything else. However, an early settler named John Harlow saw potential, and through ingenuity and foresight, he helped create a canal that redirected water from the Colorado River to irrigate the land.
The first peach tree was planted in 1882 and it took only a few years for the bounty of the harvest to reach the mouths of people all around the state. Today, the area produces hundreds of thousands of pounds of perfect peaches that are exported throughout the U.S. and beyond.
Benefiting grapes, cherries, and apricots as well, the western sun turns the peaches a succulent shade of orange. From pies, to jams, jellies and cobblers, this juicy and tender fruit tempts both the local and visitor every summer culminating with Peach Fest!
2. Rocky Mountain Oysters
Some people say they taste like chicken…but what are they?! Contrary to what their name might suggest, Rocky Mountain Oysters are far from being bivalve mollusks found at your favorite seafood restaurant. No, this delicacy comes from an animal much closer to home here in Colorado and actually consist of…wait for it…bull or bison testicles!
Sounds good, right? While some of your stomachs are churning, others find these breaded and fried balls a tasty bar snack, especially served up with a side of spicy cocktail sauce and pickles. And to be fair, they’re quite nutritious too, having a high vitamin and protein content.
3. Colorado Craft Beer
With over 20 breweries right here in Colorado Springs and another 300 throughout the state, it’s no wonder that Colorado is a bourgeoning haven for beer buffs.
Coors, the father of Colorado breweries and today a national beer behemoth, was founded in Golden in 1873. Their popular “banquet beer” was originally developed by Adolf Coors for miners and pioneers and eventually made it’s way into all 50 states by 1991, just about the time the brewery industry began to pick up speed around the country.
Perhaps an even more formidable force of the fermented drink are the craft breweries around the state, accounting for a multi-billion dollar industry in Colorado alone. Combining clever ingredients (think cherry, saffron, or cucumber) with the basics of water, malt, hops, and yeast, these brewers are finding innovative ways to reinvent our oldest boozy beverage.
Excited to share their artistry with anyone of legal age, craft brewers are often friendly and will tell you about their process and passion. Take a food tour with Rocky Mountain Food Tours to get a behind-the-scenes look at an age-old industry that is taking Colorado by storm.
4. Green Chili / Pueblo Chilies
This spicy sauce often made with pork is a coveted condiment and some aficionados make it their quest to find the best in the West. Though you’d be hard-pressed to get anyone to release their recipe, green chili is made of an assortment of ingredients often including onions, tomato, garlic and a variety of spice and chilies. And certainly not exclusive to Latin or Mexican restaurants, you can find green chili everywhere from breakfast bars to greasy spoons to burger joints throughout southern Colorado.
If you want to get really local, try green chili made with Pueblo chilies. Grown on the St. Charles Mesa about an hour south of Colorado Springs, these chilies are sturdy enough to withstand being roasted without turning to mush. Pueblo is so proud of their chilies that they host a Chile & Frijoles Festival that takes up more than 10 city blocks every September following harvest.
5. Colorado Lamb
Travel the world and you will likely find Colorado lamb on the menus of elegant eateries, which believe it’s the crème de la crème among mountain meats. To the Western palette lamb is somewhat of an acquired taste but for Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and European palettes, it’s a staple in everyday cuisine.
Bred for quality of meat as opposed to wool, Colorado lamb is known for being rich in flavor, good in texture, and completely devoid of artificial growth hormones. It certainly helps that these hill-dwelling animals nosh on a variety of grasses, plants, berries, and even wild carrots all day.
6. Rocky Ford Cantaloupe
Once again the intense sunshine and chilly nights bode well for Colorado produce farmers, but this time in the Arkansas Valley in the southeast quadrant of the state. Businessman George Washington Swink had a green thumb when it came to growing watermelons in the 1870s but soon found his knack for muskmelon, or what was later named Netted Gem Cantaloupe.
They were slightly larger than the cantaloupes of that day and sweeter too, and Swink hired help to increase his capacity and soon began selling to St. Louis and beyond via the railway. Come early July when harvest comes, fruit fanatics throughout Colorado will be glad to find their beloved Rocky Ford Cantaloupes on the shelves of their area grocer.
Leaner and arguably more flavorful than it’s red meat counterparts, bison is growing in popularity both in Colorado and around the U.S. In fact, The Bison Council touts that the meat is up to 84% lower in fat than beef, half the calories and without any hormones, antibiotics, or fillers.
Ranked as the fourth largest producer in the nation, Colorado’s grassy plains are prime real estate for these roaming American Buffalo. Sustainability efforts, both for the wild bison and for the lands upon which they graze, are in effect as they are important for our ecosystem and our Wild West history.
8. Olathe Sweet Corn
For a town of only a couple thousand people, Olathe sure found a way to make their mark on western Colorado with their famous sweet corn. Most notably, however, might be that several of the local farmers are committed to growing non-GMO corn. This handpicked, bi-colored and yellow corn can be a good source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
With a mid-summer harvest, dependent on the year’s rainfall, sweet corn for Olathe usually hits shelves around the state by July. And right around the corner, always on the first Saturday in August, this little town hosts the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival.
Happy Colorado eating, everyone! Samantha from Rocky Mountain Food Tours
Are you interested in trying these Colorado foods but are not sure where to find them? Check out our Pinterest board “Colorado’s Favorite Foods” for recipes and local restaurant recommendations!