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What Is California Food? | 14 Best Examples of California Cuisine

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California is known for many things. From the beaches in Los Angeles to the redwoods of San Francisco, there is so much to see and do in the Golden State. You might think this famous state has its fair share of foodie hotspots, too, right? Well, you’re right on! 

When visiting California, you’re sure to experience the vibrant flavors that it’s well-known for. From an iconic burger joint in Los Angeles to the Northern coastal cities serving fresh seafood, you will discover the amazing California food.

California Food: California

California food culture covers nearly all styles of American cuisine but is most well-known for Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, and health-conscious, all-natural food options.

There are thousands of places to experience unique cuisine in the state. But which dishes are really quintessential? This is a list of the most famous California foods that people can’t get enough of!

Best California Food


Food is a beautiful way to touch culture and a place, and if you’re going to have food that reflects a state, it has to be iconic. The cheeseburger, by any account, is probably California’s most iconic food.

The cheeseburger is a California specialty and is the preferred way to eat your burger, with melted cheese on top of a warm patty. It’s also one of the most popular dishes globally, particularly in the United States, which is perhaps what you would expect from such an iconic dish.

California Food: Cheeseburger

One bite of a cheeseburger, and you’ll understand why this humble dish has captured the hearts of so many Californians. The combination of melted cheese, hot meat, and condiments on a bun is truly a match made in heaven. 

California’s wide variety of ingredients makes it the perfect place to enjoy a delicious cheeseburger that fits your preferences precisely.

California Burrito

When you want food that’s fresh, affordable, and delicious, the California Burrito is the thing to try!

The debate about where this delicious dish originated has thrown many people into heated arguments, but the reality is that it did not form in California. Instead, it was brought to California by Mexican immigrants during the late 19th century.

Burritos have been a favorite food item in the United States for over a century, and once you try it, you can definitely tell why!

California Food: California Burrito

There is nothing better than eating a burrito made from wheat flour tortillas folded over to enclose the delicious filling inside. The best part about it? You can choose your own fillings, depending on your taste!

A variety of ingredients are used for the filling, including meat, beans, rice, lettuce, guacamole, and cheese. 

No matter which places in California you visit, you can always find a great burrito to enjoy!

Sourdough Bread

When discussing the food California is known for, you certainly can’t leave out the sourdough bread!

The San Francisco Bay area is home to a unique sourdough starter that gives the bread the signature flavor The Golden State prides itself on.

Sourdough bread has existed for centuries, but the California Gold Rush boosted its popularity in San Francisco after the city developed a unique starter that gave the bread its sour flavors and density.

California Food: Sourdough Bread

The Bay Area’s climate is ideal for the microorganisms found in the starter. In addition, this bread plays an integral part in California’s history, as the miners migrated from one part of the state to another, taking this bread with them. 

Even today, the San Francisco 49ers mascot is called Sourdough Sam, showing the importance of this famous specialty!

Ranch Dressing

You have probably heard of the number one salad dressing in the United States- it’s ranch dressing! The ranch is a creamy and tangy staple perfect for salads, sandwiches, and pretty much any other dish you could imagine.

The yummy, famous ranch dressing was invented in the 1950s by a young couple who turned their Santa Barbara ranch into a tourist attraction with many flavors of salad dressings.

Soon after that, the ranch opened to visitors who loved their homemade salad dressing, which became the only one available.

California Food: Ranch Dressing

Everyone has been in love with it ever since! But what exactly makes this recipe so unique? You will have to find out for yourself and even make it at home if you have the right ingredients in reach.

To make the recipe, you’ll need buttermilk, garlic paste, onion flakes, dried parsley flakes, dried chives, salt, and pepper. That’s all it takes. 

Ranch dressing is served with nearly every entree from the chain restaurants, bought in grocery stores, served at parties, and pretty much anywhere else. 

Despite this, many people find the ranch a bit bland and try mixing it with salsa or other condiments to bring out the flavors – but it remains popular amongst Americans!

California Roll (Uramaki)

The California roll, also known as the inside-out roll, is a variant of sushi popular in North America. This is one of the most popular sushi rolls worldwide since it became a staple on American menus.

This sushi roll is prepared with sticky rice, nori seaweed, crab or surimi, avocado, and cucumber.  Sesame seeds are often used in the California Roll.

California Food: California Roll (Uramaki)

It varies from most other types of sushi in that the rice is on the outside rather than the traditional placement of the seaweed (nori). 

The history of this California roll creation is unknown but is suspected of being created somewhere in Southern California when sushi came into popularity in North America in the 1960s.

Despite their simplicity, they are becoming increasingly popular in many restaurants because they are so unique!


San Francisco is the birthplace of cioppino, a seafood stew made with any mix of squid, Dungeness crab, mussels, clams, and white fish swimming in a tomato and wine sauce base.

Cioppino, like much of California’s food, is an eclectic mix of cultural influences. It is one of California’s dishes that are not to be missed. It’s only natural to order the Italian-American dish in North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy neighborhood, where the stew was supposedly invented.

California Food: Cioppino

You can find plenty of places where you can get the classic fish stew, but what I recommend is you grab a seat at Ferry Plaza Seafood while getting a fantastic view of Washington Square Park.

Garlic Ice Cream

The city of Gilroy is a mecca of sorts for garlic lovers. And, of course, it grows garlic. Lots of garlic! 

If you’re a garlic fanatic or just have a weakness for the potent allium, you may already know Gilroy from its famed annual Garlic Festival each summer. But did you realize the region also is home to some serious ice cream? One unique product of the Golden State that you may not have heard of is – garlic ice cream.

California Food: Garlic Ice Cream

Sounds odd, right? But, you‘d be surprised!

Salted Caramel ice cream from Gilroy’s ice cream shop Garlic City Cafe uses garlic powder in place of salt. Tired of the same old food? Grab a cone (or bowl) of this creamy dairy treat!

Apple Pie

California is known for many foods, but apple pie is one of the State’s most famous desserts.

Julian Pie Company in Southern California is a family-owned operation with the reputation of baking the best apple pies on the entire West Coast! Their delicious, hand-made pies come in many different varieties; you won’t even know where to start when choosing a treat.

California Food: Apple Pie

The business was founded by Liz Smothers in 1986 when she staked her claim in the pie market. Later, they bought their apple farm and planted 17,000 apple trees. 

These days, you won’t find a better apple pie anywhere, and once you try it, you will know why this Santa Ysabel bakery puts apple pie on the list of California’s most famous dishes! 

A classic Dutch Apple with a crumb-top is the most popular, but the Original Apple is simply perfect. My quick tip – order it with a side of ice cream!

Avocado Toast

While the dish is relatively new, avocado toast has been a staple of California food long before it became a worldwide phenomenon.

High-quality produce is grown in abundance in California’s fertile climate, and avocados are no exception. Served on crusty bread, mashed avocados make for a creamy-green experience!

California Food: Avocado Toast

The topping is made by mixing mashed avocados with salt, pepper, and (sometimes) citrus juice. Various ingredients can be added to this dish, such as salmon, tomatoes, onions, eggs, garlic, cheese, olive oil, or red pepper flakes, but keeping it simple can be just as delicious!

Although the dish is quite simple and straightforward, the location of its origin is not – some claim that it is an Australian invention, while others proclaim that Los Angeles is the place where it was born.

Despite its origins, avocado toast started reviving on Instagram in the modern era, and it’s been trending globally ever since!

Cobb Salad

I could not have finished this list without just thinking of the Cobb salad! This is a California must-try, and it’s interesting to know why.

Cobb salad originated in the 1930s in The Brown Derby, a famous Los Angeles restaurant whose owner, Robert Cobb, discovered leftovers in the kitchen, including hard-boiled eggs, salad greens, chicken breasts, avocados, bacon, tomatoes, and Roquefort cheese.

He mixed everything with some salt, pepper, and a vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic, and created this colorful (and flavorful) plate!

Each ingredient is prepared carefully and their distinct textures, from juicy to crunchy to creamy, which is what pushed this dish to become so popular!

California Food: Cobb Salad

The Cobb salad is an excellent compromise if you don’t like eating a salad but still want to get in your leafy greens. So, the next time you are in California, make sure to try this salad, which has a bit of everything in it!

California-Style Pizza

California-Style pizza is a unique take on the classic Italian-American dish that has been beloved by eaters around the world for decades. This signature style of pizza is characterized by its thin crust, fresh ingredients, and inventive flavor combinations.

The origins of California-Style pizza can be traced back to the 1950s when Italian immigrants began migrating to California and bringing their traditional recipes with them. Since then, Californians have taken these original recipes and added their own twist to create something exceptional. 

Today, California-Style pizza continues to be one of the state’s signature dishes, with hundreds of pizzerias popping up all over the Golden State offering delicious variations on this much-loved classic.

California-Style Pizza

French Dip Sandwich

Have you been searching for the perfect sandwich that will tantalize your taste buds? Look no further than the classic French Dip Sandwich! Originating in California, this delicious sandwich has been a staple in the United States for years. 

The French Dip Sandwich is composed of thinly sliced roast beef and melted cheese on a toasted french roll, served with a side of au jus gravy. 

The combination of toasty bread, perfectly cooked meat, and ooey-gooey cheese is sure to make your mouth water. Unlike other sandwiches that can be heavy on condiments, French Dip Sandwiches are light but still full of flavor making them one of the most favourite California food.

Whether as an entree in a restaurant or as part of a summer picnic with friends and family, this sandwich is guaranteed to please any crowd. So why wait?

French Dip Sandwich

Patty Melt

The patty melt is a signature dish of California foods that have been around for decades. Consisting of two slices of bread, cheese, and a hamburger patty, the patty melt is an iconic comfort food that brings people back to simpler times. 

The combination of grilled onions and melted Swiss cheese on top gives it an unmistakably delicious flavor that can’t be found in many other dishes. 

A great way to enjoy a patty melt is by ordering one at your favorite restaurant or diner. After all, there’s nothing like having someone else do the cooking! 

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could even try making your own version at home – just make sure to use only the freshest ingredients for maximum taste and satisfaction.

Patty Melt

Fortune cookies are a beloved California food and threat enjoyed by many. Found all over the world, they have their roots in California, where they were first created. Sweet and crunchy, fortune cookies have been served in Chinese restaurants since the early 1900s as a tasty dessert to finish off your meal. 

Despite their Chinese origins, fortune cookies actually came from the mind of an American entrepreneur named David Jung. He founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles and created these delectable treats for his customers. 

After being granted a patent for his invention in 1918, Jung started mass-producing them and quickly became one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. 

Today, fortune cookies remain popular among people of all ages who love predicting what their future holds within each cookie’s slip of paper that contains a proverb or prediction – just like Jung imagined it!

Fortune Cookie

This tried-and-true recipe is sure to please everyone in your household! Start off by preheating your oven and then mix together all the ingredients: sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs, flour, baking powder and salt. Then shape each cookie into its traditional form of a half-circle before adding the fortunes—a favorite part of this tradition! 

Wrap each fortune inside the dough before carefully transferring them onto a greased baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, and enjoy as soon as they come out of the oven. Feel free to let them cool completely if you don’t want to burn your fingers while retrieving their fortunes. 

Final Thoughts about California Food

California is a massive state with a diverse population and environment. So it should come as no surprise that California’s cuisine is equally diverse.

It would make sense that the food ranges from Mexican to Italian and Asian, but it also stretches far beyond. If you love California food, I hope this list of the top ten foods that originated in the Golden State helps you eat your way through the country.

Visiting other destinations in California? Check out our other delicious guides:

Which of these Californian foods do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!

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