Skip to main content

Tex-Mex: History, Meaning & Difference From Mexican Food

Featured In

Curious about Tex-Mex Cuisine? Tex-Mex, short for Texans of Mexican heritage, is one of the most popular styles of food eaten every day in the United States. At Tijuana Flats we’ve come to appreciate the unique ingredients, flavors, and dishes associated with Tex-Mex cuisine. Let’s explore the similarities and differences between Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine, and the famous Tex-Mex dishes served at Tijuana Flats.

History of Tex-Mex

Looking back at Tex-Mex history, Southern Texas is the birthplace of Tex-Mex food dating back to the late 1800’s. Tex-Mex recipes became known more widely with the building of the Texas Mexican Railway. Tejano home-style cooking quickly gained popularity throughout Texas and spread across the Southwest.

From its inception Tex-Mex cuisine has been synonymous with generous portions of flavorful food. This is a tradition Tijuana Flats is proud to continue. Each entree includes a generous serving of crispy tortilla chips, and for Flatheads with an even heartier appetite, you can make your taco, bowl, burrito, or chimichanga a “Megajuana” with double the meat and cheese! However, Tex-Mex isn’t just about size. In addition to large servings, entrees typically boast bold flavors through savory seasonings and ingredients.

How is Tex-Mex different from Mexican?

Tex-Mex food is rooted in the flavors, techniques, and long history of Mexican cuisine. Richly seasoned meats are cooked with chiles and spices and served with beans, tortillas, cheese, cilantro, and more. The Tex-Mex meaning can be most simply summed up by the different types of ingredients used. Tex-Mex recipes feature the use of chili powder, a savory mix of ground chile peppers with spices including cumin, oregano, and black pepper. Alternatively, Mexican recipes call for chile peppers, not the chili seasoning blend.

You are sure to find tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and chimichangas on both Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurant menus. However, popular Tex-Mex ingredients include seasoned ground beef and shredded cheddar jack cheese, with Mexican menus featuring a broader variety of seasonings, produce, and proteins based on the region. Tex-Mex tacos are usually made with a soft flour tortilla or crunchy corn shell, while Mexican tacos are almost always made with soft corn tortillas.

No matter how you dip your tortilla chip, Tijuana Flats believes in Tex-Mex For All and satisfies our guest’s craving for bold Tex-Mex flavors! We serve generous portions of innovative combinations that delight every taste bud with honestly good, made the way our guests love it food! We feature a wide variety of hot sauces from our extensive hot sauce bar to complement our tasty Tex-Mex menu.

The Most Popular Ingredients Found in Tex-Mex Recipes

Chef Joel Reynders Executive Culinary Chef Tijuana Flats Restaurant

Joel Reynders, Vice President of Culinary and Executive Chef is one of the few people who knows all of the secret Tex-Mex recipes behind Tijuana Flats most popular menu items.

“I love the big bold flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine, and our ability to be so creative with our signature flavors, like our Chicken Tinga Chimichanga, or our crispy Flautas, stuffed with our garlic lime marinated steak and cheddar jack cheese with all of the great dips that come with them, like our signature gold queso, fresh made guacamole, and sour cream.”

And we can’t forget our giant crunchy corn taco shells filled with our signature taco beef, and all of the fixin’s like shredded cheese, sour cream, crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, and onion, with a little bit of heat at the end from sliced fresh jalapeños. Plus, having our world famous hot sauce bar lets our guests customize their dish with their specific flavors and spice levels. We truly are Tex-Mex For All!!”

Taco Seasoning

Not all taco seasoning blends are created equal! The Tijuana Flats proprietary taco seasoning includes a special combination of chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, black pepper and corn flour. To make the best Tex-Mex tacos we cook lean ground beef low and slow with our Tex-Mex taco seasoning.

Chips and Queso Cheddar Jack Cheese Tortilla Dip

Cheddar Jack Cheese

Our favorite Tex-Mex cheese is the melty, Cheddar Jack! It tops our giant tacos and crispy nachos, is rolled into burritos and chimichangas and is the star of our signature gold queso. The blend of mild cheddar cheese and creamy Monterey Jack cheese is gooey, cheesy, and delicious!


Chopped Cilantro can be found in most Tex-Mex dishes. Cilantro is an aromatic herb with hints of citrusy flora notes that bring freshness and brightness to Tex-Mex dishes. Cilantro compliments the rich tomato and fragrant spices in our Chicken Tinga Chimichanga and is the secret ingredient to our fresh-forward salsa and guacamole!

Hard Corn Shell Soft Tortilla Shells

How do you like your Tortillas?

We cannot imagine Tex-Mex food without tortillas! Choose from soft flour or crunchy corn – either is the perfect start for the best Tex-Mex taco. Corn tortillas are fried every day in-house for our crispy tortilla chips and giant crunchy taco shells. Flour tortillas are used for tacos, burritos, chimichangas, steak or chicken flautas, Atom Bomb appetizers, and craveable cookie dough flautas. How many tortillas do we serve in a day? Thousands!

Famous Tex-Mex Dishes

Do you want to celebrate Taco Tuesday every single day like we do? Then you love Tex-Mex food! Tacos are one of the most famous Tex-Mex dishes, just choose a crunchy taco or soft taco. Hungry for more? Nachos, Chimichangas, and Flautas also top the list of the most popular Tex-Mex food around the United States.

Best Chimichanga Sour Cream Feta Cheese Sauce

Tex-Mex Chimichanga

Although the history behind the invention of the chimichanga is uncertain, most stories claim it was a happy accident when a burrito was dropped in a deep fryer. One thing we do know for certain, is that chimichangas are a Tex-Mex favorite. The Chicken Tinga Chimichanga features smoky and spicy chipotle chicken, which is hand-pulled and stuffed into a flour tortilla, with refried beans and cheddar jack cheese. Tijuana Flats chimichangas are flashed fried for crispness and topped with chipotle sauce, sour cream, queso fresco and fresh cilantro.

Best Steak Flautas Cheese and Fajita Peppers and Onions

Steak Flautas

Spanish for “flutes”, flautas in traditional Mexican cuisine are made with corn tortillas, filled with a variety of ingredients, then rolled and fried. In Tex-Mex cuisine, flour tortillas are used and at Tijuana Flats we offer the option of flour or wheat tortillas. You can also order flautas with your choice of chicken, beef, steak, refried or black bean for a great vegetarian alternative.

Our most popular Tijuana Flats Flautas features tender marinated steak, grilled to order, then rolled inside of flour tortillas, filled with cheddar jack cheese. Flautas are flash-fried for crispness, and served with sour cream, guacamole, and hot queso to dip any way you like!

Dos Tacos Tijuana Tex-Mex Hard Shell Meal Beans and Rice


The popularity of the taco is without question. Introduced by Mexican migrants to the United States in the early 1900s, today there are so many ways to enjoy a great Tex-Mex taco. Let’s TACO about our giant crunchy corn taco shells filled with our signature taco beef, sour cream, shredded cheddar jack cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and fresh sliced jalapenos. Of course, you can get Tex-Mex tacos any way you choose, with a hard shell or soft flour tortillas, as long as it’s at Tijuana Flats!

The Best Tex-Mex Near Me

With 123 locations and counting, Tijuana Flats is ready to satisfy your cravings for the best Tex-Mex food. Find locations throughout Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana with even more locations in more states opening in 2022. Meaning you’ll never find yourself asking “Is there a Tijuana Flats near me?” Of course there is!
As true Flatheads know, ordering from your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant has never been easier. Choose Tijuana Flats for dine in, order take out, curbside pick up or get our great Tex-Mex menu delivered straight to your door. We are open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and hope to serve you soon.

Be sure to download our rewards app and you’ll receive a special welcome bonus of a FREE Tijuana Trio appetizer- crispy seasoned tortilla chips, fresh red or spicy chipotle salsa, queso and guac. Earn rewards points from every order and redeem for starters, entrees, and desserts right in the app. Come experience #TexMexForAll at Tijuana Flats and order today.

Want to know the latest Tijuana Flats news and receive special offers? Subscribe to our email list here and be sure to follow us on social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

Back To List