Tasty tex-mex for under 650 calories
February 23, 2012 12:36 PM   Subscribe

The 650 calorie Tex-Mex meal - how to do it? Is it possible?

I have a bet - I'm trying to make a killer Tex-Mex meal for under 650 calories.

I'm thinking that this kind of meal is my most likely target:

Carinitas (lean baked pork) on corn tortillas(not fried)
Borracho beans (lean pork) / refried
Fideo (tomatoey broth)

Would this work? Is there anything else that would work for this calorie requirement?
posted by Brent Parker to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Changing that pork to chicken or turkey would surely bring the calories down further.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:39 PM on February 23, 2012

Chicken Tortilla soup can be low-cal and kick ass.
posted by LeanGreen at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

It depends on how you define "killer" and how far you're willing to stretch food definitions. What makes Tex-Mex? Personally, I wouldn't call them carnival unless they were made with pork shoulder.

The best way to decrease caloric content is portion size restriction, by the way. Eat less of better food.
posted by WasabiFlux at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: As an added problem, we are in San Antonio - and these foods should stand up to authentic tex-mex foods - Turkey wouldn't really cut it - although granted it would lower the calories.
posted by Brent Parker at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2012

Shredded chicken would be perfectly authentic and reduce the calories. I'm also not sure how liberal your definitions of Tex-Mex are, but you can make some insanely delicious fish tacos for way under your calorie target. It would be plenty authentic Mexican cuisine, but perhaps not what I'd think of as Tex-Mex.
posted by Lame_username at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2012

I make 400 calorie shrimp fajitas all the time (with onions, bell peppers and zucchini - Pappasito's style), which includes a Mountain Bread (sold at Whole Foods) or generic tortilla, which usually tastes much better. I mix the guacamole with non-fat yogurt, and pico de gallo has practically no calories in it. Skip the sour cream or mix it with yogurt.
posted by halogen at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2012

Seconding chicken or shrimp fajitas made with lots of veggies (onion, bell peppers, and zucchini are all traditional; some places around here also throw in sliced mushrooms), served with a warm corn tortilla, pico de gallo, and a couple of homemade salsas. Throw in some rice or beans if you've got calories left over.

Also, around here we're more than happy to eat green chile stew as a stand-alone meal. I doubt a good-sized bowl of that is 650 calories, especially not if you skimp on the oil (this recipe claims 549 calories per serving). Same goes for carne guisada and other saucy/stewy meat dishes -- the more liquid and onions and such, the more full you'll feel on fewer calories, and slow-cooking in broth will help keep things flavorful without too much calorie-heavy fat.
posted by vorfeed at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chicken pozole is one of my favorite low calorie dishes. Shredded chicken, hominy, chicken stock, green chiles, and spices. A big bowl will come in at less than 300 calories if you limit the amount of chicken that you use. That leaves you with plenty of room for the traditional condiments of shredded cabbage, lime, cilantro, onion, and even corn tortillas. Also chicken enchiladas are a good choice. Enchilada sauce is actually low calorie. Marinate the chicken and grill it before filling a couple of corn tortillas and smothering in enchilada sauce. Grate some queso blanco on top or substitute grated low fat feta.
posted by calumet43 at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a kick-ass recipe for chile verde, and I'd be very surprised if a moderate-sized plate of it hits 600 calories, even with the pork.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:47 PM on February 23, 2012

The only thing I see possibly keeping you from your goal is the fideo (because of the pasta). A couple of ounces of grilled or roasted pork on a corn tortilla should be fairly lean, and marinades and condiments (onion, cilantro) aren't going to cost you anything.
You can save a little room by keeping the pork in the charro beans to a minimum. Maybe just a slice of bacon to season? Again, tomatoes, cilantro, and serrano aren't going to cost you anything. I would not attempt refried beans, since they are traditionally made with either lard or shortening.
In the place of fideo, you might try a simple chicken soup with carrots, celery, onions and squash (either chayote, zucchini or yellow squash).
posted by Gilbert at 2:59 PM on February 23, 2012

What you want, son, are fajitas. Lean beef, chicken, or shrimp, vegetables, all sauteed in a minimum amount of oil and served with corn tortillas.
posted by drlith at 3:13 PM on February 23, 2012

I think you can manage this with portion control. Four ounces of carnitas is a serving of protein. Carnitas don't need to be en-taco'ed, they are generally eaten with a fork. Which buys you some room for sides.

I don't know if this is a West Coast/Baja thing, but all the best taco trucks here give out teensy free shots of consomme, usually tomato-shrimp, if you know to ask. It's fantastic and light.

In fact, on the taco truck tip, how about a ceviche tostada? You'd need no oil, so could afford to use some avocado. Shrimp or fish will get you big bang for protein buck, and most of the rest of the flavors come in low on calories.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:43 PM on February 23, 2012

Serve it on small plates - not salad plates, just smaller rather than larger places. Buy paper plates, or maybe plastic plates at target or something. A small plate heaped with food feels like more food than a larger plate that's half empty.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:07 PM on February 23, 2012

Lay in the produce. Make some pico de gallo and calabacitas con maiz and you'll add extra dishes with lots of flavor, color, and bulk without adding many calories at all.
posted by Miko at 6:54 PM on February 23, 2012

Cooking Light has several suggestions:


Also, Bobby Deen did Tex Mex yesterday on Not My Mama's Recipes, on the Cooking Channel. I'm sure it's streaming on their website by now.
posted by spunweb at 7:58 PM on February 23, 2012

Use the Chipotle Calorie Calculator. Now you are surely saying "But sourwookie, we don't want Chipotle!"

I hear you, but what have we learned? Well this:

You can get 3 6" tortillas, a big scoop of fajita veggies, a big scoop of black beans, a large portion of barbacoa (don't just assume poultry is your lowest calorie option), 1/2 portion of cheese, salsa of your choice with all the lettuce and cilantro you want for 675 calories. The key here is to omit the sour cream and keep the cheese to 1/2 a fast-food restaurant-sized portion. Assemble those ingredients as you will. Personally I'd present the meat, veggies, and condiments as fillings for the tortillas a la fajitas and serve the beans on the side to really pump the "meal like" presentation.
posted by sourwookie at 7:58 PM on February 23, 2012

(I would like to stress I was suggesting using the calorie calculator as a guide to help decide what ingredients and portion to use and then prepare yourself, not that you should actually get anything from Chipotle)
posted by sourwookie at 8:09 PM on February 23, 2012

san antonian and atkins-er here. fajitas are how i consume my tex-mex when trying to still be no/low carby.
posted by anthropomorphic at 8:12 PM on February 23, 2012

Can you grill? That would help a good deal with lowering the fat. Little to no oil, and the grease drips away. Thin (1/2inch) cuts of beef or lean pork, marinated (simple stuff, lime, garlic, cumin, chili, salt, pepper). The grilled veggies really work better with a thin coating of oil, though less than you'd use to saute them anyway.

The veggies go on the grill first, then toss the meat over a high fire for just a minute or so for beef, bit longer for pork or chicken (nothing wrong, in my mind, with turkey), then slice it at an angle so you've got wide, thin slices exposing rarish beef in the center. Fajitas were born to be grilled over fire.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:27 PM on February 23, 2012

We just got Chipotle in London - is it to be thoroughly avoided?

Personally I'd go very light on the cheese and anything avocado based.
posted by mippy at 6:47 AM on February 24, 2012

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