What is Tex-Mex? A Brief Introduction (Plus Recipe Ideas!)

Americans love Mexican food, and it is growing in popularity. A recent survey found that several Americans craved Mexican food during the recent stay-at-home advisory.

Do you like Mexican food? What about Tex Mex? What is Tex Mex?

Glad you asked. We’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about Tex Mex and find some Tex Mex recipes to satisfy your food cravings.

What Is Tex Mex Food?

Tex Mex food blends cuisine from American and Northern Mexican cooking. It’s traced back to the late 1800s when the Texas Mexican railroad ran through Southern Texas.

Initially, Tex Mex food was noted for the use of beef, which is not used as much in Mexico. It was a staple of ranch life in that area.

Tex Mex vs Mexican Cuisine

Wondering if you are eating Mexican food or Tex Mex food? Some ingredients solve that mystery. All of these are staples of Tex Mex cooking:

  • Ground beef
  • Yellow cheese
  • Hard taco shells
  • Flour tortillas
  • Chili powder
  • Black beans
  • Refried beans
  • Sour cream
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Cumin

All of these ingredients are not common to authentic Mexican dishes but were added to create Tex Mex cuisine.

Classic Tex Mex Dishes

Want to try some Tex Mex recipes? Here are a few easy (and tasty) recipes to try to satisfy that Tex Mex craving.


Mix up your tacos by trying this Carne Picada taco recipe. Use two pounds of chuck steak and cut it into small 1/4 dice. Broil and roast some poblanos for a little heat.

Put diced onions and serrano peppers in a large cast-iron skillet. Saute with salt. Remove from the skillet and brown the beef.

Add in your tomatoes, onions, and poblanos and stir to combine with seasonings. Then serve with toasted corn tortillas and toppings like salsa, queso fresco, and chopped cilantro.


For the marinade, use olive oil and lime juice. Rub your meat with brown sugar, chile powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and salt.

Slice onions and peppers and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Then grill or cook your meat (either strip steak or chicken) in a cast-iron skillet.

Serve with warm tortillas and toppings like lime wedges, salsa, chopped scallions, shredded pepper Jack, guacamole, and sour cream.

King Ranch Casserole

This is an easy casserole dish for busy weeknights. Use shredded chicken that you either buy shredded or you can use rotisserie chicken.

For the sauce, combine one can of cream of chicken soup, one can of cream of mushroom soup, one can of diced tomatoes and chile peppers, and one cup of chicken broth.

Saute red and green bell peppers with onion until warmed through. Then combine the onion-pepper mixture with the chicken mixture, season with cumin, chile powder, and oregano, and stir in some sour cream.

Layer with sauce, chicken, tortillas, and shredded cheese. Then repeat (like you would with lasagna). Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chili Con Carne

This is a popular choice of cowboys in the 1800s. Combine garlic, chile pepper, and onion. Brown the ground beef.

Stir in canned tomatoes (and liquid), cumin, paprika, chili powder, cinnamon sticks, oregano, and whole cloves. Simmer for about 45 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Add kidney beans. Then cook for another 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks.

Are You Hungry Yet?

Now that you know the answer to “what is Tex Mex,” it’s time to get cooking. Try your hand at some of these recipes and enjoy.

Looking for more food ideas? Keep checking our site for more ideas on just about anything, including food.

Diana Muniz
Diana Muniz

With over 20+ years of experience in a variety of corporate and entrepreneurial environments, Diana has developed a great understanding of Marketing Strategy, Brand Development, Customer Success, Public Relations and Management. Her internal drive for developing others and external brands, has allowed her to work in some of the largest cities in the world including Milan, Paris, NY, Mexico, and the Middle East. This experience has been fundamental to Diana’s success and ability to communicate cross-culturally.