Mexican Recipes | Tucson Sonoran Style

Charro Cowboy Beans

Charro Cowboy Beans

Vegan recipe for the saucy, whole Sonoran-style pinto beans that you see cowboys (charros) eating in old Western movies, from the Taste of Tucson cookbook by Jackie Alpers.

Tucson’s Famous Topopo Salad

Tucson’s Famous Topopo Salad

The topopo, Tucson’s most iconic salad is visually stunning. It’s made to look like volcano with lettuce piled on a bean tostada and surrounded with grilled shrimp, Tajin dipped vegetables and cheese. It’s crowned with a green olive and a slice of tomato.

Sonoran-Style Red Pozole

Sonoran-Style Red Pozole

This pork and hominy Pozole is a traditional “low-and-slow” braising recipe. It takes about 3 ½ hours to cook from start to finish because pork shoulder is a fatty cut of meat that takes a while to break down. But the pork fat is what gives this soup its richness. My Sonoran-style version of this dish is topped with lots of fresh vegetables and citrus.

Bison Nachos

Bison Nachos

Bison are a seminal component of Western American history. The massive bison hunts of the 19th century resulted in their near extinction. With conservation efforts in place, the Yellowstone bison are considered the last truly wild herd of American plains bison in existence. Regenerative bison farms have reintroduced this healthy beef alternative into American food systems.

Sonoran Enchiladas

Sonoran Enchiladas

Recipe for Enchiladas Sonorenses: Flat Sonoran-style enchiladas are unique to the desert Southwestern region surrounding the Tucson/Sonora, Mexico border are small corn masa pancakes covered in red enchilada sauce.

Creamed Corn Chowder with Popped Amaranth

Creamed Corn Chowder with Popped Amaranth

This rich and creamy, charred corn chowder is made with lowfat buttermilk and topped with popped Amaranth which is a gluten-free, ancient grain native to the Western and Southwestern United States that can be popped like popcorn which a nice crunch.

Texas-Style Chile con Carne

Texas-Style Chile con Carne

Chile Colorado con Carne recipe from The Unofficial Yellowstone Cookbook. In the season 4 finale of Yellowstone, the bunkhouse gets into a heated debate over whether or not chili has beans. The Unofficial Yellowstone cookbook shares a recipe for both chili with and without beans because Texas where the character “Jimmy” had recently visited, is famous for their Chile Colorado which is made without beans – it’s mainly beef and red chiles, and it is fabulous. Get the chili with beans recipe… and more in The Unofficial Yellowstone Cookbook.

Beanie Weenie Tacos

Beanie Weenie Tacos

Is it a hot dog? Is it a taco? Is it Beans & Franks? Yes, it is! My hot dog tacos are made with charro beans and topped with pickled red onion and a special sauce. This recipe is an excerpt from Taste of Tucson: Sonoran Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona by Jackie

Sonoran Hot Dogs

Sonoran Hot Dogs

Sonoran Hot Dogs are a Tucson, Arizona tradition. This recipe comes from Daniel Contreras whose restaurant, El Guero Canelo was presented with a James Beard America’s Classics Award. This is his version of the Sonoran style hot dog which I am honored to include in my cookbook, Taste of Tucson.

Grilled Sonoran-Style Carne Asada Quesadillas

Grilled Sonoran-Style Carne Asada Quesadillas

Grilled flour tortillas stuffed with carne asada, green onions, cheese, & crispy corn tortilla chips for extra crunch! It’s everything you always wanted in a quesadilla but with more crunch!

Homemade Chile Powder for Spice Blends

Homemade Chile Powder for Spice Blends

How to dehydrate and grind chile peppers, with recipes for chili powder and custom spice blends using fresh homegrown and/or exotic store bought chiles. Preserve expensive and/or hard to find chiles.

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran Shopping Guide

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran Shopping Guide

Sonoran cooking resource and shopping guide for the Taste of Tucson cookbook by Jackie Alpers, with lists of ingredients, pantry staples and photography equipment recommendations.

Molletes for Breakfast Anytime

Molletes for Breakfast Anytime

These open-faced breakfast sandwiches are made by slathering refried beans onto toasted bolillo rolls and then heaping avocado slices, a fried egg, hot sauce, and lots of cheese on top.

Chiltepin Hot Salsa Recipe From the Taste of Tucson Cookbook

Chiltepin Hot Salsa Recipe From the Taste of Tucson Cookbook

Chiltepin salsa is an all-purpose salsa that can be used for dipping, for seasoning, and as a taco sauce. A little goes a long way, so if you prefer a milder salsa, cut the amount of chiles down by a half or a third. This recipe is from the Taste of Tucson cookbook by Jackie Alpers.

Chorizo, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Taco

Chorizo, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Taco

I ate this for breakfast every day for weeks while writing my Taste of Tucson cookbook. The fat from the chorizo makes the egg really crispy and adds a lot of flavor without too many extra calories.

Matzoh Molletes Rancheros

Matzoh Molletes Rancheros

This crispy matzo based breakfast is a cross between molletes and huevos rancheros. I used beans from a can and my homemade chiltepin salsa.

Beef Patty Tacos

Beef Patty Tacos

Teresa Matias told me that to help satisfy her children’s cries for burgers when buns weren’t handy, she would fold a hamburger patty into a tortilla and fry it. Topped with cheese, lettuce, and tomato, it later became a regular menu item at her restaurant, Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe. Apparently, a lot of moms had the same experience, because the beef patty taco has been standard restaurant fare around southern Arizona since at least the mid-1970s.

Chicken Molé Amarillo Recipe from the Taste of Tucson Cookbook

Chicken Molé Amarillo Recipe from the Taste of Tucson Cookbook

Nuttier and less sweet than its chocolate based cousin, this version of Molé Amarillo is the personal creation of Chef Suzana Davila of Tucson’s Cafe Poca Cosa. She specializes in these complex sauces, and her recipes are longtime local favorites which is one reason why I wanted to feature the recipe in my upcoming cookbook Taste of Tucson: Sonoran Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona. Serve this dish with tortillas and a pretty, salad, as Suzana would. 

Sonoran Style Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Sonoran Style Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

There are Southwestern regional influences that vary from New Mexico to Arizona, Texas, and Southern California. Here in Tucson, our regional cuisine is defined by fresh veggies, grilled meats and all of the delicacies that a mid-sized, sunshine filled desert city/college town, 60 miles from Mexico, has to offer. It’s summertime eating all year round.

Chelada Beer Cocktail

Chelada Beer Cocktail

This super-refreshing citrus beer cocktail is served in a chile and salt rimmed glass over ice. It’s kinda like a beer margarita. I love it because it’s a big drink that lasts a long time and it has considerably less sugar and calories than a margarita. 

Hibiscus Agua Fresca Cooler

Hibiscus Agua Fresca Cooler

This hibiscus agua fresca isn’t too sweet, so you can drink it all day long and even into the night (perhaps with vodka!) It’s healthy too.

Mexican Street Corn Hot Dogs

Mexican Street Corn Hot Dogs

Inspired by Mexican Street Corn, this whole beef jumbo hot dog is topped with roasted corn, mayo, lime and spices and served in a top-cut, whole grain bolillo roll. Food photo and recipe by Jackie Alpers.

Cheesiest Cheese Crisp with Chipotle Ranch Drizzle

Cheesiest Cheese Crisp with Chipotle Ranch Drizzle

The cheese crisp is the perfect comfort food. A cross between a Mexican pizza an an open-faced quesadilla, Southern Arizona restaurants started selling the dish more than 50 years ago and it’s become a staple of our local Sonoran style cuisine. 

Sweet Corn & Cinnamon Paletas

Sweet Corn & Cinnamon Paletas

Why isn’t corn used in more desserts? It’s naturally sweet, and the kernels add a nice pop. These paletas are made with sweet corn, cinnamon and Tajin.

Three Sisters Pizza With Corn Masa Crust

Three Sisters Pizza With Corn Masa Crust

Corn, beans and squash are three of the earliest domesticated crops grown by Native Americans in the Sonoran region. For this recipe, prepared corn masa, which is usually used to make tortillas or gorditas, is pressed into a cast iron skillet for the crust. If you’ve never tried tepary beans, this recipe is an excellent way to experiment with them, but you can substitute black beans instead if you want.

Breakfast Taco Cups

Breakfast Taco Cups

Recipe for healthy breakfast taco cups. Low-carb tortillas filled with eggs, bacon, pinto beans, cheese and salsa.

Cincinnachos! Cincinnati Chili-Cheese Nachos

Cincinnachos! Cincinnati Chili-Cheese Nachos

Ohio meets Arizona! Cincinnati chili cheese nachos. “Cincinnachos” are the best of everything for snacking season. Cincinnati Style Chili, tortilla chips, kidney beans, cheddar cheese, raw onions and jalapenos.

Easy Chipotle Chicken Salad

Easy Chipotle Chicken Salad

This spicy and crunchy Sonoran chipotle chicken salad can be served in lettuce taco wraps, tortas and sandwiches or meal sized salads.

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Chicken Wings

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Chicken Wings

These wings are hot! The spiciness will vary greatly though, depending on the heat of the chili flakes you are using, and the barbecue sauce you select. This recipe also works well for boneless skinless breasts or thighs.

Carne Asada Tacos

Carne Asada Tacos

Yay! It’s National Taco Day! Here’s a recipe of one of my favorite kinds – Carne Asada, from the book Knack Mexican Cooking by Chelsie Kenyon. Please note: these are not the Sonoran Style carne asada tacos from my Taste of Tucson cookbook but they are damn good none the less! Photos by me.

Salsa Chicken Lettuce Tacos

Salsa Chicken Lettuce Tacos

One of my favorite Mexican restaurants now offers their famous tacos nestled in a large lettuce leaf instead of a tortilla. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed them served that way; I didn’t miss the tortilla at all. So I’ve started experimenting with the idea at home. I modified this recipe from one in a cookbook that I photographed for Chelsie Kenyon a couple of years ago.

Arizona Cowboy Caviar

Arizona Cowboy Caviar

My Arizona Cowboy Caviar is made with is made with lentils, chile peppers and red onion in a spicy citrus vinaigrette. It’s similar to Texas Caviar made with black eyed peas and the lentils do resemble fish eggs.

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cover of The Unofficial Elf Cookbook by Jackie Alpers. Treat every day like Christmas with recipes inspired by the classic film "Elf".
The Unofficial Elf Cookbook by Jackie Alpers
About Jackie Alpers
Jackie Alpers International Photography Awards Honorable Mention
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