Sizzle, sizzle. It’s time for fajitas! This delectable Tex-Mex dish offers plenty of reasons for the mouth to water. Juicy, marinated meat, flavorful grilled onions and peppers, all wrapped up in a tasty flour tortilla.
National Fajita Day is the perfect time to celebrate this heavenly meal!
History of National Fajita Day
Simple and delicious, fajitas are made from slices of meat that are marinated and then cooked, piled on top of a soft flour tortilla with grilled onions and peppers. From there, many options exist for adding garnishes and toppings. Shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and so much more can go inside that little tortilla filled with Tex-Mex goodness.
The term fajita means “little band” or “little belt”. The meat was probably labeled this way by a butcher who was selling skirt steak and, because this cut is typically rather tough, it was precut into small strips. But the way this little cut of meat made its way into the heart of Tex-Mex cuisine culture has an interesting background story.
Probably created around the late 1930s, fajitas were introduced by vaqueros and Mexican workers on ranches in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. These workers were often paid their wages in meat, sometimes the less wanted parts of the animal. So these workers learned that if they marinated the meat in certain juices, it would become more tender and flavorful, and could easily be eaten on tortillas.
Probably due to convenience, the popularity of fajitas increased in the 1940s. It developed into a sort of backyard, easy to eat, on the go dish that was passed down from one generation to the next.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that fajitas began to make their way into restaurants. One of the first may have been in 1969 when a meat market manager at a grocery store set up a fajita stand at a summer festival. Fajitas gained even more traction in the 1970s and the recipe changed a bit, using finer cuts of meat.
With the launching of On the Border, Chili’s and other chain restaurants in the US that boasted Tex-Mex cuisine, the idea of the sizzling fajita served on a grill platter right at the table became an attractive – and delicious – experience.
National Fajita Day first made its way into culture in 1982, when On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina started using the term in celebration of their signature cuisine. The idea for the day has slowly grown in popularity and
National Fajita Day Timeline
Fajitas are created
When Mexican ranch workers in Texas were paid with poor cuts of meat, they found that marinating it and eating it sliced on a tortilla was delicious.
Sonny Falcon sets up a fajita stand
A meat market manager in Austin, Falcon first sets up a fajita stand at a September festival in Kyle, which will grow into selling them all over the state.
Tex Mex restaurant in Rio Grande Valley serves fajitas
Opened by Ninfa Rodriguez, this restaurant calls her fajitas “tacos al carbon” or “tacos al Ninfa”.
“Sizzling” fajitas make it to the menu
Austin-based, German-born chef, George Weidmann, puts this dish on the menu at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin as a signature dish, significantly improving restaurant sales.
On the Border founds National Fajita Day
On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina began making a name for itself with fajitas as its signature dish, so they decided to found a day to celebrate!
How to Celebrate National Fajita Day
This day is best enjoyed when hungry! National Fajita Day offers plenty of creative ways to observe and celebrate the day. Try out some of these ideas:
Enjoy Eating Fajitas at a Restaurant
Most US-based Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants will offer some version of fajitas on their menu. Typically it’s possible to choose between chicken and steak, although steak is the most traditional and authentic.
Fajitas are usually served on a sizzling grill platter, with a pile of fresh tortillas and a plate of vegetables and other toppings on the side. It’s a dish that tends to take up a lot of space! Some restaurants also offer fajitas for 2, providing enough of everything to feed a couple of people.
Don’t forget to ask if a special discount or deal is available in honor of National Fajita Day! Some US restaurants, such as Chili’s, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, Fajita’s Pete (in Texas), El Mariachi, and many others have a tradition of offering a percentage off, dollar off, or even ways to get free fajitas in celebration of the day.
Make Fajitas at Home
A rather simple dish to enjoy with the family, fajitas are tastiest with a little planning ahead. This is because they need a bit of time for the meat to marinate in the juices and spices to bring out the tenderness and flavor.
Consider some of these other fajita-making tips to get the best out of the experience:
- Make sure the meat is cut into strips before marinating, to give the spicy flavor and juices the opportunity to infiltrate each piece.
- When grilling the meat, don’t overdo it. For the perfect tenderness, aim for rare or medium-rare.
- Use fresh, handmade tortillas. Some people might be intimidated by the idea, but it’s really not that difficult to make them at home. Or, if possible, get them from a local Mexican grocery and then warm them on a griddle before serving.
- Make a toppings bar. Each person can custom-make their own fajita with individual choices like guac, sour cream, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, sliced jalapenos, fresh cilantro, lime juice, sliced avocado and more.
Head Over to the Original Ninfa’s
Perhaps a fun way to spend National Fajita Day would be to pop over to one of the restaurants where fajitas were first served – because it’s still open five decades later! The original restaurant that started serving fajitas in 1973 is still located on Navigation Boulevard in Houston, Texas.
Another restaurant to get into the fajita game early, which might be easier for some people to access, is On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. This restaurant has become a Tex-Mex chain restaurant with more than 130 locations in the US and Korea, and it was founded in 1982 on a recipe for delicious fajitas served with cool margaritas.
Host a National Fajita Day Party
Fajitas are great for parties because it allows everyone to contribute something! Have guests bring one or two items off of a list, from meat to toppings, from chips and salsa to a delicious flan for dessert. Grill the meat, put the toppings out and let everyone fill their own tortilla.
Keep the Tex-Mex theme for the party by inviting guests to dress in a sombrero or cowboy boots. Play some mariachi music to build a festive atmosphere. Perhaps hang up some fun string lights in the shape of red chili peppers –and make sure there’s a pinata that can double as a decoration as well as a fun party game!
National Fajita Day FAQs
Are fajitas healthy?
When made with lean meats that are grilled, fajitas can actually be a fairly healthy meal.
Did fajitas originate in Mexico?
Although they were probably created by Mexican people, they are believed to have started by workers in the US state of Texas.
Do fajitas have cheese?
While they probably were not originally made with cheese, it is now fairly common to put cheese and other toppings on fajitas.
Are fajitas spicy?
Fajitas are Tex-Mex food marinated in some spices, like cumin, chili powder and cayenne, but they are not usually very spicy.
Do fajitas have rice?
Fajitas do not typically contain rice on the inside of the tortilla, but they may be served with rice and beans on the side.