Lighter Mexican Food?

I’m trying to find some way of making Mexican food that won’t kill me. I understand that the lard+deepfrying+cheese+sour cream+avocado add tons of fat and calories. My problem is that I don’t want to throw some Mexican-spiced meat onto a salad and call it Mexican food. If I want a salad, I’ll eat one. If I want Mexican food, then I want Mexican food.

Regardless, you never see fat Hispanics, and there must be a reason.

::sigh:: I’m tired. You can probably just read the title and give responses from there.

Look, look! I go to Taco Bell, and think “Hmm, a spicy chicken burrito? No refried beans, has chicken instead of beef… let’s go for it!”

Get home, 430 calories. For a burrito.

I loves ya, but this is soooo untrue. In fact, overweight is much more accepted in the culture. Mexico is the only place I’ve been where I wasn’t tortured for being a little fat kid.

As for lighter cooking, hmmmm… Corn tortillas are made with water, not lard like flour. Don’t get fried taco shells because one: they are an evil gringo invention and two: good corn tortillas are much more nummy.

There’s not much to be done with guac, it’s as lean as it can get, unless you’re mixing in sour cream, which you shouldn’t because that’s not how it’s made. There’s some sort of thin, green sauce made with aguacate, which I gather is a different kind of avocado. It’s supposed to be lower in calories because it’s not as thick. I don’t like it, never have, since it looks like snot, but you may find it delicious.

Sour cream you might be able to leave off if you’ve used guacamole. There are lighter versions of sour cream out there, I don’t know how good they are. You might want to compare the calories in sour cream with mexican sour cream. It’s usually sold in jars that read ‘crema’. My jar says 30 cals per T.

Don’t use hamburger, high in fat and not traditional. Shredded beef is the way to go, lower in calories and more authentic. Over in the salsa section, get your hands on a jar of salsa that’s rather thin, not so many tomatoes, or see if they don’t have seasonings in the mexican food section. The salsa method is a cheater, but tasty.

That taco seasoning they sell in packets, next to the powdered gravy, is not good, says the food snob. Mix your salsa in with your shredded beef, heat and eat. You can also go with carne asada, even pollo (chicken) asada, both of those should have fewer calories than hamburger. They sell the seasonings for asadas in the mexican food section, too.

Refried beans come in fat-free. Use lemon or lime juice and salsa to up the flavors without as many calories as sour cream. Spanish/mexican rice is tough to cut the calories on, because it really helps to cook the rice in oil before adding the liquids. It can be done though. Rice, tomato puree, onion, maybe garlic, minced jalapeno, veg-all, chicken stock (enough to double the amount of the rice, but don’t forget to include the tomato in that), cook for twenty minutes, done!

The funny thing about mexican food is that it’s totally different the further from the border you go. There’s a lot more vegetables and seafood used in some areas, a lot less frying. If you really want to get into it, Rick Bayless has the best book I’ve found on authentic mexican food.

Here’s my slightly-healthier recipe for Mexicanish beans:
-Grease a skillet with a bit of olive oil.
-Chop half an onion into the pan and push it around.
-Add salt, black pepper, and cumin to taste. Do not add cayenne at this point unless you’d like to experiment with homemade teargas.
-When the onion is getting soft, add a couple cloves garlic and saute for another minute.
-Add two 15 oz cans of black beans (drain a little of the liquid off), cayenne to taste, and a bit of lime juice (you can use cider vinegar in a pinch)–the juice from half a lime is a good starting point.
-Let it simmer for a few minutes while you get your tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, corn tortillas, and salsa ready.
-Build a quesadilla or a tostada or a bunch of wee burritos.

If you want to be unhealthy but full, then fry up a couple of eggs and layer tortillas, beans, cheese, and fried eggs, and top the whole thing off with salsa and sour cream. It’s delicious!


Go check out Rick Bayless’s cookbooks. They’re actual Mexican food, not Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex. The food is flavorful, but not dripping in cheese or fat. Really, I consider Mexican - at least, my homemade Mexican - to be very healthy food. Beans, rice, lean meat, all very flavorful.

Here’s one idea to get you started:

  • Get a couple boneless pork loin steaks. Pound them out until they’re about 1/4 thick.
  • Throw a small can of chipotle chilies in adobo in the blender (or sometimes you can find a blended chipotle/adobo sauce). Blend until smooth.
  • Coat the pork steaks with the sauce.
  • Throw them on the grill, or cook them in a large frying pan (add a little oil if you’re going that route.)
  • Slice them thin across the bias.
  • Wrap a few corn tortillas in a slightly damp towel. Microwave for 4-5 minutes on half power (the half power/long cooking allows them to steam)
  • Place pork pieces in tortillas. Add whatever condiments you like - tomato, salsa, cheese, etc. Be happy! Very yummy stuff, and very light as long as you don’t load up with cheese!

I second the recommendation of Rick Bayless’ books. The “drown everything in cheese, sour cream and guacomole” philosophy you find in most Mexican restaurants is a very Americanized version of one subset of Mexican cuisine. As you might expect of a nation with coasts on two oceans, Mexico also has a rich tradition of fresh seafood dishes, including excellent ceviches and grilled fish.

How about a Chipotle Burrito Bowl (no tortilla) with chicken, rice, black bean, corn salsa, guac, and lettuce. Sure it’s Carbolicious but still very low in fat.

My family is so getting Mexican food for dinner.

Question: How do you shred the beef? Before or after cooking? What if I still want some rareness in it? Will it still work? Did I overuse question marks???

What would be the point? If you don’t make it the way it’s supposed to be made, then it ain’t Mexican food. Get thee to a Chuy’s and chow down. Save room for Sopapillas. You can exercise later.


You stew the hell out of it until it falls apart on its own. It will not be the slightest bit rare… it will be the antithesis of rare, but delicious nevertheless. I say this as someone who favors her beef mooing in protest as it comes to the table.

This is easy to do if you buy a slow cooker (crock-pot, whatever you call it). Pop a cheap cut of meat in the slow cooker in the morning with 2 cans of Ro-tel tomatoes+chilies, come home to meat that pulls apart with a fork in the evening.

Fallng-apart shredded meat cannot be made rare. You can make a roast or London broil or flank steak, and slice it very very thin. It won’t be nearly the same thing though.

Most of the better taquerias in town around here offer ‘healthy’ (or healthier, anyway) menus based on Dr. McDougall’s eating plan. They usually have a menu board next to their regular board, called the ‘McDougall Menu.’

Usually pretty plain items, like bean and cheese burrito, no sour cream, etc. I’ve tried a McDougall burrito, not bad, but definitely not as good as super carnitas burrito. Still, if you’re really watching what you eat and you just have to have some Mexican food every now and then, most of the items will satisfy the craving.

Dammit. For how long in the slow cooker? I think that I’ve missed my window for today. My family can enjoy Mexican food later. I’ve still got a burrito in the fridge. :slight_smile:

Mole sauce is made tasty by spices not fat stuff; with skinless chicken it’s really nice. I never tried the bottled mole tho; the do-it-yourself comes in a WIDE variety of flavors but all are basically chicken broth, spices, roasted tomatoes and chocolate. Yum.

All day on “low,” maybe 4-6 hours on “high?”

Another thing I do is slow cook the meat in onion or beef broth. I reserve the extra-rich broth that is a by product of slow cooking as a base for beef & barley soup (with a little of the shredded up meat).

If I do this, I add the Ro-tel tomatoes after the meat’s done cooking and simmer it all together for a few minutes in a pan.

I substitute plain yogurt for sour cream. I can’t stand the greasy mouth-feel of butter, margerine, lard, sour cream.

Willet, W.C., “Is Dietary Fat a Major Determinant of Body Fat?,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(Suppl), 1998, pages 556S-562S.

:confused: Move into my neighborhood, and then tell me that.

Anyhow, there’s plenty of Mexican food that’s not loaded with avacados and lard and sour cream and cheese. My favorite Mexican cookbook is Zarela Martinez’s Food from My Heart:Cuisines of Mexico Remembered and Reimagined.

It’s one of these more modern cookbooks that combine autobiography and history with in-depth explanations of techniques, ingredients, and recipes. Although I’ve never read Rick Bayless’s books, from what I’ve seen of him on PBS, I’m sure he’s as good a starting point for Mexican cuisine.

One of my favorite dishes is the simple, traditional fajita. Skirt steak (carne asada) marinated in lime juice, salted, grilled, and cut thinly against the grain. Serve in a corn tortilla with any combination of toppings you allow yourself.
Make yourself some fresh salsa verde or picollo de gallo to go along with it.

There’s also recipes for plenty of great seafood dishes in Zarela’s cookbook. Perhaps my favorite aspect of Mexican cuisine is the seafood. In my neighborhood, there are tons of [pi]mariscos* joints that exclusively deal in seafood. If you have one in your neighborhood, I urge you check it out.

Skip the rice, double the meat and get light salsa and you’ve got a lower-carb high fiber deee-licious meal.

I eat a LOT of Chipotle.

It’s more “Mexican-inspired” than true Mexican, but one of my favorite homegrown recipes is fairly healthy and very tasty. Just alter how much cheese and olive oil you use.

Tequila Chicken
[li]Olive Oil[/li][li]2 packages of Perdue thinly sliced chicken[/li][li]Lots of Tex-Mex spices (Cayenne pepper, chili powder, mixed seasonings, etc.)[/li][li]Breadcrumbs[/li][li]1-2 bunches of scallions (green onions)[/li][li]1-2 red peppers[/li][li]White cheese of choice[/li][li]Tequila[/li][/ul]

[li]Make a small mound of breadcrumbs in the middle of a paper plate.[/li][li]On top of that, build a volcano of spices (various peppers, cilantro, chili powder, etc.) until you have almost as much spice as breadcrumbs[/li][li]Mix it all together with a fork until you have an even layer[/li][li]Coat all the pieces of chicken in this (no need to dip them in anything first)[/li][li]Cut the scallions into small 1cm pieces (both white and green parts)[/li][li]Slice red peppers into thin strips[/li][li]Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a wide, coverable pan/skillet[/li][li]Put half the scallions and pepper into the oil and wait until it’s sizzling nicely[/li][li]Arrange all of the chicken in the skillet so that no pieces overlap[/li][li]Dump the rest of the scallions and peppers on top[/li][li]Cook briefly until the undersides of the chicken pieces seem done[/li][li]Flip the pieces and put some grated white cheese on the top of each[/li][li]Pour some tequila in the mddle (between the chicken pieces), cover the pan and swish it around so the tequlia gets thoroughly distributed[/li][li]Cook briefly until the tequila steam has melted all of the cheese[/li][li]Serve and enjoy[/li][/ol]
Okay, so I’m no cookbook, but this does turn out very yummy. You can even make it low-carb by dropping the breadcrumbs.

I don’t have anything profound to add, except the fatty, cheesy Mexican food is indeed mostly an American adaptation of Tex-Mex food, which in turn is a border variant of northern Mexican food. Southern Mexican food is generally much lighter.

You may want to seek out cookbooks from specific areas - Mexico is a big country and each state has its own specialties. A place like Oaxaca or Campeche has a much lighter diet than the northern states, where the culture is more Spanish and more American influenced - perfectly fine food, but not good for your waist unless you burn it off through hard work or exercise.

As a general rule, the more “indigenous” Mexican food gets, the healthier it is. Red meat, fried “Spanish” rice, and wheat flour are not native to Mexican food.

For sides, instead of refried beans and rice, try whole beans, and calbacitas, of diced squash.Calabacitas recipe

Then for the entree you can have your favorite fish dressed with lime juice or, chicken or turkey ((turkey is the prinicpal ‘native’ meat of Mexico), maybe with a bit of mole - or for a vegetarian course, spinach or green chile enchiladas - with fresh tortillas, enchiladas don’t need a lot of embellishment with cheese and meat.

All perfectly authentic and reasonably healthy.