Who here has a sweet tooth? If you’re like me, the only thing that can perfectly end any meal is a sweet treat. But, instead of ordering just any dessert that you could find in any standard diner or restaurant across the country, you should consider trying something more Southwest in origin. If you’re not sure where to start, below is a list of some delicious options to get you started.
Found across Latin America, any buñuelos you find in Arizona will probably be served more Mexican-style, which also happens to highly resemble another item on our list: fry bread. A little thinner and crispier than the fry bread you are used to eating, buñuelos are often found in panderias and a few modest restaurants across Arizona.
2. Chocolate tamales
I'll be honest here. Chocolate tamales doesn't sound particularly appetizing to me (I prefer more savory versions) but for those few who crave a sweeter version of this steamed, corn-based favorite, you may want to give it a try.
One place to get your first taste is at Los Sombreros in Scottsdale, located at 2534 North Scottsdale Road. They also occasionally have other flavors available but chocolate may be a safe bet since it too has origins in Mexico.
3. Date shake
While dates may not be indigenous to Arizona, the western side of the state that creeps into the c-word (California) has a couple of large, well-known date farms. You can find plenty of different date foods and confections but a surprisingly good favorite? Date shakes. The simplest recipe calls for milk, dates, ice, and maybe a touch of cinnamon blended into a silky drink.
In Yuma, try out Martha's Gardens Date Farms (located at 9747 South Avenue 9 ¾ E) or Dateland Date Gardens (1737 South Avenue 64E) for a version you can take home in minutes.
4. Fry bread
You will find fry bread in just about every Indigenous home across the states but the Navajo have taken ownership of its creation. Following the Long Walk and during internment at Hwéeldi (Bosque Redondo), the people were given rations of food otherwise unfamiliar to them: flour, salt, lard, coffee, and other foods not a part of their diet. Out of that experience came fry bread. Puffy, golden, and a hint of chewy, fry bread can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. One of my favorite ways to eat it is also the simples: piping hot, drizzled with honey.
To get some delicious fry bread, try out the Fry Bread House in Phoenix (1003 East Indian School Road). Pro tip: I have yet to have a poor fry bread experience at any reservation restaurant, so give one a try!
5. Piñon pie
Photo via Monica Spencer
I actually came across this dish just recently at the Twin Arrows Casino's coffee shop in Flagstaff right at the height of piñon season. If the Southwest had its own version of pecan pie, this could be it. So far, this is the only place I have found the dessert but if you happen to be nearby, it is worth a try.
Twin Arrows Casino Resort is located at 22181 Resort Boulevard in Flagstaff.
6. Prickly pear anything
Typically, you will find this in the form of a jelly, candy, or mixed in drinks. You can find the jelly and candies in most tourist shops or small markets. Drinks can be found in select restaurants such as Cafe a la Cart in Tucson (150 North Main Avenue). For a different take, Taco Guild in Phoenix (546 East Osborn Road) also offers a prickly pear sorbet.
Cross a puff pastry with fry bread, and what do you get? A sopapilla!
considers these fried squares Arizona's dessert of choice, even though some may consider them more prominent in New Mexican cuisine. It doesn't matter though; they are still perfect hot and covered in something sweet, like honey, powdered sugar, or agava nectar for the more health conscious.
You can find some at Los Dos Molinos in Mesa (260 South Alma School Road) or Poco & Mom's in Tucson (1060 South Kolb Road).
8. Tres leches cake
Sweet, moist, and incredibly light, tres leches cake is basically a sponge cake soaked in a milk mixture. I've found tasty versions from supermercados but if you want to finish a restaurant meal with a slice, try out La Mesa Tortillas (3684 West Orange Grove Road in Tucson) or Fuego Bistro (713 East Palo Verde Road in Phoenix).
Have you tasted any of these desserts? Let us know which is your absolute favorite!