How good is the food in Texas? Let’s just say that Texas’ cuisine was a quantifiable factor in our decision to pick up our life and move back to Texas.
From TexMex to barbecue, food in Texas is incredibly varied and irresistibly delicious.
The best things to eat in Texas generally involve big flavors and bigger portion sizes, and tend to be so tasty that you finish every bite in spite of yourself.
Most of these Texas foods aren’t exclusive to Texas, of course–many of them weren’t even invented here–but they are cherished parts of modern Texas culture.
Influences in Texas cuisine include Germany, Louisiana, the Czech Republic, and–of course–Mexico, all adapted by (some might claim improved by) the Lone Star State.
Planning a trip soon? Here are the best things to eat in Texas–and fair warning, you’ll want to arrive hungry!
Incredible Texas Foods to Try
The Holy Grail of all Texas cuisine, Texas barbecue is a must-try food in Texas.
Texas barbecue is such a serious business, in fact, that it deserves its own detailed article–for example, did you know that barbecuing traditions differ in depending on which region of Texas you’re in?
For the purposes of eating, though, the most important thing to know is that it’s all delicious and well worth trying.
The Texas barbecue tradition dates back to the German and Czech immigrants to Texas who brought their traditions of smoking meat with them across the Atlantic, but there’s no doubt that Texas barbecue is now its own distinct food group.
The barbecue style from Central Texas, focused on showing off the meats with little-to-no sauce, is most iconic.
When you order a platter, you can expect to have white bread, pickles, raw onions, and sauce included–use them to your heart’s content, though be warned that some will scoff at coating your brisket in barbecue sauce.
While there are dozens of different dishes that make up Texas barbecue, here are the three most essential dishes (and yes, you should order at least one round of all of them when in Texas).
Texas Smoked Brisket is made from beef, and when it is pulled off the smoker, it will be entirely enveloped in an almost-burned-looking exterior–but it’s not burned.
Slice it open, and an incredibly tender, juicy, flavorful meat will be revealed.
Brisket is a favorite of Texans–so much so, that many even eat it for breakfast. (I’m not kidding–you can even get brisket breakfast tacos at popular gas stations. But that’s a story for another day!).
Falling-off-the-bone pork ribs are a staple of Texas barbecue!
Like brisket and ribs, sausage is near-ubiquitous on a Texas barbecue plate, and they are generally both spicy and primarily made with beef (though pork is sometimes mixed in as well).
Much like Texas barbecue, simply saying “chili” won’t do here. Chili is a serious business in Texas, and the dish includes absolutely no beans, tomatoes, or tomato-based products.
In Texas chili, the flavor from the beef and chilis are the main focus of the dish.
We love Mexican food. And we love TexMex. And–here’s the important bit to consider when you’re ordering food in Texas–they’re not the same thing.
TexMex is its own category of food entirely, characterized by lots of flour (and some corn) tortillas, lots of cheese (much, much more than what you’ll find in most Mexican food), beans, rice, peppers, and meat.
Two ubiquituous foods in TexMex that you’ll see are:
Made from skirt steak (and often chicken, though it’s less traditional), fajitas are generally served on a cast-iron skillet, still sizzling, mixed together with grilled bell peppers and onions.
The fixings–usually rice, beans, salsa, flour tortillas, shredded cheese, and sour cream–are served on the side, and you can then make your own fajita tacos at the table as you eat.
Chili Con Queso
Melted cheese mixed with chilis for spice and then scooped up with salty tortilla chips: is there a more addictive food anywhere on this planet?
I doubt it. Chili Con Queso is one of the most popular things to eat in Texas, and for a very good reason!
Frito Pie is as delicious as it is simple: it’s made by pouring chili on top of fritos. Frequently, the chili will then be topped with chopped onions and shredded cheese?
To make the dish even easier, it’s sometimes served directly in the Frito bag!
Whether Frito Pie was invented in Texas is up for a bit of a debate–New Mexicans also claim the invention–but there’s no doubt that it’s a delicious staple of Texas football stadiums and tailgates.
As someone completely obsessed with breakfast tacos of all kinds, let me just say: if you visit Texas and don’t eat several rounds of breakfast tacos, you’re doing it wrong.
Served in warm flour tortillas, breakfast tacos can be stuffed with an enormous variety foods, from classics like bacon & egg or bean & cheese, to certified Texas favorites like brisket or smoked sausage.
Add a bit of salsa if you like, and you have on your plate one of the best breakfasts on the planet.
King Ranch Casserole
A favorite of potlucks, King Ranch Casserole is a true hodgepodge of a dish, featuring canned diced tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, diced onion and bell pepper, cheese, layers of corn tortillas (or sometimes chips) and shredded chicken.
Don’t knock it til you try it: it’s a popular food in Texas for a reason, despite the eclectic list of ingredients.
With a short description, Texas toast sounds fairly unremarkable (if very tasty): soft white bread coated in butter and sometimes garlic that is then grilled or toasted until its outsides are crispy and golden brown.
The thing that makes Texas toast distinct, though, is that it’s incredibly thick–generally about twice the thickness of an average slice of sandwich bread–and therefore perfect for mopping up the extra barbecue sauce left on your plate!
Texas inherited kolaches from the Czech immigrants who settled there in the 19th century, and they are a beloved addition to Texas cuisine.
Made of a soft yeast dough, cut into squares, and then stuffed with either fruit or cheese, kolaches are an absolute treat.
In Texas kolache shops, you’ll generally find a savory but equally delicious treat right next to them that is often also referred to as a kolache in casual conversation–but more on that below.
The savory cousin to the kolache, klobasnek pastries are also tied to Texas’ Czech heritage–but unlike kolaches, they are a Texas original.
Made of soft kolache dough wrapped around meat–usually sausage, but ham is also fairly common–a klobasnek bears a striking resemblance to a sausage roll.
Sausage rolls don’t usually also come with jalapenos and cheese inside, though–that’s all Texas.
In casual conversation, you may hear Texans refer to klobasneks as kolaches, but they are technically distinct!
Chicken Fried Steak
Tenderized steak that is breaded, deep fried, and then coated in a peppery white gravy: for many Texans, this is the ultimate comfort food.
Chicken fried steak isn’t unique to Texas, but it is incredibly popular here!
Did you know that Texas grows some truly phenomenal peaches?
Sometimes called Stonewall Peaches or Texas Hill Country Peaches, Fredericksburg Peaches are incredibly delicious.
If you visit the Hill Country during the summer months, you may even have a chance to pick your own peaches!
How do you take a widely popular staple like cornbread and Texas-ify it?
Add jalapenos, of course.
Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit
I may be biased, but Texas grows the best grapefruits on the planet.
Texas Ruby Red Grapefruits are incredibly sweet, drip with juice, are packed with flavor, and are absolutely worth sampling if you’re visiting Texas in winter.
Amazing Desserts to Eat in Texas
Texas Sheet Cake
This absolutely delicious chocolate cake is thin, covered in incredibly sweet chocolate icing mixed with pecans, and is an incredible treat when exploring what to eat in Texas.
Made in large pans, Texas sheet cake is often served to groups at events like potlucks and picnics, cut into square pieces and–if you’re lucky–served with a scoop of ice cream.
This cake is one of my childhood favorites and I love it to this day!
Pecans are native to parts of Texas and popular throughout the state.
It’s no surprise, then, that the American holiday favorite of pecan pie tends to be a year-round treat in Texas–it’s even the official state dessert!
Blue Bell Ice Cream
Choosing a “best” ice cream is a truly impossible task, but there’s no doubt that Blue Bell is a crowd favorite among Texans–and while it’s incredibly tasty, the fact that Blue Bell Creameries is a homegrown brand from Texas sure doesn’t hurt!
Generally considered to have migrated over from nearby Louisiana, pralines–pecans mixed with some combination of sugar, corn syrup, butter, and/or milk, and then dried into something between a candy and a cookie–are deliciously sweet treats that are among the best things to eat in Texas.
The Best Texas Drinks to Enjoy
Margaritas are the drink of choice for many Texans out on the town!
While the original margarita initially hailed from Mexico, frozen margaritas were invented in Dallas in 1971.
Invented in Waco, Texas in 1885, Dr. Pepper is so popular in Texas that the question “Coke or Dr. Pepper?” is common when ordering a soft drink in the state.
Originally, Dr. Pepper was also bottled in Texas–specifically at Dublin Bottle Works in Dublin, Texas–which certainly didn’t hurt its popularity in the state.
Sweet tea is popular across the southeast United States, but it has definitely warmed its way into the hearts of Texans!
When you think of wine, you might think of Tuscany or Bordeaux.
When you think of US wine? Perhaps California.
But Texas? Texas may still be working toward a national and international reputation with its wines, but with over 50 wineries on the official Texas Wine Trail alone, the wine scene in Texas is absolutely hopping.
Personally, we have had wine all over the world and have never failed to find a bottle to enjoy when exploring wine in Texas.
Shiner Beer may not be fancy, but it is a classic Texas favorite and a homegrown beer to boot: the small town of Shiner, Texas (population: just over 2,000) is the home of the popular beer, and has been since 1909.