When it comes to Tex-Mex food, beefy, cheesy, and spicy are distinctive flavors that characterize the cuisine. And yet there is so much more to it than just chili, fajitas, or nachos. There’s a whole culture and history behind it.
Tex-Mex cuisine evolved out from Tejano culture (Texans of Mexican heritage) and the Northern Mexican immigrant communities in Texas. It’s basically the hybrid child of Mexican cooking and American flavor profiles. For every Mexican staple like corn tortillas, bean or chili peppers, there’s American beef, yellow cheese, and wheat flour.
A good Tex-Mex cookbook will showcase the diversity of the cuisine without resorting to popular misconceptions of what authentic Tex-Mex food is. Whether it’s food from the south or north of Rio Grande River, it’s all rightfully Tex-Mex.
In this list, I’ve gathered the best ones that any foodie should check out. There are cookbooks that offer recipes from popular Tex-Mex restaurants and there are those that offer gourmet versions of classic dishes.
Some of these cookbooks are also a joy to read for the well-researched culinary histories of their recipe selections. Some even provide nostalgia, because they include archival photos of old restaurants in their pages.
Others offer a viewpoint that emphasizes the authenticity of this regional cuisine. Because, believe it or not, there was a time when Tex-Mex was a derogatory term for food that’s a knock-off for Mexican cuisine. That’s no longer true today, of course.
Here are my top 10 picks for the best Tex-Mex cookbooks on Amazon.
Best Tex Mex Cookbooks
- The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos Paperback
- Tex-Mex Cookbook: Traditions, Innovations, and Comfort Foods from Both Sides of the Border Hardcover – Illustrated
- Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen (Mexican Food Cookbooks, Tex-Mex Cooking, Mexican and Spanish Recipes) Hardcover
- Mom and Pop Tex-Mex: Cafe Style Tex-Mex Cooking Paperback
- The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook: More Than 85 Sizzling Recipes Paperback
- “Don't Count the Tortillas”: The Art of Texas Mexican Cooking Hardcover
- MexTex: Traditional Tex-Mex Taste Hardcover
- Los Barrios Family Cookbook: Tex-Mex Recipes from the Heart of San Antonio Paperback
- Texas on the Plate Hardcover
- United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State Hardcover
1. The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos Paperback
This cookbook documents the history of Tex-Mex cuisine with more than 100 recipes and 150 archival photos. It also includes an explanation of how Mexican ingredients found their way into American cuisine, as well as the reason for the appearance of ingredients like Velveeta cheese and Fritos corn chips in traditional Tex-Mex recipes.
Recipes are diverse with everything from breakfast staples to beverages. There are even recipes for junk food. The recipe selection is arranged around historical chapters and includes favorites like Enchiladas, Old-Fashioned Puffy Tacos, Sizzling Fajitas, Truck-Stop Chili, Frozen Margaritas, and Frito™ Pie.
Readers found the recipes authentic and down-to-earth. One found its Tex-Mex food dictionary very informative, especially on the different types of peppers used in the cuisine. Another found its section on sauces very useful for making variations of its recipes.
Recommended for home cooks looking for a reference cookbook on authentic Tex-Mex cuisine.
2. Tex-Mex Cookbook: Traditions, Innovations, and Comfort Foods from Both Sides of the Border Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a collection of Houston-style Tex-Mex dishes. There are 85 recipes here that include Dirty Breakfast Tacos, Grilled Shrimp Diablo, Cheese Enchiladas Con Chili Gravy, Sopaipillas with Local Honey, and Horchata.
This is Texan comfort food and most of the recipes take a little time and work, but those who have tried the recipes found them accessible and flavorful, with ingredients that are easily sourced. Some recipes include recommendations for substitutions so that they can be easily modified.
Readers enjoyed the book’s colorful and fun design. One liked its recipes for the grill. Another liked that all the comfort food recipes of his childhood are included in the selection.
Recommended for home cooks of all skill levels.
3. Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen (Mexican Food Cookbooks, Tex-Mex Cooking, Mexican and Spanish Recipes) Hardcover
This is a cookbook on modern Tex-Mex cuisine by way of Southern California. The recipes here aren’t the usual greasy and cheesy staples but are more elevated and gourmet with a flavorful twist. For example, there’s a recipe for a vegan, cashew-based “queso” built on the flavors of charred onion, garlic, and green chile.
There are over 100 recipes here that are organized into chapters by food type. These include familiar favorites like Huevos Rancheros, Carne Guisada, Ama's Guacamole, and Blueberry Cobbler. Recipes are well written, developed with home cooks in mind, and there are lots of lush food photos all throughout the book.
Ingredient lists, however, are generally long. But, those who’ve tried the recipes found them to be delicious and very flavorful. One reader noted that this cookbook would be great for casual parties around a grill because of the diversity of its flavors.
Recommended for experienced home cooks and anyone looking to add more Tex-Mex recipes into their culinary repertoire.
4. Mom and Pop Tex-Mex: Cafe Style Tex-Mex Cooking Paperback
This cookbook celebrates Tex-Mex recipes before they became upscale and modernized by food celebrities and professional chefs. It features a selection of traditional recipes used in San Antonio’s Mexican restaurants in the 1950s and the 1960s. These include comfort food faves like Enchiladas, Tamales, Frijoles, and Tortilla soup.
Readers who’ve tried the recipes said that the flavors are authentic. One said it tasted like the food that his grandmother used to prepare.
Recommended for anyone looking for San Antonio café style Tex-Mex recipes.
5. The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook: More Than 85 Sizzling Recipes Paperback
This cookbook showcases the range of outdoor grill cooking found in Texas and Northern Mexico. There are 85 recipes here with step-by-step photos of barbecuing and barbacoa techniques. It also includes recipes for frijoles and side dishes, picante salsas, and tequila cocktails.
The selection is geared towards healthy grilling with most of the recipes using fish and vegetables. The meat recipes come with tips and sources for prepping, including a section on butchery.
Those who’ve tried the recipes found them easy to do and are delicious. One found its short section on barbacoa very informative. Another enjoyed the culinary writing that accompanied the recipes.
Recommended for casual to experienced grill cooks and anyone looking for grill-friendly classic Tex-Mex recipes.
6. “Don't Count the Tortillas”: The Art of Texas Mexican Cooking Hardcover
This cookbook highlights the ingredients, techniques, and innovations in home-style cooking from the south Texas area. There are 100 recipes here that include both classic and modern favorites like Tacos Al Pastor, Red Enchiladas, Tortilla Soup, Nopalitos Salad, and a Chile Con Queso Soufflé.
Recipes have step-by-step directions, beautiful photos, and are kitchen-tested for accuracy. There’s also ample explanation of cooking techniques and the culinary history of each recipe.
Readers liked this book for showing how indigenous Native American cuisine influenced today’s Tex-Mex style of home cooking. Another liked how it moves away from stereotypical greasy Tex-Mex staples by relying on fewer and fresh ingredients.
Recommended for Tex-Mex foodies and experienced home cooks looking to pick up more authentic Tex-Mex style recipes.
7. MexTex: Traditional Tex-Mex Taste Hardcover
This cookbook highlights the prairie/range style cooking of cowboys with a selection of American Southwest-style recipes that are high in flavor but low in fat.
Recipes are accessible for the intermediate home cook and come with color photographs of the featured dishes. There are also recipes for sauces and seasoning that help provide flavor to the main staples.
Readers liked this book for the simplicity of the recipes and their techniques. Another liked it because the recipes offer consistent results every time.
Recommended for intermediate to expert home cooks, fans of the El Rancho restaurant on South Lamar, and anyone familiar with Mex-Tex cuisine.
8. Los Barrios Family Cookbook: Tex-Mex Recipes from the Heart of San Antonio Paperback
This a cookbook from San Antonio’s favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, the Los Barrios, that features more than 140 home-style recipes. These range from traditional Mexican dishes to modern Tex-Mex recipes and includes dishes like Homemade Flour Tortillas, Tamales, and Pico de Gallo; resto faves Mama Viola’s Chicken Rice Soup and Acapulco-Style Ceviche; and the classics—Chiles Rellenos, Chalupas, and Enchiladas Verdes.
Recipes use easy-to-find ingredients and include cooking tips to make it easy for anyone to replicate in a home kitchen. The servings are, however, large so be prepared to downscale it if you are cooking for two.
Those who’ve tried the recipes found them flavorful and approximate to the food the Los Barrios restaurant serves on a daily basis. Another found the recipes easy to modify for vegetarian diets.
Recommended for fans of the Los Barrios restaurant and Tex-Mex cookbook collectors.
9. Texas on the Plate Hardcover
This book highlights Texan and Tex-Mex recipes that are slightly upscale. There are more than 150 recipes that are elevated versions of traditional favorites like chili and barbecued brisket. It also includes wine lists and tasting notes that feature many of Texas’s award-winning wines.
Samples of the recipes include Grilled Portabello Pizzas, Shark Steaks Grilled in Hoja Santa with Sun-Dried Tomato and Walnut Pesto, Texas Chicken-Fried Rib-Eye with Tabasco Cream Gravy, Quinoa with Lentils and Curry, and Texas Trifle with Raspberries and Custard Cream.
Readers found the recipes doable and bursting with flavor. One found its section on Texas Cook’s Pantry very useful for sourcing ingredients in Texas. Another liked its gourmet take on its recipe selection.
Recommended for experienced home cooks and those looking for upscale Tex-Mex recipes.
10. United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State Hardcover
If by Tex-Mex, one means the entirety of the region’s cuisine, then this cookbook has it all. The selection draws recipes from Texas’s five culinary regions: Central, Coastal, East, South, and West Texas; as well as including some global culinary staples. There are 125 recipes here that range from regional favorites to familiar ones like Black-Eyed Peas, Skillet Cornbread, Shrimp Creole, Smoked Brisket, Smoked Tortilla Soup, and Chicken Fried Steak.
Recipes are easy to follow and have a short ingredient list. Some will have lengthy prepping times. All of them come with beautiful color pictures of the featured dish.
Those who’ve tried the recipes found them to be doable and authentic. Another found the cookbook very informative for its stories on local chefs and restaurants that have contributed to the state’s culinary history.
Recommended for cookbook collectors and home cooks looking for a sampler of Texan cuisine.
THE TEX-MEX COOKBOOK: A HISTORY IN RECIPES AND PHOTOS by Robb Walsh
Both a recipe collection and a culinary anthropology reference book, this cookbook shows why Tex-Mex is an important American regional cuisine. The background of each featured dish is carefully explained and broken down into its component parts so that readers will be able to easily replicate the flavors in their own home kitchens.
There are also archival photographs that help highlight the cultural value of this cuisine. The cookbook's sidebars provide informative notes that help readers understand how diverse and complex Tex-Mex food is.
Best of all, the recipes work and are full of flavor. One reader said that this book is useful for improving a typical household menu and food budget because the recipe selection is diverse and uses ingredients that are affordable and easy to source.