Texas is known for many things, and food is one of the most popular and important parts of life. We like barbecue and fried everything, and above all, Mexican food. Let me be more specific: Texas Mexican food, what we Texans lovingly refer to as "Tex-Mex." If you've ever looked at your friend from Texas who won't stop talking about Tex-Mex and asked, 'what is Tex- Mex?,' keep reading. 

History of Tex-Mex

beer, wine, coffee, alcohol, tea
Kayla Charles

Texas was first part of the Spanish colony New Spain. When Mexico gained independence, Texas remained part of Mexico before gaining its own independence and finally becoming part of the United States. The people originally from Mexico who were living in Texas during these times were called "Tejanos." People began using Tex-Mex to refer to them, and the name later stuck for the cuisine. 

Large meals for large amounts of people characterizes Mexican gatherings. This is one of the cultural norms you will still find all over Texas, with families coming together with a few baskets of tortilla chips, a large bowl of queso and salsa, with plates of Tex-Mex classics on the way. 

The Atmosphere

Growing up in Texas, I had Tex-Mex all the time. We made queso for every football game, family gathering, and graduation party. Mexican restaurants were the go-to spot for meeting with people and celebrations, especially since the tables were always big enough to seat everyone. 

In addition to the large tables, there's always someone making fresh tortillas, a fun bar area, and live music on the weekends. Tex-Mex restaurants are filled with the lively culture they came from and welcome everyone in with open arms and tortilla chips. 

Classic Tex-Mex Dishes

chili, meat, cheese, sauce, nachos, tomato, vegetable
Phoebe Melnick

If you visit Texas from out of town, a Mexican restaurant should be your first stop. Luckily, there are so many choices you will not have to search far and wide. We like to eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with guacamole and queso in between meals as snacks. Here are some of the more popular dishes:

Breakfast Tacos

One of the most popular restaurants in Austin, Texas, Juan in a Million represents some of the best breakfast tacos in Texas. In a breakfast taco, you'll find eggs, cheese, perfectly cooked bacon, potatoes, black beans, and chorizo to wake you up with Mexican flavors in the morning. Is there a better way to start your day? I think not. 

Chili con Carne

Chili with meat is another popular meal originating in Texas. Beef is popular among Tex-Mex, but not so much in Mexico where the meats are usually chicken or pork. This recipe came to be when settlers in Texas made meals from whatever food they had left, so they combined it all in this chili. Ground or cubed beef, chili peppers, a mix of spices, and tomatoes simmered together bring together the spicy, comforting flavors. Top it off with grated cheese and crushed up tortilla chips and you're set. 


This is a classic Tex-Mex dish. Enchiladas are tortillas filled with cheese (and sometimes chicken or beef) that are topped with more cheese and even more sauce. The sauce brings the heat to the dish and pulls everything together, and rice and beans are served on the side.

These are some of the best and most popular Tex-Mex dishes you will find across Texas. There are other dishes you may not have known that are part of this rich cuisine, and all of these help to blend together the spicy, cheesy flavors.

#SpoonTip: Your favorite frozen margaritas started in Dallas! You have Texas to thank for so many delicious things.