Authentic Mexican Recipes vs Tex-Mex Recipes: Why The Difference?

Whenever you get talking about authentic Mexican Recipes, you invariably come across the topic of it’s opposite: Tex-Mex cuisine.  Before we start, I want to make it clear that I actually like Tex-Mex.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Yours truly, author of this entire site devoted to authentic Mexican recipes, enjoys a few Tex-Mex recipes when I’m out of the country, lathered up in sour cream and the different cheeses that seem very popular in the mangled Mexican cuisine abroad.  Now, I like traditional Mexican recipes better, but a little variety is nice now and then. (continued below…)

If you’re in the mood for real Mexican food and you’re here for some authentic Mexican recipes for cooking traditional Mexican dishes, then here are our most popular recipes to date:

Our 10 Most Popular Authentic Mexican Recipes

Caldo de Pollo recipe

Traditional Mexican Recipe for Caldo de Pollo

Mexican comfort food at its finest, this caldo de pollo (Mexican chicken soup) recipe is perfect on a cool spring afternoon or when you’re not feeling so great!

Camarones a la Diabla recipe

Authentic Mexican Camarones a la Diabla recipe

Making a delicious spicy shrimp dish, this Mexican style deviled shrimp recipe is a treat for your tongue, and every lucky guest your serve this authentic Mexican meal.

Baja Shrimp Tacos recipe

Taco Recipes: Fried Baja Shrimp Tacos

One of the most delicious taco recipes you will ever make. Authentic Mexican tacos from the Baja peninsula are made with a savory beer batter and are legendary among locals and visitors alike.

Mexcan salsa recipe for salsa roja

Mexican Salsa Recipe for Salsa Roja

A very popular salsa served at almost every Mexican street vendor stall that serves tacos, salsa roja features a firey blend of tomatoes, chiles, onions, and garlic.

chicken fajitas recipe

Fajitas Recipe: Authentic Mexican Chicken Fajitas

Like tacos, but wrapped up. This famous chicken fajitas recipe is served in many restarants in Mexico City and around the country in nicer restaurants as well as at the street stalls.

Mexican salsa recipe for salsa verde

Mexican Salsa Recipe for Salsa Verde

Another common Mexican salsa recipe served with tacos, fajitas, and other authentic Mexican food dishes.  Salsa verde is made with tomatillos, garlic, jalapeños, and cilantro, among other things…

Mexican Green Authentic chicken enchiladas

Mexican Chicken Recipes: Chicken Enchiladas

For when tacos get old and you want to change it up a bit with a recipe with authentic Mexican flavor that is to die for. This recipe comes straight from the famous street vendors of Mexico City.

authentic shrimp ceviche recipe

Mexican Appetizers: Shrimp Ceviche

Anybody who likes both seafood and Mexican food has surely tried shrimp ceviche before, and this recipe is for those people who want to make it at home!

Mexican beans frijoles charros

Mexican Beans: Frijoles Charros

A very popular Mexican beans recipe of charro blended pinto beans, perfect for a side dish to serve with almost any Mexican recipe you can imagine, to add that authentic touch.

Huevos Rancheros recipe

Mexican Breakfast Recipe for Huevos Rancheros

One of the cornerstones of any Mexican restaurant’s breakfast menu and also popular in the home, this easy Mexican recipe is easy to make when you’re in the mood for a Mexican breakfast.

The above are the ten most popular recipes we’ve posted to this little site so far, and you can see a little bit of Mexican cuisine’s diversity.  Mexican food is much more than just tacos and beans and tortillas (although those are definitely popular in the country): there are delicious seafood dishes, traditional Mexican soups and tasty Mexican salsa recipes you’ll find served all around the country, and other authentic Mexican recipes from this country’s rich heritage.  Wherever your tastes lie in Mexican cuisine, we’re adding the best authentic recipes we can find from our travels around Mexico each week from the Mexican street food culture, from traditional Mexican kitchens, and any other place we happen to find delicious authentic Mexican recipes!

(…continued, from above) Recently while surfing in the authentic Mexican recipes section of the very useful forums, I came across someone who voiced the basic question of why Tex-Mex exists in the first place?  Now, the person was specifically asking about why Mexican cuisine is so mutilated by the time it makes its way to Europe, but it’s really the same question because outside of Mexico, the “authentic” cuisine is almost geographically-uniformly screwed up.

So I’m going to share my opinion:  I think the main reason authentic Mexican food gets so “lost in translation” is because of a marketing issue and the tendency for restaurant owners to focus on cultural stereotypes when they feel their guests don’t know a lot about that culture and are on the outside of it, looking in.

Travel to the US, Canada, the UK, or really anywhere abroad, and walk into a Mexican restaurant.  What do you see?–exactly: bright colors, yellow taco shells used for their taco recipes, lots of fatty cheeses in their quesadillas, pictures of cacti, and so on. It’s those emblematic (even if barely true) little stereotypical things that people latch onto as “Mexico”, that get repeated again and again because they’re so universally recognized as Mexican.

Now go to Mexico and walk into a restaurant. What do you see?–exactly: none of that crap. The colors aren’t bright or vibrant; they’re normal and down-to-earth in the kitchens and little eateries that line the roads. The food isn’t over the top with spices and cheeses and all flour and 30cm baking soda tortillas; they’re sensible, reasonably portioned dishes that use ingredients for taste, not just for presentation.  I could go on and on.  Tex-Mex cuisine, along with “EuroMex”, CanMex, ThaiMex–Mexican cuisine as it exists in any part of the planet outside of Mexico–tends to be largely hyperbolic.  Sometimes you’ll come across a restaurant abroad that has gone the extra mile to import the proper ingredients that are used in Mexico, that uses them properly, and that is probably run by a Mexican who takes great pride in serving true authentic Mexican recipes.  But it’s rare.  Most Mexican food restaurants abroad opt for the cheaper alternative of using local ingredients and utilizing the marketing strategy of promoting the common idea of Mexico, rather than real Mexican food.

To my mouth, authentic Mexican recipes taste better, but they’re a lot more low key, and low-key doesn’t work well as a marketing strategy. So what happens when some guy up in the US wants to open up a Mexican restaurant so people, who have never been to Mexico in all probability, can taste something different? Right: he emphasizes the exotic, almost alien corners of the cuisine, because that’s what’s going to catch people’s attention and bring them into his place. Multiply this dynamic again and again, and you get to where we are today, to where most people who have never been to Mexico and tasted real Mexican food have only ever experienced “TexMex” cuisine and believe on some level that Tex-Mex = authentic Mexican.  It can seem like a phenomenon of ignorance, but it makes sense if you think about it.

To clarify, I don’t mean to say that any Mexican food taken out of the country and changed is “Tex-Mex” per se–it’s just the common term a lot of foodies use to refer to non-authentic Mexican food. And by no means is this a bad thing: there are some delicious variations of authentic Mexican food recipes in different parts of the globe that have their own merit and are delicious in their own right. We tend to focus on the authentic recipes of Mexico here simply because we prefer the original, traditional version of the cuisine.

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  1. Jessica
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with you. Granted, I’ve never been to Mexico but plan too go as soon as humanly possible. 🙂 But I have noticed when I find recipes for authentic Mexican food it is not the same as what you might find in a restaurant here in Arkansas. But in the best possible way! To me real Mexican food is so much more satisfying and you can almost feel the history that comes from the authentic ingredients. I wish more people would get to experience authentic foods. We are lucky that we have a few stands around town that sell what I would call authentic Mexican food. A lot of people don’t like it because they use different cuts of meat then we are used to, cheeks, tongue etc. But I love it! Real corn tortillas, fresh cilantro and delicious meats. You just can’t beat the real thing!

  2. Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Some people have this idea that any “Mexican” food that is not “authentic Mexican food” is “Tex-Mex food,” but the reality is that it’s WAY more complicated than that. I have even see people call Taco Bell Tex-Mex food but Taco Bell is not influenced by Texan cooking.

One Trackback

  • […] Tex-Mex food vs Authentic Mexican Cuisine: A Classic Battle By bestauthenticmexicanrecipes I hear this asked all the time: why is there such a difference between what many call "Tex-Mex" cuisine and authentic Mexican food?  While I'm sure the reasons are many, my opinion is that, aside from cost reasons, restaurant owners abroad find it more marketable to latch onto the bright, colorful and flashing cultural stereotypes that people identify Mexico with than it is profitable to invest promoting the real Mexican cuisine and having to educate the public to a large extent on what that even means and why they should get excited about trying it. I wrote a good article about it here your can check out:   Tex-Mex cuisine vs Authentic Mexican food – why the difference? […]

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