Classic South Texas Recipes - The Bend Magazine

Classic South Texas Recipes

Contemporary takes on six classic South Texas recipes from Kayla Butts and Vianney Rodriguez.

fried oysters rockefeller

Photography by Jason Page | Props provided by 20/20 Vintage & Sweet Life Bake | Styled by Jarred Schuetze

Written by Kayla Butts, Kylie Cooper, Alexa Rodriguez and Vianney Rodriguez | Recipes by Kayla Butts and Vianney Rodriguez
Photography by Jason Page | Props provided by 20/20 Vintage & Sweet Life Bake | Styled by Jarred Schuetze

One of the most beautiful aspects of food is the history it can hold. One simple recipe card contains not just a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions but a collection of memories from the kitchens that came before us. The sharing of recipes is so much more than making food to eat–it creates a tangible (and tasty) legacy to be passed from one generation to the next. 

Just in time for the holiday season – a time when nostalgia and food go hand-in-hand – we connected with local recipe developers Kayla Butts and Vianney Rodriguez to share six quintessentially South Texas recipes that have been served at dinner tables in this region for decades. From King Ranch Chicken to homemade pork tamales, Butts and Rodriguez gave their own contemporary twist to each recipe to bring these historic flavors into your modern-day kitchens, adding a touch of their own legacy and tradition. 

Less than an hour’s drive from Corpus Christi, The King Ranch in Kingsville reigns as the largest ranch in the United States. The ranch is known for Brahman cattle, its famous running W brand and contributions to the community. What it does not claim, however, is any relation to the culinary dish of the same name. Find the recipe>>

Raw, steamed, grilled or Rockefeller, oysters have been a mainstay of the Coastal Bend’s food culture for centuries. Karankawa natives survived year-round on oysters and other shellfish. Fast forward a few hundred years and both bygone eateries like Ship Ahoy and current mainstays like Nolan’s feature fried oysters. Most regional fried oysters are dredged in a cornmeal batter, a notably Southern practice. Soaking oysters in buttermilk prior to dredging helps the batter adhere and diffuses bitter, metallic notes. Find the recipe>>

The first documented margarita recipe comes from a Juarez-native bartender in El Paso in 1942. It’s possible this is the drink that truly put tequila on the map, as the agave-based spirit has been imported from Mexico in mass quantities ever since. Though Pancho Morales originally created the drink named for his wife on the rocks, we South Texans have been enjoying batches of the frozen version for decades, and it’s now practically synonymous with happy hour around these parts. Find the recipe>>

The most popular plus-one at housewarmings, bunco parties and funerals is the Texas Sheet Cake. The rich chocolate dessert became a fixture at get-togethers after making its debut in The Galveston Daily News in 1936. “Texas Funeral Cake” assumed its ominous moniker thanks to decades of prominence at wakes and memorial services in the Lone Star State. Find the recipe>>

Though the history is tricky to nail down due to the lack of written words in prehistoric times, cave drawings of women making tamales can be traced back to the Toltecs as early as 950 A.D. Their delicious preparation has truly stood the test of time to make tamales a South Texas staple in modern-day kitchens, especially around the holidays. They exude warmth in both spirit and flavor. Find the recipe>>

In 1974, the El Paso Junior League published a recipe for Green Chile Chowder in its cookbook Seasoned with Sun, with a note that people would buy the cookbook for that recipe alone. Now El Paso might not be in the Coastal Bend, but the reach of poblano peppers is vast across South Texas regions, as they grow in abundance in a warm climate. Locally, plenty of people are familiar with the famed poblano soup from Nuevo Cafe, a restaurant that has since shut its doors. Find the recipe>>