Mexican Food on the Keto Diet/Lifestyle

Updated Dec 19th, 2019 – Written by Craig Clarke

One of the most rewarding food journeys starts when we skip the tortillas, rice, and beans and dive deeper into the rich world of keto-friendly Mexican cuisine. From the Americanized versions of Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, and New Mexico-style to authentic metropolitan and coastal Mexican cuisines,  you will find plenty of dishes that are full of flavor and low in carbs.

However, it is crucial to be aware of what to eat and avoid before you try to satisfy your craving for these rich and fulfilling flavors. This is why we decided to create a comprehensive guide to eating keto Mexican food. In it, you’ll find:


3 Essential Rules for Eating Mexican and Staying in Ketosis

3 Essential Rules for Eating Mexican and Staying in Ketosis

There’s much more to Mexican cuisine than tortillas, beans, and rice, which is good news for those of us adopting a keto lifestyle. Here are some simple rules to follow so you can eat out while staying in ketosis:

1. Look for Keto-Friendly Mexican Ingredients You Can Rely On

Though the menu will vary at each restaurant, there are some keto-friendly Mexican options you are likely to find, even at the most authentic and unique spots. Follow these simple guidelines:

  • Stick to simple meat or seafood-based dishes. Anything grilled or cooked on a skillet are typically the most keto-friendly. Just ask them to hold the beans (frijoles), rice (arroz), corn (maize), and tortillas.
  • Add flavor with salsa fresca (also known as pico de gallo or salsa cruda), guacamole, sour cream, chimichurri, and/or shredded cheese.
  • Double-check the ingredients in salsas, moles, and queso. Though many of these sauces are keto-friendly, they may feature high-sugar fruits (e.g., mango salsa and mole blanco) or carb-dense flour.
  • If you need a chip replacement, bring your own pork rinds or ask for chicharrones. For a vegetable option, try low-carb vegetables like celery, cucumbers, radishes, jicama, and romaine lettuce spears.
  • Ask your waiter if you can substitute extra vegetables for rice, beans, and tortillas. Most restaurants have a vegetable medley, zucchini, or mushrooms that go well with most meat dishes. You can also ask for a simple side salad.
  • Stick with simple drinks you already know are keto-friendly. Or, if you want to try something new, check out the drinks listed in the next section.

2. Know What to Avoid

It’s pretty easy to spot carbs when you know where to look, especially in Mexican dishes. In general, most of the carbs will come from beans (frijoles), rice (arroz), corn (maize), and tortillas, and these will be easy to spot on the menu.

Other carb-dense items to look out for:

  • Tamales, empanadas, or pupusas
  • Quesadillas
  • Enchiladas
  • Picadillos
  • Fruity drinks
  • Sweet dressings
  • Plantains (plátanos verdes)
  • Bananas (plátanos maduros)
  • Yucca
  • Fruit-based salsa
  • Fruit juice
  • Horchatas
  • Aquas Frescas
  • Most desserts and special cocktails

3. Plan Ahead

There are plenty of keto Mexican menu items, recipes, and on-the-go options that are easy to miss. By taking some extra time to do research, you can discover a wealth of flavors that you simply won’t find with any other cuisine.

To help you stay in ketosis without missing out on your favorite Mexican-inspired flavors, we’ve included an extensive list of menu options, plenty of on-the-go tips, and a roundup of keto Mexican recipes below.


Best Keto Options at a Mexican Restaurant: Appetizers, Entrees, Sides, and Drinks

In this section, we’ll explore several keto Mexican menu items as well as ordering recommendations and tips. Let’s begin our journey through the menu with some common low carb Mexican appetizers.

Low-carb Mexican Appetizer Options:

  • Bacon-wrapped shrimp. Make sure they aren’t breaded or encrusted with flour. Dip in sour cream or fresh salsa instead of any sweet sauce that may accompany the shrimp.
  • Ceviche. This is a great keto option if you like fresh seafood. It may come with mango or some other tropical fruit, so either ask for no fruit or take it out yourself. Sliced or cubed avocado would also go well with this if you want to fit more fat and fiber into your meal.
  • Chorizo. This is a spicy fresh sausage (typically made from pork) that you may find as an appetizer or part of a meal. It is so flavorful that you’ll be satisfied by just having it on its own. You can also add it to any meat dish for some extra fat, protein, and spice.
  • Jalapeño poppers. Avoid these if they are breaded or fried. They will only keto-friendly if baked (without breading) or grilled after being stuffed with cheese, spices, and/or bacon.
  • Queso with pork rinds, chicharrones, or low carb vegetables for dipping. Double-check to make sure they don’t use flour to thicken up their queso. Ask if they can provide chicharrones, celery, cucumber, radishes, or jicama for dipping. Feel free to bring your own pork rinds as well.
  • Guacamole with pork rinds, chicharrones, or low carb vegetables for dipping.
  • Loaded nachos, keto-style. Order nachos without the rice, beans, corn, and chips. Either eat it with a spoon or use pork rinds, chicharrones, or low carb vegetables as a chip replacement. Ask for extra cheese and sour cream for more fat or extra meat if you want more protein.
  • Grilled meat appetizers. Look for grilled chicken wings, chorizo, shrimp, or steak on the appetizer menu. Avoid any sweet dipping sauces and stick with fresh salsa or hot sauce for some extra flavor.
  • Keto-friendly chips with salsa. Store-bought pork rinds, chicharrones, celery, cucumber, radishes, jicama, and romaine lettuce spears all can serve as healthy, keto-friendly tortilla chip substitutes.

Keto-Friendly Mexican Entrees:

  • Keto-style fajitas. Proper fajitas will come to your table sizzling hot after being seared in a skillet, accompanied by an assortment of low-carb vegetables. Just ask them to replace the rice, beans, and tortillas with lettuce wraps, extra cheese, fresh salsa, and more sour cream.
  • Enchiladas Verdes without the tortilla. These enchiladas are filled with spiced chicken and covered with a tangy green sauce made from tomatillos, onions, chiles, and cilantro. Ask for the chicken filling and sauce without the tortillas for an incredibly tasty keto Mexican meal. Feel free to add more fat and flavor with cheese and sour cream.
  • Grilled steak, chicken, and/or shrimp. You’ll probably find a dish featuring grilled meat or seafood on the menu. To add some extra fat and flavor, order it with sour cream, queso, and/or guacamole.
  • Carnitas. This dish is essentially Mexican-style pulled pork that is packed with a flavorful mix of seasonings and amazingly tender. Ask for lettuce wraps instead of tortillas, or simply put the meat on a side salad.
  • Alambre. A close cousin to fajitas with two keto-friendly favorites on top: bacon and melted cheese. As with fajitas, you’ll want to avoid the rice, beans, and tortillas that Alambre typically comes with.
  • Taco salad. Skip the edible bowl and pass on any starchy veggies (like corn). Ask for extra meat and cheese instead. If you’re unsure if the dressing is keto-friendly, you can make a quick “vinaigrette” by squeezing lime over the salad, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt.
  • Grilled chicken salad. If you want to avoid all the carb-dense ingredients lurking in most taco salads, simply order a grilled chicken salad with cheese, oil, and vinegar.
  • Burrito bowl. Burrito bowls are a great keto-friendly Mexican option at both sit-down restaurants and fast-casual places like Chipotle. Simply order it with your preferred protein (chicken, steak, carnitas, etc.), lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and low-carb veggies. Skip the rice, beans, tortilla strips, and corn.
  • Ceviche with guacamole. If you love the flavor of fresh seafood, ceviche is a great option. Order it with a side of guacamole for a well-balanced keto dinner. Avoid any pineapple or mango you may find in the ceviche.
  • Carne Asada. In English, this dish roughly translates to “grilled meat.” Usually, the meat will be marinated flank or skirt steak that is grilled and sliced to perfection. Simply skip the tortillas it’ll come with and load up the meat with sour cream, guacamole, cheese, and pico de gallo for a protein- and fat-packed meal.
  • Pollo Asado. Look to order this chicken dish if you’re craving Chimichangas or Flautas. It may even come with butter caramelized onions on top. Just make sure to swap out any starchy sides for keto-friendly options.
  • Grilled fish. Many of the most flavorful fish dishes are inspired by authentic coastal Mexican cuisine. They typically marinate the fresh fish in herbs and spices before grilling. Ask for fresh salsa, pico de gallo, or guacamole on the side instead of the rice and fruity salsa they may come with.
  • Keto tacos. Tacos can be keto-friendly if you swap out the tortilla shell. Try replacing the shells with lettuce leaves or just ask for a bowl of taco meat with sliced avocado, cheese, and sour cream.
  • Camarones al Ajili (Garlic Shrimp). Traditionally prepared in a butter-based, low-carb sauce with keto-friendly vegetables and shrimp, this seafood dish is incredibly delicious and comforting. Just order it without the rice.
  • Chicken or Turkey Molé. A fantastic substitute for any enchilada dish is turkey or chicken in a molé sauce featuring ground cocoa beans and spices. Not all mole sauces, however, are keto-friendly so make sure to ask the waiter what ingredients they use.

Keto Mexican Side Items:

  • Shredded cheese
  • Queso Fresco (fresh mild white cheese)
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sour cream (make sure it’s full-fat)
  • Queso (no flour added)
  • Guacamole
  • Chicharones, pork rinds, or fried chicken skins
  • Raw low-carb vegetables — jicama, celery, cucumber, lettuce
  • Grilled vegetable medley (make sure only low-carb vegetables are used)
  • Side salad with oil, vinegar, and cheese
  • Grilled meat, seafood, or chorizo

Keto-friendly Mexican Non-alcoholic Drinks:

  • Traditional herbal tea. Hierba buena (typically consists of mint from a specific region in Mexico), Limon (lemongrass), Poleo, and Damiana are all keto-friendly tea options you may find at an authentic Mexican restaurant. Order them unsweetened without milk. Add heavy cream for extra fat.
  • Café de olla. Mexican coffee that is spiced with cinnamon. Make sure you order it without milk, cane sugar, or piloncillo (a type of cane sugar commonly used to sweeten this beverage).

Or simply stick with the standard keto-friendly drinks you can find in our keto drink guide.

Keto-friendly Mexican Alcoholic Drinks:

  • Sipping Mezcal (similar to Tequila)
  • Reposado Tequila
  • Anejo Tequila
  • Tequila with club soda and lime on the rocks
  • Mojitos without the syrup
  • Vodka soda with lime and mint
  • Corona Light (5 grams of net carbs in every 12 ounces)
  • Corona Premier (2.6 grams of net carbs in every 12 ounces)

For more ideas check out our keto and alcohol guide.

To summarize this section, feel free to refer to (or download) the graphic below:

Best Keto Options at a Mexican Restaurant: Appetizers, Entrees, Sides, and Drinks


Tips for Keto Mexican On-the-go

To get your flavor fix without having to sit at a restaurant and decode a menu, here are some tips for eating keto-friendly on-the-go:

● Low-carb Options at Fast Casual Mexican Chains like Chipotle, Qdoba, and Moe’s

Whether you order through the app or at the restaurant, you can make a quick and easy keto salad bowl with a combination of meat (usually beef, pork, or chicken), cheese (usually cheddar, mozzarella, or jack), full-fat sour cream, lettuce, salsa, and guacamole. Keep in mind that there are plenty of other options as well, but make sure to check online for nutrition information before you try something new.

● Tips for Eating at Fast Food Taco Restaurants like Taco Bell and DelTaco

It will be difficult to find low-carb items at fast-food restaurants since most of them rely heavily on cheap carb-rich ingredients. One of the only choices you’ll have is a meat and cheese heavy menu item without the tortilla.

Keep in mind, however, even the meat will contain starches and added sugar. For example, the shredded chicken from Taco Bell’s Fresco menu contains four carb-ridden ingredients.

In general, it is best to skip fast food taco restaurants altogether. If you find yourself craving Mexican food, consider stopping at a fast-casual restaurant, buying your own keto snacks, or bringing your favorite keto Mexican meals with you.

● Keto Mexican Snacks and Recipes — The Optimal Strategy

For a quick snack, stop at your local grocery store for guacamole and use pork rinds, celery, cucumbers, or jicama for dipping. You can also find plenty of other snacks on our keto snack list that you can combine with guacamole to create a fulfilling keto meal.

Another great option is to make a big batch of your favorite keto Mexican recipes, freeze them in on-the-go containers, and take them with you. Check out the recipes below for some inspiration.


Top Mexican Recipes for the Keto Diet — Casseroles, Appetizers, Desserts, and More

Below you’ll find some of our favorite recipes to use every day. You can click either the photo or the button to take you to the recipe.

Keto Mexican Appetizers:

Simple, Delicious Guacamole

A no-frills, keto-friendly guac recipe you can whip up in just 5 minutes. Not only will you get plenty of healthy fats and fiber from avocados, but you’ll experience the benefits of multiple low-carb vegetables as well.

The red onions, jalapeños, and cilantro, in particular, will provide you with a potent dose of health-promoting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals along with their intense depth of flavor.

Keto Mexican Food Guacamole

Though you can enjoy this guac by the spoonful, there are a few keto chip alternatives you can try as well. For a quick convenient option, we recommend having a bag of pork rinds on hand. However, if you want to put in the effort to make a low-carb deep-fried tortilla chip, try making our keto tortilla chip recipe.

See How To Make It


Slow-Cooker Stuffed Taco Peppers

These are a great option for entertaining large parties with a keto Mexican appetizer that everyone will love. You can easily prepare a bunch of these a couple of days beforehand, wrap them up, and put them in the fridge. On the day you want them, simply put them in the slow cooker in the morning and take them out when it’s mealtime.

Since you’ll be stuffing these peppers with a mix of meat, cheese, vegetables, and spices, they make a well-balanced keto meal as well. Just up your portion to two or three stuffed peppers and freeze the rest for later in the week.

Slow-Cooker Stuffed Taco Peppers

See How To Make It


Bacon and Roasted Garlic Guacamole

You’ll probably find yourself eating this by the spoonful before you remember there are keto-friendly tortilla chip options. This guacamole is that good!

The secret behind this tasty variation is the bacon and roasted garlic. Roasting the garlic takes the bitterness out while leaving the best aspects of garlic flavor in. The bacon adds another texture and flavor dimension to the guacamole that makes it much more satisfying. As with the other guac recipe, feel free to serve these with pork rinds or keto tortilla chips.

Bacon and Roasted Garlic Guacamole

See How To Make It


Fried Queso Fresco

Queso Fresco is a fresh white Mexican cheese that is relatively bland. However, it provides a good amount of fat and protein for the keto diet, so we decided to fry it up to enhance the flavor.

The addition of olive oil and coconut oil make this cheese come alive, especially when you eat it warm with a crisp brown layer. These make a great keto finger food or a high-fat garnish for your next keto Mexican meal.

Fried Queso Fresco

See How To Make It


Vegetarian Taco Stuffed Avocados

If you are trying to cut down on meat consumption or need a low-carb, vegetarian-friendly Mexican option for friends and family, these stuffed avocados are exactly what you’re looking for.

For the filling, you will combine hemp seeds, cauliflower, walnuts, cheese, and taco seasoning to get that mouth feel of taco filling without missing out on any of the flavor. As with the stuffed taco peppers, you can serve each serving as an appetizer or scale it up for a full meal.

Vegetarian Taco Stuffed Avocados

You can also use this recipe to make vegetarian-friendly tacos. Simply swap out the corn or flour tortilla for a keto-friendly option.

See How To Make It


Keto Mexican Meals for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner:

Keto Mexican Casseroles

Great for batch cooking or serving large parties, keto Mexican casserole is a simple way to whip up a meal with all of your favorite flavors and none of the carbs. There are several variations you can try depending on your preferences.

To satisfy your craving for loaded nachos or tacos, give our Keto Taco Casserole or Nacho Chicken Casserole a try. Each will provide the perfect balance of taco seasonings and spices while sneaking in a hearty dose of low-carb vegetables.

Keto Nacho Chicken Casserole

The Hatch Chile Casserole or Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Popper Casserole are two other popular casseroles that feature some traditional Mexican flavors as well.

If you’re not a fan of spicy food, but love Mexican cuisine, you’ll find the Keto Chicken and Rice Casserole to be a great option. It provides the mouthfeel of a cheesy, carb-loaded chicken and rice dish without all the starch.

You can also turn any of these Mexican casserole variations into a taco with Low Carb Flax Tortillas or Low Carb Coconut Flour Tortillas.


Keto Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chile Sauce

The best way to have a keto version of a Mexican classic is by making it yourself, and this dish is a perfect example of how good it can be. You’ll be impressed when you pull these out of the oven. With each bite, you will notice how complex and flavorful such simple ingredients can be as the green chiles mix with the other herbs and spices on your tongue.

Feel free to have them as a keto meal or serve them individually as an appetizer. Try pairing them with Mushroom Wild Rice Pilaf for a complete keto dinner.

Keto Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chile Sauce

See How To Make It


Keto Taco Salad

A great way to fit some extra keto-friendly vegetables into your diet is by making a keto taco salad. Our version of it features ground beef with keto taco seasoning, avocado, cheese, avocado, sour cream, tomato, and lettuce.

Each forkful has a wonderful balance of flavor, freshness, fat, and protein that makes it one of my favorite keto lunches. You can even emulate tortilla strips with crumbled pork rinds for an extra salty crunch.

Keto Taco Salad

See How To Make It


Keto Tacos

Build your own with your favorite keto ingredients and Low Carb Tortillas or try out one of our popular taco recipes. Our fish tacos will satisfy your craving for fresh flavor with a subtle kick, while our breakfast tacos may become your new favorite way to have bacon, eggs, and cheese.

You can also create a keto-friendly taco station for a party or family gathering. Simply make a keto Mexican casserole and serve it with a plate full of your favorite keto tortillas.

Keto Breakfast Taco

For more customization options, serve them with other low-carb items like sour cream, salsa, guacamole, chopped jalapeños, and shredded cheese.


Chicharrones con Huevos

Chicharrones con huevos roughly translates to “pork rinds with eggs.” Our take on this classic Mexican breakfast incorporates tomato, avocado, jalapeños, and cilantro as well, making it more flavorful with a greater healthy fat content.

Whether you are looking for the perfect meal to start your day or a satisfying keto Mexican dinner, you’ll find chicharrones con huevos to be a great addition to your weekly rotation. Simply follow the recipe as is, and the end result will be a delicious low-carb meal with plenty of fat, micronutrients, and protein.

Chicharrones con Huevos

See How To Make It


Keto Chorizo Shakshuka

Though Shakshuka originates in the eastern hemisphere, the flavors from the traditional tomato-based stew blend wonderfully with popular keto-friendly Mexican ingredients. Our Mexican-inspired Shakshuka features spicy chorizo sausage, simmered with chili powder and cumin in a tomato-based sauce, and topped with queso fresco and cilantro.

With each spoonful, you’ll experience the marriage of delicious flavors from both sides of the Atlantic. Serve it with some fresh avocado or low-carb tortillas for an even more filling meal.

Keto Chorizo Shakshuka

See How To Make It


Mexican-inspired Keto Soup

A crowd-favorite Mexican soup in the keto community is the chicken enchilada soup. It combines the heartiness of a satisfying soup with all of the flavors of an enchilada — no tortilla, rice, or beans necessary.

Our keto hot chili soup is also reminiscent of a chicken enchilada dish, with a unique combination of flavors that’ll take your taste buds on a journey.

Another great Mexican-inspired soup recipe is the king ranch chicken soup. It smells amazing and incorporates a blend of Tex-Mex flavors that any guest will enjoy.

Keto Chicken Enchilada Soup


Keto Mexican Desserts:

Low Carb Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

The combination of cinnamon, chili powder, chocolate, cayenne pepper, and sweetness is worth trying if you haven’t already. It’s so uniquely satisfying it was turned into a traditional Mexican beverage that is widely consumed today.

Unfortunately, many preparations call for sugar and milk, which will negate the benefits of ketosis. This is why we created our spin on this classic hot beverage; in the form of sweet and savory cookies. They will be the perfect complement to your keto Mexican dinner.

Low Carb Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

See How To Make It


Keto Flan

Flan is a custard dessert with a layer of clear caramel sauce, and it is surprisingly easy to make keto-friendly. Simply swap out the sugar for erythritol, make a few adjustments, and you can create a creamy custard with the perfect amount of sweetness.

This dessert is also a great option for anyone who struggles to eat enough fat on keto. It is so high in fat and low in carbs and protein that you’ll have the perfect excuse to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Keto Flan

See How To Make It


Sopapilla Cheesecake

A Sopapilla is a type of fried dough that is commonly served as a sweet pastry in Mexico. With this Mexican-inspired recipe, you’ll be able to experience the crispness of a Sopapilla pastry while sinking your teeth into a creamy keto cheesecake. You can even add an extra dimension of flavor to each slice with a dollop of blackberry chipotle jam.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

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Churro Mug Cake

The combination of cinnamon sugar and fried dough make churros one of the worst foods you can have on the keto diet. However, you can still experience the fluffiness of the fried dough and the wonderful combination of cinnamon and sweet without keeping yourself from ketosis. And you can have it ready to eat in less than 5 minutes!

Need some extra fat and flavor? Top with full-fat, sugar-free whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon.

Churro Mug Cake

See How To Make It


Key Takeaways & Resources: How to Add Mexican Food to Your Keto Lifestyle

At first, it may seem difficult to have Mexican food while adapting to keto. Once you know what to look for, however, you can have all of the flavors you love without the carbs.

To fit more Mexican dishes into your keto diet, make sure to follow these three rules:

  1. Stick to simple dishes that feature simply prepared meats, low-carb vegetables, avocados, spices, and herbs.
  2. Avoid common carb-rich ingredients (rice, beans, tortillas, corn, tropical fruits, flour, yucca, etc.).
  3. Plan ahead by looking for keto-friendly menu items, on-the-go options, and keto Mexican recipes.

For some ideas on what you can make to satisfy your craving for Mexican food, here is a quick recap of the Mexican-inspired keto recipes we discussed earlier:

Keto Mexican Appetizers

Low Carb Tortilla Options

Keto Mexican Casseroles

Keto Mexican Entrees

Keto Tacos

Keto Mexican Soups

Keto Mexican Dessert

As with any keto meal, make sure you know how it fits into your nutritional needs for the day. Your results will depend, to a large extent, on what and how much you eat.

To help you figure out what this means for you, we’ve included several tools and plans that’ll help guide you toward the results you want: