10 Iconic Food and Drink Items Born in Texas
February 16, 2022
Texas is a big state, and its distinctive cuisine reflects the broad diversity of ethnic and cultural groups that call Texas home. With many of its recipes hailing from Mexico, Texan cuisine is also influenced by a combination of Southern, African American, Native American, and European dishes. Nevertheless, all these influences amalgamate and give birth to exclusively Texan inventions. This list covers only a few gems from the vast range of food and drink that is said to have originated in the Lone Star State.
Is there any reason not to start this list with dessert? If you were to say to me “staple Texas food”, the first thing that would run through my mind is the warm, comforting taste of a freshly baked pecan pie. Texans are not joking when it comes to how much they enjoy their pecan pie. In fact, in 2013, state lawmakers passed a resolution safeguarding the dessert as the “official state pie of Texas.” The resolution reads, in part, that Texans concur that “pecan pies are, hands down, the best … and are indeed the perfect ending to any meal.”
Pecan varieties grown in Texas are named after native tribes, such as Caddo, Wichita, Choctaw, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Sioux, and Burkett. The names are meant to commemorate the irreplaceable impact Native Americans have had on the pecan. You can learn more about this here.
If reading this makes you want to start whipping up your own pecan pie, here is our foolproof recipe!
If you’re already at the door, headed to taste the best pecan pies Texas has to offer, you won’t be disappointed by Sweet Lucy’s Pies in DFW.
Besides their buttery, creamy flavor and burly size, gulf oysters are a source of regional pride for Texas. Not only can Texans get fresh, fat, raw oysters from their honorary backyard, the Gulf of Mexico, typically at an affordable price, but they are spoiled for choice with a bounty of restaurants serving some of the best East Coast bivalves out there.
Add to that a truly remarkable number of preparation styles—chargrilled, fried, topped with chiles and sriracha, or marinated in garlicky butter, there is something for everyone. Family-run Prestige Oysters in San Leon, located near Kemah on Galveston Bay, is a leader in providing sustainable gulf oysters in and around the state. If you are looking for the finest grilled and baked-in-the-shell oysters, century-old Gaido’s is the spot to hit. Their signature dish Oysters Brochette, plump oysters wrapped in bacon and cooked in a cast-iron skillet, is not to be missed!
Real Texas Chili (NO BEANS!)
A true family favorite, chili has very modest beginnings. Some say it originates from Mexico and southern Texas. In 1529, Bernardino de Sahagún, a Franciscan friar, described stews seasoned with chili pepper eaten in the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, in his written work.
Nobody can forget the hardworking labor class women of San Antonio, Chili Queens as they were fondly called, who sold home-cooked chili-flavored beef stew (chili con carne) at the Military Plaza for more than two hundred years. The laborers were greeted with a box of chili after a hard day’s work—the workmen loved the spicy meal, and upper-class people tried to get the Queens to shut shop!
However, in 1977, the Texas Legislature decreed the state’s official dish to be an old-fashioned “bowl of red.” Texas barbeque may be a hot favorite, but a humble bowl of steaming chili stew is still the ultimate cowboy comfort. Look no further, for we have the TexasRealFood tried, tested, and loved chili recipe! But that’s not all: we take it up a notch and give you the Beef Chili Nachos and the Chili Dog! Well, what are you waiting for?
Bluebell Ice cream
If you haven’t grown up making sundaes from scoops of BlueBell ice cream, are you even from Texas? Blue Bell is a local classic—creamy, delicious, and the perfect treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. Blue Bell Creameries was founded in Brenham, Texas in 1907. Known then as Brenham Company, Blue Bell was initially a creamery, but several years later, it began making ice cream and delivering it to neighbors. Named after the native wildflower, the brand changed tracks and converted into a full-time ice cream company. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Gustavo Olguin, a sports teacher originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, who lived in San Antonio, is credited with the invention of corn chips, as per Express-News archives.
San Antonian entrepreneur Charles Olmer “C.E.” Doolin purchased the recipe and rights to make the chips from Olguin in 1932. Doolin and his family started making Frito corn chips from their home kitchen, and before they knew it, gave us a snack that was to become world famous and end up in vending machines everywhere. The Frito pie arrived on the scene after the family matriarch, Daisy Dean Doolin, combined the chips with hunks of cheese and chili. So what makes the Frito pie so unbelievably addictive? When Texans open up a bag of Fritos and elevate it with chili, cheese, and onions, the resulting mind-blowing combo of savory goodness is what all the noise is about.
Today, almost every Texan has their favorite way to enjoy the “Texas straw hat”, as it is popularly called, and we have ours! Try the TexasRealFood Frito Pie recipe, and let us know what you think!
The town of Anahuac, near Galveston Bay, is nicknamed the “Alligator Capital of Texas”, and for a good reason. The AP reported that in this town, alligators outnumber humans three to one! A Texas special delicacy, fried gator meat is enjoyed for its chicken-like taste and firm texture. Read more about sustainable gator hunting here. Not sure how to prepare gator meat? These Crispy Cajun Deep Fried Gator Nuggets will help you out!
Several states, and even more people, claim to have invented the corn dog. However, in my view it’s quite possible that more than one person came up with the idea of dunking sausages into batter and deep frying the delicacy into existence.
One the notable claims made was by Neil and Carl Fletcher, two Vaudeville performers at the Texas State Fair in 1942. The brothers refined a predecessor of this snack from a local baker that served hot dogs baked in cornmeal. Try your hand at making corn dogs with this easy recipe.
Texas and tacos go way back. While we won’t go into the debate of how and when Texas was introduced to tacos, the staple is believed to have been around at least as long as the Lone Star State itself, and we simply cannot imagine one without the other.
In 2019, a resolution passed by Texas lawmakers mentioned, “one thing Texans can agree on is that despite the availability of tacos in the other 49 states, the tastiest tacos can be found in the great state of Texas.” Of course, breakfast tacos are perfect for those lazy weekend mornings, but if you are in the mood for dining out, here is where you can catch some of the tastiest tacos in Texas.
Chicken fried steak, alongside barbecue, is a dish that epitomizes the Texas spirit. It’s larger-than-life and unquestionably delicious. Chicken fried steak is usually linked to the German Wiener schnitzel, which made its way into Texas in the recipe books of European immigrants. One particular place in Texas that will satisfy the taste buds of chicken fried steak lovers is Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar, located in the picturesque historic district of Gruene. The Gristmill is part of the National Register of Historic Places and has served chicken fried steak to the likes of John Travolta, George Strait, Mary Lou Retton and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Fret not; if you can’t visit Gristmill just yet, here is a simple and mouth-watering chicken fried steak recipe!
Frozen Margarita Machines
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. This saying proved particularly true for Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez, who created the world’s first frozen margarita machine. The idea hit Mariano in 1971 when he was struggling to fulfill hundreds of margarita orders one night with just a single blender. He was inspired by a Slurpee dispenser he saw at a 7Eleven. And the world can thank this Texan for frozen margarita machines that resulted. So make yourself one and raise a toast!
Inventors and innovators are not uncommon in Texas, especially in the culinary world. Do you know of any Texas-born dishes or drinks? Let us know in the comments below!