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Four Essential Tex Mex Dishes

“Essential” Tex Mex dishes is the topic of this post. So what do we mean by “essential?”

Well, because Tex Mex meals are – essentially – Americanized versions of traditional Mexican dishes as brought to the U.S. via Texas’ Tejano culture (people of Mexican or Spanish descent who moved to Texas before it became a republic) , we’re talking about tacos, fajitos, enchiladas, and tortilla chips. Lots and lots of tortilla chips!

Oh, and melted cheese. Tons of melted cheese!

But what are the essential dishes of Tex Mex, the ones that, were you to see them on a menu you’d say, “Ah, ‘traditional’ Tex Mex!”?

Here are four:

  1. Refried beans.

Many lovers of Tex Mex cuisine consider refried beans to be the mashed potatoes, the macaroni and cheese, the comfort food of Tex Mex! This thick and hearty side dish is not exactly healthy fare, but just like mashed potatoes and a bowl of mac and cheese, it’s heaven.

tex mex refried beans 

  1. Fajitas. More to the point, steak fajitas.

Fajitas definitely didn’t originate in Mexico: they are a true Texas/U.S. creation.  This combination of sizzling hot skirt steak (and it should be sizzling hot), paired with red, green and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes and garnish of your choosing, is indescribably delicious.

  1. Cheese. Particularly yellow cheese. Preferably melted yellow cheese.

In fact, queso (a dip comprised of melted yellow cheese, with chilies for extra zip) is so much a Tex Mex staple in Texas that your Tex Mex party or barbecue isn’t complete without this beloved dip.

  1. Nachos. The more melted cheese and jalapenos and even refried beans, the better!

Tortillas covered in melted cheese, sliced jalapenos, smothered in refried beans, tomatoes, even ground beef? Many people look to nachos as an appetizer, but others know them for what they truly can be, a most satisfying meal in and of themselves!

Those are just four Tex Mex dishes we feel are “essential.” What are yours?

Whatever your essentials are, we probably serve them here at Mattito’s! Come on down to a Mattito’s location near you to indulge your taste buds with the Tex Mex dishes you love!

Image courtesy of Glory Foods/

A Short History of the Taco in America

Tacos have become so popular in the U.S. that it almost seems appropriate to change the well-known saying to “American as Mom, baseball and tacos.”

So how did this small meal of beef, beans, chicken, or fish, topped with shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato, spooned between the opening of a curved, crunchy, corn taco come to take over the American landscape?

Read below for a very short history of the taco in the U.S.

Smithsonian magazine back in 2012 wrote that the taco comes to us from the silver mines of Mexico. (They “likely” invented it, according to the magazine.) “Taco” actually was the word miners in the 18th century used to describe the small charges they used to evacuate ore (hence the belief that miners created a dish they called a taco).

Fast forward to the 19th century (the 1800s) and the taco’s first appearance in print was a dictionary that described the dishes as tacos de minero (or miner’s tacos). Again, the miners…

Tacos apparently migrated to working class neighborhoods and then to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s as Mexican migrants made their way north working in mines and on railroads.  The taco’s first mention in a U.S. newspaper is in 1905.

The taco is still seen as a food for the lower classes and remains so for several decades. Yet as the children and grandchildren of the original Mexican immigrants start to rise economically, “street food” rises a bit – just a bit – in esteem.

In addition, descendants of Mexican immigrants are using American ingredients in their dishes, such as beef instead of offal, for example.

Many people believe Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, “invented” the u-shaped, crispy taco shell taco (Bell himself believed so). But, according to the Smithsonian, his contribution to the rise of the taco in America was to make Mexican food “ok” for non-Mexicans to eat. He also made the tacos ahead of anyone ordering them, thus making the process of feeding many people go much more quickly (“fast” food). In fact, the article adds that references to the u-shape, hard taco shell was in evidence a full 10 years before Bell opened his first restaurant.

As Taco Bell grew in popularity among Americans of non-Mexican heritage, so did the taco.

And that, in a nut (corn taco) shell, is a very short history of the taco in America.

Love tacos? We have them here at Mattito’s! Visit a Mattito’s location near you for some of the best tacos available throughout the greater Dallas region.

Attribution: Image courtesy of

Making a Great Tex Mex Burrito

Burritos are one of the most satisfying of foods (in our humble opinion). They can provide a hearty meal of shredded beef, chicken or even rice and beans. The also provide some vegetables in the form of lettuce and tomatoes and some very rib-sticking satisfaction with cheese. A salsa. Let’s not forget the salsa!

Burrito recipe

Take a look below at this quick burrito recipe using ground beef. (Note: these burritos are a bit spicy. Maybe too spicy for children, but we’ve found that adults tend to love them!)

You will need (for five servings of two burritos each):

  • One pound of ground beef (lean).
  • One and one-quarter cup of peeled potatoes (finely chopped).
  • One-half cup of chopped onion.
  • Two cloves of minced garlic.
  • Two jalapeno peppers (fresh), or two canned jalapeno peppers. Seed them and chop them finely.
  • One 15-ounce can of spicy chili beans (undrained)
  • One-quarter teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
  • One-eighth teaspoon of pepper (or to taste)
  • One-quarter to one-half teaspoon of ground cumin (this is optional).
  • Ten 10-inch plain flour tortillas (you also can use 10 spinach tortillas).
  • One or two cups of Monterey Jack cheese or one or two cups of cheddar cheese.
  • Sour cream.

To make:

  • In a non-stick skillet, add the ground beef, onion, jalapeno peppers, and garlic.
  • Then cook the mixture over medium-high heat for five to seven minutes (or until the beef is browned and the veggies are tender. Stir often and drain well when browned.
  • Add in the bean, pepper, salt and the ground cumin (if you wish); stir to mix.
  • Bring the mix to a boil and lower the heat, simmering for five minutes and stirring often.
  • Take a tortilla and spoon about half a cup of the mix into the center of each and sprinkle with the cheese.
  • Roll up like a burrito and keep the mix inside the roll by folding its ends under.
  • Place the burritos seam-side down on a greased baking dish and cover with foil.
  • Then bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until heated thoroughly.
  • You may then serve with salsa and sour cream, as desired.

While we don’t offer burritos on our Mattito’s menu, we do understand that many people just love them! If that is you and you’ve a huge hankering for a burrito, let us know and we’ll be happy to make one (or two or three) up for you!

Visit the Mattito’s location nearest you for some of the best Tex Mex cuisine throughout the Dallas region.

Image by Christopher Vasquez from Hawthorne, California, United States (Wet Burrito) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Calorie Counts of Some of Your Favorite Tex-Mex Foods

Few of us really want to know how many calories we’re eating in our Tex-Mex burritos, guacamole dip, tortilla chips, and margaritas. But it’s still a good thing to know (if at least to understand why – Oh, why! – you’ve gained a couple of pounds after a hearty and delicious Tex-Mex meal).

 Tex-Mex calories

So read below for the calorie counts of some of your favorite Tex-Mex foods.

  • Refried beans: One cup provides you with about 397 calories. Chances are that’s about as much as you might receive in a side of refried beans at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant.
  • A large soft tortilla: About 180 calories.
  • A regular sized corn tortilla: About 130 calories.
  • Fried rice: There are about 333 calories in one cup of fried rice. Again, this is about what your Tex-Mex restaurant serves as a side.
  • Chicken fajitas (without tortillas): About 360 calories per one-skillet serving.
  • Margarita: A typical margarita cocktail will provide you with about 163 calories. Be aware however that some “sweet” margaritas can pack up to 500 calories in one serving.
  • Guacamole: A guacamole dip with four large avocadoes makes about eight servings, providing about 150 calories with each serving.
  • Guacamole with chips: Add some 74 calories for every 10 chips you eat.
  • Beef Burritos: Eat two and you’ll eat about 524 calories.
  • Add cheese to those two beef burritos and you’ll be taking in about 632 calories.
  • Bean Burritos: Eat two and you’ll ingest about 447 calories.
  • Add cheese to the bean burritos and you’ll be eating about 662 calories.
  • One hard taco with beef, cheese and lettuce will cost you 156 calories.
  • One soft taco, also with beef, cheese and lettuce comes to 210 calories
  • One soft chicken taco with cheese and lettuce is 185 calories.
  • A beef and cheese enchilada is 323 calories
  • One serving of crème caramel flan for dessert (about half a cup) is about 223 calories.

Does this list of Tex-Mex foods and dishes make you hungry? Then what are you waiting for?! Satisfy that hunger with some delicious and filling Tex-Mex cuisine at the Mattito’s location nearest you.

Image courtesy Mister GC/

Two Vegetarian Tex-Mex Recipes

When you think of Tex-Mex cuisine, you undoubtedly think of tacos, fajitas, burritos, and other main dishes that showcase steak, ground or shredded beef and pork.

And while meat certainly adds great flavor and gusto to Tex-Mex dishes, Tex-Mex also moves easily to vegetarian.

Take a look below for two easy vegetarian Tex-Mex recipes.

  1. Use Shredded Hearts of Palms for Tacos

There’s just something about shredded beef in a taco – it’s delicious! To get that “shredded” feeling in a vegetarian taco, swap hearts of palm for beef.

You will need (to make 6-8 tacos):

  • One-half of a chopped medium, yellow onion
  • Two minced garlic cloves
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • One can of hearts of palm. Drain completely and shred them.
  • Three-quarters cup of chile sauce.
  • Six to eight soft tortillas

To prepare:

  • Using a medium-sized skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic and onions until they are semi-transparent.
  • Then add the shredded hearts of palm into the skillet. Do so for just a few minutes, as this lets them absorb the onions’ flavor.
  • Next, stir in the chile sauce. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the skillet fully heat up. This should take about five to seven minutes.
  • Stuff mix into tortillas and add garnish as you desire.
  1. Use roasted root vegetables in your fajitas

Steak is delicious in a sizzling hot fajita, but so are roasted root vegetables (carrots, turnips, beets, and more).

vegetarian tex mex recipes

Root vegetables such as carrots can make a delicious vegetarian fajita dish.

You will need (to make four servings):

  • Four large carrots
  • Three large turnips (or beets) and watermelon radishes
  • Four small sunchokes (you may know them as Jerusalem artichokes)
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil
  • One-half tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • One teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • One teaspoon of coriander
  • One teaspoon of sea salt
  • One teaspoon of garlic powder
  • One-half teaspoon of cumin
  • Two or three dashes of cayenne pepper (this is optional, depending on your taste for spicy).
  • Soft tortillas (corn is best)
  • A baking sheet and parchment paper

To make:

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  • Then make sure your scrub the vegetables well. Peel them (if desired) and slice them into thin strips, similar to the vegetables in a “regular” fajita.
  • Take a small mixing bowl. Combine the spices (whisking them is best).
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss the vegetables with the lime juice and olive oil, coating the vegetables evenly.
  • Cover the baking sheet with parchment paper and distribute the vegetables evenly upon it.
  • Bake the sheet for 40 minutes or so. Flip/turn the vegetables after about 20 minutes. You’ll know the vegetables are cooked when they start to brown.
  • Warm the tortillas, place the vegetables and any additional toppings you desire and enjoy!

We have several delicious vegetarian dishes waiting for you here at Mattito’s. Take a look at our menu and then come visit a Mattito’s location nearest you.

Image courtesy Simon

Make Tex Mex Food Even Healthier

If you believe that Tex Mex food is unhealthy – all that cheese, all that beef, all those tortilla chips! – it’s time to modify that opinion:

A Tex Mex dish can be incredibly healthy!

Here’s why:

  • A lot of Tex Mex dishes incorporate beans – black beans and white beans in particular – that pack a lot of plant protein, phytochemicals and fiber within them. Many people don’t have enough beans in their diet and eating Tex Mex with black or white beans is a delicious and easy way to work some of them into your diet.
  • Tomatoes are everywhere in Tex Mex dishes. They are in tacos, fajitas, burritos, salsa, sauces, etc. So ubiquitous are they, it sometimes feels as if tomatoes are in every Tex Mex dish. And tomatoes, as you know, pack a powerful anti-oxidant punch. Tomatoes are actually fruits, not vegetables, and also carry a good dose of vitamins A and C.

Tex Mex tomatoes

  • Who says you must use fatty ground beef or steak for your tacos, burritos or fajitas? Not us! You can substitute fish or chicken, or lean ground beef in your tacos and burritos (or even black beans for a healthy vegetarian taco/burrito). You can get a lean cut of steak for the fajita – or even grill chicken instead.
  • As for sour cream, if you’re truly serious about eating in a heart-healthy way, you’ll skip it, but if you must, replace the full-fat sour cream with non-fat sour cream. The same goes for cheese – substitute low-fat cheese (or simply halve the amount of cheese you use in your recipes).
  • As for tortillas, corn tortillas have less than a third of the calories as well as the fat as flour tortillas. Never use hard-shelled tortillas – they’ve been fried to be crispy.
  • Skip the tortilla chips. Well, maybe just a handful. But seriously: just a handful!
  • Skip the rice. Even if it’s not refried rice (which has a lot of fat and even lard packed in), skip it. It’s just too starchy. Give yourself some extra black or white beans instead, or opt for some grilled vegetables as a side.

And there you have it: an extremely healthy diet of Tex Mex cuisine.

Go healthy and eat Tex Mex! And do so here at Mattito’s. We look forward to seeing you soon at the Mattito’s location nearest you.

Image courtesy rakratchada torsap/

Make the Ultimate Margarita

They may not be true Mexican drinks, but thank goodness someone north of the border invented the margarita – so refreshing on a broiling day, so tasty!

 Make the ultimate margarita

In order to make sure you serve up the ultimate margarita, begin with the tequila. This is the main ingredient and so you need to pay the most attention to the tequila.

Purchase the highest quality tequila you can: you should look on the label’s legend for the words “100% de agave.” If you can’t find tequila with this, then your second best bet is to find some that is 49 percent fermented cane sugar.

Depending on how “liquor-y” you want the margarita to taste, you may want to use triple sec (which is made from orange skins and has an alcohol content of from 15-30 percent) for less alcohol. Or if, you want more of “alcohol-ish” taste, opt for Cointreau, which is made from bitter as well as sweet orange skins and has a higher alcohol content (40 percent).

Here are all the ingredients you’ll need (makes one margarita):

  • Half an ounce of tequila
  • 5 ounces of triple sec or Cointreau
  • One to 1.25 ounces of lime juice
  • Salt (for the glass’ rim)

You then shake all of the ingredients (use cracked ice) in a cocktail shaker until the outside of the shaker frosts up. Then strain into a glass over ice and add a slice of lime for garnish.

Many people use a blender to mix the ingredients. But an ultimate margarita should be shaken with ice, not whirled in a blender (doing so can make the entire concoction freezing, dulling its flavor).

Whether you’re looking for some great cerveza (beer) or margaritas, Mattito’s delivers. Visit a Mattito’s location nearest you to grab an ice cold drink on a hot Texas afternoon or evening. We look forward to serving you.

MargaritaReal” by Akke Monasso – I (Akke) created this work entirely by myself.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Hold the Ultimate Summer Party with Tex Mex Food

As August arrives, the heat of summer in Texas feels as if it’s just getting started.

 Tex Mex Summer Party

So we feel August is prime time for holding the ultimate in summer parties.

And Tex Mex cuisine will only add to the fun.

Here are some ideas for the foods to serve at your ultimate summer party.

  • You’re going to want to have some “cold” options for your guests, so don’t forget the margaritas. Try pink margaritas, which include tequila as well as lime juice, powdered sugar, orange liqueur, and cranberry juice.
  • Create shrimp cocktail with some zing by adding canned chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
  • Your party menu heats up – just a bit – when you offer chicken enchiladas served with baby spinach, chopped cilantro and shredded pepper jack cheese.
  • Let your guests feast on butternut squash salad that includes cannellini beans, kernels of fresh corn, red onion, and chopped basil.
  • Spice up a tasty fruit dish of mango, plums and peaches with jalapeno pepper!

As for decorations:

  • If you don’t have margarita glasses and don’t want to buy real glass, many stores have plastic glasses for purchase.
  • Find red, yellow and green tablecloths. If you can’t find that color combo in one tablecloth, use individual yellow, red and green colored cloths over tables and buffets.
  • Small serapes or small Mexican throw rugs also can be placed on tables for a colorful Tex Mex appeal.
  • Get some tissue paper of different vibrant colors and make paper flowers (here are instructions) and place them around your home and patio.
  • Don’t forget small straw sombreros. You can find them in almost any party or crafts store.

Parties are to be enjoyed by everyone, even the hosts. So if you’d rather not cook, contact Mattito’s catering division to help you choose the Tex Mex dishes you’d like to serve and make arrangements for home delivery. We look forward to helping you celebrate summer in style!

Image courtesy of digitalart/

Common Misconceptions and Myths About Tex Mex Food

When you think of Tex Mex food – or even Mexican food – do you think only of beans, tacos and fajitas?

Then your knowledge of Tex Mex/Mexican cuisine has some holes in it.

Read below for some common misconceptions or even myths about Mexican/Tex Mex foods.

Tex Mex Food Myths

  • As mentioned above, if you think this cuisine is nothing but fajitas, tacos, chalupas, and burritos, you’re missing out. Mexican and Tex Mex cuisine is quite extensive. There’s moles, cabrito (baby goat), pozale, pork marinated with achiote, lime soup, ceviches, tamales, and more – much more.
  • Do you think Tex Mex food is always hot and spicy? Sure, the cuisine is full of spicy flavors, but it’s also full of a variety of subtle flavors such as jalapeno, chile quero, pasilla, ancho, guajillo, arbol, and more. Some are extremely hot/spicy while others are more subtle, used to bring out more of the flavor of a dish’s ingredients.
  • Do you think that Tex Mex cuisine is inherently unhealthy? After all, all that cheese, fatty beef/steaks, refried beans. But those ingredients are more of a fast-food ilk. Real Tex Mex foods include plenty of colorful vegetables, whole and black beans, whole-grain rice, lots of fish, and more.
  • Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about Tex Mex cuisine is that it’s Mexican cuisine. It’s not, really: it’s more of an Americanized – even Texan-ized – version of Mexican foods, as Mexico residents moved up to the United States bringing their native foods with them. As in almost all cultures that meet another, both cultures assimilate some aspects of the other. Hence the “Americanization” of Mexican cuisine.
  • Which brings us to fajitas and hard-shell tacos: neither come from Mexico. Both were created in America. Yes, skirt steak (of which fajitas are made) is eaten in Mexico, but the fajita was created here in the U.S. And, while Mexicans do eat tortillas, they eat soft, floured tortillas. The hard, u-shaped corn tortilla used for tacos was created in the U.S. in the mid-1900s.
  • Another believer is that Mexican food uses a lot of cheddar cheese. Again, using grated or even ungrated cheddar cheese on Tex Mex dishes started in the U.S. Cheese in Mexico sometimes is used as a garnish, not as a major part of the dish. In addition, Mexicans use a whiter variety of cheese, not the bright yellow cheddar.

One misconception about Tex Mex cuisine we know that you know is not true, is that Tex Mex dishes aren’t tasty. If someone believes this, it’s more than likely because he’s eaten too many dinners at a fast food “Mexican” restaurant.

Visit a Mattito’s near you to enjoy delicious Tex Mex cuisine. We look forward to having you as our guest!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Difference Between Tex Mex and Cal Mex Cuisines

The Tex Mex food you love here in Texas is known as Cal Mex.

 Cal Mex Cuisine  Tex Mex Cuisine

Cal Mex cuisine is very similar to the Tex Mex dishes prepared here in Texas. A few (minor) differences include:

  • Californians in general tend to demand healthier foods, and the Mexican restaurants in the Golden State have answered with more dishes offering fish and more vegetables. Dishes such as fajitas also focus on leaner cuts of beef
  • California residents tend to like their taco shells crispy rather than soft.
  • Cal Mex food also has more garlic than Tex Mex.
  • They also ask for black or white beans instead of refried beans.
  • You’ll see black olives in Cal Mex cuisine; rarely – if ever – in a Tex Mex dish.
  • Tex Mex dishes in Texas tend to go heavier on the cheese.
  • Avocado and guacamole is more popular in California.
  • Shredded beef in tacos is more common in California than in Texas.
  • Tex Mex aficionados love their chili and the hotter the better!
  • You may find more lettuce and tomato in your CalMex acos.
  • Californians also love their sour cream, especially on what is known more as a tostado in California (known as a chalupa in Tex Mex cuisine).

Every region has its own take on a particular cuisine. Tex Mex/Mexican food in New Mexico will be a lot different than it is in Texas. Even Tex Mex in Houston will be different than what you’ll find here in Dallas.

If you once lived in California, what do you see as the main difference(s) between Cal Mex and Tex Mex cuisines? Do you prefer the California style, or have you embraced Tex Mex?

Whether you want a taco with beef (shredded or not), or with chicken, if you’ve a hankering for great Tex Mex cuisine, make sure you visit a Mattito’s near you soon. We look forward to serving you!

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and koratmember/