A Brief History of Authentic Mexican Food in the United States

Nachos, quesadillas, and tacos: These are pretty common foods to find on menus at most restaurants. But have you ever wondered how these restaurant favorites came to be so popular across our country?

It’s a long story – as long as the United States’ relationship with Mexico. Depending on the dish, you could find history stretching from before Texas was a state until today.

Authentic Mexican Food in the United States

Traditional Mexican food has been in America for a few centuries. For example, tacos have been known to be in the United States since at least the nineteenth century. As refugees fled the Mexican Revolution and crossed the Mexico-Texas border, they brought with them their favorite dishes from home.

The taco was more popular in southern and central Mexico, so it makes sense that it didn’t cross the border until more recently. Before the Mexican Revolution, most Mexican immigrants came from northern Mexico, where tacos were not typically eaten.

Eventually, as more immigrants came to the United States from further south in Mexico, restaurants started to serve tacos.

Mexican Food’s Popularity Reaches New Heights

More and more Americans began to try tacos after they appeared in restaurants. Starting in the 1960s, Taco Bell restaurants began popping up across America, starting in southern California. There have been more than 6,500 Taco Bell locations across a dozen countries since the restaurant’s inception. The chain became so popular that it began to define the Mexican food experience for many Americans, particularly in the Midwest.

Since the 1960s and the start of Taco Bell, however, more and more authentic Mexican restaurants have opened. Almost anywhere you go, you can find satisfying Mexican dishes.

Nowadays, Mexican food is one of the top cuisines in America that has its roots elsewhere. Some of the top non-traditional foods that Americans love the most are Mexican meals, Italian dishes, and Chinese food.

The Introduction of “Tex-Mex” Foods

Tex-Mex dishes are slightly different than traditional, authentic Mexican food, and they have been made since at least the mid-twentieth century. These dishes typically have more added to them, and they tend to be heavy on cheese, meat, beans, and spices.

Some of Mexican food lovers’ favorites, such as nachos and fajitas, are Tex-Mex inventions. You would not have traditionally found these foods in Mexico historically, though today you may see more crossover at restaurants.

One notable difference between traditional Mexican food and Tex-Mex is spice. Many Tex-Mex foods use spices, like cumin, that were not found in Mexico until after Spanish immigrants brought them to the country.

Visit a Traditional, Authentic Mexican Restaurant

At Benito’s Mexican Restaurant, you will find a variety of Mexican food, including your favorite dishes. We make traditional Mexican food, rather than Tex-Mex, but you will always find fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and – of course – margaritas.

If you are looking for a Mexican restaurant to celebrate a happy occasion, or to cater your next event, reach out to Benito’s today.