20 Texas Foods The Lone Star State Is Famous For

beef brisket on carving board with meat fork
Photo: Allrecipes Magazine

Texas is a big state, and its unique cuisine reflects the wide range of ethnic and cultural groups that call Texas home. It's no secret that much of this cultural influence comes from Mexico, but Texan cuisine is also a blend of Southern, African American, Native American, and European influence. Here we'll take a trip through the Lone Star State with classic Texas dishes, including chicken fried steak, pecan pie, and, of course, barbeque.

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Chicken Fried Steak

The Best Chicken Fried Steak
SunnyDaysNora

This iconic Texas dish was actually adapted from wiener schnitzel by German and Austrian immigrants. Tenderized cube steak is dredged in flour and deep fried until crisp and golden brown. It's often served with a creamy gravy. The dish is so Texan that in 2011 the Texas legislature declared October 26 "Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day."

Try this recipe: The Best Chicken Fried Steak

02 of 21

Pecan Pie

Overhead view of pecan pie with spatula on marble
Allrecipes Magazine

Pecan pie is popular in just about every Southern state, but Texas is the only one that claims it as its official state dessert. In fact, the first known pecan pie recipe was submitted to a St. Louis cookbook in 1898 by a Texas woman.

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03 of 21

Brisket

beef brisket on carving board with meat fork
Allrecipes Magazine

Brisket arrived in Texas by way of German and Czech immigrants, many of whom were Jewish and brought with them the traditional cooking methods for Passover brisket. Texas cattle ranchers and immigrants soon began exchanging cooking methods, and eventually Texas smoked brisket was born.

Smoking keeps the meat from drying out and also imparts a lot of flavor with less seasoning. Today, brisket is synonymous with Texas and you'll be hard pressed to find a barbeque joint without it on the menu.

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04 of 21

Chili

texas style red chili in a dutch oven pot
red7206

Texans have feelings about chili. Having been raised by one by myself, I've grown up hearing the state mantra: Texas chili doesn't have beans. Turns out, Mom was right.

The International Chili Society — yes, it's a thing — maintains that Texas chili (also called traditional red or chili con carne) is any combination of meats, red chili peppers, various spices, and other ingredients, but not beans and non-vegetable fillers such as rice or pasta. And that's the official word on Texas chili.

Try this recipe: Real Texas Chili

05 of 21

Chile con Queso

Queso (Cheese) Dip
Soup Loving Nicole

Also known as just queso, this combination of melted cheese and chili peppers is a Tex-Mex creation dating back to the early 20th century. It is believed to have originated in one of the earliest known Tex-Mex restaurants: The Original Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio.

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06 of 21

Kolaches

Jam Kolaches on a baking sheet
Jack Tripper

You know Tex-Mex, but are you familiar with Tex-Czech? In the late 19th century, Czech immigrants brought kolaches — a traditional pastry consisting of fruit preserves nestled in a puffy dough — with them to the small, rural communities of Central Texas. Eventually, it evolved into somewhat of a hybrid using local ingredients such as prickly pears.

Today you can find them in many bakeries and doughnut shops in the Lone Star State, just be sure not to get them confused with klobasniky, a savory pastry stuffed with sausage that was developed by Czech settlers in Texas.

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07 of 21

Tex-Mex

top-down view of two flour tortillas filled with a colorful mix of grilled chicken breast strips, yellow and red bell pepper, and onion, garnished with sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro
fabeveryday

While "Tex-Mex" does not refer to a single dish, we wanted to include the broader cuisine on our list because it encompasses such a large swath of food, including chile con queso, nachos, tacos al carbon, enchiladas, and fajitas to name just a few.

Tex-Mex is one of America's oldest regional cuisines, adapted from the home cooking of Tejanos, or people of Mexican descent living in Texas. It gained widespread popularity thanks to a group of women known as the Chili Queens of San Antonio who served food in the city's plazas. Not long after in the early 20th century, the nation's first Tex-Mex restaurants opened in San Antonio (although the term "Tex-Mex" wasn't used to describe this hybrid cuisine until the mid 20th century).

What makes something Tex-Mex? In general, it is set apart by the use of a few key ingredients that are common in Texas: beef, yellow cheese, wheat flour, black beans, cumin, and canned vegetables.

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08 of 21

Migas

Migas
bd.weld

This Tex-Mex egg scramble is an adaptation of Spanish migas that features scrambled eggs with crushed tortilla chips and salsa.

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09 of 21

Margaritas

margarita in glass with salt and lime wedge on table with shrubs in background
AllrecipesPhoto

There are countless origin stories of this legendary cocktail: The Texas one goes that the head bartender at the Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas created the drink for singer Peggy Margaret Lee in 1946 and named it after the Spanish version of her name. Though it's unlikely that this is the true origin story, there's no mistaking that the combination of tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice has become the state's signature drink.

The invention of the frozen margarita machine, on the other hand, can be attributed to a Texan. When the bartender at his Dallas restaurant couldn't keep up with the demand for frozen margaritas in 1971, Mariano Martinez tinkered with a used soft serve machine until it produced big batches of his signature frozen margaritas. And considering how hot it gets in Texas, this invention was a real game-changer.

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10 of 21

Hamburgers

Tex-Mex Burger with Cajun Mayo
CookinBug

Texas is the largest beef producing state in the country, so Texans take their burgers pretty seriously. The loyalty to Whataburger, the Texas-based fast food chain, only serves as more evidence that burgers (and patty melts!) are kind of a big deal in Texas.

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11 of 21

Micheladas

michelada in glass mug with salt rim
TheWickedNoodle

This beer cocktail is of Mexican origin, but it peppers cocktail menus all across the state of Texas, from whole-in-the-wall taco joints to upscale bars. It's generally made with beer, lime juice, hot sauce, spices, and tomato juice served in a salt-rimmed glass.

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12 of 21

Texas Sheet Cake

closeup of a square of chocolate cake with a chocolate-walnut frosting on a plate
Bekah Miller

When they say "Everything is bigger in Texas," they aren't kidding. A Texas sheet cake makes serving a crowd a breeze: The whole thing cooks in a rimmed baking sheet and it slices up much like brownies or cookie bars for easy serving. And it's big, like 30+ servings big.

Though generally chocolate with a fudgy frosting, Texas sheet cakes can be any flavor you'd like. Although, the traditional version usually calls for a favorite Texas ingredient: pecans.

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13 of 21

Texas Barbeque

side view of a pulled pork sandwich with barbecue sauce on a plate with grilled corn on the cob and coleslaw
psychedilemma

We broke out brisket into its own category on this list, because in Texas, beef reigns supreme. But brisket is just the beginning.

It's hard to pin down a barbeque "style" in the state the size of Texas, but in general Texas barbeque can be broken down into four different styles: Central Texas, East Texas, South Texas, and West Texas. Central Texas-style is most commonly what people are referring to when they say "Texas-style" barbeque. This style gets most of its flavor from the smoking process, rather than the sauce. In general, Central Texas barbeque is only seasoned with a salt and pepper rub, with sauce served on the side, if at all. East Texas barbeque diverges from Central Texas with the uses of a tomato-based sauce and the popularity of pulled pork. South Texas-style is heavily influenced by Mexican cuisine, and often calls for a sweeter sauce. Finally, West Texas-style is more akin to grilling rather than smoking, as meat is cooked over an open flame "cowboy-style."

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14 of 21

Pralines

Texas Pralines
Texas Pralines. BW7491

It's no surprise that another pecan dessert made the list of Texas favorites. The Austin-based Lammes Candies has garnered attention nationwide for their signature Texas "Chewie" pralines. The simple recipe has remained the same since 1892: pecans, corn syrup, sugar, milk, butter, and salt.

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15 of 21

Tamales

tamales on a white plate with salad on the side
pelicangal

Tamales date back to Mesoamerica, and with time, Mexican and Central American peoples brought the tradition with them to Texas. Making tamales is a labor of love, which is why they've become a Christmas tradition for many folks in the Lone Star State — getting the whole family involved makes the process go faster. Mexican restaurants across the state scramble to fill tamale orders in time for Christmas, but you can find delicious tamales year round in Texas.

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16 of 21

Frito Pie

1060400_Bethanys-Frito-Pie_Photo-by-lutzflcat.jpg

Frito pie — a simple combination of corn chips topped with chili, cheese, onion, and jalapeño, often served straight from bag — is a dish as unpretentious as Texans themselves, made popular by high school football concession stands.

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17 of 21

Salsa

A small glass bowl of tomato-based salsa garnished with cilantro, on a plate with tortilla chips
Rock_lobster

Salsa made its way across the border from Mexico, and by the mid-20th century it began appearing on store shelves across the state of Texas, manufactured by none other than David and Margaret Pace. Today, Pace remains the leading salsa maker in the U.S. And in 2003, tortilla chips and salsa was named the state snack of Texas.

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18 of 21

Texas Caviar (Cowboy Caviar)

bowl of bean salad on placemat
AllrecipesPhoto

Don't be fooled by the name, there's no roe in this Texas-made salad/salsa fusion. It features a variation of beans, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, peppers, and onions tossed in a tangy dressing and served with tortilla chips on the side. It's meant to be made ahead of time and served cold, making the perfect summer potluck or picnic addition.

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19 of 21

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

A serving of casserole layered between corn tortillas on a white plate
King Ranch Chicken Casserole. Chef John

Sometimes just called King Ranch chicken, this Tex-Mex casserole is believed to be named after King Ranch, the largest ranch in the United States (at 1,289 square miles, it's larger than the entire state of Rhode Island), but its connection to the ranch is unclear.

The dish itself is a hearty combination of chicken, cheese, corn tortillas, and peppers layered a bit like enchiladas (or you can think of it as Texan lasagna). You'll find it at just about any potluck, school function, or church social in Texas.

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20 of 21

Texas Hash

texas hash with green onion and cheese on top
Yoly

You'll want to add Texas hash to your rotation of quick and easy weeknight meals. Rice, ground beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and chili powder are combined and topped with cheese in this one-skillet meal.

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More Texas Recipes:

evanas-pinto-beans
Evanas Pinto Beans are a Perfect Side for a Tex-Mex Vegan Dinner.
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