18 Heart-Healthy Mexican Food Ideas for Lighter Meal Favorites

Cheesy Taco-Stuffed Peppers
Photo: Blaine Moats

Host a flavor fiesta filled with healthy Mexican food all month long. We're adding veggies and reducing sodium in healthy quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, and burritos so you can enjoy a variety of low-calorie, heart-healthy Mexican food faves right at home. Each recipe has fewer than 450 calories per serving while packing in fiber and protein—oh yes, and plenty of flavor.

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Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Cashew Cream

Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Cashew Cream
Jason Donnelly

Score a fast food fix at home—and in a way more balanced fashion—with this healthy Mexican food idea. Our pinto bean, sweet potato, and brown rice burrito bowls are full of flavor and fiber (almost half your daily quota). Prep them on Sunday for grab-and-go weekday lunches or set out each component in a bowl for a build-your-own supper.

02 of 18

Cheesy Taco-Stuffed Peppers

Cheesy Taco-Stuffed Peppers
Blaine Moats

Pep up dinner by utilizing bell pepper halves as low-cal, high-nutrition "taco shells." Mounded with rice, beans, veggies, spices, and cheese, one vegetarian stuffed pepper makes for a healthy Mexican dish to serve as a side. Or try two for a satisfying dinner that sneaks in 10 grams of protein.

03 of 18

Chili Verde Soup

Chili Verde Soup
Scott Little

Dump dinners for the win! Pork shoulder braises to craveable perfection in the slow cooker next to beans, chicken broth, chili peppers, and spinach. Amp up this healthy Mexican recipe in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a handful of cilantro.

Buy It: Cuisinart 3.5-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker ($60, Target)

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Chicken Chilaquiles

Chicken Chilaquiles
Kritsada Panichgul

Say "hola!" to this traditional Mexican dish that sure doesn't taste like a low-calorie Mexican food option. Queso fresco and sour cream balance the heat of chipotle-spiced chicken and tomatoes. This skillet casserole will inspire you to jump out of bed to speed up the time between your alarm and the first bite of this morning meal!

Buy It: Cuisinart Stainless 14-Inch Skillet ($50, Bed Bath & Beyond)

05 of 18

Baked Tilapia Veracruz

Baked Tilapia Veracruz
Blaine Moats

Reel in a really delicious heart-healthy Mexican food option. Brighten baked tilapia with green olives, golden raisins, capers, and cherry tomatoes, then finish with fresh herbs to complete this 264-calorie dish.

Test Kitchen Tip: Tilapia not your favorite fish? Red snapper works equally well in this yummy, low-calorie Mexican-inspired recipe.

06 of 18

Burrito Bowls

Burrito Bowls with bowls of cheese, guac, and pilo
Blaine Moats

Healthy burrito recipes can be tough to find if you're searching for them on fast-food menus. (Psst—the burrito's tortilla alone often adds about 334 calories to your meal!) For this low-calorie Mexican recipe, we ditch that tortilla and use high-fiber cauliflower rice, fresh pico, and a variety of crunchy, delicious veggies. Finish it off with your favorite protein—pork, chicken, shrimp, or beans would all work wonderfully—and you won't feel like you're missing a thing.

07 of 18

Chicken in Peanut Sauce (Pollo Encacahuatado)

Chicken Peanut Sauce (Pollo Encacahuatado)
Jason Donnelly

Tender, juicy chicken thighs in a spicy peanut sauce at fewer than 400 calories per serving? Yes, please! (Psst, you can discard the chicken skin to save additional fat and calories.) Pair this delicious and heart-healthy Mexican food with a side salad or crisp-tender steamed veggies for a filling and flavorful meal.

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Slow Cooker Taco Salad

Slow Cooker Taco Salad
Jacob Fox

This fabulous slow cooker meal is a triple treat: nutritious, Mexican-inspired, and convenient. Load up your slow cooker with ground meat and four more kitchen staples, then scoop the spicy meat mixture onto a bed of greens and top it off with corn, avocado, and cherry tomatoes. Whether you choose ground beef or leaner ground turkey in this healthy taco salad is up to you. (Either is delish!)

Buy It: Crock-Pot 4-Quart Cook & Carry Slow Cooker ($50, Bed Bath & Beyond)

09 of 18

Pumpkin, Bean, and Chicken Enchiladas

Pumpkin, Bean, and Chicken Enchiladas
Blaine Moats

Squash hunger pangs with one high-fiber pantry staple: canned pumpkin. For this healthy enchilada casserole, we've given traditional chicken enchiladas a makeover with a savory use for the popular pie ingredient. Part-skim mozzarella cheese keeps these crowd-pleasing enchiladas low in fat, while jalapeño adds tongue-tingling heat.

10 of 18

Fajita-Style Quesadillas

Fajita-Style Quesadilla
Blaine Moats

Feeling cheesy? Serve wedges of these surprisingly healthy quesadillas as an appetizer at your next fiesta. Stuffed with fresh, colorful vegetables and gooey melted cheese, a whole fajita-style quesadilla has just 61 calories per serving.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you're craving more protein, toss in two to four ounces of grilled shrimp, chicken, or cooked beans with the veggies as the filling.

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Zesty Fajita Bites

Zesty Fajita Bites
Andy Lyons

Add these colorful fajita wraps as a low-calorie and heart-healthy Mexican food menu option for your next taco party. Slow-cook succulent chicken thighs with a zesty fiesta lime seasoning, then wrap them in flour tortillas with an array of bright peppers. For a full meal, skip the slicing step and enjoy a whole tortilla wrap for just 44 calories each.

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Mango-Chicken Tinga

Mango-Chicken Tinga
Karla Conrad

Make your way to the table for a hearty yet healthy bowl of tinga, a shredded-meat stew with smoky-hot flavor from chipotle peppers. Toss in sweet mango cubes (a vitamin C powerhouse) to temper the heat in this low-calorie Mexican recipe.

Test Kitchen Tip: Serve the healthy Mexican chicken recipe over cauliflower rice instead of white rice if you'd like to lighten up this meal even more.

13 of 18

Green Chile-Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Green Chile Chicken Tortilla Casserole
Blaine Moats

Go green and go south of the border all at once with this healthy Mexican recipe riff on the classic chicken casserole. Tomatillos—tiny, tart, tomato-like fruit—infuse this comfort food with a hint of vibrant lime. Blended with onion, chili peppers, and cilantro and layered with tortillas, salsa, and chicken, this flavorful one-dish dinner recipe is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

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Spicy Buffalo Tacos

Spicy Buffalo Tacos
Jason Donnelly

Where's the beef? Well, it can be in this low-fat Mexican cooking idea if you can't find its leaner red meat alternative, buffalo. Use either as the base for the slow-simmered, fiery taco meat balanced with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and green onions in this easy make-ahead meal.

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Chicken and Green Chile Tamales

Chicken and Green Chili Tamales
Jacob Fox

If you think cozy and comforting chicken tamales don't fit into a well-balanced eating plan, this dish will make you reconsider. Each of these spicy, healthy tamales stands at just a smidgen over 200 calories. Top each bite with zippy pico de gallo or fresh salsa for even more flavor.

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Enchilada Pizzas

Enchilada Pizzas
Jason Donnelly

Who knew a whole pizza could clock in at just 167 calories? These corn tortilla-crusted healthy enchilada pizzas put a fiery spin on the classic Italian dish with chili powder, cayenne pepper, enchilada sauce, and more. Piles of fresh herbs and vegetables keep these pizzas in healthy Mexican food territory.

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Pork Empanadas with Jicama Pico de Gallo

Pork Empanadas with Jicama Pico de Gallo
Blaine Moats

Why fry it? These pork-stuffed whole wheat empanadas are baked on a sheet pan instead of cooked in oil, so they have just eight grams of fat per serving. Pico de gallo blended with jicama—a turnip-like veggie native to Mexico—serves as a fresh dipping sauce for these savory pockets. Enjoy one as a healthy Mexican side dish, or pair two with a Mexican salad for a well-rounded meal.

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Spicy Seafood Tacos

Spicy Seafood Tacos
Jason Donnelly

Crabmeat and snapper fillets add protein to these spicy seafood tacos, while light sour cream, fresh fruits, and veggies keep this handheld entrée surprisingly light. So if you are counting carbs or seeking a keto diet-friendly meal, pile the nicely spiced seafood atop the cabbage salad and skip the tortillas for a low-carb and low-calorie Mexican food fix.

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