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Mexican Food vs. Tex-Mex, What’s the Difference?

There’s no doubt Mexico has some of the most exciting dishes on earth. The bright colors, the intense flavors, the spiciness! Mexican food is vibrant, to say the least, and has fans worldwide.

Is this Tex-Mex ode to a burrito really a chicken wrap?

Still, there’s a significant difference between the food you’ll actually find in Mexico and what you can find as Mexican food elsewhere, particularly in the Southern States.

Tex-Mex is in a category of its own. And although its most popular foods are just as tasty as the real deal, Tex-Mex and Mexican food have fewer things in common than you think. Let’s compare both and learn a bit more about them; knowledge has never been tastier!

The History of Tex-Mex Food

Mexico and many of the southern states have a strong bond. A hundred and fifty years ago, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas were part of Mexico! Add to that endless waves of migration between the two countries, and it’s easy to see why the food in Texas, for example, is so similar to Mexican food.

Both sides of the border added their own ingredients to this cultural hot pot, resulting in food that wasn’t American or Mexican, but both. Tex-Mex was born. So, what’s the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food? Here’s what you need to know.

Some Basic Similarities and Differences between Mexican and Tex-Mex

Tacos. Hard-shell tacos are typical Tex-Mex food. In Mexico, people make tacos with either corn or flour tortillas, and they’re almost always soft.

Ingredients. Cheddar cheese, yellow corn, sour cream and pimento are all Tex-Mex ingredients you won’t likely find in Mexico. Mexican cuisine relies on both red and green tomatoes, queso fresco and white corn.

Tex-Mex Typical Meals. Queso, ground beef tacos, fajitas, chili con carne, nachos and burritos are all Tex-Mex dishes, although they’re now gaining popularity on both sides of the border.

Mexican Typical Meals. Mexican common dishes include soft tacos, enchiladas, chilaquiles, quesadillas, tortas and many stews and moles.

Hot Peppers. Jalapeños are the most widespread hot pepper in Tex-Mex cooking. In Mexico, at least a dozen different hot peppers are commonly consumed — jalapeños are just one of them.

Regionality. Mexican food is highly regional. You’ll find different ingredients and recipes in each of the 32 states in Mexico, from shrimp tacos in Baja to pulled-pork cochinita in Yucatán.

Hot Sauces. Salsas are always made fresh in Mexico, with red & green tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro and hot peppers. Vinegar-based hot sauces are prevalent in the US.

Seasonings. Taco seasoning is not a thing in Mexico. In fact, cumin, paprika, chili powder and coriander are rarely seen in Mexican kitchens. Salt and pepper are probably the most common seasonings for everyday food in Mexico.

A collection of tacos featuring various meats or fillings

Mexican or Tex-Mex, Why Choose?

There’s no doubt Tex-Mex and Mexican food have a few things in common, but they’re more different than similar. Of course, that doesn’t mean one is better than the other!

If you’re traveling to Mexico, feast on traditional food — more often than not, life-changing experiences. Just an FYI, you won't have to drown your tacos de cameron in habanero the next time you're in Los Cabos to get that life-changing feeling.

And if you find yourself in Texas, New Mexico or California, look up a popular family-owned restaurant or food truck event to enjoy the best in tasty Tex-Mex!

If there’s one thing Mexican food and Tex-Mex have in common, it is that they’re both comforting, hearty and utterly delicious! Food brings us together — let’s not let it set us apart!


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1 Comment

Great article. I never knew the difference between the . Thats what makes these travel tips so valuable - because theyre also educational.

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