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The Difference Between Tex-Mex and Authentic Mexican Food, written by a Mexican living in Texas

by Daniela Lee on April 06, 2021
As someone who has lived in Texas for 17 years, I've come to know 2 types of Food that Texans can't live without – BBQ and "Mexican Food." I emphasize the Mexican Food part because most people think that they have authentic Mexican food when they go for chips and queso and an order of fajitas. Erm - not really, don't get me wrong, I love both of those things and a frozen margarita on the side!


Imagine the shocker when we first moved to Texas, and someone referred to a plate of hard corn shell tacos with ground beef and cheddar cheese as Mexican food. My mom nearly fainted!

Anyway, it didn't take long for my family and me to lovingly accept Tex-Mex into our lives. But we love to share the differences between Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican to anyone who'll listen. 


What Exactly is Tex-Mex? 

You guessed it, it is a mix between Texan and Mexican cuisine that started when settlers moved to Texan territory and encountered Mexican culture.

Unlike Tex-Mex, Mexican food has been around for thousands of years (we are talking Mayans and other indigenous groups from that time.)

Mexican Ingredients vs. Tex-Mex Ingredients

We use various white cheeses like Cotija, Oaxaca, Panela, Blanco, or Manchego.

In Tex-Mex, cheddar cheese is what's used.

Mexican Spices vs. Tex-Mex Spices

In Mexican cuisine, chile peppers, oregano, epazote, and cilantro are commonly used.

Tex-Mex uses cumin to season rice and beans, and contrary to popular belief – Mexicans don't really use it. 

These are just a few examples of the differences between these two types of cuisine. 

For us, both Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican are great, sadly; in the U.S., it is tough to find authentic Mexican unless you have your abuelita nearby to cook up something truly original, but in the meantime, here's a list of restaurants in the Houston area that are worth trying! 

1- Xochi

2- Caracol

3- Hugo's

4- Ambriza Social Mexican Kitchen

5- La Fisheria

6- Escalante's

7- Cuchara 

8- Picos

What are some restaurants in your state you'd recommend? 


by Taylor Abrams on May 05, 2023

It’s really fascinating to know that chili peppers, oregano, epazote, and cilantro are frequently used in Mexican cooking. I also did not know that contrary to popular opinion, cumin is not commonly used by Mexicans, but it is used in Tex-Mex cuisine to season rice and beans. I needed to learn about this because my sister’s getting married in the next 4 months and she wants authentic Mexican cuisine for her wedding caterer. Thanks for the tips!

by Sam Andrews on March 21, 2023

Oh, I see. Well then, I must applaud you for showing us that white cheese is more common in real Mexican cuisine. I might try some of these dishes when I book a table at a restaurant later. I wish to enjoy some unique food this weekend before I start my sabbatical leave.

by on May 05, 2021

In San Antonio Texas, some of the best Mexican (Tex-Mex) restaurants are MI Tierra, Pico de Gallo, La Margarita, Casa Don Pedro, and so many more. The Catrina Shop nailed the difference between authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex.


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