Low-Carb and Mexican Cuisine

You Can Still Enjoy Mexican Food While Sticking to Your Eating Plan!

Beef Fajitas
Delicious, naturally low-carb beef fajitas. photo (c) Geri Lavrov

Low-carb diets are a great way to lose some of that extra weight, gain energy, and be healthier in general. When you eat fats and proteins but limit the carbs, your body burns off the fat and protein consumed, as well as extra body fat. Eating low-carb also keeps you feeling fuller longer and you won't feel the usual hunger pangs. Although it may take a few days for your body to get used to it, once it does, you will enjoy this new way of eating.

You may think that Mexican cuisine, with all its tortillas, beans, and rice, is no longer an option when you are low-carbing. Fortunately, however, Mexican food is much more than beans and rice. Here are some great lower-carb recipes that are Mexican, Tex-Mex or inspired by Mexican cuisine, plus some ideas on what to order in your favorite Mexican restaurant.

Naturally Low-Carb Mexican Dishes 

These dishes recipes are already low-carb, and no changes are needed for your special diet. Try one for breakfast, lunch or dinner.




Salads and Dressings


Mexican Recipes Adjusted to Low-Carb

These are some delicious Mexican recipes that include a few ingredients that may be "carby." Listed after each recipe are the substitutions you will need to make to lower the carb count.

  • Quick Tuna Tacos: Replace the corn tortillas with low-carb tortillas.
  • Rompope (eggnog-like drink): Use a sugar substitute such as Splenda instead of the real thing.
  • Agua Fresca: Use strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or other berries for the fruit and use a sugar substitute.
  • Mole Sauce: Eliminate the masa and use xanthan gum to thicken it.


    Low-Carbing at Mexican Restaurants

    Mexican restaurants are all over the place and sooner or later your friends are going to invite you to lunch at one—or your family is going to dinner and everyone wants Mexican food or your office often orders from the little Mexican place around the corner. What do you do?

    First of all, don't worry; you can enjoy a variety of Mexican dishes. Here's what to order and what questions you may need to ask to make sure your order is low-carb:

    • Carne Asada: A big slab of moist and juicy beef is the perfect answer to low-carb. You can't go wrong.

    • Fajitas: These usually come in beef and chicken, but ask about the marinade. Some marinades contain sugar and that may be a no-no according to your eating plan. Ask them to hold the tortillas, beans, rice and add extra onions and peppers.

    • Chiles Rellenos: A chile relleno is a cheese-stuffed hot pepper dipped in egg and fried. You may want to verify that they don't smother it with a carby sauce. You can, however, ask for some cheese to be melt on top. Add some salsa for extra flavor.

    • Chile Verde: A wonderful stew of pork and green chiles. The ingredients should be carb-friendly.

    • Ensalada (Salad): Most ingredients in salads are fine for low-carb. Make sure to hold the carrots, tortilla strips and other carby ingredients and ask them to add some chicken or beef fajitas on top to make it more filling. Question the dressing too. Ranch and cilantro dressings are probably fine, but double check the ingredients on the others.

    • Guacamole and Salsa: These tasty appetizers are naturally low-carb, but watch out for the chips! Ask for a side of celery, cucumber, or jicama slices for your "dippers," or opt for some chicharrones (pork rinds).

    • Gazpacho: This lovely tomato-based cold soup is naturally low-carb and even more satisfying if it happens to be shrimp gazpacho, as the added seafood will keep you full longer.

    • Carnitas: This shredded pork dish is a low-carb favorite. Flavorful and juicy, it can be eaten alone or with a side salad for a well-rounded meal.

    In a pinch, order a taco or a burrito with no beans or rice and heavy on the meat, lettuce and tomato. If you want to, order sour cream, extra sauce or onions. Open it up and eat the insides like a salad. Do not eat the tortilla.

    Edited by Robin Grose