Skip to Content

What Is a Sonoran Hot Dog?

If you’ve never heard of a Sonoran hot dog, get ready to fall in love. This cross-cultural creation takes the great American hot dog south of the border, resulting in a dish like no other. 

But you can’t get these at most ballparks or burger joints, or even food trucks. So, where do you go for a Sonoran hot dog?

Read on to learn all about this culinary masterpiece and why Tucson is the best place to find them.

Let’s dig in!

About Sonoran Hot Dogs

So, what exactly makes Sonoran hot dogs so special? It starts with an all-beef jumbo hot dog wrapped in bacon and nestled into a bolillo-style bun. Then it’s piled high with toppings. Fresh veggies such as avocado, tomato, red onion, and jalapeno meet creamy, tangy toppings like cotija cheese, sour cream, pinto beans, and smoked salsa.

As the name suggests, Sonoran hot dogs originated in the state of Sonora, Mexico. In the 1970s, Daniel Contreras immigrated to Arizona from Magdalena, Mexico, bringing his love for the traditional dish. 

He went on to open a hot dog stand in Tuscon featuring the culinary creation. He didn’t know it then, but his humble hot dog stand would spark a love of Sonoran hot dogs throughout the southwest. 

Where Can You Find Great Sonoran Hot Dogs?

If you’re looking for the best Sonoran hot dog in the US, Tucson, Arizona, is where you’ll find it. Nestled in the valley where the Rillito and Santa Cruz rivers meet, this desert oasis is a hub for recreation and adventure.

Five distinct mountain ranges surround the city, and Saguaro National Park, Coronado National Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, and Catalina State Park make up its borders. This location makes Tucson an ideal destination for hikers, cyclists, rock climbers, and other outdoor adventurers. 

Residents enjoy 350 days of sunshine every year. And although summer temperatures can soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, winter temperatures sit comfortably between 64 and 75 degrees. 

When it’s too hot to enjoy the great outdoors, visitors can explore a range of museums, art galleries, shops, and restaurants steeped in rich cultural heritage. Influenced by Mexican culture, Native Americans, and European settlers, it’s no surprise that Tucson holds such culinary treasures as the Sonoran hot dog. 

Tucson even holds the title of the first UNESCO World Heritage Creative City of Gastronomy in the US. 

Sonoran hot dogs on a plate
A Sonoran hot dog is a must try while in Tucson.

Best Places to Try a Sonoran Hot Dog in Tucson

There’s no shortage of great places to eat in Tucson. From traditional restaurants to food carts and trucks, the options are endless. That’s why we’ve chosen a few of our favorites to share with you.

El Guero Canelo is one of Tucson’s most celebrated spots for Sonoran hot dogs. They even won a James Beard Foundation 2018 “American Classics” Award. 

El Sinaloense has several traditional carretas, or hot dog carts, with a cult following throughout the city. 

BK Tacos is a brick-and-mortar staple that boasts a mesquite grill and a salsa bar to customize your dog to perfection. Each option offers a unique experience, and we recommend trying them all to find your favorite!

Pro Tip: Add these 9 Best Things To Do in Tucson, Arizona to your itinerary.

What Are Some Fun Things To Do in Tucson?

Tucson offers so much more than a great restaurant scene. Whether you’re looking for adventure or a unique cultural experience, this city has it all. 

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is not your average museum. It’s a zoo, an aquarium, a botanical garden, an art gallery, and a natural history museum all rolled into one incredible experience. In fact, 85% of the museum is outdoors and considered a “walking experience.” 

The museum offers classes for adults and children and add-on experiences like the Stingray Touch Exhibit. The Avian Adventures program lets you get up close and personal with native birds of prey. They also offer programs such as Rodeo Camp, where kids through 6th grade can do crafts, connect with nature, and learn about the environment.

Saguaro National Park

When you think of the American southwest, there’s a good chance you picture a towering Saguaro cactus with its arms stretched wide. Saguaro National Park is where that image comes to life.

The park is divided into eastern and western sides, with over 92,000 acres combined. The park has over 170 miles of established hiking trails, 7 picnic areas, and 6 backcountry campsites. 

The east side of the park features an older saguaro forest with mixed oak and pine forest. The west side sits at a lower elevation and has a younger, denser saguaro forest and desert grassland.

You can catch the saguaros in bloom from April to June. And if you want to see the largest cacti in the national forest, check out the Loma Verde Loop on the east side of the park.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon is a desert oasis rich with wildlife. At the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Sabino Creek provides water nearly year-round. This unique environment has made it one of the most popular areas within the Coronado National Forest. 

This recreation area has over 30 miles of trails for hiking, walking, jogging, wildlife photography, and more. It’s closed to personal vehicles, but you don’t have to hike in.

You can ride the Sabino Canyon Crawler, a zero-emission shuttle, and learn about the canyon through the individualized narration system on board. The Crawler ensures that all park visitors can enjoy an engaging, informative experience.

Best Camping Near Tucson

For outdoor enthusiasts, no trip to the southwest is complete without a night spent camping under the stars. Below are two of our favorite campgrounds in the Tucson area.

Gilbert Ray Campground

The Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park is full of desert charm. Dotted with saguaro cacti and ocotillo plants, this campground has 130 gravel RV sites with 30-Amp electrical hook-ups and five designated tent sites. 

Although the campground has no showers, it does have updated handicap-accessible bathrooms, hot water access, picnic tables, and an RV dump station. Peak season is from January 1 to March 31, and visitors are limited to seven-day stays.

Catalina State Park

The campgrounds at Catalina State Park offer unrivaled views of the Santa Catalina Mountains and on-site recreational trails. Its 120 gravel RV pads have 20-, 30-, and 50-Amp hook-ups. There are also tent camping spots, bathrooms with showers, and an RV dump station. The grounds are open year-round, and stays are limited to 14 consecutive days. 

Pro Tip: You’ll love spending the night at one of these 7 Stunning Tucson RV Parks (With YouTube Video Tours).

Is It Worth a Trip to Tucson for a Sonoran Hot Dog?

Sonoran hot dogs are just the beginning of what Tucson offers. The culinary masterpiece alone is certainly worth the trip, and you won’t want to miss the other wonderful experiences to be had. 

The incredible scenery will satisfy your thirst for the outdoors, while the museums and cultural heritage sites are sure to inspire a deeper appreciation for the area’s history. Whether you’re visiting for the food, the outdoor recreation, or the array of cultural experiences, you’re in for a treat.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: