Tacos are a delicious traditional meal from Mexico that’s now popular around the world.

You can prepare them in many different ways with an assortment of ingredients. However you enjoy tacos, you might be wondering whether they’re actually good for you.

The answer is yes — tacos can be healthy, but it all depends on the ingredients.

This article examines the nutrition of tacos and includes some tips for making sure your tacos pack in lots of nutrients and avoid some common ingredients that aren’t as beneficial for your body.

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Not only are tacos delicious, but they’re also convenient and affordable. They’re often easy to find at restaurants when you’re on the go, and they’re also easy to make yourself at home.

With the right ingredients, tacos can also be part of a fresh, filling, and nutritious meal.

The individual ingredients that make up a taco are what ultimately determine how healthy it is.


Tacos are fast to make and filling, plus they can be nutritious with the right set of ingredients.

Toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are a staple on tacos. They add flavor, texture, and color.

Nutrient-dense veggies like these are also one of the main reasons why tacos can be nutritious and part of a healthy diet.

Fruits and veggies are packed with healthy nutrients, including (1):

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • fiber
  • beneficial plant compounds, such as polyphenols and antioxidants

What’s more, studies have linked consuming plant-based diets rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with a lower risk of several major chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (2, 3, 4).

A few of the most popular veggie toppings for tacos are:

  • cilantro
  • lettuce
  • cabbage
  • onions
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • tomatillos
  • corn
  • potatoes
  • radishes
  • mushrooms
  • black or pinto beans

Some fruits also make tasty and nutritious taco toppings:

  • avocado
  • black olives
  • lime juice
  • mango
  • pineapple
  • peaches

Adding vegetables and fruits to tacos is an easy way to amp up the nutrients in the meal.

Protein is an essential macronutrient your body needs to build bone, muscle, and skin, among other uses.

In the United States, tacos are one of the top sources of protein and calories that people ages 18–64 consume regularly (5, 6).

Most tacos, including vegetarian versions, provide about 6–13 grams of protein each.

The average sedentary adult needs at least 46–56 grams of protein per day, though the exact amount varies from person to person depending on their age, sex, activity level, overall health, and other factors (7).

However, when it comes to protein, not all types are created equal. The type of protein in a taco will influence its calorie count and nutritional value.


Most tacos, including vegetarian versions, contain about 6–13 grams of protein each. So, they’re a good source of protein, especially if you purposely choose high protein fillings.

Here’s a look at the nutrition for some different types of tacos and the overall healthiness of each, based on the type of protein they contain.

Beef tacos

Beef tacos are one of the most common types.

Compared with seafood or vegetable tacos, beef versions are typically higher in calories, fat, and sometimes protein (8, 9).

Beef taco
(100 grams)
CaloriesProtein (grams)Fat (grams)Fiber (grams)

One perk of beef is that it’s a rich source of healthy micronutrients, including zinc, iron, selenium, and vitamins B6 and B12 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

On the other hand, some studies have found that consuming red meat like beef — particularly processed beef — is linked to an increased risk of some chronic diseases (15, 16, 17, 18).

Nevertheless, the majority of studies that support these findings have been observational in nature. It’s important to note that studies have also had mixed results depending on the type of meat people ate, among other factors.

To date, research has not shown a direct cause-and-effect relationship between eating red meat and chronic disease.

Thus, ground beef and other red meats might still have a place in a healthy diet when you consume them in moderation.

Grass-fed beef in particular is rich in healthy fats and other nutrients, including (19, 20, 21):

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • CLA, a fatty acid
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E

Chicken tacos

Chicken tacos are some of the highest in protein.

They’re often lower in fat than red meats as well (22, 23).

Chicken taco
(100 grams)
CaloriesProtein (grams)Fat (grams)Fiber (grams)

Plus, studies have found that eating lean cuts of white meat, like chicken, are not associated with an increased risk of chronic disease (24, 25).

Like beef, chicken is a good source of these nutrients (10, 11, 12, 13):

  • zinc
  • iron
  • selenium
  • B vitamins

But keep in mind that the way chicken is prepared could have a significant effect on its nutritional value.

Chicken that has been fried or cooked in oil or butter tends to be higher in calories and fat than poached or baked chicken.

Fish and shrimp tacos

Seafood may not be quite as high in protein as some other meats. However, it’s still a great source of lean protein that may be lower in calories — depending on how you prepare it.

Seafood is also rich in nutrients that some other types of meat lack, like omega-3 fatty acids (26, 27).

Fish taco
(100 grams)
CaloriesProtein (grams)Fat (grams)Fiber (grams)

Omega-3s are healthy fats that help form cell membranes and support brain health, and they might also help protect against heart disease (28).

Veggie tacos

Veggie tacos tend to be some of the lowest in calories, fat, and salt (29, 30, 31).

Bean taco
(100 grams)
CaloriesProtein (grams)Fat (grams)Fiber (grams)

Depending on the veggies they contain, it’s likely they’ll also be lower in protein than tacos that contain meat or seafood.

One reason why veggie tacos are a great, flexible meal choice is that the possible combinations of ingredients are limitless.

What’s more, using plant-based proteins instead of processed red meat could also be good for heart health and help lower your risk of some chronic diseases (32, 33, 34).

Some veggies people commonly use in tacos are:

  • black beans
  • pinto beans
  • corn
  • cauliflower
  • mushroom
  • potato
  • tofu (soybean curd)
  • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

Keep in mind that even when you’re using vegetables and other plant-based ingredients in your tacos, the way you cook them still has a significant effect on their final nutrition content.

For example, tacos with refried beans or fried guacamole, tofu, or potatoes will likely pack more calories and fat than veggie-based ingredients that aren’t fried.

Traditional street tacos

Street tacos are small tacos usually served on corn tortillas and topped with onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salsa.

These traditional-style tacos from Mexico have also become popular around the world (35).

Street taco
(100 grams)
CaloriesProtein (grams)Fat (grams)Fiber (grams)

Some of the most popular types of street tacos are:

  • Al pastor: rotisserie-style pork marinated with chilies and pineapple
  • Barbaco: seasoned and slow-roasted beef, lamb, or goat
  • Carne asada: grilled beef marinated with citrus juice and other spices
  • Carnitas: seasoned pork slow-cooked with oil or lard
  • Chorizo: Mexican-style ground pork sausage
  • de Camarón: seasoned shrimp that is pan-seared

Not only are they delicious, street tacos also offer some of the most authentic taco experiences.

Plus, since they’re served on small soft corn tortillas and typically without many condiments, they may not be too high in calories per taco.

Nevertheless, some types of street tacos, like carnitas and chorizo, may be higher in fat compared with other types of tacos due to the lard or oil used to prepare the meat.

Breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos are a fun way to consume classic breakfast foods, like eggs, sausage, and potatoes, wrapped up in a flour or corn tortilla.

Those that contain high fat meats like sausage or bacon will naturally be higher in calories and fat (36).

Breakfast taco
(100 grams)
CaloriesProtein (grams)Fat (grams)Fiber (grams)

Use ingredients like scrambled eggs, black beans, and tofu for a high dose of protein with fewer calories and less fat than versions with bacon or sausage.


The nutrients in tacos can vary significantly based on the fillings you use. Most tacos made with meat are high in protein, and those made with veggies tend to be lower in calories. Mix and match your fillings for a nutrient-dense combination.

In general, tacos can be a good source of protein and fiber that isn’t too high in calories.

However, certain condiments or extra items can significantly increase the number of calories and amounts of fat or salt.

This is particularly true of tacos from restaurants. When you’re dining out, one order of tacos could contain more than 1,500 calories and 60 grams of fat.

Especially when tacos contain a combination of meat and cheese, they’re likely to be higher in saturated fat. You can consume this type of fat as part of a healthy diet, but it may be best in moderation (37).

Furthermore, multiple studies have observed that eating too many fried foods appears to increase the risk of heart disease and death (38, 39, 40).

Studies examining people’s food intake have also observed that tacos are a major source of salt in the average person’s diet (37, 41, 42, 43).

Though salt is an essential nutrient that the body needs, too much can raise blood pressure, which presents a greater risk of heart disease. This is particularly important for people with high blood pressure (44).

Ingredients to reduce or avoid

To keep tacos from being too high in calories, fat, and salt, consider using these ingredients only in moderation or avoiding them altogether:

  • fried shells, like hard corn tortillas or frybread
  • fried meats and seafood
  • fried vegetables
  • fried avocado
  • cheese or queso sauce
  • crema
  • sour cream
  • sugar-sweetened salsas
  • mayonnaise-based sauces
  • refried beans made with lard

Without many toppings and garnishes, tacos tend to be low or moderate in the amount of calories, fat, and salt they contain. Use moderation when you’re adding high calorie ingredients, like cheese and sour cream.

With certain ingredients and reasonable portion sizes, tacos can be lower in calories, fat, and salt yet higher in fiber than some other types of sandwiches (45).

They can also be a good source of vegetables (37).

Here are a few tips for making tacos even more nutritious.

Choose a healthy shell

Choose corn or whole wheat flour tortillas when possible.

For a crispy alternative to deep-fried corn shells, try baking corn tortillas in the oven for a few minutes instead.

Alternatively, you can skip the shell completely and opt for a taco salad or a taco bowl served over a grain, like rice or quinoa.

Limit white flour tortillas and deep-fried corn tortillas — they’re the least nutrient-dense and often the highest in calories.

Pick a lean filling

Choose a lean plant or animal-based protein that has been cooked with little added fat.

Options to consider include grilled chicken, broiled fish, or roasted veggies. These tend to be lower in calories than their fried counterparts.

When seasoning your filling, look for a low salt taco seasoning or make your own at home with spices like cumin, paprika, and chili powder.

Layer on healthy toppings

In place of calorie-heavy cheese and sour cream, top your tacos with flavorful, nutrient-rich veggies, like onions, radishes, cabbage, mango, and cilantro.

As long as it doesn’t contain too much added sugar, salsa also makes a great low calorie addition to tacos.

You might also be wondering about guacamole — is it healthy or not?

Avocados are a highly nutritious fruit packed potassium, vitamin K, and healthy unsaturated fats. Fresh cut avocado makes a great addition to tacos or any meal (46).

Still, avocados do contain more calories than some other fruits and vegetables. Plus, some guacamole may have added ingredients, like sour cream or mayonnaise.

So, check the ingredients of your guacamole. If it has these additional ingredients, make sure to consume it in moderation.


There are many ways to make tacos that are fresh, nutritious, and delicious. Try avoiding or reducing ingredients that are fried or high in fat, packing tacos with lean protein, and loading them up with fresh veggies.

Tacos are a classic dish that people all around the world love.

There’s an infinite number of different ways to make them. That’s why no two tacos are exactly the same when it comes to nutrition, and some tacos have more beneficial nutrients than others.

Filling whole grain tortilla shells with lean protein and plenty of veggies while using moderation with high calorie condiments is the best way to build a healthy taco.