Keto Mexican Food: Low-Carb Guide!

Published June 13, 2019
<article> <section> <p>Whether it’s authentic mole negro from Oaxaca, tangy fish tacos from Veracruz, or good ol’ Tex-Mex burritos, there’s no denying that Mexican food lights up your taste buds! It’s got that craveable balance of spicy, creamy, tangy, and crunchy that ticks every box. </p> <p>But all too often, Mexican food can be loaded with unhealthy carbs. That burrito? It’s half rice! The chicken taco? Smothered in beans. If you’re living a keto lifestyle or just trying to go low-carb, it can feel like Mexican food is off limits, both in restaurants and at home.</p> <p>There’s hope, though! While a lot of Tex-Mex <i>is</i> heavy on the carbs, there are many great keto Mexican food options you can use as restaurant go-tos, plus tons of homemade recipes that will bring the spice to your low-carb life!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Can I Eat at a Mexican Restaurant on a Keto Diet?</header> <p>Eating out is often one of the biggest challenges on keto. Everyone else is enjoying scrumptious restaurant goodies, and you’re stuck with yet another grilled chicken breast.</p> <p>Fortunately, Mexican restaurants are surprisingly keto-friendly! You may have to make a few special requests, but most restaurants are happy to help if you ask.</p> <div class="sub-head">Tips for Low-Carb Eating Out</div> <ul> <li>Check the menu online before you go. Search out low-carb options or meals that can be easily modified to leave out rice, beans, etc. so that you don’t have to worry at the table.</li> <li>Consider eating a small keto-friendly meal before going out to eat with a group. You can then choose low-carb appetizers or snacks to stay low-carb but still be social.</li> </ul> <div class="sub-head">Low-Carb Mexican Restaurant Food</div> <p>At most chain Mexican restaurants, you can customize your food the way you’d like it! This is fantastic on the keto diet as you can ask the server to hold the tortillas, rice, and beans and instead load up on low-carb options.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="fajitas"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Fajitas</div> <ul> <li>Choose steak, chicken, or shrimp fajitas.</li> <li>Ask for extra peppers and onions.</li> <li>Swap the tortillas for a side salad or extra guacamole.</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="carnitas-mexican-food"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Mexican Meats</div> <ul> <li><b>Carne asada</b> is a flavorful marinated and grilled beef that’s very low in carbs. </li> <li><b>Carnitas</b>, a type of marinated, slow-cooked pork dish, is packed with flavor and healthy fat.</li> <li><b>Cochinita pibil</b>, shredded pork marinated in tangy citrus and spices, is a good keto option.</li> <li>Be sure to ask the server to hold the rice, beans, and tortillas.</li> <li>Request a side salad or grilled non-starchy vegetables like peppers and onions.</li> <li>Ask for extra cheese, sour cream, and guacamole to add extra healthy fat to your meal.</li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="burrito-bowl"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Burrito Bowls</div> <ul> <li>Ask for salad greens instead of rice and beans, then load up on marinated chicken or beef as a topping.</li> <li>Some chain Mexican restaurants now offer cauliflower rice―a perfect keto option for building your own burrito bowl.</li> <li>Skip the corn and black bean salsa or any fruit salsas, which are often high in carbs.</li> <li>Ask for extra crema, queso fresco, avocado, and pickled onion to load up on both flavor and healthy fats.</li> </ul> <p><b>Other keto-friendly Mexican food includes:</b></p> <ul> <li>Chili verde (make sure to ask whether it includes white beans or corn/hominy, as some recipes include these carbs)</li> <li>Grilled fish or shrimp</li> <li>Ceviche (a type of tangy marinated seafood dish) </li> <li>Chiles rellenos (cheese-stuffed fried peppers)</li> </ul> <p>If you’re getting appetizers, stick to the guacamole. You can ask for raw peppers to dip!</p> <div class="sub-head">Is Queso Keto-Friendly?</div> <p>Queso is just a delicious cheese dip spiced up with jalapenos, right? Totally keto-friendly!</p> <p>Well, maybe not. Many restaurant varieties use flour to thicken the sauce to a dippable consistency. If you’re trying to stick to a strict keto diet, this may be a cheat you don’t want to make. Tell your server that you have a gluten sensitivity and need to check whether their queso is thickened with flour.</p> <p>If it’s not, go ahead and enjoy! Queso is super-tasty poured over your low-carb chicken burrito bowl or fajitas.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What to Look Out For</header> <p>Although there’s lots you can enjoy at a Mexican restaurant when staying low-carb, there are some hidden traps, too. Carbs can sneak into the most unexpected places!</p> <div class="sub-head">Breading</div> <ul> <li>Ask whether the fish or chicken is breaded or fried and request grilled protein whenever possible.</li> <li>If only breaded options are available, ask for sauce on the side and take the breading off yourself to reduce the carbs.</li> </ul> <div class="sub-head">Sneaky Sauces</div> <ul> <li>Stick to fresh <b>pico de gallo</b>, made with nutritious tomatoes, onions, and herbs. </li> <li>Try <b>mole verde</b>, a vibrant green sauce made with herbs, jalapenos, and pumpkin seeds, often served on chicken or fish. But avoid the enchiladas verde due to their starchy tortillas.</li> <li><b>Mole negro</b>, a rich sauce made with dark chocolate, chiles, nuts, and raisins, has some carbs from dried fruit but can be a good option in moderation.</li> <li>Steer clear of fruit salsas like mango-habanero or pineapple.</li> <li>Be wary of non-keto-friendly ingredients like corn or black beans that are often included in salsa. Be sure to ask what kind of sauce comes with your dish! </li> </ul> <div class="sub-head">Soup and Salad</div> <ul> <li>Ask whether salads are topped with tortilla strips, and if so, ask for them to be left off.</li> <li>Check to see if soups or stews have been thickened with masa, a type of fine cornmeal. If not, enjoy!</li> <li>Chilis and soups often include corn or beans. Ask whether the dish you’re considering contains corn, beans, or hominy, a type of soaked corn kernel.</li> </ul> <p>Lots of Mexican food relies on corn, beans, and rice. These will usually be listed on the menu descriptions, but if you’re in doubt, talk to your server and mention that you’re on a low-carb diet and need to avoid starchy foods. Most will be glad to steer you in the right direction!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Low-Carb Mexican Food at Home</header> <p>Mexican food is a great option for flavorful, fast dinners. Best of all, when you’re cooking for yourself, you can be sure you’re sticking to low-carb recipes!</p> <p>Many Mexican recipes are easy to update for keto—just ditch the tortillas, rice, and beans in favor of low-carb options. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="lettuce-wrap-tacos"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Low-Carb Tortilla Options</div> <p>Instead of flour or corn tortillas, wrap your taco filling in large lettuce leaves. You can also dunk large cabbage leaves in boiling water for thirty seconds to soften them, then pat dry and use to wrap your spicy beef or chicken filling, cheese, and more.</p> <p>There are zillions of great recipes for low-carb tortillas available, too. Depending on your taste preferences, you can make keto tortillas out of cauliflower rice, fathead dough, pork rinds, or even just by toasting shredded cheese!</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="cauliflower-tortillas"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Cauliflower Rice Tortillas</div> <ul> <li>2 cups cauliflower rice, squeezed dry</li> <li>1 egg, beaten</li> <li>½ cup shredded Mexican cheese blend</li> <li>½ teaspoon salt</li> <li>½ teaspoon dried oregano</li> <li>½ teaspoon garlic powder</li> <li>¼ teaspoon chili powder (optional)</li> </ul> <div class="sub-head">Instructions:</div> <ol> <li>Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.</li> <li>In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well.</li> <li>Spread about ¼ cup of the cauliflower rice mixture into a fairly thin 6-inch circle on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture, being sure to leave room between each.</li> <li>Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool for 1 to 2 minutes before removing from the baking sheet and filling with your protein and toppings of choice.</li> </ol> <div class="sub-head">Fathead Dough Tortillas</div> <p>Use your <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">favorite fathead dough recipe</a> to make tortillas! Instead of shaping the dough into a bagel, bun, or other bread shape, press it out into thin circles and bake as directed, cutting the baking time by about half to compensate for the thinner size.</p> <div class="sub-head">Pork Rind Tortillas</div> <p>Pork rinds make a fantastic replacement for the corn in traditional tortillas! Try this easy recipe for your next taco night.</p> <ul> <li>1 (4-ounce) bag pork rinds</li> <li>1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened</li> <li>4 eggs</li> <li>4 tablespoons golden flax meal</li> <li>½ cup water</li> <li>1 tablespoon garlic powder</li> <li>1 tablespoon ground cumin</li> <li>¼ teaspoon chili powder (optional)</li> <li>Vegetable oil for cooking</li> </ul> <div class="sub-head">Instructions:</div> <ol> <li>Use a food processor to grind the pork rinds into a flour-like consistency, processing for about 10 seconds. Alternatively, you can use a rolling pin or wine bottle to crush the pork rinds inside a zip-top bag, making sure to pulverize them finely. </li> <li>Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse for about 45 more seconds to create a smooth batter. If mixing by hand, add all ingredients to a large bowl and beat well to combine.</li> <li>Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little oil and swirl to coat. </li> <li>Pour about ⅓ cup of batter into the pan and swirl to create a very thin, crepe-like circle. Cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. The edges should be just beginning to curl and turn darker brown.</li> <li>Flip and cook for another 1 minute.</li> <li>Repeat with the remaining batter.</li> <li>Fill with carnitas, grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, or any other keto-friendly fillings of your choice! Top with shredded lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese for a low-carb taco treat.</li> </ol> <div class="sub-head">Cheese Taco Shells</div> <p>What’s better than a heaping helping of cheese on your taco? A taco shell that’s made out of cheese, of course! If you’re craving hard tacos but staying low-carb, you can’t go wrong with <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">crispy cheese taco shells</a>. Best of all, they’re quick and easy to make at home. Recipe <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">here</a>! </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="cauliflower-rice"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Rice</div> <p>A very simple low-carb Mexican food swap is to replace starchy rice with healthy cauliflower rice! Just steam or saute the cauliflower rice as you would normally, and use it as the base for a burrito bowl or to fill a tasty low-carb tortilla.</p> <div class="sub-head">Beans</div> <p>Missing the hearty texture beans can add to Mexican food? Try soaking roasted peanuts in water for thirty minutes, then drain, pat dry, and use to top your taco salad or burrito. </p> <p>Soaking makes the peanuts softer and makes their flavor a little milder. You get all of the firm-but-creamy texture of black beans with fewer carbs and more healthy fats!</p> <p>This is best used as a topping to add a little texture rather than as the base for a burrito, though, as you’ll still get some peanut flavor.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Keto Mexican Recipes </header> <p>Beyond the low-carb tortilla recipes above, there are many other keto-friendly Mexican foods you can make at home! </p> <div class="sub-head">Keto Quesadillas</div> <p>Make an easy quesadilla by sandwiching the fillings of your choice, like sautéed peppers, grilled chicken, and cheese between two of the low-carb tortilla options above. Toast in a large skillet over medium heat for about two minutes per side or until the cheese melts, then enjoy!</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="keto-breakfast-burrito"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Breakfast Burrito</div> <p>Low-carb tortillas make great wrappers for breakfast burritos. Just stuff with scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced avocado, diced onion, and tomato, then sprinkle with garlic powder and chili powder for a little extra kick.</p> <div class="sub-head">Easy Guacamole</div> <p>Guacamole is one of the simplest Mexican treats to prepare! And it’s incredibly keto-friendly.</p> <ul> <li>1 large, ripe avocado</li> <li>½ small red onion, diced</li> <li>1 tablespoon lemon juice</li> <li>½ teaspoon garlic powder</li> <li>½ teaspoon ground cumin</li> <li>½ teaspoon chili powder</li> <li>Salt to taste</li> </ul> <div class="sub-head">Instructions:</div> <ol> <li>Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mash together with a fork until well combined. You can either mash well until creamy or leave some chunks in for a different texture. </li> <li>Adjust the seasonings to taste and enjoy!</li> </ol> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Chipotle Lime Turkey Wraps</a></div> <p>Spicy chipotle and tangy lime are an irresistible combo. For a tasty Mexican twist on a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">turkey burger</a>, skip shaping the meat mixture into patties and instead simply sauté in a skillet over medium-high heat until fully cooked. Stuff the chipotle-lime turkey mixture into lettuce wraps, and enjoy your low-carb taco feast!</p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">30-Minute Keto Chili</a></div> <p>Chili is always a crowd-pleaser, and this quick and easy Tex-Mex recipe makes a great weeknight dinner. <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Bone broth</a> and avocado oil pack it full of nutrition. And you can up the ante even further by topping it with a dollop of sour cream and some guacamole for extra ketosis-supporting healthy fats!</p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Slow Cooker Chicken Fajita Soup</a></div> <p>The slow cooker is your best friend for making dinner a breeze. This comforting Mexican twist on chicken soup ditches the typical tortilla strips in favor of loading on more flavor through plenty of veggies and spices.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="burrito-bowl-ingredients"> </picture> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Low-Carb Chicken Burrito Bowls</a></div> <p>Chicken, cheese, Greek yogurt, avocado—these easy low-carb burrito bowls are packed full of good-for-you ingredients that will fill you up while boosting your metabolism.</p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Ground Bison Taco Salad</a></div> Full of flavor and nutrients, bison may seem exotic, but it makes a fantastic addition to your keto kitchen. Think of it like beef with even more meaty <i>oomph</i>. It really takes this simple taco salad to the next level. <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Keto Taco Bites</a></div> <p>These tiny taco treats are a perfect appetizer for your next party! Low-carb and loaded with flavor, you won’t be able to resist going back for seconds…or thirds!</p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Chipotle Beef Bowls</a></div> <p>Smoky, spicy chipotle lends a tasty Mexican twist to nearly any meal. These easy beef bowls can be prepped ahead of time and taken for lunch during the week or enjoyed as a fast and filling dinner.</p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Keto Taco Breakfast Skillet</a></div> <p>Start your day right with a low-carb, satisfying Mexican taco breakfast skillet. Hearty and savory, it serves a crowd without a lot of extra work. Give it a try for your next brunch! </p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Fish Taco Bowls</a></div> <p>The tangy lime marinade and creamy chipotle sauce combine to make a taste sensation out of this heart-healthy Mexican bowl option.</p> <div class="sub-head"><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Meal Prep Chicken Burrito Bowls</a></div> <p>Take the hassle out of lunch for the week by spending just an hour prepping these spicy, satisfying chicken burrito bowls.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Wrapping It Up</header> <p> <p>There are lots of scrumptious Mexican food options you can enjoy while still living your best keto life. Arm yourself with an arsenal of Mexican seasonings like cumin, chili powder, oregano, and chipotle. Prep some proteins like shrimp, chicken, or steak. Then stock up on avocados and cauliflower rice. In no time, you’ll be whipping up low-carb fajitas, tasty burrito bowls, and finger-licking tacos fit for any fiesta!</p> </section> </article>

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