Anyone who’s been fortunate enough to taste Texas barbecue will tell you that it’s renowned for a good reason. It’s downright delicious, something Texan grill masters and restaurateurs take a lot of pride in—mastering the technique requires a huge amount of effort, time and skill. But what is Texas barbecue, exactly?
Southern American barbecue recipes vary tremendously from state to state and region to region—some even vary at the local level. And Texas barbecue is no exception. It’s generally divided into four distinct groups (Central, South, East and West) and each is influenced differently by the state’s rich history, which has origins in Caddo Indian, Spanish, Mexican, African, German and Czech cultures.
The “Texas-style barbecue” you often hear about typically refers to the cuisine from Central Texas, which consists of proteins (seasoned with spices like cayenne pepper and paprika) cooked slowly over low, indirect heat. The only problem is most Texas barbecue dishes are made with beef and other red meats. So, for pescetarians—and those wanting to lower their meat consumption—trying the technique at home can sometimes be a challenge. But with a few key ingredient swaps and some practice, you too can enjoy a taste of the South. Don’t believe us? The recipes listed below have all the smoky, spicy, tender qualities you love about Texas barbecue, presented in a fresh, modern way.
Tomato Herb-Grilled Tilapia
This tomato herb-grilled Tilapia has a Latin influence (something you’ll find in many Texas-style barbecue dishes). Ingredients like cilantro, parsley, tomato, ginger and corn perfectly complement the fish—and the unique mix of fresh herbs, vegetables and heart-healthy Tilapia is guaranteed to please healthy eaters.
Try the recipe: Tomato Herb-Grilled Tilapia from Taste of Home.
Texas-Style Dry BBQ Rub
Sweet and a little spicy, this barbecue rub can be used to season any protein, including fish—just remember to be precise when measuring ingredients (chili powder, brown sugar, ground mustard, cumin and garlic powder) to balance flavor and achieve the right consistency.
Try the recipe: Texas-Style Dry BBQ Rub from Dad with a Plan.
Oven Baked Blackened Tilapia
This simple recipe uses a mix of Texas-style barbecue staples, including paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano and onion powder. Cooked to crispy, smoky perfection in the oven, blackened Tilapia is comparable to typical barbecue meats. Garnish with tartar sauce or chopped onions for an extra dose of southern flavor.
Try the recipe: Oven Baked Blackened Tilapia from 101 Cooking for Two.
Texas Tilapia Fish Tacos
Texas Tilapia fish tacos are loaded with the Tex-Mex flavors that are loved both in Texas and across the West Coast. Cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper, lime juice, cucumber and cilantro come together in a crowd-pleasing dish, ideal for serving at an outdoor gathering.
Try the recipe: Texas Tilapia Fish Tacos from HEB.
Feasting on Texas barbeque is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list—but that doesn’t mean you have to load up on heavy proteins. It can be liberating to think beyond the cuisine’s traditional ingredients to create a new dish. Swapping meats for fish, like Tilapia, is a more creative (and healthier!) way to enjoy quintessential Texas barbecue flavors with a seafood twist.
Looking for another modern take on these classic southern flavors? Try our Barbecue Tilapia Sandwich.