16 California Recipes That Celebrate the Best of the West

Chef John's Cioppino
Photo: Chef John

California! It's sun and sandy beaches. It's fog and craggy coastline. It's high desert and funky Joshua trees. There's just so much to California — not least its vibrant and varied food scene. California is one long slice of culinary creativity. stretching from San Diego (fish tacos!) to San Francisco (cioppino! sourdough bread!) and beyond. The Golden State is a hot spot for fusion foods, as cultures come together along the West Coast and fresh flavors emerge. As a tribute to the Golden State, here are some of our favorite recipes that have us California dreamin'. Dig into the best of the West!

01 of 16

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos on a white plate

Beer battered cod is fried up and served in corn tortillas with shredded cabbage and a zesty white sauce. They're a taste of home for BREESE823: "I'm from San Diego and these taste just like home! We live in the south now, and nobody has heard of these! Serve with homemade pico de gallo, and lime wedges to squeeze on top!"

02 of 16

San Francisco Sourdough Bread

Yeast and sourdough starter work together for a guaranteed rise with this classic San Friancisco-inspired sourdough bread. A topping of diced onions adds a special twist. "Use a good sourdough starter, one you have tended to, for best flavor," recommends Donna.

03 of 16

Santa Maria Grilled Tri-Tip Beef

Santa Maria Grilled Tri-Tip Beef
Kim Corelison

"The town of Santa Maria, California, is home to one of America's most delicious barbecue specialties: black-on-the-outside, pink-on-the-inside, grilled beef tri-tip steak," says Chef John. "The tri-tip is cut from the bottom sirloin, and if cooked properly produces a very flavorful, extremely juicy piece of beef." Serve it with tortillas and Chef John's Santa Maria-Style Beans.

04 of 16

Chef John's Santa Maria-Style Beans

Chef John's Santa Maria-Style Beans
Chef John

A great side dish for Chef John's Santa Grilled Tri Tip, these classic Santa Maria-style beans are made with a special variety of pink beans called pinquitos. "These 'little pink' beans are prepared in a spicy, smoky, tomato/chili sauce that's spiked with not one, but two kinds of pork," says Chef John. "Santa Maria beans have come into my life relatively late, so I plan on making up for lost time this barbecue season."

05 of 16

Chef John's Cioppino

Chef John's Cioppino
Chef John

"When you feel like splurging a little, San Francisco's famous Cioppino is a great choice," says Chef John. "This spicy fish and shellfish stew is a big red bowl of yummy, and when paired with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, it's downright otherworldly."

06 of 16

Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad
Photo by Molly.

A true California classic. This fresh and filling main-dish salad combines crispy bacon, cooked chicken, avocadoes, crumbled blue cheese, and hard-boiled eggs with shredded iceberg lettuce and chopped green onions. It's satisfying for lunch or dinner. Enjoy it with a creamy ranch dressing.

07 of 16

Orange Glorious

Orange Glorious
Photo by CCLoves2Bake.

Julius Freed opened his first Orange Julius stand in California in the 1920s. This recipe follows the same basic formula — orange juice, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar — to create a refreshing and unique orange drink with the signature luscious, velvety texture. "Refreshing on a hot day, and not bad for you!" says BROOKER57. "In my opinion, this beverage tastes better than the commercial version."

08 of 16

Basic California Roll

Basic California Roll
Basic California Roll. Allrecipes

"This is a classic California roll recipe, great for those who are just learning to make sushi," says ChefJackie. "Serve as an appetizer or as part of a Japanese meal."

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09 of 16

Chef John's Caramel Chicken

Caramel Chicken in white bowl
Photo by Chef John.

This Vietnamese-inspired caramel chicken recipe is based on the famous dish served at a popular San Francisco restaurant, the Slanted Door. Serve this delicious mahogany-colored chicken over white rice garnished with cilantro, sliced jalapenos, green onions, and roasted peanuts. "This stunning dish is an amazing combination of sweet, spicy, and salty flavors all sticking to succulent pieces of chicken," says Chef John.

10 of 16

Tommy's Chili

"This recipe needs some background," says b. "This is the recipe for the chili to Original Tommy's Hamburgers, located in the Los Angeles area. It has a number of devotees. Thus this chili belongs on your hamburger, hot dog, or french fries. It tastes just like the real thing, and we enjoy it immensely."

11 of 16

Big Mac® Clone

Big Mac Clone
Baking Nana

In San Bernardino in 1948, the McDonald brothers put the final touches on their streamlined Speedee Service System for making hamburgers and shakes. Of course, there was no Big Mac on the menu then, but you could get a hamburger for 15 cents. Here's a top-rated copycat recipe for the famous double burger introduced onto the McDonalds's menu in 1968.

12 of 16

Korean-Style Bulgogi Beef Tacos

Korean tacos and burritos got their big start in Los Angeles amongst the city's rich taco truck culture. Here's a classic bulgogi beef version filled with crisp, spicy sweet cucumber, creamy avocado, crunchy scallion, and a punch of gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste. "My husband and son share an insatiable appetite for Korean barbeque," says Joon Ma. "One night, inspired by Korean food trucks, we decided to experiment with our own version."

13 of 16

Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles
Chef John

"These deceivingly simple, yet devastatingly delicious garlic noodles were invented back in the '70s at a restaurant in San Francisco called Thanh Long," says Chef John. "Usually served with roasted Dungeness crab, the recipe is a very closely guarded family secret, but after lots of investigation, and even more experimentation, I think this is very close."

14 of 16

A Homemade San Francisco Treat: Chicken Vermicelli Rice

This simple side dish of rice, vermicelli pasta, and seasoning closely resembles Rice-A-Roni, a.k.a "the San Francisco Treat." "Years ago, I came up with my clone of a dish my children really enjoyed," says SHORECOOK. "I wanted to use the freshest ingredients that I usually have on hand. Many years later, I find myself still making it. If serving a beef dish, substitute chicken bouillon with beef bouillon. Angel hair pasta can be broken into small pieces in place of vermicelli."

15 of 16

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

"This healthy salad was adapted from one I ate at California Pizza Kitchen," says Shanon. "The lime juice intensified by the jicama draws out the flavor of the vegetables, so an oil- or cream-based dressing is not necessary."

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16 of 16

California Melt

California Melt
Deborah Pinn

Much in the way that adding spinach to a dish makes it Florentine, topping a dish with avocado makes it Californian. Or maybe it just seems that way. In this case, slices of avocado are piled high on lightly toasted whole-grain bread, along with mushrooms, tomatoes, and sliced toasted almonds, topped wih Swiss cheese and popped under the broiler until bubbly.

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