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South Texas Cooking - Where Everything's Bigger, Especially the Pie!

Updated on May 10, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty collects customs, recipes, and gadgets from the past and is particularly interested in Early American and Indigenous Peoples.

El Paso, Texas at the far western end of the Texas-Mexico border.
El Paso, Texas at the far western end of the Texas-Mexico border. | Source

On the Mexican Border

Having been part of the same country for many years, South Texas and Mexico just across the border share some of the same dishes or variations thereof. South Texas cuisine is often called Tex Mex.

Tex Mex cuisine is a mix of multiple cultures, beginning in Mexico with the influence of Mayan and Aztec Nations. This included avocados, tomatoes, papayas, vanilla bean, cocoa, vegetable beans, and many local peppers.

After the Spanish arrived, they added beef, mutton, chicken, wheat, rice, nuts, oils, cinnamon, and other ingredients that they brought to the New World. From there, cattle-drive and pioneer cooks, Native Americans, and missionary nuns added their own variations and Tex Mex spread along the Rio Grande River Valley where it is popular today.

New Mexico grows abundant amounts of specially developed peppers for these recipes.

Camp bread
Camp bread | Source

Camp Bread


  • 5 Pounds of all-purpose flour (one 5-pound bag)
  • 1 Pound of butter
  • ¼ Cup salt and 1/4 Cup baking powder
  • Spring water, as needed
  • Vegetable oil.


  1. Preheat a Dutch oven over hot coals.
  2. Mix all the ingredients except the vegetable oil in a large bowl, but add only enough water form a dough ball. Don’t allow it to become too sticky.
  3. Knead the dough several times and pat it into flat cakes about 1/2 inch thick to cover the bottom of the Dutch oven.
  4. Spread oil all over the inside of the Dutch oven with a brush.
    Place the bread into the Dutch oven and cover with the lid. Cover the lid with hot coals.
  5. Cook camp bread until done and golden brown - 20 to 30 minutes, depending on heat of coals.


Texan Sweet Onion Rings

Serves 4-6


  • 2 Large Texas sweet onions
  • 2 Cups buttermilk
  • 1 Cup white cornmeal
  • 1 Cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • Oil for frying
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Slice the onions 1/4-inch thick and separate into rings.
  2. Pour buttermilk into a large bowl and put all the onion rings in to soak for half an hour.
  3. Mix breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and seasonings in another bowl.
  4. Pull onion rings out of buttermilk with a fork a few at a time and drop them into the dry mix bowl and toss gently to coat.
  5. Put rings back into buttermilk and re-dip in breadcrumbs.
  6. Deep-fry in hot oil at 375 degrees F for 3 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Drain onion rings on paper towels until all are cooked.
  8. Put rings onto a platter and sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Flour tortillas for stewed beef fillings.
Flour tortillas for stewed beef fillings. | Source

South Texas Stewed Beef or Carne Guisada


  • 3 pounds of sirloin steak
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced, or more if you like
  • 1 tsp each of cumin and chili powder
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Soup-can of vegetable broth
  • 1 Cup spring water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 warmed flour tortillas


  1. Cut sirloin into 1-inch cubes or squares.
  2. In a nonstick skillet add 1 Tbsp oil and heat it first over medium heat.
  3. Sauté beef until brown. Add the rest of the oil and all the flour and toss the beef until the flour is browned.
  4. Add water and spices, stir, and thicken.
  5. Pour in broth, sir, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes until meat is tender and sauce is thickened.
  6. Put a warm tortilla in a soup bowl and ladle the meat into it to form a tortilla bowl.
  7. Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, and salsa, if desired.

South Texas and the Rio Grande Basin
South Texas and the Rio Grande Basin
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Posada. This dish can be served also as a chimichanga.
Posada. This dish can be served also as a chimichanga.
Posada. This dish can be served also as a chimichanga. | Source

Laredo Posada


  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Large yellow onion, chopped coarse
  • 3 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1.5 Pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tsp New Mexican dried red chile pepper
  • 1/2 Cup white wine
  • 1/2 Cup spring water
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Cup New Mexican green chilies
  • 1 Can White Hominy, with the juice


  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet.
  2. Saute onion, garlic, and cubed chicken together with the red chili, stirring, until the meat is lightly browned.
  3. Add oregano, cumin, and bay leaves and stir.
  4. Pour the wine and water into the skillet, stir, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Pour the can of hominy into a large soup pot.
  6. Add the green chilies and the skilletful of chicken mixture.
  7. Cook over low heat 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Remove the bay leaves, re-season if necessary with salt and pepper, and serve in soup bowls.
  9. Garnish with sour cream if desired.

The red coloring caomes from cranapple juice cocktail. You can also use raspberries.
The red coloring caomes from cranapple juice cocktail. You can also use raspberries. | Source

Texas Lemonade

Makes 4, 8-oz Cups


  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 3/4 Cup boiling water
  • 1 Cup lemon juice
  • 2 Cups cran-apple juice cocktail (Ocean Spray or another brand)
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon


  1. In a pot, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water.
  2. Pour the sugar syrup into a heavy pitcher.
  3. Pour in lemon peel, lemon juice, and cran-apple juice and stir.
  4. Cover the pictcher and chill until dinner.
  5. Serve alone or over cracked ice and garnish with candied lemon peel if desired.


"Texas is Bigger" Lemon Pie

This pie is tall enough that it needs no topping, but you can use Cool Whip, flavored Cool Whip, or the meringue recipe listed below.


  • 1 Graham Cracker or Chocolate Crumb crust (some prefer the chocolate very much with lemon)
  • 6 Whole eggs at room temperature (temperature is important)
  • 1 Cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2, 12-oz can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate the whites from the eggs into a different bowl.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and add lemon juice and grated rind. Stir.
  4. Pour in the condensed milk gradually, stirring, and pour into the crust.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, being careful not to burn.


  1. Beat the 3 egg whites in a bowl with 1 Tbsp spring water, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp cream of tartar, and 5 Tbsp sugar. Beat until fluffy, spread on top of the baked pie.
  2. If desired, broil meringue beneath the broiler shortly, until golden.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


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