Street tacos are a popular Mexican food typically consisting of a small corn or flour tortilla filled with meat, onions, cilantro, and salsa. They are an on-the-go meal commonly sold by street vendors in Mexico and California. But how many calories are actually in one of these tasty tacos?
A typical street taco contains between 150-300 calories, depending on the fillings and toppings used.
Factors that Determine Street Taco Calories
There are several factors that determine the calorie count of a street taco:
- Tortilla – Corn tortillas are lower in calories than flour tortillas. A 6-inch corn tortilla has around 60 calories, while a flour tortilla of the same size has about 80 calories.
- Meat – Common taco meats like carne asada (beef) or al pastor (pork) contain 70-150 calories in a single taco portion. Chicken and shrimp have slightly fewer calories.
- Cheese – Adding cheese like queso fresco or cotija can add 50-80 calories to a taco.
- Toppings – Ingredients like shredded lettuce, pico de gallo salsa, guacamole, and sour cream will increase the calorie count.
- Taco size – Mini street tacos with smaller 3-4 inch tortillas will be lower in calories than a full 6 inch taco.
By selecting lower calorie ingredients and smaller sized tortillas, it’s possible to make a very light street taco for only 150 calories. Choosing higher calorie options like flour tortillas, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream can make a street taco up to 300 calories.
Calories in Common Street Taco Fillings
Here is the calorie breakdown for typical taco fillings in a single street taco:
- Carne asada (beef) – 70-150 calories
- Al pastor (marinated pork) – 100-150 calories
- Pollo (chicken) – 80-130 calories
- Carnitas (braised pork) – 130-170 calories
- Barbacoa (shredded beef) – 120-150 calories
- Chorizo (Mexican sausage) – 140-200 calories
- Pescado (fish) – 90-120 calories
- Camarones (shrimp) – 60-90 calories
- Tofu – 60-100 calories
The calorie range accounts for differences in serving size as well as preparation methods. For example, carne asada can clock in on the lower end if it is a leaner cut in a mini taco vs. a fattier cut in a full size taco tortilla.
Calories in Taco Toppings
Toppings beyond the meat filling can also impact the calories in a street taco. Here are the approximate calories for typical taco toppings:
- Queso fresco – 50 calories
- Cotija – 80 calories
- Cheddar – 60 calories
- Lettuce – 5 calories
- Onion – 5 calories
- Cilantro – 0 calories
- Pico de gallo – 10 calories
- Guacamole – 50-100 calories
- Sour cream – 25 calories
As you can see, cheese and guacamole will add a significant amount of calories to a taco. Lighter options like lettuce, onions, cilantro, and pico de gallo add minimal calories.
Calorie Differences in Corn vs. Flour Tortillas
Choosing a corn or flour tortilla also impacts taco calories:
Flour tortillas have more calories than corn tortillas. Flour tortillas also often have larger diameters of 6-8 inches compared to corn tortillas which are more commonly 5-6 inches.
Mini vs. Full Size Tacos
In addition to tortilla type, the overall size of the taco impacts its calorie count:
|Calories (with carne asada filling)
|Mini Street Taco
|Regular Street Taco
|Large Street Taco
The mini 3-4 inch street tacos that are often sold at street food carts contain the fewest calories, while the larger 6-8 inch tacos can have up to twice as many calories.
Healthiest Options for Lower Calorie Tacos
Here are some tips for creating the healthiest and lowest calorie street tacos:
- Choose mini taco sizes around 3-4 inches
- Opt for corn over flour tortillas
- Limit higher calorie meats like chorizo, carnitas, or carne asada. Opt for lean fillings like chicken breast, shrimp, or tofu.
- Load up on veggies like lettuce, pico, onions, and cilantro
- Go easy on cheese, guacamole, and sour cream
- Ask for salsa on the side and control how much you add
Using these guidelines, it’s possible to enjoy deliciously authentic street tacos for around 150 calories each!
Highest Calorie Street Taco Options
On the opposite end, here are some ways to create a higher calorie street taco:
- Large 8-inch flour tortilla
- Fattier meats like chorizo, carnitas, barbacoa, or carne asada
- Generous portions of cheese and guacamole
- Sour cream
- Oilier salsas like avocado salsa
Choosing these higher calorie ingredients can quickly turn a 150 calorie mini taco into a 300+ calorie gut-buster.
Calories in Beef vs. Chicken vs. Fish Tacos
When it comes to meat, beef and pork tend to be higher in calories than chicken, fish, and shrimp:
|Calories (3 oz. portion)
|Beef (carne asada)
|Pork (al pastor, chorizo)
|Fish (tilapia, mahi mahi)
Going with a fish or shrimp street taco will slash your calories compared to beef. However, portions of meat at taco stands tend to be quite small, so the differences may be 20-30 calories for a single taco.
Low Carb Street Taco Options
In addition to calories, some people on low carb diets like keto may want to limit the carbs in their street tacos. Here are some easy substitutions:
- Instead of a corn tortilla, use a lettuce wrap
- Substitute cauliflower rice for white rice in burrito-style tacos
- Choose a pork carnitas or chicken filling over higher carb beef
- Ask for extra veggies instead of rice and beans
- Say no to the chips and enjoy salsa with cucumber slices instead
With some simple modifications, you can enjoy low carb street tacos with all of the classic Mexican flavors.
Typical Street Taco Nutrition Facts
Here is an overview of the nutrition facts in a typical street taco with a corn tortilla, 3 oz. carne asada, onions, cilantro, and pico de gallo salsa:
As you can see, a typical street taco is relatively well balanced nutritionally with a good amount of protein and reasonable calories and fat for a single taco. The corn tortilla also provides fiber.
Street Taco Calories Compared to Other Foods
At around 150-300 calories each, street tacos have a calorie count similar to these other common foods:
- Cheeseburger – 250-500 calories
- Personal pizza – 250-500 calories
- Sandwich – 300-500 calories
- Burrito – 500-800 calories
- Appetizer sampler platter – 500-1,000 calories
A street taco has a comparable amount of calories to a cheeseburger or personal pizza. It packs a much smaller calorie punch than a large burrito at a Mexican restaurant or heavy appetizers like wings, nachos, or quesadillas which can have up to 1,000 calories.
How Many Tacos Can You Eat in a Day?
When it comes to reasonably fitting street tacos into your daily calorie goals, a few guidelines are:
- 2,000 calorie diet – 3-4 tacos
- 2,500 calorie diet – 4-5 tacos
- 3,000+ calorie diet – 6+ tacos
On a standard 2,000 calorie diet, 3-4 tacos would account for 450-800 calories or about one quarter of your daily intake. At 2,500 calories per day, you can comfortably enjoy 1-2 additional tacos. Active individuals with higher calorie diets have more flexibility for 5-6 tacos or more.
Tips for Enjoying Tacos on a Diet
Here are some tips for enjoying street tacos while maintaining a healthy diet:
- Choose corn over flour tortillas
- Opt for lean proteins like fish, chicken breast, or shrimp
- Load up on veggies and salsa rather than cheese, guac, and sour cream
- Drink water instead of soda, juices, or alcohol
- Split an order of chips and guacamole instead of overdoing it
- Walk around town after your street taco lunch
- Make street tacos your main meal instead of snacking
By making strategic filling choices and watching portions of chips and toppings, you can enjoy authentic street tacos without going over your calorie goals.
Street tacos contain anywhere from 150-300 calories each depending on the fillings, toppings, and tortilla size. Choosing corn over flour tortillas, leaner proteins like chicken and shrimp, and loading up on veggies can help keep calories reasonable. Limiting extras like cheese, guacamole, chips and enjoying street tacos as a main meal rather than a snack will help them fit into a healthy diet. With some mindful choices, you can fulfill your street taco cravings without overdoing your daily calories!