Mmm… Mexican food. A cooking style that incorporates the earthy and spicy flavors from south of the border. It’s a favorite among many, but can Mexican food fit into a low carb diet plan?
When you think of Mexican food, you probably think of a broad range of popular dishes; from tacos, to enchiladas, to burritos, and beyond. Of course, you’ll probably also be imagining a fresh plate of nachos on the table, along with salsa and guacamole, and don’t forget a frosty Margarita, too!
Whether you’re cooking Mexican food at home or dining out, you can still enjoy your favorite dishes (and beverages), as long as you make a few slight tweaks and adjustments. Or dare to think outside the box, beyond these staples, and you’ll discover a whole new world of low-carb Mexican cuisine you can enjoy on a low carb diet.
There are many great, low carb selections on the typical Mexican menu. Did you know in most parts of Mexico and coastal regions, grilled meats and seafood take center stage? Sauces and chilies tend to be vegetable-based, and made with very little flour or starch. This is great news for the low carb dieter!
When you’re dining out at your favorite restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask your waiter or waitress to send special requests to the kitchen. Most chefs don’t mind making a few omissions or slight adjustments to meal preparations in order to accommodate diners with diet restrictions. In this article, you’ll learn which ingredients to avoid and how to ensure your meal is made with the proper low carb substitutions.
Also included in this article, a delicious, keto-friendly recipe you can make at home: Cheesy Mexican Taco Casserole. This low carb dish won’t have you feeling tired or bloated. A Mexican food fiesta without the need for a siesta! Taco ‘bout a recipe for success!
So, why not spice up your family’s meal plan with Mexican Mondays or Friday Fiestas! Turn on some salsa music, shake those maracas, and get ready to enjoy the experience of being down South, right from the comforts of home.
What Can I Eat at a Mexican Restaurant while following the Keto Diet?
Let’s take a look at some of your best low carb picks on a typical Mexican menu.
- Guacamole: Not only is it smooth and flavorful, guacamole has a high nutrient content. Skip or limit tortilla chips. Ask if the restaurant has veggies, like cucumber and bell pepper slices to dip. If a veggie tray isn’t available, save your guacamole to enjoy as a condiment with your main dish.
- Ceviche: This citrus-marinated seafood varies from area to area and is often served with chopped raw vegetables such as red bell pepper, onion, and parsley.
- Albóndigas Soup: This soup has meatballs and veggies in a broth base.
- Salads: Enjoy as an appetizer or side dish, or make it a meal with some carne asada or other protein on top.
- Salsas (as long as they aren’t sweet).
- Seafood: Coastal Mexican food often revolves around grilled seafood with light, tangy salsas. If you enjoy fish and seafood, take this opportunity to get a healthy dose of protein and omegas.
- Grilled Meat: Try carne asada (steak grilled with Mexican spices)
- Chicken dishes: Often served with grilled veggies and salsas.
- Fajitas: This classic low-carb Mexican dish is low carb if you skip the tortilla.
- Chili Verde: This is a spicy pork stew.
- Tostada Salads: You can enjoy these, but pass on the shell.
- Mole: Mole sauces are usually served with chicken. These sauces vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some may be sweet and higher in carbs, while others may not. Mole is made with a combination of spices, seeds, and sometimes chocolate. (If you’re unsure how the sauce is prepared, always ask your waiter or waitress.)
Traditional Low Carb Mexican Beverage Choices
Low Carb Margaritas. If you love margaritas as much as I do and you just can’t have Mexican food without a one, ask your waiter or waitress to have one specially made for you. If the restaurant uses a ready-made margarita mix, you should pass on it altogether as those are normally loaded with sugar.
Have the bartender blend a 1 ounce shot of Tequila (only 69 calories and 0 carbs) with ice and lime juice. Make sure to skip the triple sec. The tequila and lime juice is low carb – but those syrupy orange spirits are where the carb monster hides. So, garnish your glass with a slice of orange instead.
If you simply must have your margarita sweet, restaurants usually have packets of sugar substitute or sweetener handy. Just add a packet or two to taste or have the bartender rim the glass with sugar-free sweetener instead of salt.
Low Carb Lime Mojito. Made in a shaker, with white rum, muddled mint sprigs and lime. White rum is carb-free. Simply ask the bartender to use a packet or two of sweetener instead of sugar.
Agua/Rosa de Jamaica (Hibiscus tea). An herbal tea made as an infusion from crimson or deep magenta-colored calyces (sepals) of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. It is consumed both hot and cold. It has a tart, cranberry-like flavor. It contains only 7 grams of carbs per 100 gram serving and boasts a number of health benefits.
High Carb Mexican Beverages to Avoid:
Sangrita is a traditional Mexican drink served as a chaser to high-end tequilas. This drink varies, but often contains tomato juice, orange juice, clamato, grapefruit, grenadine, sugar, cucumber, and even cut-up vegetables.
Chamoyada is a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice, or raspado or Mango sorbet, prepared with chamoy and sweetened with mangoes or apricots.
Chicha is a fermented (alcoholic) or non-fermented beverage usually derived from grains, maize, or fruit.
High Carb Mexican Dishes to Avoid
- Dishes Containing Rice. Some dishes contain rice in them, so avoid these or ask if it’s possible for them to be made without rice.
Most of the fillings of the above dishes are perfectly fine to enjoy on a low carb lifestyle. It’s the restaurant-style tortilla that packs a high carb punch. Feel free to order these dishes served with a side salad, instead of the tortilla.
High Carb Side Dishes to Avoid
- Nacho Chips
- Most Tortillas
- Corn and Beans are also high on the glycaemic index. You should keep the portions small, as they are high-carb vegetables/legumes.
If you’re cooking Mexican food at home, there are several great brands of low carb tortillas on the market today. You can also make your own low carb tortillas with the recipe included in my article, Low Carb Tortillas and Meal Ideas to Spice Up Your Life, also available on the Low Carb Hack blog.
There you can also find out which store bought tortillas are the best low carb option and learn how to make healthy, low carb Mexican side dishes; like homemade nacho chips (using low carb tortilas) and spicy Mexican cauliflower rice!
Cheesy, Low Carb Mexican Taco Casserole (One Pot Recipe)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 package taco seasoning
- 4 cups prepared Mexican cauliflower rice – (See my article, Low Carb Tortillas and Meal Ideas to Spice up Your Life for the recipe.)
- 6 ounces cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 Tablespoons sour cream
- 1/2 cup salsa
- Sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt to taste
- Black pepper freshly ground, to taste
- 2 tablespoons green onion diced
- 1 small tomato, diced
- 1 small sweet onion
- Brown ground beef in frying pan, add onion. Once cooked, drain and return to stove top. Stir in taco seasonings and cook on medium heat for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in Salsa and cook until heated through.
- Serve over Mexican seasoned cauliflower rice.
- Top with diced tomato, green onion, cheddar cheese and a dollop or two of sour cream.
- Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
*Makes 4 servings.
Low Carb Tip:
Crumble up 3 nacho chips and sprinkle the crumbs on top of your casserole. This is a great way to achieve that taco taste and crunch, while limiting your carbs. This trick adds only 4 grams of carbs to your whole casserole and only 1 gram to each serving. Try sprinkling them to your taco salads, too!