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 and pork), beans, and spices, in addition to Mexican-style tortillas. Dishes such as Texas-style chili con carne and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. 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, but used in only a few central Mexican recipes.
In the mission era, Spanish and Mexican cuisines were combined in Texas as in other parts of the northern frontier of New Spain. However, the cuisine that would come to be called Tex-Mex actually 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.
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.
A 1968 Los Angeles Times feature claimed "[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."
Paris's first Tex-Mex restaurant opened in March 1983. After the 1986 release of the film Betty Blue, Tex-Mex cuisine's popularity in Paris increased.
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.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." Another early instance in print appeared in the Mexico City News in 1973.
^Jennifer Steinhauer (Feb 10, 2014). "If It’s Chili, It’s Personal". The New York Times (The Times Company). Retrieved January 6, 2015. it was Canary Islanders who brought a taste for it in heavy doses, as used in Berber cuisine
^'Mexia Evening News (Mexia, Texas). 23 May 1922.Missing or empty |title= (help)
^Walsh, Robb. "The French Connection." Houston Press. Thursday November 23, 2000. 2. Retrieved on December 8, 2011.
^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.
^Walsh, Robb. "Mama's Got a Brand-new Bag." Houston Press. September 28, 2000. 1. Retrieved on November 16, 2009.