The Wonders of Gluten-Free Mexican Meals
Published April, 2021
Mexican cuisine is popular and flavorful, full of variety and regional specialties. From tacos to tamales to huevos rancheros, there’s a whole world of gluten-free Mexican-inspired food possibilities to enjoy.
Mexico is a country with diverse ecosystems and different cultures and traditions. It’s no surprise that the foods available and prepared change from region to region, depending on local geography and cultural traditions.
One of the most central ingredients throughout Mexico is corn or “maíz.” This Mexican staple is used in much more than the corn tortillas you may enjoy as the outer layer for tacos. Corn is also used in one-pot meals, hearty soups and stews, and casseroles. Meat in Mexican dishes is typically cooked over high heat, with grilling or frying being popular preparation methods. Slow, moist cooking, such as braising, may also be used.
Let’s take a look at some common ingredients in Mexican cooking that provide great flavor – and good nutrition, too!
Beans are included in most Mexican meals, in different forms and varieties, including pinto and black beans. This underrated powerhouse food is an excellent protein and fiber source.
Corn is used in many ways and forms: As tortillas, tostadas (toasted corn tortillas) or “gorditas” (thicker flatbread made with masa harina or corn flour, usually stuffed), tamales made of masa dough, atole (a hot beverage made with masa, water, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla), to name a few. Not only delicious, corn also provides various vitamins and minerals, too.
(NOTE: Some corn tortillas contain a mix of corn and wheat flour. Make sure to confirm the gluten-free status of the Mexican corn products you buy.)
There are countless varieties of chili peppers, from smaller ones with heat and spiciness, like jalapeños and habaneros, to larger, milder ones like pasillo and poblano. Chilis are an excellent source of vitamin C.
Delicious mashed as guacamole or as an addition to a variety of dishes, from diced in tacos, sliced atop tostadas, to wedges garnishing a plate of rice and beans. Avocados are a good source of healthy fat and fiber.
Besides adding an aromatic flavor, cilantro provides healthy antioxidants, too.
A squeeze of lime juice will add a surprising amount of flavor to your next taco experience. Used to season everything from vegetables to rice to meats, limes are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants and nutrients.
Tomatoes find their way into not just salsas, but many other dishes, too. Even tomato-based salsas can vary in texture and flavor, from the smoother picante to the chunkier pico de gallo. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C and A.
Gluten-Free Mexican Recipes
Once you are familiar with some basic ingredients of Mexican cuisine, here are a few easy recipes to get you started.
The ingredients in these recipes should be gluten-free, but, as always, confirm the gluten-free status of the version/brand of the packaged ingredients you use.
Make this with raw or cooked ingredients and change the types and quantity of chili peppers used to achieve different flavors and heat/spice levels.
- In a blender, place 3 tomatoes, ¼ onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1-3 green chili peppers, a handful of cilantro leaves, a pinch of salt, and pepper.
- Blend until the texture is to your liking.
- In a small pot, cook about 1 ½ cup of tomatillos, ½ onion, 1-3 whole green chili peppers (like jalapeños or habanero, based on your heat preference), and a clove of garlic, with a bit of water. If you’ve never tried cooking with a tomatillo, note that you need to remove the husk and wash off the slight stickiness from its surface with warm water before preparing. Cook until tomatillos turn slightly brown.
- Add to a blender with a handful of cilantro leaves and add salt to taste. Blend until creamy.
- Use this salsa for enchiladas, on tacos, even on scrambled eggs.
We’ve curated some of our favorite, gluten-free Mexican recipes. Simply click on the name of the dish to access them.
Pozole: A traditional Mexican corn stew typically made from hominy (dried maize kernels) and meat, and garnished with radish, cilantro, and lime. Mexican comfort food!
Enchiladas: Corn tortillas wrapped around your favorite vegetables, beans, shredded meat, or cheese (or a combination) and covered in a savory sauce like salsa roja or verde. This recipe is an “American” version of a traditional Mexican dish.
Fried Pinto Beans: Usually called “refried beans” in the U.S. A hearty accompaniment to any meal. Cooked, mashed, and fried in oil (although traditionally fried in lard).
Pescado a la Veracruzana: This typical dish originated on the east coast of Mexico. The delicious mix of vegetables and spices goes well with any white fish.
Chile Rellenos: A traditional Mexican dish made from roasted poblano peppers stuffed with cheese then coated in a fluffy egg batter, fried until golden brown, and served with salsa. (This recipe is gluten-free, but note that some chiles rellenos contain wheat flour in the egg batter.)
Esquites: Also known as Mexican Street Corn Cups, these are a snack you might find being sold by street food vendors all over Mexico. They are made with a handful of inexpensive ingredients including mayo, sour cream, and cotija cheese (aged, crumbly cheese made with cow’s milk), creating a creamy, salty, tangy, and slightly spicy bite.
Arroz Con Leche: A comforting and simple no-fuss rice pudding made with rice, water or milk, cinnamon, vanilla and raisin. Guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth.
We hope this article has inspired you to dig a little deeper into Mexican cuisine and to enjoy the fresh flavors of some of the naturally gluten-free dishes. Buen Provecho!
Written with Abigail Calderon, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern (2020-2021)
This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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