Although it may seem difficult to eat at Mexican restaurants if you’re on the keto diet — due to high carb foods like tortillas, rice, and beans — Mexican food is one of the most flavorful, nutritious, and keto-friendly cuisines.
This is especially true if you opt to make certain dishes at home.
Here are 15 keto-friendly Mexican dishes, plus helpful cooking and ordering tips and a few simple recipes.
Fajitas are a popular sizzling-hot dish that usually includes bell pepper and onion, along with a protein like chicken, beef, or shrimp. They’re served with tortillas, but you can skip those and just eat the fajita filling to keep it low carb.
2. Carne asada
Carne asada is a marinated, grilled steak dish. The steak itself has no carbs, but the marinade may provide a trace amount (
This dish is available at many Mexican restaurants. You can purchase raw, ready-to-grill carne asada from many Mexican markets as well.
Ceviche originated in Peru, but you can find it on many Mexican restaurant menus.
This cold dish is made from raw or precooked seafood — usually fish or shrimp — brined in citrus juice and mixed with veggies and herbs such as tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. All these ingredients are low in carbs.
Guacamole is a dip made from smashed avocado, which is naturally high in fat and fiber and low in net carbs — total carbs minus fiber, which your body doesn’t digest.
In addition, guacamole may contain small amounts of lime juice, onion, jalapeño, tomato, or cilantro. Although you should avoid the chips it’s typically served with, guacamole is perfectly keto-friendly (
Carnitas is a dish of shredded slow-cooked pork. It’s usually made from a fatty cut like pork shoulder, and some of this fat melts during cooking to coat and flavor the meat.
6. Camarones a la diabla
This spicy shrimp dish — a staple at many Mexican restaurants — uses a sauce made from various types of chiles (and possibly tomatoes).
It’s low in carbs, but if it’s served with rice and beans, you may want to choose a salad or a side of guacamole instead — both are keto-friendly and may help temper the heat.
7. Al pastor pork
Tacos al pastor are made from al pastor pork, which is thinly sliced, marinated pork shoulder. You can forego the tortillas and eat the pork by itself or with a side salad for a keto-friendly meal.
Chorizo is a Mexican sausage made from beef or pork. It’s available either fresh (raw and ground) or dried (cured, ready to eat, and sliceable).
“Queso” is Spanish for “cheese,” but in the United States, this term often refers to cheese dip.
In many cases, these dips are very low in carbs, although some may contain carbs from milk or starch-based thickeners. Be sure to check the label, ask about ingredients, or make your own low carb version at home.
This dip is made from tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro, or various combinations of these ingredients.
Birria is goat meat seasoned with various herbs, spices, and chiles. Some versions may also be made with beef. It’s used to make birria tacos or a traditional Mexican soup that’s also called birria, which contains broth and added salsa, onions, or cilantro.
Both the soup and the meat by itself are good keto-friendly options.
12. Tacos with corn tortillas
If you’re flexible with your carb intake, consider traditional tacos made with corn tortillas, which contain fewer carbs than ones made with flour — about 7 grams of net carbs per small, 18-gram tortilla (
With careful planning, you may be able to eat a few regular tacos within your daily carb limit.
13. Taco salad
Taco salads contain lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, a meat such as seasoned ground beef or chicken, and sometimes other ingredients.
Some may be served in fried taco shells or over tortilla chips, with or without a layer of refried beans at the bottom. You should forego both the shell and the refried beans to keep it keto-friendly.
14. Huevos a la Mexicana
This breakfast dish is made from scrambled eggs cooked with onions, diced tomatoes, and sauteed peppers such as jalapeño.
Because it doesn’t contain tortillas or tortilla chips, it’s much lower in carbs than other Mexican breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros and chilaquiles.
15. Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo is a dip and condiment made from diced tomato, chopped onion, and cilantro. In small quantities, it’s low in carbs and adds a bright flavor to rich or high fat dishes. It’s also easy to make at home.
Here are some tips to help you enjoy keto Mexican food at home:
- Create your own seasoning blends. Premade taco or fajita seasoning packets often contain unnecessary carbs that you can avoid by making your own seasoning blends. Try combining chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
- Purchase low carb tortillas. You can still enjoy burritos and tacos as long as you buy low carb tortillas.
- Use cauliflower rice and black soybeans. In place of high carb foods such as rice and black beans, you can use cauliflower rice and black soybeans to save on carbs. Black soybeans are very rich in fiber, which slashes their net carb content (
At a Mexican restaurant
If you’re eating at a Mexican restaurant in the United States, keep these tips in mind:
- Ask that no chips be brought to the table. Tortilla chips are high in carbs, so it’s best to skip them completely.
- Order fajitas with no tortillas. Fajitas, like several other Mexican dishes, make an ideal keto meal as long as you skip the tortillas.
- Choose a simple meat entree. Choosing a high fat, high protein meat dish as your main course means you may not have to make many special requests to keep your meal keto-friendly.
- Replace rice and refried beans with salad and guacamole. Side dishes like rice and refried beans are loaded with carbs, so you should ask to swap them with non-starchy veggies.
- Smash avocado until it reaches your desired texture.
- Stir in lime juice and seasonings. Enjoy immediately to avoid browning.
Pico de gallo
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- several cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and seasonings.
- Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
- 1/2 tablespoon (8 grams) chili powder
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1.5–2-pound (680–900-gram) pork shoulder, cut into 4–5 large sections
- 1 onion, cut into wedges
- 2 bay leaves
- Mix chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
- Rub this mixture on pork shoulder.
- Place pork shoulder and onion in a large ovensafe pot or Dutch oven. Add water to 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the top of the pot, then place bay leaves in the pot.
- Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 3–4 hours, turning the pork halfway through cooking.
- The pork should be tender and easy to shred when finished. Serve with your favorite keto-friendly Mexican side dishes and condiments.
Carne asada fajitas
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cooking oil
- 2 bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound (450 grams) raw, pre-marinated carne asada
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of 1 lime
- Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add bell peppers and onion. Cook until vegetables start to become tender or blacken at the edges.
- Remove bell peppers and onion from the skillet and add carne asada. Fry until meat is fully cooked and has some crispy edges.
- Return vegetables to the pan and mix with meat.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, but remember that carne asada is already seasoned, so you may not need much.
- Squeeze lime juice over the finished fajitas, then serve with low carb toppings and sides.
Mexican cuisine is replete with flavorful, tender meats; fresh vegetables; and bright herbs and seasonings that are ideal for keto dieters.
All the same, if you’re eating at a Mexican restaurant in the United States, you may need to avoid high carb ingredients like tortillas, rice, and beans.
At home, you can make many keto-friendly variations on Mexican dishes, including ceviche, fajitas, carne asada, and carnitas.
Just one thing
Try this today: To prepare a taco night that accommodates people who do and don’t follow keto, set out all the meats, toppings, and condiments and allow everyone to build their own tacos, burritos, or burrito bowls.
For yourself, you can make a taco salad using lettuce, a burrito bowl with cauliflower rice and black soybeans, or burritos with low carb tortillas.