Have you heard how tasty and healthy authentic Mexican food is? Have you tried Tex-Mex but couldn’t really find the awesomeness you were expecting? That is because the two, although with certain features in common, are still very different. Let’s review the most important differences.
Tex-Mex As a Blend of Mexican, American & Spanish Cuisine
The term Tex-Mex stands for Texan and Mexican, and describes a type of popular cuisine which originated along the southern border states of the US. Basically, it defines a blend of Mexican, Spanish and American cuisine. The term was first used in print during the early 40s, but only gained wider popularity in the 70s.
How Tex-Mex Came to Life
The first encounter between the Mexican and Spanish cuisine took place in 17th century Texas, during the Spanish mission era. Tex-Mex was officially invented by the Tejanos, the first Spanish settlers in present day Texas.
Until the 20th century it saw few variations, remaining a relatively constant presence along the Mexico-US borderline. At the turn of the century, it started assimilating American features (like the use of yellow cheese) and taking the shape we know today.
How to Distinguish Authentic Mexican Food from Tex-Mex
Here are the 7 main ingredient differences between the two cuisines.
1. Tex-Mex tacos are made using taco shells, while their Mexican counterpart uses a soft tortilla wrap.
2. There is nothing Mexican about sweet corn (which is omnipresent in many Tex-Mex dishes), this is an American addition. In Mexico, corn is used in the form of grain or whole cobs.
3. Canned beans are yet another American invention. Mexicans generally use fresh beans.
4. Mexicans prefer white cheese, while Americans use their well known yellow cheese. So, if you see any of the yellow stuff in your dish, it sure isn’t Mexican!
5. Cumin is common in Tex-Mex cuisine, used mostly in spicy dishes like chili con carne, burritos, chimichangas, etc. On the other hand, traditional Mexican recipes rarely mention cumin, the most frequently used spices being oregano, epazote, parsley and coriander.
6. Authentic Mexican burritos are quite different from their American counterpart. They include mostly meat, skipping the rice and veggies Americans are so fond of.
7. Traditional Mexican salads aren’t topped with tortilla chips.
How Mexican Are the Most Popular Tex-Mex Dishes?
Some Tex-Mex foods have deceiving names that would make you swear they are based on traditional recipes. The truth is that there is very little authentic Mexican spirit left in them, all being slowly but surely Americanized over the decades. One popular example is nachos. While invented in Mexico, they are a symbol of today’s Tex-Mex cuisine. Usually covered in molten yellow cheese, they’ve become one of the most popular American snacks.