The 10 Iconic Foods That No One Makes Better Than a Texan

If you’re not from Texas, barbecue might be the first food that comes to mind when you think of the Lone Star State. It’s true, Texas barbecue is a way of life and no one cooks up beef like the Texans. But this is a state where everything is bigger and better, and you can bet your brisket that there are a few other foods that no one does better than Texans.

Prepare your stomach to be as big as your eyes when browsing through this list because you’re about to get pretty hungry. Here are 10 unforgettable foods that no one does better than Texans.

1. Pecan Pie

Outside of Texas, pecan pie might only be a holiday staple. It might come across your table on Thanksgiving or Christmas, only to disappear until the next notable holiday. Not in Texas, where pecan pie is the official state dessert. This is definitely a pie that no one does better than Texans!

Why is it so popular? Maybe it has something to do with the pecan tree being the official state tree. Maybe it’s the delicious, brown-sugar, molasses, and bourbon glaze. In any case, it’s probably the best pie on the menu so go ahead and order one! If you’re lucky, it might be included on the pie happy hour menu.

2. Texas Chili

There’s kind of a rule here that sets Texas chili apart for your normal bowl of red – no beans and extra meat. That’s what differentiates Texas chili from the Tex-Mex version. Not that there’s anything wrong with the other version, but there’s something oh-so-right about the no-bean variety.

The humble bowl of stew became the official dish of Texas in 1977, so it’s not uncommon to see it on every menu, everywhere. Modern versions still respect the no-bean rule, but they’ll play around with the meat – move over beef, move in rich chunks of elk or venison!

3. Chicken Fried Steak

It’s definitely not chicken, but this breaded steak is battered and fried the same way as your favorite fried chicken. It’s fluffy, it’s crispy, and the buttermilk batter adds the perfect amount of tang. There’s nothing so iconically Texan as a steak that comes in two sizes: large, and Texas-sized.

It may have begun in Texas Hill Country, but chicken fried steak is so iconic it can be seen in every diner in the state. Check out Lulu’s in San Antonio for the state’s largest chicken fried steak.

4. Kolaches

One does not simply drive through West. #kolaches

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If you’re not from Texas, you may have no idea what this even is. The Lonestar state has a rich history of Eastern European immigrants, and the Czech’s brought Kolaches with them when they came. These filled pastries are perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you’ll find them all over the state, especially in central Texas.

If you’ve never had one, stop by Czech Stop in West Texas. They have savory-filled ones (yes please to red pepper sausage) and sweet-filled kolaches filled with Nutella, fruits, or jams. Just get ready to wait – there’s often a line out of the door. To make kolaches in your own Southern kitchen, check out our recipes.

5. Frito Pie

New Mexicans like to claim that they invented the Frito pie, but we all know the real story – it was invented in the 1930s by Daisy Dean Doolin, the mother of Fritos inventor Charles Elmer Doolin. Today, it’s so iconically Texan that you’ll even find them at the Dairy Queen.

If you’ve never had this Southern staple, you might not be surprised to learn that it’s exactly what it sounds like. A bowl filled with a mishmash of Frito chips, cheese, chile, onions, and peppers. It’s perfect for a ballpark game, or enjoy one as a hangover cure.

6. Tex-Mex

Because of its close proximity to Mexico, Texas food as we know it is greatly influenced by standard Mexican cuisine. Enchiladas, tacos, nachos, chorizo, and burritos – all Tex-Mex, and all made best by a Texan.

Take your classic Mexican dishes, and add more beef and more grated cheese. Load it up with sauce (maybe queso!) and now you have Tex-Mex. It’ll be salty, rich, and filling, but I promise you that American Tex-Mex is one of those things that no one does better than Texans.

7. King Ranch Casserole

This lord-of-the-potluck casserole has nothing to do with ranch dressing, but it is damn delicious. It’s sort of like a mix between Mexican chilaquiles and turkey tetrazzini – filled with creamy sauces and spicy flavors. You can even scoop it up with tortilla chips.

If you’re looking a way to get rid of a pantry filled with condensed soup and a fridge full of cheese, King Ranch casserole is the way to go. You can play around with the ingredients, but make sure you layer in lots of chicken and corn tortillas. At the end of the day, this is the ultimate comfort food and a fine example of classic Texas cooking.

8. Puffy Taco

The puffy taco was made famous in San Antonio where it stands as something of an unofficial mascot. Back in the ’50s, Ray’s Drive Inn threw some uncooked masa into the deep fryer until all of the moisture had evaporated. They pulled out a fluffy, air-filled shell and voila – the puffy taco was born.

These magical taco shells are addictively crispy on the outside and airy on the inside. For the real deal, get one made by Texans – they know that the toppings are just as important as the shell itself. Once the juices from the taco seep into the shell’s airy pockets, you’ll be completely hooked. Pico de gallo in a puffy taco is a game-changer.

9. Queso

Mix up cheese and spicy peppers, serve it up with some chips, and you have the Tex-Mex appetizer favorite. It’s one of those things that ex-pat Texans miss about their home state. There’s no doubt in my mind that queso is one of those foods that no one does better than Texans.

It’s thick, it’s creamy, and it’s cheesy. Some restaurants (like Torchy’s in Austin) add mild green chiles and recommend that you drizzle it all over their fried avocado tacos. Or you can get the “Hillbilly” version, filled with tons of chorizo. OK, twist my arm!

10. Brisket & Beef Ribs

Okay, okay, I know that’s two items. But there’s a reason that Texas is known for barbecue, specifically the beef. Don’t be surprised if you head to any good barbecue joints and see people start lining up an hour before they open. Any worthy BBQ is worth waiting in a very long line!

Oversized beef ribs are filled with fatty goodness and a rich, peppery bark. Good brisket comes as lean or fatty, cut into super thick slices to order. Both are unparalleled in their indulgence and you’re not likely to forget it.

For more Texas barbecue facts, check out these 37 facts that will earn you your brisket. Did we miss any iconic Texas recipes? Of course we love Dr Pepper and Texas-born Frozen Margaritas, but let us know in the comments!

Watch: How to Make Pecan Cream Pies