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

Mexican FoodTacos, enchiladas, and paletas—for sure you’ve tried these during a trip to a Mexican restaurant or a stopover somewhere during a road trip. Mouth-watering, right? Not only is authentic Mexican food tasty, but it’s also very healthy.

But what is authentic Mexican cuisine? Is Tex-Mex the same? While Tex-Mex is just as tasty as real Mexican cuisine, you may find it less savory.

Tex-Mex uses ingredients Mexican cuisine rarely uses. Traditional, authentic Mexican food, as served by El Paso Mexican Restaurant, is also typically made-from-scratch. In addition, instead of beef, traditional Mexican food tends to use more chicken and pork; beef is scarce in the country.

Here are key ingredients you may find in both cuisines:

White vs. Yellow Cheese​

Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes may be covered in cheese. But the former uses more white cheese, while the latter likes yellow cheese, usually cheddar. Enchiladas in traditional Mexican tables will come with green tomatillo sauce, or mole with flecks of white cheese instead of melted cheddar.

Baked Beans

If the beans came from a can, then that’s not Mexican food. Authentic Mexican cuisine uses fresh produce, including baked beans, for dishes that require the ingredient.

Sweet Corn

Most Tex-Mex places offer sweet corn as a side dish or stuffed into a burrito. In authentic Mexican cuisine, you’ll get full corncobs and cooked corn grains. For example, mole de olla, which is a rich soup of corn, squash, green beans, potatoes and other local ingredients or esquites, which is a savory snack of grilled corn with creamy cheese, chilies, and lime.


Have you ever ordered quesadillas from a Tex-Mex restaurant? These are usually two flour tortillas stuffed with cheddar cheese with a choice of chicken, beef, and steak, along with vegetables and a dollop of sour cream. This is far from what Mexicans consider to be a quesadilla because for them, the dish is like American grilled cheese sandwiches. The difference is the melted white cheese and guacamole or homemade salsa.

Tex-Mex came from the Tejanos, which were the first Spanish settlers in modern-day Texas. So the cuisine isn’t rooted in traditional Mexican culture. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t have both dishes on the same plate. The differences exist, but your taste buds will deem both as delicious.