Tex-Mex Glossary of Terms


Botanas in South Texas and the northern parts of Mexico is a platter or an appetizer. It is a family-style sampler. In the Rio Grande Valley where I grew up, It is served on a platter with a huge amount of Fajita meat (skirt steak), surrounded by nachos, guacamole, pinto beans, warm flour tortillas, and salsas.


Burritos have their roots in the Mexican State of Sonora. They are made with a large flour tortilla around a filling and wrapped. Typically they are filled with meat, beans, and cheese.


The meaning of the word chalupa is a canoe. Originated in the state of Puebla.  Mexican chalupas are made in the shape of a canoe fried and filled with various ingredients such as shredded chicken, pork, chopped onion, red salsa and or green salsa. In South Texas, they are typically made from frying tortillas in a flat shape then topping them with the ingredients. Usually, they are topped with beans and cheese tomatoes and lettuce. They resemble tostadas.   


These are tortilla chips or leftover tortilla pieces similar to Migas that are cooked in a sauce, sometimes with meat and cheese. 


This is a burrito that has been deep-fried and is considered a Tex-Mex food. It is rumored that they were invented when someone in Tucson accidentally dropped a burrito in a deep fryer. 


Date back to Mayan times. The word itself means comes from the word enchilar, which translates “to add chili pepper to”, literally to “season with chili”. They are corned tortillas softened in hot oil and then dipped in a chile sauce. Originally they had no fillings and were served with white cheese or “Queso Fresco”. Tex-Mex enchiladas are typically rolled with a filling of meat, chicken, or cheese. They are then garnished with little more sauce and cheese.    


Fajita literally means “little belt” it refers to a piece of meat called skirt steak. The original fajitas in Tex-Mex cooking refer to grilled skirt steak. It was usually served with flour tortillas and condiments to make tacos. Fajitas were never made from chicken or shrimp. Nowadays chicken and shrimp fajitas have been added and reflect a style rather than the original dish. 

Frijoles Refritos

Cooked beans and mashed is the most common way of preparing beans. The literal translation is refried beans. The most common type is the pinto bean.


Are made with masa (tortilla dough) and translates to the “little fat ones” They are patted into a circle a bit thick, then dipped in hot oil until they puff up. They are then split to create a pocket. Then are filled with beans, meat, cheese and served.  


Migas are chunks of tortilla scraps or cut up tortillas and fried. In Texas, it is a popular breakfast dish. onions, serrano peppers and cheese can also be added to taste.


nachos are tortilla chips topped with cheese and jalapeno slices and broiled until the cheese melts. Guacamole, sour cream and many other toppings can be added. 


In the lower Rio Grande Valley, when you spread refried beans on the nachos before adding the other toppings, they become panchos. 


These are tortillas sandwiched or folded over a filling of cheese and other ingredients then toasted on a greased or ungreased griddle until the cheese melts. Usually made from flour tortillas.

Salsa Picante

Salsa Picante or Picante sauce is the chunky tomatoes and chile sauce one can find typically in the middle of a restaurant table it is used on tacos, eggs, guacamole, and many more foods. It is also used as a dip for tortilla chips. It can vary in “hotness” to one’s preference.  


Mexican tacos are simply tortillas wrapped around a filling. They are made from flour or corn.  Some taco fillings will taste better with flour tortillas, others with corn tortillas. 


Mexican tamales are made with masa (tortilla dough) that has been mixed with lard and flavorings and spread on a corn husk, topped with a filling and then rolled up and steamed. best served hot.


These are fried whole or quarter (tortilla chips) corn tortillas. the whole tostadas are typically topped as if it was an open taco. 

Credit : Walsh, Robb. The Tex-Mex Cookbook: a History in Recipes and Photos. Broadway Books, 2004.