Growing up in the suburban Midwest I never had much exposure to traditional Mexican cooking. It's not that the food was impossible to find—my family just never sought it out. What we did eat was plenty of Tex-Mex. And as much as we appreciate traditional Mexican food here at Serious Eats, we also love its Americanized cousin. If you've got a place in your heart for Tex-Mex too, check out 15 of our favorite recipes, including classic Texas-style nachos, creamy chicken enchiladas, and chorizo-stuffed chiles rellenos.
Before you ask, we didn't forget about tacos—we've got a whole list of them for you right here.
Real Texas Nachos
The first nachos were made with just three ingredients—tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and jalapeños—individually composed into even bites. With such a simple recipe it's important to get the details right, and that means taking a few extra minutes to fry up homemade chips.
The Ultimate Fully Loaded Nachos
Nachos might have started as a simple affair, but I prefer them to have more generous amount of toppings. Our fully loaded nachos live up to their name, with the chips getting buried under a mountain of grated cheese, cheese sauce, refried beans, black beans, pico de gallo, crema, and more. Arrange the chips and toppings in two layers to ensure that no chip goes un-topped.
Taco Queso Dip
Everyone has their own recipe for queso dip, some as simple as just Velveeta and Ro*Tel and others that add all sorts of extra ingredients. This one incorporates the flavors of taco night by adding ground beef seasoned with jalapeño, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and oregano to the base of Monterey Jack, sharp cheddar, evaporated milk, and sour cream.
Fully Loaded Vegan Queso Dip
Our last queso recipe had four different kinds of dairy; this one has zero. Don't run away—our vegan "cheese" sauce is as creamy and satisfying as the real thing, thanks to a base of vegetable shortening, potato, cashews, and almond milk. The vegan nacho cheese is compelling on its own, but it's even better piled with vegan chorizo, black beans, and avocado.
Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas
There's something irresistible about fajitas—a steaming cast iron tray of skirt steak, peppers, and onions. This Tex-Mex favorite is easy to recreate at home using a marinade of soy sauce, lime juice, canola oil, brown sugar, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and garlic. The fixings are as important as the meat and vegetables, so keep reading.
Tex-Mex-Style Soft and Chewy Flour Tortillas
Corn tortillas get more respect, but flour tortillas will always be my true love. I'm a fan of the soft and chewy variety similar to what you find in supermarkets. They're perfect for making quesadillas or dipping into queso, but for fajitas you might prefer thinner, lard-enriched tortillas instead.
The Best Basic Guacamole
There are plenty of ways to make guacamole, but I prefer to keep it simple. Our basic guacamole is all about the avocado, with just enough onion, chili, and cilantro to make things interesting. Pounding the vegetables with a mortar and pestle before mixing them in with the mashed avocados intensifies their flavor.
Perfect Refried Beans
Whether you're scooping them into a tortilla with fajitas or serving them alongside enchiladas, refried beans are an integral part of any Tex-Mex meal. Our recipe is more of a framework: It allows you to decide between black or pinto beans, pork fat or vegetable oil, and a chunky consistency or a smooth one. Regardless of which beans you use, start with dried rather than canned ones.
Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas With Red Chili Gravy
Order a plate of enchiladas in Texas and this is what you're most likely to get: corn tortillas dunked in red chili sauce, filled with cheddar cheese and onions, and baked under a blanket of more sauce, cheese, and onion. We make our sauce with whole dried chilies and thicken it with flour.
The Best Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
For these tacos we replace the cheddar with pepper Jack, crema, and shredded chicken thighs cooked in a smoky charred poblano salsa. It'll be tempting to overstuff the tortillas, but you really only need a couple tablespoons of filling for each at most. We cook the enchiladas with more salsa verde and a little more cheese—not so much as to overpower the salsa.
Chiles Rellenos (Mexican-Style Cheese-Stuffed Chilies)
It took me a long time to understand the appeal of chiles rellenos—why go to the trouble of frying something only to smother it in sauce? It was only after I ate a great version of the dish that I started to appreciate the way the fluffy egg batter soaks up the sauce (in this case, salsa ranchera). You can stuff the poblanos however you'd like, but chorizo and cheese is a good place to start.
Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
These quesadillas are filled with pepper Jack, shredded chicken, minced pickled jalapeños, and fresh cilantro, which we mix together so that everything stays intact. We're strong believers in using the fold rather than sandwich method of quesadilla construction because it's much easier to flip.
Spinach, Black Bean, and Chipotle Quesadillas
For a vegetarian option, try these quesadillas made with sautéed spinach, canned black beans, Swiss cheese, and chipotles in adobo. To crisp up the tortillas we recommend using plenty of oil over moderate heat and moving the quesadillas around as they cook. Don't forget to salt the outsides of the quesadillas!
Real Texas Chili Con Carne
A Texas favorite, chile con carne is made with beef, chilies, and that's about it. Seriously—start adding extra ingredients and Texans are going to get mad. We keep the sauce pretty classic with dried chilies, chipotles in adobo, and spices like cumin, oregano, and cinnamon, but we do sneak in a couple tablespoons of savory fish sauce.
Tex-Mex Migas With Scrambled Eggs, Tortilla Chips, and Chilies
My Austin friends would kill me if I finished this roundup without mentioning migas. The beloved breakfast tacos are filled with scrambled eggs cooked with chili peppers, onion, and tortilla chips. Migas are best with fresh tortilla chips, but I'm rarely in the mood to fry up a batch of chips first thing in the morning.