Although there are many restaurants that claim to have authentic Mexican cuisine, the majority of these establishments are actually serving a culinary fusion of Mexican and American meals. These combinations – often called Tex-Mex – are what most people think of when they think of Mexican cuisine. However, there are some key differences between Tex-Mex and true Mexican cuisine.
As its name implies, Tex-Mex has formed through a fusion of Mexican and Texas cuisine due to their proximity and immigration. Because of the large ranching community in Texas, meals that were traditionally made with chicken, seafood, or vegetables were adapted to have beef as the primary meat. As Tex-Mex became more popular throughout the United States, fast and easy ingredients such as yellow cheese were slowly incorporated into the cuisine.
Mexican food has a wide variety of meals and flavors that is highly dependent on the region of Mexico. Northern Mexico more frequently features beef and wheat-based tortillas. Areas of Mexico along the coast and to the south often have seafood and chicken based dishes. Dishes and cuisine in Mexico have a rich history- a fact that is evident in authentic dishes.
Tex-Mex often features ingredients that are not commonly found in authentic Mexican meals. In particular, shredded yellow cheese and certain spices such as cumin are not typically used in true Mexican cuisine. In addition to this, most Mexican cuisine uses corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. In place of hard-shelled tacos, authentic Mexican tacos are made with soft tortillas.
Although the cheese called Mexican in grocery stores is not authentic, there are a variety of Mexican cheeses. Unlike the cheese frequently used in Tex-Mex dishes, Mexican cheese is typically white and is not shredded.
Mexican cuisine also includes significantly more vegetables than Tex-Mex cuisine. Mexican dishes can include corn, peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, and many other vegetables.
Outside of cumin, Mexican cuisine uses spices including chili peppers. Because of this, Mexican cuisine can often be much more flavorful and spicy than Tex-Mex. As a whole, Tex-Mex uses a narrower range of ingredients in meals than authentic Mexican cuisine – resulting in a less unique dining experience.
Much like ingredients, the majority of Tex-Mex dishes are more widely known than authentic Mexican meals. Hard-shelled tacos and certain fajitas are a distinctly Tex-Mex creation. Dishes such as enchiladas can be authentic or of the Tex-Mex variety. Authentic Mexican enchiladas have a variety of ingredients wrapped and often fried. They can be topped with cheese, chicken, lettuce, or sauces. Tex-Mex enchiladas are typically baked and are made with beef and cheese. They have a more limited ingredient list, although they often have more sauce and cheese than authentic enchiladas.
Tex-Mex cuisine and Mexican cuisine are similar enough for many people to confuse them. Despite this, authentic Mexican cuisine can provide a dining experience like no other.