Fajitas are a popular Tex-Mex dish consisting of grilled meat, such as steak, chicken or shrimp, served with sautéed peppers and onions. The meat and veggies are wrapped in warm tortillas and topped with various toppings like guacamole, salsa, sour cream and cheese. While fajitas are delicious, some people wonder if they are low in sodium.
The sodium content of fajitas can vary greatly depending on how they are prepared. When eating out at restaurants, sodium is commonly added during cooking through salt, soy sauce, seasoning mixes and pre-made sauces. Choosing lower sodium options and preparing fajitas at home can help reduce the amount of sodium.
Sodium Content of Fajita Ingredients
The main ingredients in fajitas are the protein, veggies, tortillas and toppings. Here is the sodium content for 3 ounces of each standard fajita ingredient:
As you can see, the protein, peppers and onions are relatively low in sodium. Tortillas, especially flour tortillas, guacamole, salsa and cheese add a significant amount of sodium to fajitas.
Sodium in Fajitas at Restaurants
Dining out tends to increase the sodium content of fajitas. A serving of steak fajitas at a popular Mexican restaurant chain contains around 1,500-2,000mg of sodium. That’s 63-83% of the recommended daily limit from just one meal.
Sodium is added in the following ways when dining out:
- Marinades and seasoning mixes used to flavor the meat
- Oil and seasonings used to sauté the veggies
- Salt added to the meat and veggies during cooking
- Tortillas containing preservatives and salt
- Store-bought salsas, guacamole and sour cream with added salt or preservatives
Even fajitas marketed as “healthy” or “light” can contain over 1,000mg sodium per serving when eating out.
How to Make Low Sodium Fajitas at Home
To reduce the sodium content of fajitas, the best option is to prepare them yourself at home. Here are some tips:
Use fresh, unseasoned ingredients
Choose plain chicken, steak or shrimp. Season it yourself with fresh herbs, garlic, lime and salt-free spice blends. Use fresh bell peppers and onions. Make guacamole, salsa and sour cream from scratch to control the sodium.
Skip the salt
Don’t add any extra salt when sautéing the veggies or seasoning the meat. This alone can reduce sodium substantially.
Select low sodium tortillas
Look for tortillas with less than 150mg sodium each. Corn tortillas are naturally lower in sodium than flour. Low sodium wheat tortillas are also a good option.
Limit salty toppings
Use just a sprinkle of cheese instead of loading up your fajitas. And go easy on any store bought salsa, guac or sour cream by adding just a spoonful.
Boost flavor with lime, cilantro and hot sauce
Add brightness with fresh lime juice. Chopped cilantro also enhances flavor. A dash of hot sauce like Cholula also jazzes up fajitas without added salt.
Cook with unsalted broth or water
For extra moisture when sautéing veggies or cooking meat, use low sodium vegetable or chicken broth. Water is fine too. Just avoid salty marinades or soy sauce.
Low Sodium Fajita Recipe
This chicken fajita recipe is flavorful with just 240mg sodium for the entire recipe when served with 2 tortillas each.
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lime
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup water or low sodium broth
- 8 low sodium corn tortillas
- Optional toppings: pico de gallo, guacamole, cilantro
- Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch strips. Mix the chili powder, cumin, paprika and a pinch of black pepper and rub it onto the chicken.
- Slice the bell pepper and onion into strips. Mince the garlic. Squeeze the lime for juice.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp water or broth and the chicken strips. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until no longer pink.
- Add another tbsp of water or broth along with the peppers, onions and garlic. Cook 5 more minutes until softened.
- Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice over the fajita mix.
- Warm the tortillas. Fill with fajita mix and add toppings as desired.
This homemade version contains around 240mg sodium total if served with 2 tortillas each. You control the sodium by using all fresh ingredients and seasoning it yourself without added salt.
Tips for Ordering Low Sodium Fajitas at Restaurants
You can still enjoy fajitas at restaurants while limiting sodium by following these tips:
- Request unseasoned meat and vegetables seasoned simply with herbs or spices
- Ask for citrus wedges and fresh cilantro as seasoning instead of salt
- Avoid tortilla chips and salty dips before your meal
- Request corn tortillas instead of flour
- Order just 1-2 tortillas instead of several
- Ask for dressing, cheese and salsa on the side to control how much is added
- Enjoy fresh lime, pico de gallo and guacamole as toppings instead of cheese and sour cream
- Take half the fajitas home for another meal to cut sodium in half
Most restaurants are willing to accommodate requests for low sodium options. Just ask your server for help creating a meal according to your dietary needs.
Healthy Sodium Intake
The adequate intake (AI) for sodium is 1,500mg per day for most adults. The maximum daily amount recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 2,300mg.
Eating too much sodium can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Reducing sodium intake to the recommended limits promotes better cardiovascular health.
A single restaurant meal can contain well over the daily limit. Preparing fresh, low sodium fajitas at home is the best way to control how much sodium you get. With smart choices, you can still enjoy the bold, Tex-Mex flavors of fajitas while sticking to a heart-healthy sodium intake.
Fajitas can vary widely in sodium content depending on preparation. Restaurant-style fajitas often contain over 1,500mg sodium in a single serving. By using fresh, unseasoned ingredients and limiting added salt when cooking at home, you can make fajitas with just 200-300mg sodium total. Watch your portions of high sodium toppings like cheese and salsa too. With mindful preparation and smart choices, you can enjoy delicious fajitas as part of an overall healthy, low sodium diet. Just be cautious of sodium when dining out and use these tips to order and customize your fajita meal.