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What's the Difference Between Tex-Mex and Authentic Mexican Food?

Although Tex-Mex stems from Mexican cuisine, the two are not the same thing. For those unfamiliar with traditional Mexican dishes, it may not be simple to tell the two kinds of food apart. To make it easier for you to know what to look for when you select a menu, our taco truck catering business is here to explain the differences between our traditional menu and Tex-Mex.


What Is Tex-Mex?

Tex-Mex is a mixture of Texan and Mexican food. Some may go as far as to call it "American" Mexican food since it doesn't usually contain the same ingredients as traditional Mexican dishes.

Regionally, Tex-Mex hails from the border of Texas and Mexico, where the two countries' recipes collide.


Anglo Americans settled in Texas where they were first able to experience real Mexican food. The dishes were popular, but many Americans didn't know how to duplicate the taste. As a result, they used ingredients available in Texas to try to mimic the flavor of authentic Mexican cuisine. This led to the development of Tex-Mex.


Tex-Mex gained true popularity in the 1940s and continued to grow as its own kind of cuisine over time. Interestingly, many Mexican restaurants do use Texan ingredients to accommodate people who like Mexican food but also want the flavors they are familiar with from Texas.

Tex-Mex does have a similar flavor to Mexican cuisine, and that can make it hard to identify the differences. One of the major differences is that Tex-Mex tends to use beef, which is readily available in Texas, whereas authentic Mexican uses pork. Tex-Mex may also use other ingredients not typically found in Mexican dishes, such as:

  • Yellow cheese

  • Wheat flour

  • Black beans

  • Certain vegetables, like canned vegetables

  • Cumin

So, while similar, the two types of dishes are truly not the same.


What Is Authentic Mexican Cuisine?

Authentic Mexican cuisine comes from Mexico and is typically cooked in a cast-iron skillet, fried, or steamed. Some common dishes served by authentic restaurants include:

  • Salsa

  • Tomatillos

  • Enchiladas

  • Tamales

While some of these dishes are also made in Tex-Mex restaurants, there are differences in the ingredients used and the way the dishes are presented. Remember, Tex-Mex is related to Mexican cuisine — but only loosely. Mexican dishes do have their own unique flavor compared to what is regularly available throughout the United States.

Authentic Mexican food tends to use corn tortillas rather than wheat tortillas. It also uses chili peppers, wild game, and fish. Onion is a staple ingredient in many dishes, as is cilantro.

Popular ingredients in Mexico include:

  • Pork

  • Dairy

  • Garlic

  • Chili peppers

  • Corn

Traditional Mexican menu items usually do not include queso dip, fajitas, nachos, chimichangas, or hardshell tacos. Why? They're inventions belonging to the Tex-Mex tradition.

Ready to Hire Taco Truck Catering?

At Los Chilangos, we make authentic Mexican food fresh in our food truck, Taqueria Los Chilangos. We are here to deliver the Mexico City-style street food that you want to any location, so you can enjoy the real flavors of Mexico. Contact us today online to learn more or book our services.

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