Significance of Sustenance: Denver, CO

The city of Denver surrounded by picturesque mountains and colorful trees.

The food culture in Denver, Colorado, is linked to its early roots as a Gold Rush town which quickly became the hub of a farming community. One of the early foods enjoyed in the city is the Denver sandwich. Hearty meals that include meat and potatoes remain popular with modern families and visitors to the city. The foods that are popular in the city also reflect Mexican influences and modern trends like the locavore movement.

A white plate filled with grilled meat, potatoes and other vegetables.


The heavy use of lamb, beef, and bison paired with potatoes goes back to the earliest settlers in the Denver area. The trend became even more pronounced after gold prospectors realized it was easier to grow potatoes that sold for 15 dollars a bushel than it was to prospect for 15 dollars’ worth of gold. Colorado lamb is known as some of the world’s best lamb, and while it might not be chosen as frequently as other meats, it’s incredible when prepared as a roast with carrots, potatoes, and wine gravy as a treat for special occasions.


Mexican foods have had a strong influence on the way Denver residents eat since the 1800s when Mexicans came to Colorado to work on building the railroads. Popular variations of Mexican food today include spicy burritos and a dish recently voted as Colorado’s Most Iconic Food: green chili. Green chili is made with pork for its protein source. Next time you cook pork, try cooking it in the slow-cooker for the texture and flavor slow-cooking gives the meat. We love to use ingredients commonly found in the southwest, such as green chile peppers and tomatillo salsa. Hints of hominy and cornmeal also typically add flavor and texture to this popular soup.

A colorful bowl of green chili made with pork.
A plate of freshly cooked freshwater fish and whole potatoes.


Rainbow trout from the streams of the Rocky Mountains is another popular food staple in the Denver area. There are many ways to prepare and serve this beautiful, tasty fish, including baked, steamed, pan-fried, and grilled. It’s also great with or without sauces. There are so many ways to enjoy this flavorful fish. Sometimes simple is best with a light coating of butter, lemon juice, and a few herbs. The light flavors of butter, lemon, and some garlic and parsley make the fish pair nicely with steamed vegetables and baked potatoes.

A Denver sandwich cut cleanly in half.


One of Denver’s most famous foods, the Denver sandwich, has its origins in the Chinese culture dating back to the late 1800s. The Denver sandwich is basically an omelet, or egg fu yung, served between two slices of bread or toast. It’s seasoned with local ingredients like pepper, onion, and ham. If you’re looking to put your own twist on a classic favorite, try to toast the bread and add Swiss cheese to the sandwich. Swiss cheese isn’t actually a normal addition, but we really love the way eggs taste when paired with Swiss cheese, so we make the Denver sandwich to suit our taste.

A person carrying a variety of fresh, organic vegetables.
A person arranging a vegetable stand filled with organic vegetables.
Two people choosing through assorted organic vegetables.


The locavore movement has been increasing in popularity in the Denver area, and it’s an exciting trend. Locavores eat only, or mostly, locally grown foods. The foods need to be grown within 100 miles of the person eating them to be included in this category, and options include organic and natural foods. To accommodate the desires of locavores, there are now some locavore stores opening to serve their specific food-sourcing preferences. The locavore trend also benefits people who don’t adopt the lifestyle by providing locally sourced, fresh ingredients to create meals.

Locally sourced ingredients frequently play a role in the foods that are popular in the Denver area because they’re easily acquired and offer supreme quality. The soil is rich and produces healthy, flavorful vegetables. The area is also known for the exquisite Palisade peaches, which will make an amazing, fresh cobbler. Rocky Ford cantaloupe is also grown there and is a big hit in local markets during the summer. The crystal-clear streams are a fisherman’s dream, too. Like Colorado lamb, the rainbow trout that grow in Denver have a reputation for excellence.