Tex-Mex is a type of cuisine that combines traditional Mexican foods with more Americanized ingredients. Tex-Mex first developed when Spanish and native Mexican people found themselves living in America after part of northern Mexico became what is now Texas. Throughout the southwestern U.S., Tex-Mex varies by state, with south Texas being where it is most popular and closest to its Mexican and Spanish roots. In restaurants that offer it, you may see several dishes that you also find in authentic Mexican restaurants. For an average restaurant-goer, it can be hard to distinguish what is truly Mexican and what is Tex-Mex. However, there are some ways to tell which cuisine you really have on your plate.
- Because Tex-Mex is an Americanized version of Mexican cuisine, you will see some differences in palette. Traditional Mexican food is much spicier than most Americans are used to. Tex-Mex can certainly be spicy, especially if you ask for your food to have a little extra heat, but generally, there is less spice to it.
- Many Tex-Mex dishes have much more cheese than traditional recipes call for, or add it when normally there would be none. A good example is cheese quesadillas, which are a very popular Tex-Mex dish, but are not as common in Mexico. Also, authentic Mexican food does not contain cheddar or jack cheeses. The most common type used in Mexican cuisine is queso blanco, which is a fresh, white cheese that is quite mild.
- Tex-Mex also employs the use of cumin as a seasoning, which is not as typical past the border. Cumin is used in the U.S. to season chili and to add flavor to sauteed meats and vegetables for fajitas.
- Beef is one of the most popular types of meat in the U.S. It is used in many Tex-Mex dishes like tacos, steak fajitas, and barbacoa, as well as mixed into enchilada sauces. In Mexican cuisine, most dishes are prepared with chicken or pork instead.
Authentic Mexican restaurants located in the U.S tend to offer Tex-Mex versions of their food in an effort to cater to the American palette. However, you can always ask for the real deal if you want to experience their traditional food. Whether it is authentic Mexican or some of the Best Tex Mex in Houston, both cuisines have similar flavor profiles and are equally enjoyable.