When following a low carb or keto diet, Mexican restaurants may seem off limits due to the prevalence of tortillas, rice, beans, and other high carb ingredients. However, with some simple substitutions, you can enjoy delicious low carb Mexican food. Here are some of the best options to order at Mexican restaurants while sticking to your low carb goals:
Focusing on protein-centric dishes without the tortillas or rice is a great way to cut the carbs. Some good options include:
- Grilled chicken or steak with vegetables
- Fajita meat with sautéed peppers and onions
- Chicken or steak soft tacos in lettuce wraps instead of tortillas
- Carnitas or barbacoa
- Carne asada
- Chicken, beef, or shrimp fajitas with guacamole and pico de gallo
Be sure to request any sauces or salsas on the side as they may contain added sugars. Stick to tomato, tomatillo, or chili based salsas which have fewer carbs than creamy sauces.
Seafood is naturally low in carbs, making it another excellent choice. Options like grilled fish, shrimp, or ceviche make tasty low carb entrees. Some specific dishes to consider include:
- Grilled fish tacos in lettuce wraps
- Shrimp fajitas
- Shrimp sautéed in garlic
- Grilled shrimp skewers
- Ceviche with cucumber slices instead of tostadas
- Seafood soup
Ordering a salad without croutons or tortilla strips is an easy way to cut carbs. Top your salad with a piece of grilled chicken or steak for a satisfying low carb meal. Some good salad options include:
- Taco salad with ground beef, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cheese
- Chicken caesar salad
- Chicken avocado salad
- Fajita salad with grilled chicken or steak and sautéed peppers and onions
For the dressing, stick to oil and vinegar or ask for it on the side to control how much you use.
While Mexican rice, beans, and tortillas are off limits, you can still enjoy some tasty low carb sides. Options like:
- Pico de gallo
- Cheese dip
- Egg/breakfast sides like eggs, bacon, chorizo
- Sauteed veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini
can help round out your meal.
What to Drink
Avoid sweetened drinks like horchata and margaritas. Stick to unsweetened beverages like:
- Sparkling water with lime
- Unsweetened iced tea
If you want an alcoholic beverage, dry red or white wines are decent low carb options. Tequila on the rocks with lime is also a good choice.
While traditional Mexican desserts like churros and flan are high in carbs and sugar, there are some lower carb options you can enjoy in moderation:
- Fresh fruit like berries without added sugars
- 90% dark chocolate
- Chia pudding made with coconut or almond milk
- Nuts like pecans, almonds, or macadamia nuts
Tips for Ordering
Here are some tips to make ordering low carb dishes easier:
- Avoid combination plates or meals that automatically come with rice, beans, and tortillas
- Order fajita vegetables instead of rice and beans
- Request lettuce wrap tortillas instead of regular tortillas
- Ask for sauces and dressing on the side
- Substitute more low carb sides for high carb sides included in a dish
- Don’t be afraid to make special requests like leaving off tortilla strips on salads or subbing vegetables instead of rice
Lower Carb Mexican Cuisine Options
If you’re craving Mexican food, there are many lower carb options so you don’t need to avoid it altogether. Focus on dishes centered around meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese, guacamole, and salsa. Avoid anything deep-fried or covered in heavy, creamy sauces which add extra carbs and fat. With some simple substitutions and smart menu choices, you can create satisfying Mexican meals that align with a low carb lifestyle.
Sample Lower Carb Mexican Meal
Here is an example of a delicious low carb Mexican meal you could order at a restaurant:
- Appetizer: Guacamole and casa with jicama sticks instead of chips
- Entree: Carne asada with sautéed onions and peppers
- Side: Shredded lettuce salad with salsa dressing
- Drink: Sparkling water with lime
This meal skips the rice, beans, and tortillas but still offers classic Mexican flavors and filling portions to leave you satisfied without spiking your blood sugar.
Low Carb Mexican Foods to Avoid
To keep your carbs in check, here are some high carb Mexican foods it’s best avoid:
- Tortillas – flour or corn
- Beans – refried, black, pinto
While delicious, these traditional Mexican foods are very high in carbohydrates and not suitable for a low carb diet. By avoiding them and opting for the lower carb alternatives discussed earlier, you can still construct satisfying Mexican style meals.
Low Carb Tips for Dining Out
Following a low carb diet while dining out at Mexican restaurants is very possible by making these adjustments:
- Hold the rice, beans, tortillas, and chips
- Order meat, seafood, egg, and vegetable-based dishes
- Enjoy guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, cheese dips for appetizers
- Request lettuce wrapped tacos and burgers instead of tortillas
- Ask for extra vegetables instead of rice or beans as sides
- Avoid anything fried, creamy sauces, sweet drinks
- Stick to grilled proteins seasoned simply with spices, herbs, and lime
With some simple substitutions and smart menu selections, you can eat at Mexican restaurants and still stick to your low carb diet.
Common Questions about Low Carb Eating at Mexican Restaurants
What kind of meat should I order?
Stick to fattier cuts like brisket, skirt steak (fajitas), short ribs, or pork belly (carnitas) as they will be more satisfying. Avoid super lean chicken breast.
What about cheese and sour cream?
While higher in fat, cheese and sour cream in moderation are fine since they have minimal carbs. Just beware of creamy sauces which can have added sugars.
Should I avoid salsa?
Fresh salsas are usually low carb and fine to enjoy. Just watch added sugars in jarred varieties.
Is guacamole allowed?
Definitely! Guacamole is a tasty low carb option at Mexican restaurants.
What drinks can I order?
Water, unsweetened tea, coffee, and dry wines are good low carb beverage choices.
Sample Low Carb Mexican Restaurant Orders
Here are some ideas for low carb orders to put together a delicious Mexican meal:
- Chicken avocado salad with lime dressing
- Fajita steak soft taco bowl with lettuce, pico, guacamole, and cheese
- Carnitas lettuce wraps with guacamole
- Shrimp and veggie fajitas plate with extra sautéed onions and peppers instead of rice and beans
- Grilled fish tacos on lettuce leaves with pico and guacamole
- Carne asada steak with chimichurri sauce and grilled veggies
As you can see there are many possibilities to create varied, delicious low carb meals at Mexican restaurants.
Lower Carb Side Dish Swaps
When ordering a Mexican entree, consider substituting these lower carb options instead of rice and beans:
|High Carb Side||Lower Carb Swap|
|Rice||Cauliflower rice, zucchini sticks, sautéed mushrooms, side salad|
|Beans||Extra meat, roasted vegetables, sliced avocado|
|Tortillas||Lettuce leaves, low carb tortillas, extra veggies instead of tortillas|
Using these substitutions can help reduce the carb count substantially while still enjoying your favorite Mexican dishes.
Mexican cuisine may seem tricky to navigate on a low carb diet given the reliance on foods like tortillas, rice, and beans. However, with some simple modifications like skipping the carby sides and ordering meat, seafood, or veggie-based entrees, you can enjoy delicious low carb meals. Focus on protein, veggies, guacamole, salsa and watch your portions of cheese, sour cream, and nuts. Drink plenty of water and avoid sweetened drinks. If dining with others, don’t be shy about special ordering to make a dish more low carb friendly. With the right choices, you can still get festive Mexican flavor on a low carb diet.