Low-Carb Mexican Food? No Problema!

Your Guide to the Mexican Menu

Conch ceviche
Conch Ceviche. Rick Lew/Taxi/Getty Images

Most of the time the phrase “Mexican food” brings to mind tacos, enchiladas, and tamales, with sides of rice and beans, and chips on the table at all times. If you can get yourself to think beyond these standards, there’s really a world of low-carb Mexican cuisine for you to enjoy. In much of Mexico, grilled meats and seafood take center stage, and the sauces tend to be based on vegetables and fruit, with very little flour or other starch.

When ordering, always ask for no rice or chips. Beans are not very glycemic, and some people can tolerate them better than other sources of carbs. Still, small portions are advised.

Let’s make our way through the menu. Here are some of your “best bets”:


Skip the chips, but keep the guacamole – Not only is it delicious, it has a high nutritional content. Ask if the restaurant has cucumber or jicama slices to dip. If not, save the guacamole to have with your main dish.

Ceviche – Citrus-marinated seafood that varies from area to area, often served with chopped raw vegetables such as bell pepper, onion, and parsley. Be daring and try ceviche – you may get hooked!

Albóndigas Soup – Meatballs and veggies in a broth base. The meatballs usually have some rice in them, so this is probably not for a very low-carb diet phase.

Salads – As an appetizer or side dish, or make it a meal with some carne asada or other protein on top.

Main Dishes

Seafood - Coastal Mexican food often revolves around grilled seafood with light and delicious sauces (salsas). If you seldom cook fish at home, take this opportunity to get a protein source consistently correlated with good health.

Grilled Meats - Carne asada (steak grilled with Mexican spices) or chicken dishes, sometimes served with grilled veggies and always with salsas.

Fajitas - Need I say more? The classic low-carb Mexican dish – widely available. Who needs a tortilla?

Mole - Mole (pronounced moe-lay) sauces vary. Some are sweet, but some are not very carby, consisting of complex mixtures of chilies, spices, seeds, and often chocolate. Most often seen with chicken.

Chili Verde - A spicy stew, usually made with pork.

Tostada Salads - But skip the shell.


Machaca – My favorite Mexican breakfast – Eggs, beef, and veggies sautéed together. Very satisfying.


Margaritas - Some people just can’t imagine having Mexican food without one. Although most are loaded with sugar, some Mexican restaurants have sugar-free ones. Alternatively, a traditional margarita -– tequila, lime juice, and triple sec -- has 8 to 16 grams of carb, depending on the amount of triple sec - but at least doesn't have the extra sugar (from a sweet and sour mix). If you wish, you can ask for it without the triple sec and add your own artificial sweetener (I keep a small bottle of Sweetzfree liquid in my purse).

Beer - Another popular accompaniment to Mexican food. Check out Beer on a Low-Carb Diet.


Tortillas, tacos, taquitos, nachos, burritos, tamales, quesadillas, enchiladas, flautas, and chimichangas - However, the fillings of some of these may be perfectly fine.

Feel free to ask for them separately.