Where Did Tex-Mex Cuisine Come From?

Tex-Mex food is rightfully one of Texas’ biggest sources of pride. Learn about the origins of Tex-Mex and how it became uniquely Texas. 

Texas is an excellent location to live (and to buy a home)! One important cause for this is our Tex-Mex cuisine. It is a source of pride for Texas, but also of contention for some. If you ask several Texans where to locate the best Tex-Mex food, you will get a variety of answers. However, if you are in Hong Kong and then you must visit to the La Vista to have the best Mexican Cuisine. 

Join us for a brief history of Tex-Mex and how it evolved into a uniquely Texas type of cuisine. 

Understanding Tex-Mex 

Tex Mex cuisine

It is difficult to pin down Tex-Mex food. It might be easiest to describe it as Mexican food that you would not encounter in most parts of Mexico. Consider tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, chalupas, flautas, burritos, nachos, and so on. 

In any case, Mexican cuisine does not exist. Mexico is a large, diverse country with many unique culinary traditions from places like Oaxaca, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Jalisco. Different areas combine foods and cooking techniques from the Aztecs and other Indian nations with those of the Spanish and their descendants. 

Where did Tex-Mex cuisine originate? 

In the nineteenth century, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley saw the birth of Tex-Mex. Northern Mexican Norteo cooking customs were mixed with foods from Texan rancher culture. While some Tex-Mex cultural elements, such as mariachis and tequila, originate in Jalisco, the food itself has origins in both Mexico and Texas. 

tex mex cuisine originate

The common ingredients in Tex-Mex have origins that cover oceans and countries. Many influences converged over centuries: 

Beans: Both pinto and black beans are popular Tex-Mex ingredients. Both are native to the Americas and were mainstays in the diets of the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples of Mexico. 

When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the 16th century, they took this Tex-Mex staple with them. 

Cumin is a spice endemic to the Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia. It travelled west to Morocco and the Canary Islands before arriving in Texas in the 1700s, when significant numbers of Canary Islanders settled in the San Antonio region. 

Corn tortillas have been a staple of Norte cuisine for generations. Ranchers on the US side of the border may have introduced wheat flour to the region in the 1800s, resulting in the development of flour tortillas. 

While beef is not a common ingredient in most areas of Mexico, it is a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine. We can credit the cattle ranchers of Texas and Northern Mexico for that. 

Cheese, like beef, is uncommon in many kinds of Mexican cuisine. Americans brought cheddar and other types of cheese to Texas, and it became an inseparable component of Tex-Mex. 

Guacamole: Long before the Spaniards captured Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital city, in 1521, people there were enjoying ahuaca-mulli. 

Some well-known dishes have their own unique origin stories within the broader Tex-Mex tradition: 

Chile con carne, also known as chilli, is a cuisine that is not found in Mexico. It was created in the nineteenth century by the Chili Queens of San Antonio. They became well-known throughout the country for serving chilli at food stands in town plazas. During his stay in Texas, the writer O. Henry immortalised them as “coquettish seoritas” in one of his short stories. Their chilli even made a showing at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. 

Nachos: These may have become a Tex-Mex staple as a result of a group of Eagle Pass women who crossed the Rio Grande during the 1940s to regular visits to Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya’s cafe in Coahuila. According to the possibly-apocryphal story, they became huge admirers of a dish he threw together that comprised of cheese and jalapeo slices over fried corn tortilla pieces. Nachos may have entered the Texas mainstream at the 1964 State Fair in Dallas. 

Fajitas: Fajitas, also known as tacos al carbon, may have evolved in the Rio Grande Valley. They rose to prominence during the 1970s at Ninfa’s, a famous Houston restaurant. 

Chili con queso, or simply “Queso,” could have originated in San Antonio as early as 1910. In 1939, a Lubbock church allegedly published a queso recipe that asked for Velveeta. 

Breakfast tacos: No one knows who invented or where they originated, as they are a relatively recent arrival to the Tex-Mex scene. However, regardless of what anyone claims, they were not created in Austin. 

Where did the term “Tex-Mex” Originate from? 

The first use of the word “TexMex,” without the hyphen, referred to the Texas and Mexican Railroad, which was chartered in 1875. By making transportation simpler, the railroad aided in the creation and spread of Tex-Mex food. 

Despite the efforts of numerous abuelas, chilli queens, and chefs on both sides of the border, it was an English cookbook author who gave Tex-Mex food its name. Diana Kennedy’s 1972 book The Cuisines of Mexico distinguished between Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. 

Tex-Mex all you can eat? 

Many of foreigner visit us to experience the taste of Mexico. We believe that our Tex-Mex food is one of the reasons for our rapid growth. We’d be delighted to welcome you.