What are Fajitas?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Fajitas are a Tex-Mex dish consisting of marinated, grilled meat served on a flour or corn tortilla. Though originally made of beef, fajitas can now commonly be found made with chicken, fish, shrimp, and pork. Onions and bell peppers are often grilled up with the meat, and traditional Tex-Mex condiments, such as salsa, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole, can be served on the side.

The word fajita is the Spanish diminutive of "belt" or "girdle." Along the Texas-Mexico border, butchers historically used the word to refer to the diaphragm of beef, known as "skirt steak" in the United States. This cut of meat was the centerpiece of the first fajitas, eaten perhaps as early as the 1930s.

Like the soul food of the American South, fajitas arose from a need to make cheap food more palatable. The thin, tough diaphragm is one of the least desirable cuts of meat, and typically all the ranch hands along the Rio Grande of the 1930s and 40s could afford. Fajitas make such good use of the skirt steak that that cut of meat is still the most popular to use in the dish, and some argue that using any other kind of meat is not authentic.


The dish known as fajitas today was called tacos al carbon, after a Mexican dish, in its early incarnations sold at food stands. While tacos al carbon are served ready to eat by hand, with the meat wrapped in a tortilla, many restaurants today serve fajitas with a bit more flair. Sizzling fajitas, brought to the table on a hot iron skillet, were first served in 1982 by Chef George Weidmann of the Hyatt Regency in Austin, Texas. The dish is served with tortillas and condiments on the side, so that the diner can make fajita tacos to his or her taste.


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