Tips on making Texans’ favorite comfort food better for you.
I love the taste of Tex-Mex. There is so much depth of flavor and satisfaction with each creamy, cheesy, crispy bite.
Do you also love the comfort and taste of Tex-Mex, but you are trying to eat healthier? Maybe you are trying to eat less carbs since gyms are closed. Or you’re looking for a way to meet your macros without crossing off your favorite foods?
Working on reinventing the Tex-Mex wheel with all the flavor but cutting the carbs and fat has been a mission for those trying to eat clean with a deliciously dirty cuisine. Think of the queso, the guacamole, the tacos, the rice, the beans and, of course, the cheese — can we get it all, just without all the calories?
There is something special to every Texan with this particular palate of food. We love Tex-Mex. We love everything from the memories of the perfect taco to the anticipation of the next happy hour. How can these flavors be brought home, made simple and create raveable (and maybe more importantly, repeatable) dishes?
Try these three recipes for a few simple ways to increase the flavor profile, while keeping macros and calories in check.
Think about the little things that make a big impact. It is usually a garnish that adds color but more so adds flavor. Easy ones like cilantro, lime, salt or a dash of cumin can be easily sprinkled on any Tex-Mex dish for maximum impact.
But what about that sneaky tang flavor? Acidic with a touch of sweet? Here’s what I recommend:
Pickled Red Onions:
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (half-moons)
½ cup water
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons light agave nectar or granulated sugar
¾ teaspoons salt
Place onion in a medium bowl. Combine water, vinegar, agave and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Pour vinegar mixture over onion and stir. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature, rearranging as needed to keep the onions submerged. Chill at least one hour or ideally overnight.
Place these delicious moons on your carnitas or breakfast tacos for a truly authentic treat.
One thing that is special about Tex-Mex is the dips. Depending on the location in Texas, there are different salsas — some mild and some hot, and there are different green sauces, ranging from tomatillo to avocado. There are also a variety of quesos that consist of simply cheese to the impressive seasoned beef/guacamole/salsa combo.
Keeping the nutrition as high as the flavor can be a challenge in this department. Here’s what I recommend:
1 avocado, pitted
6 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
Serve this dip with your favorite tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to your favorite taco or taco salad.
When trying to control carbohydrate intake, how can you still include the delicious Mexican rice on a traditional Tex-Mex plate? There are substitutions that can be used in place of white rice. Most carb-conscious connoisseurs will go with the cauliflower rice. This is a tricky vegetable, as many find it too fragrant or too flavorful (in the vegetable department) to be a good substitute for rice. I have found that using frozen cauliflower rice cuts both undesirable traits and lends to a better, more rice-like consistency when cooking.
For a high flavor profile, Tex-Mex rice side dish, here’s what I recommend:
Mexican Cauliflower Rice:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
16 ounces riced cauliflower, thawed if frozen
8 ounces tomato sauce (canned is fine)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 limes, juiced
1 lime sliced in wedges for serving
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add garlic, serrano, cumin, salt and black pepper. Stir until combined and fragrant.
Add cauliflower rice and stir until soft and dry. Add tomato sauce and lime juice, stirring until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Top with cilantro and lime wedges, and serve.
This Mexican Cauliflower Rice also freezes well for an easy vegetable addition to any meal prep.
May these dishes bring joy and palate-worthy satisfaction to your next clean-eating, Tex-Mex dining pleasure.