6 Dietitian Tips to Make the Viral Big Mac Tacos Healthier
“Big Mac Tacos” were one of the biggest TikTok trends of 2023, with millions of views and numerous #FoodTok creators demonstrating this at-home take on the iconic cheeseburger. Though the trendy dish isn’t exactly healthy, there are ways to give it a better-for-you glow-up.
What are Big Mac Tacos?
The original concept is simple: Cover one side of a flour tortilla with ground beef. Griddle the beef smash-burger style until it’s cooked through and adheres to the tortilla, then flip. As the underside of the tortilla soaks up the beef renderings, you top the beef layer with American cheese. When it’s melted, you fold the tortilla into a taco and garnish it with the traditional Big Mac fixings: lettuce, pickles, onions, and the all-important “special sauce.”
Though the term “Big Mac Taco” doesn’t exactly inspire the hope of a healthy meal, with some creativity, you can get in on this fun and tasty trend even if you prefer healthier fare. “With a few suggested tweaks, you can make this a much healthier indulgence,” says registered dietitian and certified personal trainer Trish Gomez. Here are her tips to make the viral Big Mac Tacos in a more health-supportive way.
Choose the right beef
When you’re shopping for the meat, look for a lean option. “Three ounces of 95% lean ground beef has 23 grams of protein, and just 5 grams of fat,” Gomez says. “It’s also an excellent source of vitamin B12 and other B vitamins, zinc, and a good source of iron.” The keys are using lean ground beef — no more than 10 percent fat, Gomez suggests — and sticking to the recommended portion size, rather than just trying to cover the entire surface of your tortilla with beef.
“Ground chicken or turkey breast are good substitutions, with less total fat and less saturated fat,” says Gomez, but she acknowledges that “it will be a significantly different taste.”
Change up the cheese
Though it melts well, “American cheese is highly processed, hence the name ‘processed cheese food’ on package labels,” Gomez says. Real, higher-quality cheeses “have about 7 grams of protein, 200 mg calcium, and are a good source of vitamin B12,” she notes, adding that you can still choose pre-sliced for convenience.
“Other varieties, such as cheddar or Monterey Jack, come packaged as ‘real cheese’ singles, or look for sliceable brick,” a mild white cheese from Wisconsin, Gomez suggests. “These are less processed cheeses with fewer ingredients and additives.” she says. Another option is a part-skim mozzarella, which offers about 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat per ounce, and also melts well with a neutral taste that allows the other flavors to shine.
Go whole grain
Another easy upgrade is to swap the flour tortilla for one made with whole grains. Given the full flavor of Big Mac Tacos, you won’t notice the taste of the whole grains as much, if that’s a concern. “Whole wheat tortillas are a great way to increase the fiber content of the meal, which increases feelings of satiety and fullness,” Gomez says. “Corn tortillas are also a great choice if you prefer a gluten free meal.”
You also can choose a grain-free option, such as tortillas made with almond flour.
Make a more special sauce
The special sauce is key to the original Big Mac’s unique flavor, and it’s also a major player in Big Mac Tacos. While several creators advocate for using bottled salad dressing, most offer recipes that include a mayonnaise base. Instead, “You could try using plain Greek yogurt, whipped avocado, or low fat sour cream as a base instead,” Gomez suggests.
If you’re skeptical, I personally tried the Big Mac Taco with a yogurt-based special sauce, and found it a good swap for the texture and mouthfeel of a mayonnaise-based sauce, with an extra boost of additional protein. This recipe from Cupcakes and Kale Chips calls for Greek yogurt and otherwise standard pantry and grocery-store ingredients, and it comes together in less than five minutes.
Add more veggies
The pickles on Big Mac Tacos aren’t netting you a significant source of veggies, unfortunately. “This is mainly because we typically eat these in small, condiment-sized amounts,” Gomez notes. “So the total nutritional value of a serving is too small to count.”
To bump up the nutrition, simply incorporate other typical burger toppings, and other veggies with a neutral taste. “Try adding shredded greens, cabbage, carrots, chopped tomatoes, and bell or jalapeño peppers,” Gomez says. I also experimented with this, adding spinach, bell peppers, and shredded carrots to my Big Mac Taco. They made great garnishes, and enhanced the flavor and texture of the dish.
Try a similar trend
To enjoy the flavor of Big Mac Tacos with a healthier bent, you can try the trendy, veggie-forward Big Mac Salad. Or mash up the TikTok Tortilla Wrap and the Big Mac Taco, which automatically scales down the portions of both meat and cheese. You’ll still get a good amount of protein, but in a less dense package.