Why the Difference Between Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex Food Matters

Posted in Food and Fun, History

Of course it does! If you live in California, you know the best Mexican food is in the Golden State. And if you live in Texas, you are just as convinced that the best Tex-Mex food comes from the Lone Star State.

Why is one better than the other? Well, that depends on whom you talk to. Everyone has their own reasons. It could be that the tacos from California are crunchier. The food is healthier (because “everyone” in the Golden State is a health nut). But the Tex-Mex is cheesier. In other words, it’s all just a matter of opinion. And so, here are a few opinions of Californians and Texans on why their brand is the best.

Some Californians claim that Cal-Mex food is healthier, with more of an emphasis on fish and avocados and more veggies. The beans are served whole, not refried. Tacos are crispier. The California version tends to use more garlic than Tex-Mex.

Texans say Tex-Mex puts more emphasis on the cheese – like with the cheese enchilada and meat sauce. According to some aficionados, you can tell the difference because Tex-Mex uses Hatch peppers in rellenos, while Cal-Mex food uses Anaheim. Also, some say California chips are thicker than their Texas counterparts.

Some just feel that Tex-Mex uses more processed foods, while Cal-Mex uses more fresh herbs and cheeses, lean steak and chicken. Others take exception to the processed statement, but do acknowledge that Tex-Mex foods are generally heavier.

Some note that black olives are found more commonly in Cal-Mex, but rarely in Tex-Mex. And they describe fish tacos as more of a California thing. They also say that in California, you will find a greater variety of cheeses, while in Texas, the emphasis is mostly on cheddar.

Many Tex-Mex experts say that Tex-Mex goes heavier on the cheese, and he adds that it also has deeper, richer flavors, and is spicier.

But one thing many seem to agree on is that from one region to another in Texas, the Tex-Mex food can vary widely. For example, one person said he never had rellenos with Hatch or Anaheim peppers, but rather with poblanos.

Another Californian who knows food describes the two types as green and red. Cal-Mex, she says, is the green, based on fresh green chiles, while Tex-Mex is the red, based more on dried chiles. Cal-Mex uses more of the lighter meats and seafood, while Tex-Mex goes more for beef and pork. Cal-Mex is lighter, not as spicy and more subtle, while Tex-Mex is bolder, spicier and more in-your-face. Cal-Mex also uses more vegetables.

While this description is rather well thought out, it definitely isn’t the last word in this argument that will probably go on as long as people eat Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex. The one thing all agree on, however, is that both are delicious.

If you want to taste some truly delicious Tex-Mex food, visit the  Mattito’s location nearest you soon.