Mountain High: Deep Dive into Colorado Style Pizza

As a seasoned pizza maker and food writer, I’ve had my fair share of pizza experiences.

But I’ll never forget the first time I bit into a Colorado style pizza. I was in a small mountain town in Colorado, fresh off a long day of skiing.

Aspen town in Colorado and mountains

Hungry and tired, I walked into a local pizzeria and asked the server, “What is a Colorado style pizza?” Little did I know, I was about to embark on a pizza adventure like no other.

Definition of Colorado Style Pizza

Thick-crust Colorado style cheese pizza served in a restaurant

Colorado style pizza, often referred to as a “Mountain pie,” is a unique style of pizza that originated in the Rocky Mountains.

It’s characterized by its high-altitude dough, which is hand-rolled into a thick, braided crust, loaded with generous toppings, and served with a side of honey for drizzling over the remaining crust.

This hearty pizza is designed to satisfy the appetites of mountain adventurers and pizza lovers alike.

Origin of Colorado Style Pizza

Autumn landscape in Colorado

The story of Colorado style pizza begins with Beau Jo’s pizzeria, nestled in the heart of Idaho Springs.

The pizzeria, which opened its doors in the early 1970s, is the birthplace of the Colorado mountain pie.

The owner, faced with the challenge of attracting customers in a small mountain town, decided to create a pizza that was as robust and hearty as the Rocky Mountains themselves.

The result was a pizza with a braided thick crust, loaded with toppings, and served with a side of honey—a nod to the state’s many honey producers.

This unique pizza quickly became a hit among the local skiers who were looking for a satisfying meal after a long day on the slopes.

Over time, the popularity of Beau Jo’s and its Colorado mountain pie spread, making it a beloved staple in the state’s culinary scene.

Types of Colorado Style Pizza

While the traditional Colorado style pizza is known for its thick, braided crust, there are also variations that cater to different preferences.

Thin Crust Pizzas

Not all Colorado-style pizzas come with a thick, braided crust. Some variations feature a thin crust, offering a lighter alternative for those who prefer a less doughy base.

The toppings on these thin crust pizzas are often different from those found on traditional Colorado-style pizzas, with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Popular toppings for Colorado-style thin crust pizzas include green chilies, sweet corn, and Colorado-grown meats.

Braided Crust Pizzas

Thick-crust pizza with honey

The braided crust is a defining feature of the traditional Colorado-style pizza.

This unique crust is not just for show—it serves a practical purpose too. The braids act as a barricade, holding in the generous amount of toppings from spilling out on the sides.

From classic toppings like pepperoni and mushrooms to unique ones like elk sausage and green chilies, the braided crust pizzas are a true testament to the adventurous spirit of Colorado.

Deep Dish Pizzas

Colorado-style deep dish pizzas are a feast for the senses. These pizzas are characterized by their thick, doughy crusts and a generous layer of toppings, all nestled within a deep, round pan.

Unlike thin crust and braided crust pizzas, deep dish pizzas have a crust that extends up the sides of the pan, creating a deep “dish” that holds all the ingredients.

The baking process for these pizzas is unique, often utilizing gas-powered ovens that heat up quickly and maintain high temperatures.

As a result, the pizza features a crunchy outer layer and a tender, chewy inside.

Popular toppings for Colorado-style deep dish pizzas often include hearty ingredients like sausage, green peppers, and onions, offering a different flavor profile from traditional pizza toppings.

Gas-Powered Ovens

Gas-powered ovens play a crucial role in the creation of Colorado Style Pizza. These ovens are known for their ability to heat up quickly and maintain high temperatures, which is essential for achieving a crispy crust.

Many gas-powered ovens also feature fans that circulate the heat evenly, ensuring that the pizza is cooked uniformly.

This even heating is key to achieving the perfect balance of a crispy crust and a soft, chewy interior that Colorado Style Pizza is known for.

Ingredients for Colorado Style Pizza

Braided pizza thick crust Colorado style in a box

The magic of Colorado Style Pizza lies not just in its unique crust and baking process, but also in its choice of ingredients.

From the sweet tomato sauce to the traditional toppings, each ingredient plays a part in creating the distinctive flavor profile of this mountainous pizza.

Sweet Tomato Sauce

The sweet tomato sauce used in Colorado Style Pizza is a delightful blend of flavors.

Made from crushed tomatoes, this sauce is seasoned with Italian herbs, garlic, and red pepper flakes for a hint of heat.

The addition of honey contributes a slight sweetness that offsets the tomato’s tanginess, resulting in a sauce that is both rich and subtly nuanced.

Traditional Toppings like Pepperoni, Mushrooms, and Onions

A close-up of BBQ chicken pizza with onion on a metal tray

Traditional toppings such as pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions are a staple in Colorado style pizza. These ingredients, commonly used in pizza making, complement the sweet tomato sauce and crisp crust typical of this pizza style.

The pepperoni adds a spicy kick, the mushrooms provide an earthy flavor, and the onions offer a hint of sweetness. Together, these toppings create a harmonious blend of flavors that make Colorado style pizza a culinary delight.

Unique Toppings like Black Olives and Pineapple

Colorado Style Pizza isn’t afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to toppings.

Alongside traditional ingredients, you’ll find unique toppings like black olives and sun-dried tomatoes gracing these mountainous pies.

Black olives add a salty, briny flavor that contrasts beautifully with the tangy and slightly sweet taste of the sun-dried tomatoes.

Other creative ingredients popular in this style of pizza include green chilies, elk sausage, and even locally sourced honey.

These unconventional toppings create distinct flavor combinations that have helped Colorado-style pizza carve out its own niche in the pizza world.

Specialty Sauces and Seasonings Used in Colorado Style Pizza

Colorado style pizza also sets itself apart with its use of specialty sauces and seasonings.

These ingredients not only enhance the flavors of the toppings but also complement the thick, braided crust and heavy toppings characteristic of this pizza style.

Signature sauces that are distinctly Colorado-inspired include sweet and spicy chipotle sauce, tangy BBQ sauce, and even a honey-infused tomato sauce.

Homemade meat pizza with onions Colorado style

These sauces, combined with a generous sprinkling of seasonings, add an extra layer of flavor that makes each bite of a Colorado style pizza a culinary adventure.

Popular Places to Find Colorado Style Pizza

Colorado Style Pizza has made its mark not just in the state of Colorado, but across the country.

However, if you’re looking for the most authentic experience, there are a few places that stand out for their dedication to this unique pizza style.

Rocky Mountain Pizza Co. in Idaho Springs, CO

Nestled in the mountain town of Idaho Springs, Rocky Mountain Pizza Co. is a must-visit for any pizza lover.

Known for its Colorado-style pizza, this restaurant has built a reputation for its delicious menu offerings and unique features.

From its rustic mountain decor to its commitment to using locally sourced ingredients, Rocky Mountain Pizza Co. offers an authentic Colorado pizza experience that’s hard to beat.

Chip Bair’s Mountain Pie in Steamboat Springs, CO

Another popular spot to enjoy Colorado style pizza is Chip Bair’s Mountain Pie in Steamboat Springs, CO.

This pizza joint stands out for its dedication to the craft of pizza making and its innovative flavor combinations.

Whether you’re trying one of their specialty pizzas or creating your own, you’re in for a treat.

With its welcoming atmosphere and delicious pizzas, Chip Bair’s Mountain Pie is a testament to the creativity and passion that goes into every Colorado style pizza.

Closing Thoughts

We’ve journeyed through the mountains of Colorado, exploring the unique world of Colorado style pizza. From its thick, braided crust to its unique toppings and specialty sauces, this pizza style is a testament to the adventurous spirit of Colorado.

Whether you’re a thin crust devotee or a deep dish enthusiast, there’s a Colorado style pizza waiting to tantalize your taste buds.

If you have any inquiries or thoughts about Colorado style pizza, don’t hesitate to let us know.

After all, the world of pizza is as vast and varied as the mountains themselves.

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