Best Low-Carb Mexican Food Choices When Dining Out

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 think beyond these standards, there’s 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.


The type of Mexican restaurant you visit may determine the type of selections offered on the breakfast menu. Quick-serve restaurants are more likely to provide burritos and other foods that are easy to carry, while sit-down restaurants may provide a greater variety.


This satisfying Mexican breakfast includes eggs, beef, and veggies sautéed together. Carbohydrates in the dish vary based on serving size and preparation method. However, you can expect to consume about 140 calories per one-cup serving. About 5% to 6% of those calories are carbs. Your total count will be only two grams of carbs per serving.

Breakfast Burrito

If you can order a breakfast burrito as a bowl (no tortilla) and skip the beans, you should be able to keep this on your list of go-to low carb options. The flour tortilla will drive the carb count up. In general, stick to burritos that include eggs, meat, and cheese and avoid those that include beans.

A typical breakfast burrito may vary (based on size) between 200 and 600 calories and 25 and 60 grams of carbohydrate, mostly starch. Keep in mind that a large flour tortilla may contain more than 60 grams of carbohydrate, so if you avoid the tortilla, you have a much lower-carb version.


The most popular appetizers at many Mexican restaurants are often starchy, fried foods, like tortilla chips. As you may guess, foods like these are not going to help you stick to a low-carb eating plan. But if you scan the menu and ask your server for modifications, there are other options.


Not only is it delicious, but guacamole is also nutritious. Ask if the restaurant has cucumber or jicama slices to dip, instead of chips. If not, save the guacamole to have with your main dish.

A typical two-tablespoon serving of guacamole contains about 35 calories, but only three grams of carbohydrate. Most of the calories in this popular dip come from healthy fat.


This citrus-marinated seafood is often served with chopped raw vegetables such as bell pepper, onion, and parsley. The dish is packed with protein and other nutrients. A single serving (three ounces) is likely to provide about 140 calories, with three grams of carbohydrate.

Albóndigas Soup

This soup has meatballs and veggies in a broth base. The meatballs usually have some rice in them, so this is probably not best if you are in a very low-carb diet phase.

If you order this soup, ask how it is prepared as it will greatly impact the nutritional breakdown. If the meatballs are made with rice, ask if you can get yours with grilled chicken or steak instead.


Salads are almost always a smart choice if you follow a low-carb diet. Enjoy as an appetizer or side dish, or make it a meal with some carne asada or other protein on top. Just be sure to remove any fried, starchy, or crispy toppings.

Main Dishes

Entrees choices will vary substantially based on the type of restaurant you visit. A traditional Mexican restaurant is likely to offer more low-carb choices than a popular Tex-Mex restaurant.

When ordering, avoid platters or ask for substitutions. Always ask to hold the rice or chips. Beans are lower on the glycemic index (they are less likely to produce a blood-sugar spike). Some people can tolerate them better than other sources of carbs. Still, you may want to keep the portions small.


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. Carb counts will vary based on the preparation method, but in general, a piece of grilled white fish (such as tilapia) provides zero grams of carbohydrate.

Grilled Meats

Try carne asada (steak grilled with Mexican spices) or chicken dishes, sometimes served with grilled veggies and salsas. Again, carb counts vary based on the dish, but most meat and poultry contain zero carbohydrates. However, be mindful of any sauces that might be added.

For example, mole (pronounced moe-lay) sauces vary. Some are sweet and may be high in carbs, but some are not very high in carbohydrates, consisting of complex mixtures of chilies, spices, seeds, and often chocolate. Ask your server about details regarding any sauces and ask for the sauce on the side if necessary.


This classic low-carb Mexican dish is widely available and perfect for you if you want to enjoy a low-carb Mexican meal. You just have to skip the tortilla.

In some restaurants, your server may be willing to throw in extra vegetables if you ask for no tortillas. Then your total carb count will depend on the vegetables you consume. As a reference, a whole red bell pepper provides about seven grams of carbs.

Chili Verde

This is a spicy stew, usually made with pork. Some versions of this stew may be low-carb friendly. But others—such as those made with beans—will be too high in carbs. Unfortunately, it is not likely that you can ask for substitutions on this menu item, so order cautiously.


It's not just Mexican food that can raise your daily carb total. Traditional drinks at Mexican restaurants can be tricky as well.


Some people just can’t imagine having Mexican food without a margarita. Although most are loaded with sugar, some Mexican restaurants have sugar-free versions.

A traditional margarita made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec has up to 36 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the amount of triple sec. But at least it doesn't have the extra sugar from a sweet and sour mix. If you wish, you can ask for your margarita without the triple sec and add artificial sweetener (keep a small bottle of Sweetzfree liquid handy).


It's a popular accompaniment to Mexican food, but beer carbs vary and you'll have to choose wisely. Low carb beer choices include Amstel Light (5 grams carbs) and Budweiser Select (less than 2 grams carbohydrate).


While you can make low-carb versions of many of your favorite desserts at home, the offerings at restaurants tend to be higher in carbs. Popular Mexican sweets are often fried and covered in sugar. For example, churros provide 12 grams of carbohydrate each.

Tres Leches

This popular creamy white cake is sweet—and as you might imagine—quite high in carbohydrate. You are likely to consume at least 26 grams of carbohydrate in a single serving.


Flan looks like it might be lower in carbs, because it doesn't have the starchy quality of a cake or cookie. But there is a lot of sugar used in the preparation of this caramel-y dish. You'll boost your carb intake by at least 32 grams if you eat a four-ounce serving. If you are craving a sweet treat after dinner, grab a spoonful of your dining mate's selection to keep your low-carb diet on track.

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By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.