Mexican vs. Tex-Mex | The Flying Foodie

In case you’ve always wondered, there is a difference between authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex. Although the lines are getting blurred from a long history of the blending of the two cuisines, a good clue to deciphering the puzzle lies in a few, but very important, ingredients.

First of all, ground beef is seldom used in authentic Mexican cooking, whereas it is the mainstay in most Tex-Mex dishes. South of the border, yellow cheese, black beans, cumin, canned tomatoes and wheat flour are scarcely used or  even available. And oh! the chili con carne, fajitas, burritos and nachos you love so much? Definitely Texican!

Mexican food is rich in flavor with chiles, chocolate, cocoa, and herbs like cilantro, oregano, coriander, and thyme, and also cinnamon (Mexico is the number one importer of cinnamon). On the Cinco de Mayo day of celebration this month, treat yourself to some traditional Mexican fare.

Red Chile Pork Stew

Mexican vs. Tex-Mex | The Flying Foodie | Aiken Bella Magazine

Serves 8-10

  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed 2 pounds pork shoulder/butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped (10-12)
  • 2 14-ounce cans pinto or light kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 green onions, chopped, for garnish 1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish Lime wedges for serving

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 2 cups chicken stock until boiling; then remove from heat. Add the ancho chiles and let stand for 20 minutes or until soft. Remove the stems and discard. Purée the chiles and stock in the bowl of a blender until smooth.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and sauté the pork pieces – working in batches – until brown on all sides. Transfer to a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients except the green onions, cilantro and lime. Stir and add the puréed chiles. Cook, covered, on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat is tender. Serve in bowls, garnish with green onions and cilantro. Squeeze lime wedges over top, as desired.

Steak with Peppers and Mushrooms

Mexican vs. Tex-Mex | The Flying Foodie | Aiken Bella Magazine

Serves 4


  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  • 1  steak, about 1-1/2 pounds(strip, ribeye or atiron)
  • 2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced thick 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 ounces mushrooms, sliced thick or quartered
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mix all marinade ingredients. Place steak in a glass bowl or large ziplock plastic bag and cover with marinade, making sure the steak is completely coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. When ready to grill, let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill pan or grill to medium high. Remove steak from marinade and grill on each side for 5-6 minutes or until desired doneness. Transfer to a cutting board; cover with foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté onions and peppers for 5 minutes, Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, salt and pepper; stir thoroughly and cook for 2 more minutes and remove from heat.

Slice the steak into thin strips. Serve with the peppers and mushrooms.

Lime Grilled Chicken with Tomato and Olive Salad

Mexican vs. Tex-Mex | The Flying Foodie | Aiken Bella Magazine

Serves 4


  • 4 small (or two large) boneless
  • skinless chicken breasts
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Mexican seasoning blend (see recipe below), or store-bought

If chicken breasts are large, slice in half horizontally. Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts and place in a glass dish or large ziplock plastic bag.

In a medium bowl, mix seasoning and lime juice and rub evenly over the chicken. Let marinate for 30 minutes or overnight. Remove from refrigerator and let sit 15-20 minutes before cooking. In a grill pan, or on an outdoor grill, over medium-high heat, cook until done, about 4-5 minutes per side. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.


  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1⁄2 teaspoons chili powder 1-1⁄2 teaspoons chipotle powder 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne

Blend ingredients. Store in airtight container.


  • 1⁄2 pound ripe tomatoes, sliced or chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pitted green olives, halved
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño, seeds removed 1⁄2 white onion, sliced
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
  • 1-1⁄2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1-1⁄2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt

In a large bowl toss together all of the salad ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes to allow avors to blend. Serve with chicken.

*Chef Belinda Spices are available at or at La Dolcé, 960 Dougherty Road.

Chef Belinda Smith-Sullivan is a food writer, personal chef, and pilot who enjoys exploring the “off the beaten path” culinary world. Her love of cooking and entertaining motivated her to give up a corporate career to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. Now living in Aiken, she currently markets her own spice line called Chef Belinda Spices. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Charleston chapter, a philanthropical organization of women in the foodservice industry.