Authentic Mexican Cuisine vs. Tex-Mex Food: The Difference

Authentic Mexican Cuisine vs. Tex-Mex Food: The Difference

Unless you never leave your house, there's a good chance your family or friends regularly suggest going out for Mexican. What they actually mean in most areas of the country is Tex-Mex. It is important to know the difference between Tex-Mex and true Mexican recipes, like the ones used for Don Emilio’s salsas. Tex-Mex is in an Americanized class of its own.

The use of the name "Tex-Mex" to describe the cuisine itself emerged during the 1940s, while the style of "Tex-Mex" food dates back to the late 1800s, when San Antonio was part of Mexico. Chili con carne originated in Texas sometime around the 1800s. The San Antonio Chili Queens are responsible for making chili con carne an essential element of Tex-Mex cuisine; a Tex-Mex cuisine may trace its ancestry back to chili. The components easily available to early Texans led to the creation of chili, which is why it traditionally contains beef. Other Tex-Mex meals were able to bring more common components from south of the border with new techniques and influences from Mexico to produce something entirely different.

In Tex-Mex cooking, the distinctive qualities of the four main components — all of which were readily available to the cooks who invented Tex-Mex cooking — serve as the source of the differences of authentic Mexican cuisine vs. Tex-Mex food.


Cheese is a big part of Tex-Mex cuisine. There is a gigantic mound of yellow cheese, found in or on nearly everything on the plate, accompanied with a side dish of it to dip everything into. Cheese is an important ingredient in Tex-Mex meals, however, it is generally a yellow cheese instead of the white cheese generally used in traditional Mexican cuisine.

Typically, cheese does not make a significant appearance in Mexican food, but it does in Tex-Mex; you will find cheese enchiladas, which are made with a yellow cheese that has been shredded and layered with a tortilla along with other cheese sprinkled on top. Queso dip is an exclusively Tex-Mex dish, and as such, isn't something you commonly encounter on typical Mexican menus. You will almost always find it on the menu in American restaurants that serve traditional Mexican food, but it is usually because customers are upset when they don't see it.

Spotting the type of cheese used is the most quickly identifiable part of a meal that will tell you whether it is an authentic Mexican dish or a Tex-Mex counterpart.


Cumin, just behind chili peppers, is the most-often-used seasoning in Tex-Mex cuisine. However, in Mexico, cumin is not a traditional spice. The Canary Islanders arrived in North America on their own as they were led to the San Antonio area of Texas by the Spanish to assist in their colonization. Another reason that San Antonio chili con carne is different from the Mexican food you can find south of the border is that cumin was utilized in it.

Cumin took its position in the Tex-Mex spice pantheon in the early 20th century thanks to a German immigrant who settled in San Antonio. Willie Gebhardt produced a dry mix of cumin, ancho chiles, oregano, and black pepper blended with dried chili powder. When it came to chili powder, this was the de facto standard, and cumin found its way into chili con carne rather than in other Tex-Mex meals.


Mexican tortillas are produced mainly from corn. Wheat flour wasn't extensively utilized to produce tortillas until the tortilla found its way north of the Rio Grande. Mexican cuisine incorporates tortillas into several uses, including burritos and soft tacos. Tortillas are also utilized in a manner comparable to bread being served on the side in American meals.

The huge flour tortillas being used to carry large quantities of filling today are part of the Tex-Mex cuisine. Tortillas maintain a special position in American cuisine, nevertheless, particularly in the southwestern region of the country. The firm taco shell is used to make Mexican street food into a Tex-Mex version. In Mexico, saying taco means it must be a soft shell taco. 


Some things are just quintessentially Tex-Mex, such as beef fajitas, beef tacos, and beef chili. Many Mexican recipes favor the use of pig, chicken, or seafood, as seafood is more common in coastal locations. However, as Texas was primarily an area that raised cattle, beef was more accessible and is why Texas barbecue is made with beef instead of pork. To the north, you will find more beef in use, mostly around Texas.

A classic Tex-Mex ingredient is ground beef found in hard-shell tacos. Texas-Mexican restaurants almost always feature meat fajitas. It was first seen in print in 1971, when the dish was initially referred to as "fajitas." The origin of "fajita" stems from the Spanish word "faja," which means "strip," which was the cut of beef used.


So, out of these two delicious cuisines, which is better? Many of the Tex-Mex dishes we enjoy are inspired by dishes that originated in Mexico. The kind of authentic Mexican food we like does not incorporate Tex-Mex components. Authentic Mexican food is vastly different from Tex-Mex, but both varieties are wonderful for your taste buds. This is where giving in to your palate comes into play.

When a person talks about Mexican food, one usually thinks of the country's culinary traditions from different regions. But when you're talking about Mexican food that is truly authentic, you mean dishes that solely use Mexican ingredients. Alternatively, Tex-Mex is a form of Mexican cooking with a smaller assortment of components as a base. Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican food both have fantastic flavors, and which you choose depends on your own personal preference.

Now that we know the differences between these two styles of cuisine, it’s time to eat! Whether you want to incorporate the more American Tex-Mex style into your cooking or you want to use only authentic Mexican ingredients and cooking methods, you can’t go wrong either way. For any and all of your Mexican cuisine needs, check out Don Emilio's selection to pick up some of our delicious salsa at wholesale prices. Restaurants of all varieties use our salsa in their recipes for its incredible flavor and heat.

Authentic Mexican Cuisine vs. Tex-Mex Food: What Is the Difference