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Examples of modern Tex-Mex dishes and ingredients: corn, tortilla chips, cheese, tacos, salsa, chilies, and beef dishes.

Tex-Mex cuisine (from Texan and Mexican) is an American regional cuisine that derives from the culinary creations of the Tejano people of Texas. It has spread from border states such as Texas and others in the Southwestern United States to the rest of the country as well as Canada. Tex-Mex is most popular in Texas and neighboring areas, especially nearby states in both the US and Mexico. It is a subtype of Southwestern cuisine[1][2][3] found in the American Southwest.

Common dishes[edit]

A baked beans and tortillas seller at San Antonio, Texas, c. 1939

Some ingredients are common in Mexican cuisine, but other ingredients not typically used in Mexico are often added. Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by its heavy use of shredded cheese, meat (particularly beef, pork and chicken), beans, peppers and spices, in addition to flour tortillas. Sometimes various Tex-Mex dishes are made without the use of a tortilla, an extremely common example of this is the "fajita bowl", which is a fajita served without a soft tortilla.

Generally cheese plays a much bigger role in Tex-Mex food than in mainstream Mexican cuisine, particularly in the popularity of Chile con queso (often referred to as simply "queso") which is often eaten with chips (alongside or in place of guacamole and salsa), or may be served over enchiladas, tamales or burritos.[4]

Moreover, Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as the use of cumin, introduced by Spanish immigrants to Texas from the Canary Islands and used in Berber cuisine,[5] but used in only a few central Mexican recipes.


Original Ninfa's tacos al carbón/fajitas
Chili with garnishes and tortilla chips

During the mission era, Spanish and Mexican cuisines were combined in Texas as in other parts of the northern frontier of New Spain.[citation needed] However, the cuisine that would come to be called Tex-Mex originated with Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) as a mix of native Mexican and Spanish foods when Texas was part of New Spain and later Mexico.

Fajitas, Wheat Tortillas as taco wraps
Chili con carne served in a tex-mex style, with pork, beef, cheddar and monterey jack on top.

From the South Texas region between San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, this cuisine has had little variation, and from earliest times has always been influenced by the cooking in the neighboring northern states of Mexico.[6] The ranching culture of South Texas and Northern Mexico straddles both sides of the border, where beef, grilled food, and tortillas have been common and popular foods for more than a century.[6] A taste for cabrito (kid goat), barbacoa de cabeza (barbecued beef heads), carne seca (dried beef), and other products of cattle culture is also common on both sides of the Rio Grande.

In the 20th century, as goods from the United States became cheap and readily available, Tex-Mex took on such Americanized elements as cheddar, jack, and pimento cheeses.

In much of Texas, the cooking styles on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border were the same until a period after the U.S. Civil War. With the railroads, American ingredients and cooking appliances became common on the U.S. side.[7]

A 1968 Los Angeles Times feature wrote "[i]f the dish is a combination of Old World cooking, hush-my-mouth Southern cuisine and Tex-Mex, it's from the Texas Hill Country."[8]

Outside the US[edit]

In France, Paris's first Tex-Mex restaurant opened in March 1983.[9] According to restaurateur Claude Benayoun, business had been slow, but after the 1986 release of the film Betty Blue, which featured characters drinking tequila shots and eating chili con carne, "everything went crazy."[9] According to Benayoun, "Betty Blue was like our Easy Rider; it was unbelievably popular in France. And after the movie came out, everybody in Paris wanted a shot of tequila and a bowl of chili."[9]

Tex-Mex has also spread to Thailand, Argentina, Oman, Japan, the Netherlands, and Mexico.[9]


small bowls of corn, tomatoes, peppers, guacamole, and other ingredients
ingredients commonly used in Tex-Mex cuisine
Nachos with guacamole

The word "TexMex" (unhyphenated) was first used to abbreviate the Texas Mexican Railway, chartered in southern Texas in 1875.[10] In the 1920s, the hyphenated form was used in American newspapers to describe Texans of Mexican ancestry.[10][11]

The Oxford English Dictionary supplies the first-known uses in print of "Tex-Mex" in reference to food, from a 1963 article in The New York Times Magazine, and a 1966 item in the Great Bend (Kansas) Tribune.[12] Diana Kennedy, an influential food authority, explained the distinctions between Mexican cuisine and Americanized Mexican food in her 1972 book The Cuisines of Mexico. Robb Walsh of the Houston Press said the book "was a breakthrough cookbook, one that could have been written only by a non-Mexican. It unified Mexican cooking by transcending the nation's class divisions and treating the food of the poor with the same respect as the food of the upper classes."[13] The term "Tex-Mex" also saw increasing usage in the Los Angeles Times from the 1970s onward while the Tex-Mex label became a part of U.S. vernacular during the late 1960s, '70s, and '80s.[14] Adán Medrano, a chef who grew up in San Antonio, prefers to call the food "Texas Mexican," which he says was the indigenous cooking of South Texas long before the Rio Grande marked the border between Texas and Mexico.[15]

Prominent chefs[edit]

Related cuisines[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walsh, Robb. The Tex-Mex Cookbook (XVI ed.). New York: Broadway Books.
  2. ^ Feniger, Susan; Siegel, Helene; Miliken, Mary Sue (2002). Mexican Cooking for Dummies. Scranton: Courage Books.
  3. ^ Martinez, Etienne. "Mexicans in the U.S.A: Mexican-American / Tex-Mex Cousine". Lightmillennium.org. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  4. ^ Goodgame, Dan. "Recipe: Chile con Queso – Texas Monthly". Texasmonthly.com. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  5. ^ Jennifer Steinhauer (10 February 2014). "If It's Chili, It's Personal". The New York Times. The Times Company. Retrieved 6 January 2015. it was Canary Islanders who brought a taste for it in heavy doses, as used in Berber cuisine
  6. ^ a b McCarron, Meghan (7 March 2018). "Everything You Know About Tex-Mex Is Wrong". Eater. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  7. ^ Walsh, Robb (27 July 2000). "Pralines and Pushcarts". Houston Press. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Pedernales Recipes 'Good for What Ails.'" Los Angeles Times. 12 September 1968. p. K30
  9. ^ a b c d Walsh, Robb (23 November 2000). "The French Connection". Houstonpress.com. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Pruitt, Sarah. "Tracing the History of Tex-Mex". HISTORY. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Tex-Mex". Mexia Evening News. Mexia, Texas. 23 May 1922.
  12. ^ Oxford English Dictionary entry for Tex-Mex: 1963 N.Y. Times Mag. 11 Aug 50/1 Star of the evening was her Texas or Tex-Mex chili. 1966 Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune 19 Oct 5/4 It's too bad that it has become known as ‘chili powder’ because some homemakers may associate it only with the preparation of ‘Tex-Mex’ dishes.
  13. ^ Walsh, Robb (28 September 2000). "Mama's Got a Brand-new Bag". Houstonpress.com. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  14. ^ Wheaton, D.R. & Carroll, G.R. (2017). Where did Tex-Mex Come From? The Divisive Emergence of a Social Category. Research in Organizational Behavior, 37, 143 – 166.
  15. ^ Wharton, Rachel (22 April 2019). "Don't Call It Tex-Mex". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 April 2019.

External links[edit]