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12 Recipes That Will Give You a Taste of Texas

Everything's bigger in the Lone Star State—including the flavors.
By Published Aug. 23, 2018

Like we do here at Cook’s Country, people from Texas take pride in their regional dishes and have a love for unique, local eats. Sure, the state is known for its barbecue and Mexican food, but not all of the dishes that originated there make sense to outsiders (Chicken-Fried Steak, anyone?). To us, that just adds to their appeal. Here’s a list of 12 Texas recipes—some that you might know already, others that you should know—worth making at home.

1. Texas Thick-Cut Smoked Pork Chops

Texas Thick-Cut Smoked Pork Chops

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, Texas, is famous for the “Big Chop,” a massive, 2-inch-thick bone-in pork rib chop seasoned and grilled over mesquite coals before being dunked into a pungent sauce. In our recipe, we insulate the meat and keep it from cooking too quickly by positioning the chops so that the bones face the charcoal. Our home version of these smoky chops will make any Texan proud. [GET THE RECIPE]

2. Texas Barbecue Brisket

Texas Barbecue Brisket

Texas brisket is traditionally smoked in commercial smokers that can handle hundreds of pounds of meat at once. After months of recipe development, we defied convention and found a way to smoke an entire brisket to Texas-level tenderness using just a regular charcoal grill. This gloriously tender brisket—with deep smoke flavor and rich bark—can be made all on a backyard charcoal grill. [GET THE RECIPE]

3. Barbecued Chuck Roast

Barbecued Chuck Roast

We made the trek to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, for shoulder clod, a regional barbecue specialty. While it was one of the most satisfying meals we’ve ever had, when we got back to the test kitchen we learned that shoulder clod is not only hard to find at a local butcher, but it can also range from 13 to 21 pounds. Needless to say, that is quite a range.

To get the same flavors and texture at home, we settled on chuck-eye roast, a versatile piece of meat cut from a portion of the shoulder clod. Similar to shoulder clod, this showstopping clod-style chuck roast doesn’t even need barbecue sauce; its richly seasoned bark and subtle smoky flavors allow the meat to speak for itself. [GET THE RECIPE]

4. Indoor Barbecue Beef Short Ribs

Indoor Barbecue Beef Short Ribs

In central Texas barbecue, beef reigns supreme. You will pay top dollar for smoked short ribs at Louie Mueller Barbecue and Franklin Barbecue—and they are worth every penny (and the interminable wait you will likely endure).

But if you don’t have a chance to make it to Texas, our recipe brings Texas to you. To get the true signifiers of good ‘cue we slowly braised the ribs in a seasoned liquid to tenderize and render their fat, then drained them, coated them in spices, and finished them off in the oven. [GET THE RECIPE]

5. Chicken-Fried Steak

Chicken-Fried Steak

Like New Yorkers and their bagels, Texans are passionate, partisan, and some might say a little nuts about chicken-fried steak. And with good reason. Once you try this dish’s ultra-crunchy coating you’ll finally understand that Texans (and now you) can make just about anything great—even cheap cuts of steak. [GET THE RECIPE]

6. Flank Steak in Adobo

Flank Steak in Adobo

Arrachera en adobo, a chili-like dish of steak slowly cooked—stewed, really—in a pungent adobo sauce, is a gem of Mexican American cuisine that’s popular in some corners of Texas but relatively unknown in other parts of the country.

We made a half-dozen versions of adobo sauce with wide ranging results to find the perfect base for this dish. Our winning adobo sauce uses two kinds of chiles (anchos and pasillas), lime juice, chicken broth, oregano, and canned salsa verde, resulting in a rich yet tangy sauce. [GET THE RECIPE]

7. Grilled Steak Fajitas

Grilled Steak Fajitas

A recent recipe-research trip to Ninfa’s in Houston inspired us to make a reliable Grilled Steak Fajitas recipe for home cooks. To avoid the overcooked and underseasoned meat that almost always comes with restaurant fajitas, we add soy sauce to the marinade. It enhances the meaty flavor and seasons it with its high salt content. Don’t forget to add oil and a couple of garlic cloves to get ultrasavory, succulent steak. [GET THE RECIPE]

8. Carne Guisada

Carne Guisada

If you’ve eaten carne guisada before, you know it as a bold and intensely satisfying stew that punches up the familiar braise of beef and potatoes with energetic Mexican ingredients. In Texas, it’s commonly served either as a taco filling—our favorite way to eat it—or as a stew, with beans, rice, and tortillas on the side. [GET THE RECIPE]

9. Texas Potato Pancakes

Texas Potato Pancakes

Every November, the small town of New Braunfels, Texas, hosts one of America’s best kept secrets: Wurstfest, a “Ten-Day Salute to Sausage.” But the festival is not all sausages and polka dancing: Some say the stars of the event are the Texas-size potato pancakes. Anyone lucky enough to get a bite of our version of this dish will agree that these spuds are spot-on and can stand their ground to any sausage in town. [GET THE RECIPE]

10. Texas Sheet Cake

Texas Sheet Cake

Texas sheet cake, the official cake of the Lone Star State, is a huge, pecan-topped chocolate cake with three distinct layers of chocolaty goodness. This cake is easy to make (no mixer is required) and great to take to potlucks because, as its name implies, it's baked in a baking sheet and makes enough to serve a crowd. [GET THE RECIPE]

11. King Ranch Casserole

King Ranch Casserole

King Ranch just might be the most famous casserole dish in Texas. This dish became popular for its mildly spicy Southwestern flavors as well as its convenience (most recipes start with one can of cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup).

In our recipe we were able to find a middle ground that lost the canned soup but still kept the work reasonable. Twenty minutes of kitchen work will give you a silky, flavorful sauce that simply puts canned soup to shame. [GET THE RECIPE]

12. Texas Breakfast Tacos with Chorizo

Texas Breakfast Tacos

Texans, especially south Texans, love their breakfast tacos. In the Austin area alone, more than 370 spots sell these egg-filled treats. What’s essential to all tacos is the tortilla—specifically a flour tortilla, which is the traditional choice for breakfast tacos.

Our recipe for homemade flour tortillas is even simpler to make than you might think, and requires no special equipment. Simply blend together flour, salt, and shortening, knead the dough and divide it into 12 portions before rolling out the dough balls to cook them. [GET THE RECIPE]

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if you’re hungry for more, check out all of our Texas-inspired recipes.