Cal-Mex Cuisine Vs Tex-Mex Cuisine

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Just as Tex-Mex food is a fusion of traditional Mexican flavours with a Texas twist, Cal-Mex food is traditional Mexican food with a California twist.

Quite obvious, right? Well, no.

Let’s explore the differences between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex food into three broad categories: ingredients, preparation, and overall culture.


Although most components in both Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex foods are similar, some ingredients are more common in one cooking style than the other:

  • If the menu mentions a dish with a side of beans, most Tex-Mex places mean refried (pinto) beans. Whereas in a Cal-Mex place, they probably mean black beans or even some kind of white bean.
  • The yellow cheese that is used in most of the Tex-Mex dishes is less common in California. Instead, Californians who love black olives would be disappointed by the lack of olives in Tex-Mex dishes.
  • While Cal-Mex prefers grilled fish and plain avocado slices, Tex-Mex tends to favour red meat or poultry.
  • The beef used in Cal-Mex dishes is usually lean cuts, and the meat is “shredded.” Except for fajitas, Tex-Mex recipes typically call for seasoned ground beef— and we don’t mind fattier cuts because they have more flavour.


  • In both Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex cuisines, tacos are typically covered in lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Cal-Mex usually goes heavy on the lettuce and tomato and easy on the cheese. In Tex-Mex food, the opposite is true.
  • Cal-Mex tacos are usually made of crispy corn tortillas. Tex-Mex tacos of soft flour tortillas.
  • The cooking of Cal-Mex is primarily associated with grilled or “fresh” food. In contrast, Tex-Mex entrées are more likely to be fried or baked.


Overall, Californians move toward healthier options when it comes to their food. This is why Cal-Mex entrées are fresh and/or grilled instead of fried. Meanwhile, Tex-Mex is known for its comfort and/or party food. We know that most of our favourite dishes are healthy, and we are happy about that.

Since Los Angeles is the birthplace of the (modern) food truck trend, the Cal-Mex entrées are often portable. This isn’t the case with Tex-Mex meals. Their plates are loaded with beans, sauce, and a recipe that the food is almost spilling over the sides. When you order Tex-Mex, you may need to sit down while you’re eating!

Which is better than the other?

Well, Cal-Mex is a clear win if you’re health-conscious. Regardless of what you’re used to, discover and explore the favours yourself! On the Border serves the most delicious Cal-Mex dishes in Australia.

Book your tables now!

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