Famous for its world-class BBQ, Tex-Mex, and fried everything, if there’s one thing Texas is serious about its food. Texans, in fact, are so serious about fried dishes that they’ll even fry their drinks (yes, fried beer and margaritas are a thing).
Home to hearty meals with a south-of-the-border kick, it’s nearly impossible to visit the Lone Star State without trying these delicious meals. Rather greasy and not for those looking to count calories, cuisine in Texas blends the state’s cowboy vibes with nearby Mexican culture. In no particular order, here are the 12 most famous foods in Texas:
Texas BBQ could be numbers one through seven…hundred on this list. With over 800 miles separating Oklahoma and Mexico, and nearly that many between Louisiana and El Paso, Texas has a lot of room for a lot of good barbecue joints—and no single barbecue pit smokes the same brisket.
With such an impressive geographic range, the differences are vast between east and west Texas barbecue—and pitmasters in central Texas will scoff at anyone trying to make comparisons with their oak- or pecan-wood smoked meat. BBQ fever is so insatiable that Texas Monthly regularly publishes its list of 50 best barbecue joints in the state—and it’s nearly outdated as soon as it’s released.
Texas shares over 1200 miles of frontier with Mexico, and a rich, complex culinary tradition that has evolved over the years as the two cultures mingled. This home-grown Tex-Mex or Tejano cuisine is now an internationally recognized fusion food—and its influence is so strong, Tex-Mex has now confusingly become conflated with “real” comida mexicana.
Today, what most Americans might call authentic Mexican foods are actually Tex-Mex hybrid dishes. For example, nachos, tacos, refried beans, burritos, or beef enchiladas smothered in salsa verde or creamy queso are things that most Mexicans likely never grew up eating. The boundary is blurry, but one thing is clear: Tex-Mex is about as Texas as it gets.
This one goes without saying. Tex-Mex tacos look quite different than they do on the other side of the border—but no one can deny that Texas has a serious taco culture that is not to be messed with.
Come hungry, and ready to expand your horizons (and your waistline); the days of the tasteless, boxed hard-shell taco with a sad scoop of ground beef and a skimpy spattering of soggy shredded Romaine are long gone in Texas. Buen provecho, our taco-loving amigos.
Chili con Carne
Technically Tex-Mex, chili con carne is so popular in Texas it deserves its own spot in any list of Lone Star staples. What makes this official state dish so special? For one thing, it has to be hand-cubed beef, though pork or venison will also earn a true Texan’s nod of approval. Most chefs and Texans will agree on another: no beans.
Why? There are as many opinions as there are Texans about this, but its name (literally, chili with meat) leaves little arguing room for most. Whatever you do, just don´t even think about adding kidney beans.
Corn dogs are so classically American, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Founding Fathers fried them for lunch as they were drafting the Declaration of Independence. However, their history goes back only about 80 years to a couple of brothers and their food booth.
In the 1940s, the Fletcher brothers were baking hot dogs in cornbread at the Dallas State Fair, but they needed something faster and more mobile for carnival-goers. Eventually, they battered the dogs, fried them, and speared them: the Fletcher Corny Dog.
Though many states have since claimed they are the true home of America’s hot dog on a stick, Texans’ undying love of deep-fried everything makes this version, at least, stand the test of time.
And Texans mean Ev. Er. Ey. Thing. If you can eat it—or drink it—you can find it fried in Texas. Gird your arteries and suspend your disbelief, because this is Texas, home to the biggest annual state fair in the country and the Big Tex Choice Awards, a yearly competition of deep-fried, artery-clogging masterpieces (fried spaghetti, anyone?)
Of course, you might be wondering how you could possibly call fried Fruity Pebble shrimp po’boys a masterpiece—but the only rule here is, don’t knock it until you try it.
You’ll find this salty, dehydrated snack just about everywhere, from the panhandle to the southern border, in convenience stores, local meat markets, supermarkets—and yes, even in vegan markets (alternatives like apple, pear, or mushroom jerky are increasingly available).
Jerky is a 3 billion dollar industry in the Lone Star State, and the flavors are as abundant as they are irresistible: teriyaki, habanero, garlic and white pepper with wagyu beef, or tried-and-true classics like smoked mesquite or black pepper jerky. You’re also sure to find it fried, somewhere out there.
Fried corn chips doused with chili: what could possibly be more iconic Texas than this dish of two already classic Lone Star foods? Simply slit open a bag of Fritos lengthwise and ladle the chili directly over the fried corn chips, then top with cheese and onions, and there you have it.
Frito Pie has become so iconic because it satisfies every single requirement on the comfort-food checklist: it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s greasy, it’s delicious, and it’s scientifically proven to taste better late at night (or, after a few beers, or during a football game, or any time it’s cold, or any time you’re hungry, or any time at all).
Pecan pie is a beloved treat throughout the South, but has long held pride of place at the Texan holiday table, and is so beloved it officially became the Lone Star state dessert in 2013. Pecan trees are nutritionally dense, native to Texas, and their buttery, deeply sweet taste has been celebrated for centuries by Indigenous people throughout the southeastern US.
These majestic trees also have longevity worth celebrating: mature pecans can produce nuts for over a century! That makes for a lot of pecan pies.
How does such a big state have an iconic dish named after such a small creature? Perhaps this is a nod to the Southern love of simple and sweet pleasures in life (with, of course, a bit of classic Texas excess).
Hummingbird Cake, beloved throughout the South but easily top on the list of Texan treats, is essentially pineapple upside-down cake meets banana bread pudding, with the Lone Star signature of pecans and spices baked in. As to why the hummingbirds: it’s said this is simply the delighted humming heard from those eating this sweet, unbeatable cake.
One bite of this refreshing delight and you’ll forget about the rest of the desserts out there. The frozen banana was recently listed as Texas’ true legendary treat.
At food trucks like Bananarchy in Austin, they’re served in true-to-Texas-form: corn-dog style, dipped in chocolate, peanut butter, or vanilla, stuck with a spoon, and then rolled in your choice of toppings like coconut, sprinkles, pretzel bits, marshmallows, and more. Hey, at least your arteries may thank you that you’re not going for that fried cheesecake or fried Pop-tart!
Invented in 1885 in the central-Texas town of Waco, Dr Pepper is the oldest commercially-produced soft drink in the country—and it happened rather by accident. As the legend goes, a young pharmacist working in Morrison’s Drug Store wanted to replicate the enticing aroma of the multiple different fruit syrups and flavors that intermingled in the pharmacy.
He eventually found a recipe of 23 ingredients that matched the aroma—Dr Pepper was born, and quickly became the state´s iconic drink of choice. Today there is no doubt this is the King of Beverages in Texas.
The Dr Pepper slogan ¨there´s just more to it¨ could easily be the motto for the Lone Star State. There’s nothing small or skimpy about anything Texas, and certainly, its food is a celebration of excess. Whether it’s flavor, portions, pride of taste, creativity, calories, sweetness, or greasiness, you’ll simply find more here.
Just don’t forget to renew your gym membership after a trip to Texas—you’ll need it!