Why we love Texas: How Tex-Mex came to be and why it’s different from Mexican food

Photo Credit: Charles Thomas Swan
Photo Credit: Charles Thomas Swan

There’s a lot to love about Texas, and the rest of the world just won’t admit it.

Non-Texans might roll their eyes at the mention of barbecue or Whataburger, but they can’t deny how great Tex-Mex is.

It’s so good that even other states had to have it.

Here’s how it all began:

A little history

For more than 100 years, Texas and Mexico were a part of New Spain, the Spanish colony. The regions remained linked until after Mexico gained its Independence from Spain in 1821.

From that point on, the region was considered Mexican Texas, until Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836.

For less than 10 years, Texas would be considered the Republic of Texas, before joining the United States in 1845.

Throughout its history, and even today, Texas has been home to many cultures that have influenced the state and its culinary traditions, leading to the combined cuisine known as Tex-Mex today.

The origin of ‘Tex-Mex’

The term ‘Tex-Mex’ roots from an insult. According to Culture Trip, an author of a Mexican cookbook used the term to categorize Texas’ Mexican food.

The author thought Mexican food made in the Lone Star State was unauthentic which is why she sought to exclude it from all other Mexican foods. However, the categorization gave the cuisine legitimacy in the United States, and Tex-Mex has since gained a new level of respect.

Knowing the difference

Mexican plates are commonly served with a side of soupy pinto beans, while Tex-Mex plates tend to include black beans.

According to a blog on Thrillist, other ingredients that can indicate a dish is Tex-Mex are beef, cheddar cheese, wheat flour, canned vegetables, and cumin.


Authentic Mexican burritos are typically filled with few ingredients. Overly stuffed burritos, like Chimichangas, are Tex-Mex creations.

Baked Chicken and Rice Chimichangas
Baked Chicken and Rice Chimichangas (allrecipes)

A traditional Mexican quesadilla is just tortilla and cheese. A Tex-Mex quesadilla is served with toppings like guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, etc.

Tex-Mex Quesadillas
Tex-Mex Quesadillas (Confetti and Bliss)

Restaurant recommendations

If you’re looking for a Tex-Mex restaurant, we suggest you try Alicia’s Mexican Grille, Chuy’s, El Tiempo Cantina, Pappasito’s Cantina, Gringo’s Tex-Mex, Guadalajara, or Lupe Tortilla.

All restaurant chains have multiple locations across Houston and a mouth-watering selection of Mexican dishes with a Texas twist.

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