If you grow up in Texas, there are more than a few recipes from your home state that you crave over and over again. There’s simply no satisfying those cravings without buying a plane ticket home.
No Mexican restaurant does Tex-Mex dishes justice. The fajitas lack sizzle and seasoning — and condiments. The guac doesn’t have enough bite. The tortilla chips are stale. The salsa is a watered-down mess missing the heat and the bits of onion. And then there’s the barbecue. A barbecue joint in New York may have brisket on the menu, but it doesn’t melt in your mouth the way the brisket in Texas does — and heaven help us, why is all the chili swimming in beans (beans!) with no Fritos anywhere in sight?
So you’re left with only one option: to cook these classics yourself. Whether you’re a native Texan, a current Texan or just someone who went to Austin once and fell in love with the food, we’ve got you covered.
From chili con queso to chicken-fried steak, with a whole lot of jalapeño cornbread, casseroles and kolaches in between, Texas cuisine, we salute you. We love your Tex-Mex, your barbecue, your German and Czech dishes and the classic recipes handed down by generations of Texas grandmothers via church cookbooks.
Now, as they say in Texas, there’s no time to waste, let’s “git cookin’” with these 31 classic Texas recipes.
Literally translated as “green rice,” arroz verde is a classic Tex-Mex dish that’s the perfect accompaniment to beans and a meat dish. There are many variations on this dish, but all include green veggies (in this case, green onion and green bell peppers) and a rich flavor from rice cooked in stock. If you want to get that signature “green” color, consider adding 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and 1 cup spinach leaves to a blender and then adding to the saute pan.
Many Tex-Mex restaurants in Texas serve up avocado crema as a sauce to dip tortilla chips or to spoon over pretty much anything on the menu. Some Texans would even argue that Tex-Mex fish tacos are not perfect fish tacos without a bit of avocado crema sauce. Serve this sauce in a dish alongside salsa verde and use it to amp up grilled chicken, to jazz up steak fajitas or just as a simple dip for tortilla chips.
Cornbread is just cornbread, but cornbread made with jalapeños, corn and cheddar cheese and then cooked in a cast-iron skillet is so utterly, well, Texan. You can imagine deer hunters cooking this up over a campfire and then sopping up meat drippings with it.
Any Texas grandmother will tell you the secret to perfect chicken fried-steak is a three-step dredging method: First dredge the meat in a flour mixture, then a beer batter, then again in the flour mixture. Fry it up in a pan (just like fried chicken) and serve it with a white pepper gravy.
Chicken tortilla is the spicy stepsister to chicken noodle soup. Tortilla chips replace noodles and the broth cooked in spices will clear the cold from any head. Serve this crowd-pleaser soup in cold months alongside bowls of toppings — sour cream, grated white cheddar, sliced avocado and parsley -- and be prepared to share the recipe widely.
Texas Monthly once dubbed chili con queso “a Texan’s sixth food group.” It’s the cheesy, piping hot appetizer you order when dining out, and every native Texan has memories of large gatherings where a crock pot literally bubbled with Velveeta cheese and Ro-Tel dip. This recipe is a bit more sophisticated. Serve it with tortilla chip or Fritos Scoops.
Leave it to the South to take something that’s darn good on its own (like sweet corn) and smother it in artery-hardening buttery deliciousness. This creamed corn is so good, you’ll have to stop yourself from eating the entire pot straight from the cookstove.
Some of Texas’ best Mexican restaurants serve fresh, homemade flour tortillas right inside the restaurant. The secret to amazing homemade flour tortillas is lard, but this healthy recipe tastes just as good.
If you grew up in Texas, you likely grew up eating Frito pie right out of the Frito bag at high school football games, county fairs and maybe even in your own kitchen. These days, you may find a few restaurants serving up a sophisticated twist on the classic (hello duck chili and goat cheese!) but we prefer the original, which is basically Texas chili served over a bed of Fritos and topped with chopped onion and a dollop of sour cream.
The Germans who immigrated to Texas in the 19th century brought with them recipes for beer, brats and yes, German potato salad. Made with a Dijon vinegar dressing instead of mayonnaise, this recipe can be served hot or cold.
Nothing beats the perfect, classic Tex-Mex guacamole made with avocados, lime, red onion, cilantro, a bit of garlic and salt. Here’s the only recipe you will ever need.
Typically made from meat, cheese, salsa and at least one can of Campbell’s soup (we’re partial to cream of mushroom), casserole recipes can be found in every church cookbook in the state. But no casserole recipe is as famous as the King Ranch Chicken casserole. The recipe has nothing to do with the actual King Ranch in Texas, which, at 825,000 square miles, is larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Kolaches, pronounced “ko-lah-chees,” are as quintessentially Texan as Frito Pie and Shiner Bock. These pillowy, fruit-filled pastries were introduced to central Texas by Czech immigrants in the 1800s and are now served throughout the state in bakeries, grocery stores and the ubiquitous-across-Texas Buc-ees convenience stores. You can make your own kolaches and fill them with traditional apricot, strawberry, blueberry or cream cheese. This particular recipe calls for a cream cheese filling.
What are migas? Some say they are basically eggs scrambled with tortilla chips, but they are so much more. They’re basically an egg skillet with all the best of Tex-Mex scrambled together into a glorious mess of savory deliciousness: eggs, cheese, fried tortilla strips and chiles all served piping hot in a warm flour tortilla.
While the rest of the country obsesses over apple cobbler, Texas is all about the peach. Peach cobbler is simple to make and is best served warm and topped with a dollop of Blue Bell Ice Cream’s homemade vanilla, from the “little creamery in Brenham,” my Texas hometown.
The old fashioned cocktail is a classic Southern recipe created by a bartender in Louisville, Kentucky. Traditionally made up of bourbon, sugar, water and bitters, this drink is refreshing and is the perfect cocktail accompaniment to Texas barbecue.
The pecan is the state tree of Texas and the nuts can be found in many native Texans’ back yards. This is most certainly why every Texas cookbook contains a few recipes featuring the pecan. Perhaps the most popular pecan recipe in any Texas cookbook is the pecan pie. Almost sickly sweet with sugar and Karo syrup, this Thanksgiving Day staple can be found 365 days a year in the Great State of Texas.
Every Texan knows where to find authentic pralines — wrapped up in cellophane and sold at the cash register of every Tex-Mex restaurant in Texas. Pralines have been ubiquitous in Tex-Mex cuisine for more than a century mainly because they’re so cheap to make with an ingredient list of just butter, sugar and pecans. This recipe takes the Texas praline one step further and includes both white and light brown sugar.
While the rest of the country obsesses over black beans, Texas is all about the pinto bean, best served in its own stew with perhaps a bit of ham. Serve this in a bowl as a side to Tex-Mex or barbecue dishes, it’s the classic Texas side dish.
There are many beans options in Texas — black beans, pinto beans, charro beans — but the most famous bean of all is the refried bean. You’ll find this option on every Mexican restaurant menu, almost always served next to a piping hot pile of orange Mexican rice. Refried beans is what you get when you fry up a batch of smashed pinto or black beans in a frying pan with some peppers, onion and garlic.
Go to a Mexican restaurant in Texas and you’ll have a basket of piping hot tortillas delivered to your table along with the restaurant’s homemade salsa — or “salsa fresca.” Never a watered-down blend of stewed tomatoes, the Texan version of salsa fresca, also known as “pico de gallo,” is made up of chunky onions, diced tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeño or serrano chilis served in lime juice.
The fajita plate, with its sizzling meats always served with a large array of condiments, was created in Texas. Fajitas became a huge hit in 1973 thanks to Ninfa’s, a Houston restaurant.
Perhaps the most-ordered breakfast on any given day in Texas, there’s no more classic Tex-Mex breakfast than huevos rancheros.
Typically made by creating a roux in the bottom of a pan just used to cook a steak, Southern white gravy is best served atop chicken fried steak or with homemade biscuits.
This recipe features the Texas sweet onion, which was created in Texas in the ‘70s. Don’t have sweet onions from Texas? No worries, these onions can be grown in a few other states, and those are just as delicious in this recipe.
Barbecue sauce is one of those hotly debated topics in Texas. Many a barbecue master has insisted over the decades that good barbecue doesn’t need a sauce. But tell that to the masses of people who can’t help but love the sweet, tangy sauce that is iconic to Texas barbecue. Just don’t overpour in front of the pitmaster.
Slow-roasted over a wood-fired grill (every pitmaster has his or her favorite wood to use), few other versions of barbecue around the country can stand up to Texas brisket. But making it right takes literally hours. And hours. And hours…
The name “Texas caviar” is a tongue-in-cheek riff on the more sophisticated fish roe. This dip is best scooped up with tortilla chips.
In the great chili debate over beans versus no beans, where you fall on the matter likely depends on what region in the country you are from. There’s the rest of the country (yes, beans) and there’s Texas (no beans). A chili is not Texas chili if it has beans in it. Here’s a bit of chili history for you: While chili in the U.S. does have its roots in Texas, but the Texas version has its roots in — drumroll, please — South America. Modern Texas no-bean chili is made up of ground beef chuck, onions and garlic simmered for a very, very long time in a pot of spices and chiles.
The Texas sheet cake has always been the perfect way to serve a very large crowd at church and firehouse gatherings, christenings and funerals. Slice it up into a perfect chocolate-y square, plop it on little Styrofoam plates and serve it to the masses. Adults and kids alike love it. Works just as well at July Fourth barbecues, birthday parties and tailgates.
Thick-cut, slathered in butter and then grilled on the stove, Texas toast is simple, buttery and delicious. Buy a loaf of white bread that has not been sliced, then slicing it yourself to the perfect thickness. Serve this alongside chicken fried steak or any meat-and-potatoes dish and you’ll understand why this is just one of the many Southern recipes every northerner needs to try.
More From The Daily Meal: