Low Carb On The Border Options for Keto Diets
Dallas, Texas is ground zero for Tex-Mex, so it should come as no surprise that the city is where On the Border got its start. Way back in 1982, three friends has a vision to bring fresh, handmade Border-style cuisine to as many people in the world as possible. Tequila may or may not have been involved in the dream phase of this exuberant scheme, but their idea caught on. Today there are more than 160 locations in 33 states, Puerto Rico, and even such far-flung places as Egypt, the Mideast, and South Korea. Famous for its mesquite-grilled fajitas, On the Border is the world’s largest Mexican fast-casual chain.
Before we get to the menu, a brief explanation of Border-style food. Tex-Mex is more than just Mexican food made in Texas. The cuisine developed out of the Tejano culture (Quick history lesson: Tejanos are Texans of Spanish or Mexican heritage who were living in Texas before it gained its independence from Mexico and joined the U.S). What are the main ingredients that separate the two? Beef, yellow cheese (such as cheddar), the spice cumin, canned vegetables (tomatoes in particular), and wheat flour. So if your meal contains any of these ingredients, it’s probably Tex-Mex.
Fajitas are a great example of Tex-Mex. ‘Faja’ means ‘strip’ in Spanish (as in ‘a slice of meat’), and the recipe is inspired by Mexican ingredients, but the wheat tortillas give it away as a north-of-the-border invention.
Chili con carne is considered a quintessential Tex-Mex dish, but guess what? The ingredients mostly come from northern Native American recipes, not Mexican. So much for that.
Between the nachos, beans and rice, Tex-Mex doesn’t seem like the kind of place keto eaters would want to venture into, but there are plenty of things that are safe to order. On the Border’s nutrition information is available online, but we’ve got all your keto picks right here.
Low Carb Starters at On the Border
Pass on the carb-y tortillas, but the toppings are fine for keto.
- Salsa (3 net carbs) Who needs chips to enjoy fresh salsa? Grab a spoon. (0g fat, 1g protein)
- Queso, Border Style, Cup (8 net carbs) Fewer carbs than the Signature queso, this one gets an extra kick from the green chilis. ‘Primo Style’ is extra keto-friendly with dollops of guacamole, sour cream and seasoned ground beef on top. It costs a little more dollar-wise, but costs you 0 extra carbs. (12g fat, 7g protein; add 4g fat and 3g protein for Primo)
- Guacamole (13 net carbs) Gotta love any place that makes it ‘live,’ meaning right at your table. Still a little carb-y for you to polish off on your own. Definitely one to share. (22g fat, 5g protein)
Keto-Friendly Salads at On the Border
Keto eaters need their greens. A salad is a great way to fill up on fiber and get those micronutrients. Exact carb counts not available for modified items.
- Chicken Fajita Salad (16 net carbs) This includes all the ingredients, so ask your server to leave out the corn and get your carb count way down. (19g fat, 41g protein)
- Steak Fajita Salad (18 net carbs) This also includes the corn. Take it out and save mucho on carbs. (27g fat, 38g protein)
- Chicken or Beef Grande Taco Salad – Pass on the tortilla crisps and the rest of the ingredients are keto-friendly.
Keto-Compatible Dressings at On the Border
Salad dressing can be a real minefield for keto eaters. The three listed below are your best bets.
- Avocado Ranch (1 net carb, 12g fat 1g protein)
- Ranch (2 net carbs, 24g fat, 1g protein)
- Salsa (3 net carbs, 0g fat, 1g protein)
The Smoked Jalapeño Vinaigrette is pushing it at 8 net carbs.
Entrées at On the Border for Ketogenic Dieters
The fajitas are one of the biggest draws of On the Border. Skip the tortillas, rice and beans and you can enjoy all the fillings.
- Carnitas Fajitas (10 net carbs) Pushing 1000 calories but oh so delicious. (79g fat, 47g protein)
- Steak Fajitas (12 net carbs, 26g fat, 44g protein)
- Chicken Fajitas (10 net carbs, 16g fat, 48g protein)
- Shrimp Fajitas (9 net carbs, 26g fat, 19g protein)
- Monterey Ranch Chicken Fajitas (10 net carbs) Ranch dressing, crumbled bacon, Jack cheese and mesquite-grilled chicken are all keto-licious. (48g fat, 67g protein)
The Ultimate Fajita® is a mix of carnitas, steak, chicken and veggies runs a little high in every direction: 20 net carbs and over 1000 calories.
In case you’re curious, a crunchy taco with beef or chicken will run you about 15 net carbs.
Low Carb Bowls at On the Border
A bowl is the perfect way to enjoy all the taco and burrito fillings without wasting — or being tempted by — the tortilla. The rice and beans have to go but the rest of the ingredients (lettuce, bell peppers, queso, pico de Gallo and avocado) are all keto-compatible.
No exact carb counts available for modified orders, but steak, chicken, shrimp or the portobello mushroom will run you approximately 13-15 net carbs, and 17-25g fat. As for protein, it varies more widely. Mushroom: 21g, shrimp: 32g, steak: 40g; and chicken: 42g.
Sides & Add Ons at On the Border for Keto Eaters
A lot of Tex-Mex sides seem made for keto.
- Shrimp Skewer (1 net carb, 18g fat, 1 g protein)
- Guacamole (2 net carbs, 4g fat, 1g protein)
- Sour Cream (1 net carb, 5g fat, 1g protein)
- Mixed Cheese (0 net carbs, 9g fat, 7g protein)
- Pico de Gallo (1 net carb, 1g fat, 0g protein)
The sautéed vegetables are on the high side at 9 net carbs.
What to Drink at On the Border for Low Carb Diets
Water, coffee, tea, unsweetened iced tea or diet soda if you can’t resist. On the Border serves Coke products. They also have a full bar. The margaritas and other cocktails are way too sugary; stick with a light beer or glass of red wine. Either will run you 5 net carbs or fewer.
Keto eaters can enjoy eating out pretty much anywhere, including places that at first glance seem to have a carb-heavy menu. However, this kind of food can be high in calories and low on nutrition and should only be indulged in occasionally.