Gluten Free Mexican: Enjoy A Fiesta of Flavor Leave the Gluten Behind

How would you like to add some colorful punch and flavor to your gluten free diet?  If that sounds enticing, Gluten free Mexican food might be exactly what you're looking for.

mexican rice plated with blue tacos

Who doesn't love a crunchy taco, a cheesy quesadilla, or a spicy tamale?  From simple recipes, to fun and spicy restaurant meals, the variety of gluten free Mexican choices may surprise you. Why is that?  

Let’s start with a quick tour of the Mexican culinary landscape. Authentic Mexican cuisine is an intricate tapestry woven from ancient Mayan, Aztec, and Spanish influences. Key ingredients like beans, chili peppers, tomatoes, and avocados create a unique and robust palette.  Add your favorite protein then spice it up with chili powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cloves. Now you have an authentic Mexican flavor profile.

But the main reason we celiacs gravitate to Mexican cuisine is corn.  Where wheat is ubiquitous in Europe and North America, corn is the staple grain in Mexico.  It takes center stage in many traditional dishes from tortillas to tamales and, luckily for us, it’s naturally gluten free. Does that make you even more excited about the potential of gluten free Mexican?

Is Corn Always Gluten Free?

Corn is naturally gluten free but cross-contamination is possible in processed forms like corn flour or cornmeal. Celiac Canada advises checking for a gluten-free label on these or anything with corn flour or cornmeal in the first two ingredients. Corn starch is low risk and doesn't need a gluten free claim1.

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Pin Image - blue tacos with Mexican rice, nachos and restaurant tacos.  Text gluten free Mexican

What Mexican Foods Are Gluten Free?

Before we explore the huge variety of gluten free Mexican choices, a word of caution. While corn is the primary grain, some products might contain added wheat flour. Always inquire or check labels. Here are some safe options:

  • Taco Shells: Hard shell tacos, such as those from Old El Paso, are gluten-free. Avoid soft tacos, typically made with wheat flour.
  • Soft Corn Tortillas: Ensure they're crafted from 100% corn masa, either homemade or sourced from authentic Mexican restaurants.
  • Salsa: Jarred Mexican salsa from brands like Old El Paso, Tostitos, and Pace is likely gluten-free.
  • Spices and Spice Mixes: Most individual spices are gluten-free. Check labels for taco spice mixes; brands like Old El Paso and Club House often offer safe options.
  • Guacamole: A blend of avocado, onion, lime juice, salt, and optional tomato and jalapeno—naturally gluten-free and nutritious.
  • Taco Toppings: Grated cheddar, sour cream, guacamole, and chopped veggies are tasty, gluten-free choices.
  • Refried Beans: Typically made from pinto beans with assorted seasonings, refried beans are a gluten-free staple in Mexican cuisine, ideal as a side or dip

More Gluten-Free Mexican Delights

  • Enchiladas: A flavorful combination of sauce, veggies, beans, and protein rolled in soft corn tortillas. Reminds me of lasagna.
  • Chiles Rellenos: Cheese-stuffed chili peppers, dipped in egg and gluten-free flour or cornmeal, then fried to perfection.
  • Posole: A spicy Mexican pork stew, naturally gluten-free, slow-braised to fill your kitchen with irresistible aroma.
  • Mexican Rice: Colorful long-grain rice with tomato paste, onions, peppers, corn, spices, and beans or peas, customizable from mild to spicy.
  • Fajitas: Soft tortillas filled with steak or chicken, accompanied by sautéed onions, peppers, and sides of sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and grated cheese.
  • Quesadillas: Two soft tortillas filled with cheese, chicken, veggies, or steak, offering a delightful gluten-free treat.

When dining out always be sure tortillas are 100% corn.

Wait!  Are Nachos Gluten Free?

They should be, but sadly things are never that simple.  If you’re making your own nachos at home with tortilla chips from a bag, be sure to choose a brand with a gluten free claim on the label. Add your favorite gluten free toppings and you’re good to go.  Enjoy.

When it comes to ordering nachos in a restaurant, you may be disappointed.  Many restaurants make their own chips and deep fry them in the same fryer that they use to cook breaded and battered items.  This means their nachos are not gluten free.  So ask questions.  If they are using chips from a bag, ask which brand or ask to see the bag. 

Which Brands of Tortilla Chips are Gluten Free?

There are so many brands that it would be impossible to give you an exhaustive list.  So I went to the grocery store to see what they have and what the labels say.

bag of Tostitos Restaurant Style tortilla chips
Naturalia Blue Corn tortilla chips
Que Pasa Organic Tortilla Chips
doritos nacho cheese tortillas

As I mentioned above, even though corn is naturally gluten free, cross contamination is a concern, so look for a gluten free label on your corn tortillas.  Some safe options include:

  • Tostitos Restaurant Style
  • Tostitos Rounds
  • Tostitos Scoops
  • Que Pasa Organic Stone Ground Tortilla Chips
  • Naturalia Original Tortilla Chips
  • Naturalia Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Many of the flavored options like Tostitos Spicy Queso and Doritos Nacho Cheese are gluten free.  Check labels to be sure.

Tostitos multigrain tortilla chips
Tostitos multigrain ingredients

Watch for terms like "multigrain" as that may indicate other grains like wheat have been added.  For example Tostitos Multigrain Tortilla Chips, Scoops and Rounds are not gluten free.

Gluten Free Mexican at Home

Want to try your hand at making Mexican food in your own home?  Here are a few of my favorites.  Maybe start simple with traditional tacos and make-your-own guac.  Once you’ve got that down you can confidently try your hand at a few others.

table set with gluten free Mexican foods.

For your Mexican Pantry

If you’re going to cook Mexican at home you may need to add a few items to your pantry:

Canned goods like black beans, kernel corn, tomato paste

Spices: Chili powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, cayenne pepper

Fresh herbes: Cilantro

Dry goods: Corn masa, taco shells, corn meal

DIY Corn Tortillas

corn tortillas with salsa and jalepenos

Involve the kids. They'll have fun getting their hand in the dough and be proud to have helped out. Buy corn masa from the supermarket and use the recipe on the bag.  Order a tortilla press online, though a rolling pin works just fine.

Chef's Tip: Use hot water and let the dough rest for 10 minutes after mixing to make it easier to handle.

Gluten Free Mexican Recipes

Bookmark this page, I'll soon have some exciting recipes for you to try.

Tacos 5 ways: traditional, steak, chicken, fish, scrambled egg, veggie


Carnitas Style Chicken

Mexican Rice

Huevos Rancheros


Taco Soup

Navigating Gluten-Free Dining in Mexican Restaurants

plate of tacos being served in a Mexican restaurant

When dining out, familiarize yourself with gluten-free restaurant protocols. Use apps like Find Me Gluten Free for reviews and call ahead to inquire about accommodations. It's a good idea to look at menus online. If the restaurant can accommodate, they will offer a gluten-free menu or clearly mark gluten-free items.

Additional Tips:

  • Confirm if tortillas are 100% corn.
  • Ensure sauces and seasonings are gluten free
  • Prefer hard shell tacos over soft ones which are often made from wheat flour.
  • Exercise caution with deep-fried items unless you're assured of a gluten-free fryer.
  • Beware of nachos; even if made with corn tortilla chips, they might share a fryer.
  • Consider seeking out dedicated gluten-free Mexican restaurants for a safer dining experience. Here's one in Burlington, Ontario.

Fast Food Mexican

Exterior of Mucho Burrito restaurant

If you’re looking to grab a fast-food meal, Mexican might be a good choice. 

Popular American chains like Taco Bell and Chipotle Mexican Grill offer gluten-free options.

In Canada, Mucho Burrito and barBurrito also provide gluten-free choices.

Is the Cup Half Full?

I'm an eternal optimist, maybe to an annoying degree. Living gluten free is challenging, but it can also open new doors. By trying global cuisines like gluten free Mexican you open up a vibrant, flavor packed world of dishes you might never have otherwise experienced. So, the next time you’re a little bored with your food and yearning for an adventure, think Mexican. You'll find a treasure trove of delicious gluten free options, whether you're dining out or cooking at home.


1. Celiac Canada. (2022, December). Canadian Celiac Association Position Statement on the ... Celiac Canada.

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