What to Eat at Applebee's: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

Applebees nutrition facts

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In 1980, the first Applebee’s opened in Georgia. Today, with 2,000 locations in the U.S. and around the globe, the casual dining restaurant is among the most popular chains in the United States.

Applebee’s slogan—”Eatin’ good in the neighborhood,”—gives you a sense of what to expect from the menu. The chain offers an enormous menu: you’ll find pages and pages of various meals, from appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, to traditional American fare like burgers and fries, hearty entrees like pork chops and seafood, and decadent desserts. With the chain’s goal of being a neighborhood bar and grill, you’ll also find a wide range of alcoholic beverages.

Paying attention to portion size is one of the most frequent challenges when dining out, and Applebee’s is no exception. If you’re counting calories, keep in mind that go-to favorites like soups or salads aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices at Applebee’s—in part due to large portion sizes and high-calorie extras.

While combo meals at Applebee’s might be good for your wallet, it’s more difficult to determine an individual serving size when you have such a large plate of food in front of you. It’s best to order smaller portions for yourself. You can also get a larger meal to share or pack up half to take home.

It can be helpful to review the menu online before you go, giving you the opportunity to estimate calories and nutrition facts in advance. Having this information before you sit down and order your meal can help you plan choices that are in line with your dietary needs and goals.

You might also want to check out the nutrition and food options of the Cheesecake Factory or Red Robin.

What Experts Say

“Applebee’s offers some vegetarian options and a guide to allergens in each dish, but cannot guarantee dishes are allergen-free. While it offers vegetable sides and salads, many of the menu options are lower in fiber and higher in sodium. If eating here regularly, eating veggies and fiber-rich foods in your other meals while opting for lower sodium options can help maintain overall balance.”

—Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

Most Nutritious Options
  • Chicken Wonton Tacos

  • Kid’s Cheeseburger

  • Grilled Chicken Breast

  • Blackened Cajun Salmon

  • 6-oz Sirloin Steak

  • Four Cheese Bacon Mac & Cheese

  • Bacon Cheddar Grilled Chicken Sandwich

  • Kid’s Chicken Taco

  • Side House Salad

  • Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • Steamed Broccoli

  • Kid’s Strawberry Sundae

  • Water

Least Nutritious Options
  • Classic Combo

  • Quesadilla Burger

  • Chicken Tenders

  • Fish & Chips

  • Prime Rib Dipper

  • Classic Broccoli Chicken Alfredo 

  • Chicken Fajita Rollup 

  • Neighborhood Nachos

  • Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad

  • French Onion Soup

  • Classic Fries

  • Blue Ribbon Brownie

  • Strawberry Frozen Lemonade

Appetizers

It’s best to focus on the main part of your meal rather than filling up on appetizers, especially when they’re served in large portions that make it difficult to stick to a single serving.  Popular Applebee’s starters like Neighborhood Nachos, Soft Pretzel Dippers, and Mozzarella Sticks are higher in calories than some meals on the menu. They’re also high in fat and sodium.

Most Nutritious Option

Chicken Wonton Tacos

600 calories, 29g fat, 6g saturated fat, 1440 mg sodium, 50g carbohydrate, 27g sugar, and 36g protein

Least Nutritious Option

The Classic Combo (with Classic Hot Buffalo flavor and ranch dressing)

2480 calories, 152g fat, 44g saturated fat, 2g trans fat, 7840 mg sodium, 194g carbohydrate, 19g sugar, and 83g protein

One of the most popular starters at Applebee’s is warm Spinach & Artichoke Dip served with crispy tortilla chips. With healthy ingredients like spinach and artichokes, at first glance, it might seem like a nutritious choice—but with 990 calories and 61 grams of fat, the appetizer has more calories than some entrees. It also contains more than the recommended daily sodium intake—2700 milligrams.

You can make a healthier appetizer by starting with a side of Fire-Grilled Veggies for 150 calories. If your meal comes with a salad, ask to have it served before your meal instead of with it. If you add dressing, look for a low-fat choice and skip any starchy extras like croutons or breadsticks.

To satisfy a craving for crispy fries, crunchy chips, and creamy dip for less fat and calories, munch on a side of celery and ranch from the kid’s menu while you wait for the rest of your meal to arrive.

Burgers

Applebee’s offers a few options for a traditional burger-and-fries meal, though none of them are low in calories or fat. Extra calories from the sauce and add-ons like bacon, fried eggs, crispy onions, and cheese (plus a side of fries) turn basic hamburgers into high-calorie, sodium-packed meals. At most restaurants, you can usually find smaller, simpler, burger options on the kid’s menu. At Applebee’s, you can even ask for some lower-calorie substitutions to make a healthier burger.

Most Nutritious Option

Kid’s Menu Cheeseburger

560 calories, 34g fat, 12g saturated fat, 1.5g trans fat, 1050 mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate, 7g sugar, and 26g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Quesadilla Burger (with beef and cheddar cheese)

1240 calories, 89g fat, 37g saturated fat, 2g trans fat, 2830 mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 64g protein

Applebee’s offers the option of swapping another type of patty for beef in any hamburger on its menu. While the usual beef patty has around 410 calories, the chicken breast patty has 190 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 40 grams of protein.

Going meatless can save over 200 calories: the Black Bean Burger has just 190 calories, 7 grams of fat, but still offers 17 grams of protein.

Some locations also offer a vegetarian patty for 170 calories. While it’s the lowest-calorie and lowest-fat option for burger building, it won’t add much protein to your meal—just 7 grams.

Whichever burger you choose, the easiest way to make it lower in fat and reduce its sodium content is to forgo extras like sauces, bacon, and cheese. Skipping the bacon will save you 100 calories alone. If you also get your burger without cheese, you can save another 150 or so calories and 8-14 grams of fat.

Chicken

You’ll find a range of options for chicken at Applebee’s, both of the fried and grilled varieties, including crispy tenders, stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, and pasta entrees. The most nutritious choices are those with grilled, rather than battered-and-fried, chicken.

Most Nutritious Option

Grilled Chicken Breast

190 calories, 3g fat, 1g saturated fat, 860 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 40g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Chicken Tenders

690 calories, 36g fat, 7g saturated fat, 1570 mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, and 43g protein

You can make a healthier chicken sandwich by ordering the Bacon Cheddar Grilled Chicken Sandwich without bacon and cheese. With the tangy BBQ ranch dressing, you’ll still get bold flavor without as much fat.

If you’re hankering for crispy chicken tenders, look to the Kid’s Menu for a smaller snack-size portion. While the regular menu Chicken Tender Plate has 490 calories and 26 grams of fat, the Kid’s Menu Chicken Tenders has just 290 calories and 16 grams of fat. You’ll have your choice of dipping sauce on the side, but keep in mind that these add 100-200 calories to your meal and can be high in sodium. Any sides will also increase the total calories.

Boneless Wings or Bone-in Wings are another popular order at Applebee’s. Chicken wings aren’t necessarily high in calories if eaten plain, but when fried and served with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, they become a high-fat, high-calorie dish.

Seafood

The seafood options at Applebee’s can vary by region, but you’ll usually find a few staples like salmon and shrimp. As with chicken dishes, avoid fried seafood and stick to grilled options. While these dishes may come with a side of fries, swap in a side of veggies instead to add fiber and save calories, fat, and sodium.

Most Nutritious Option

Blackened Cajun Salmon (with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli)

630 calories, 32g fat, 10g saturated fat, 1820 mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, 5g sugar, and 44g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Fish & Chips (with tartar sauce, fries, and coleslaw)

1490 calories, 103g fat, 18g saturated fat, 3220 mg sodium, 100g carbohydrate, 15g sugar, and 42g protein

Grilled salmon pairs well with vegetables, and since it’s a lower-fat option, you have a little room to get creative when ordering a side. Try adding Cole Slaw or Garlicky Green Beans (both for under 200 calories) instead of fries.

If you have your heart (and stomach) set on shrimp, be aware that the Double Crunch Shrimp meal has over 1,100 calories. One of the chicken dishes, the Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp, may sate your shrimp craving while being 300 calories lighter.

Steak, Ribs, & Fajitas

A rack of baby back ribs is a popular choice at Applebee’s. You can order a half or full rack as an entree. Sirloin steak can be ordered as a meal, a topping for your salad, or in a fajita.

Most Nutritious Option

6-oz Top Sirloin

200 calories, 7g fat, 3g saturated fat, 950 mg sodium, <1g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 34g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Prime Rib Dipper

940 calories, 51g fat, 18g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 3100 mg sodium, 71g carbohydrate, 15g sugar, and 52g protein

While a half-rack of ribs may not be a high-calorie meal if they’re plain, smothered in salty sauces and glaze and paired with starchy sides, Applebee’s Baby Back Ribs aren’t among the more nutritious options. 

The glazes or sauce used for ribs add calories, sodium, and can often be a source of hidden sugar. For example, Applebee’s Honey BBQ Sauce has 130 calories and 26 grams of sugar per serving.

Similarly, a 6-ounce portion of sirloin can be a good source of protein, but the sides you choose can make the overall meal a less healthy option.

Pasta

With creamy sauces and large portions, you won’t find a pasta dish for under 1,000 calories on the regular menu at Applebee’s. Dishes like Chicken or Shrimp Alfredo, Three-Cheese Chicken Penne, and Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders are served with a breadstick, adding 25 grams of carbs to already high-carb meals.

Most Nutritious Option

Four Cheese Bacon Mac & Cheese (Side)

410 calories, 21g fat, 10g saturated fat, 1020 mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 19g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Classic Broccoli Chicken Alfredo (no breadstick)

1220 calories, 70g fat, 43g saturated fat, 2g trans fat, 2550 mg sodium, 77g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, and 75g protein

You’ll have to look to the Kid’s Menu to find any pasta dishes under 1,000 calories—though the choices aren’t necessarily more nutritious. The menu’s 310-calorie serving of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese may be lower in calories compared to other pasta dishes, but it’s still a high-carb option. Without adding much nutrition, it’s also not one that’s likely to satisfy your hunger.

Similarly, even though the Kid’s Menu Grilled Chicken Alfredo is a smaller portion of pasta, with 680 calories it’s one of the higher-calorie options.

The breadsticks that accompany pasta dishes pack extra carbs and sodium into your meal. Avoid the Breadsticks with Alfredo Sauce: with 1530 calories, 91 grams of fat, 2780 milligrams sodium, and 136 grams of carbs, it’s higher in calories than some of the pasta dishes.

Sandwiches & Wraps

Applebee’s sandwich options are limited, though it is possible to make existing menu items a little healthier by skipping certain ingredients and sides.

Most Nutritious Option

Bacon Cheddar Grilled Chicken Sandwich (no fries)

820 calories, 45g fat, 16g saturated fat, 2130 mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 10g sugar, and 63g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Chicken Fajita Rollup (no fries)

990 calories, 58g fat, 24g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 3060 mg sodium, 64g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 55g protein

Even the highest-calorie sandwich on the menu, the Oriental Chicken Salad Wrap, can be reduced if you skip the additions. Ordering the sandwich without the vinaigrette saves 630 calories. You can also replace the chicken tenders with grilled chicken to save another 200 calories.

While potato bread still contains carbs, it’s generally not as high-calorie as the brioche rolls used for other sandwiches on the menu. Depending on availability at your local Applebee’s, you may be able to turn your sandwich into a wrap.

Remember that the overall nutrition of your meal will depend on what you choose to go with it. A side House Salad is 130 calories, while small cup of French Onion Soup can add 380 calories.

Quesadillas & Tacos

Most of the Tex-Mex-style fare at Applebee’s is found on the appetizer menu, though you’ll also find them in select entrees. In fact, the smaller portions found on the kid’s menu are closer to a single serving, so be sure to look there if you’re not ordering a dish to share.

Most Nutritious Option

Kid’s Menu Grilled Chicken Taco

220 calories, 7g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 510 mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, and 19g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Neighborhood Nachos - Beef

1950 calories, 130g fat, 55g saturated fat, 2g trans fat, 4620 mg sodium, 120g carbohydrate, 13g sugar, and 77g protein

The Kid’s Chicken Quesadilla offers 15 grams of quick on-the-go protein for 350 calories and 17 grams of fat. A Chipotle Lime Chicken Quesadilla from the appetizer menu has 1130 calories and close to 70 grams of fat.

If you’re ordering the Classic Dip Trio for the table, the lowest calorie option is the Chipotle Lime Salsa, which is 60 calories per serving. The Queso Dip has 260 calories a serving, and the Guacamole has 430.

For diners on reduced-sodium diets, know that any order of chips is a salty choice. In fact, some chips and dip appetizers at Applebee’s account for well over an entire day’s worth of your daily recommended sodium intake.

Salads

At first glance, many of Applebee’s salads appear to be among the least healthy meals. Keep in mind that the nutrition information displayed includes salad dressing. While many of the salads are made with fried food, cheese, and other high-fat extras, you can use the menu options to create a healthier version.

Most Nutritious Option

Side House Salad (no dressing)

130 calories, 7g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 230 mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, and 6g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad

1540 calories, 102g fat, 16g saturated fat, 1690 mg sodium, 119g carbohydrate, 43g sugar, and 41g protein

Most of Applebee’s regular menu salads are large enough to easily make more than one meal. If you’re content to pack up half to enjoy later, ordering a full-size salad is one option. You can also use the options you have to create a smaller serving of salad.

One of the simplest ways to make a healthier salad is to use a side salad as your base. You can usually save 100-200 calories by skipping salad dressing or go with Applebee’s Fat-Free Italian Dressing, which only adds 20 calories.

Soup

At Applebee’s, soups are typically part of a combo meal. Availability of certain types of soup can vary depending on where you live, but most locations offer traditional favorites like Chicken Tortilla, French Onion, and Tomato Basil.

Most Nutritious Option

Chicken Tortilla Soup

280 calories, 15g fat, 4g saturated fat, 940 mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, and 12g protein

Least Nutritious Option

French Onion Soup

380 calories, 23g fat, 13g saturated fat, 1300 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, and 17g protein

Milk-based soups like clam chowder or Applebee’s take on baked potato soup are higher in calories and fat than other options, though they can be lower in sodium. Whichever soup you choose, avoid adding unnecessary calories and carbs by passing on crackers or a side of bread.

Sides

Applebee’s offers traditional sides like french fries and onion rings, but you’ll also find a few nutritious options you can use to create a healthier meal, like grilled or steamed veggies.

Most Nutritious Option

Steamed Broccoli

100 calories, 8g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 280 mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, and 3g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Classic Fries (side)

430 calories, 20g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 960 mg sodium, 97g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 5g protein

If you’re looking for a lower-calorie potato choice, a side of Fire-Grilled Veggies has just 150 calories. Garlic Mashed Potatoes are also lower in calories than fries, but the creamy butter makes the dish higher in fat than the fire-grilled veggies.

Without sour cream, butter, bacon, and cheese, a plain baked potato at Applebee’s has 290 calories, 5g fat, and 56g carbohydrate.

Desserts

Compared to the variety of Applebee’s expansive menu, the dessert offerings are quite similar. As you might expect, they’re all high in calories, fat, and sugar. Most are drenched in chocolate or caramel, topped with whipped cream, or served with a scoop of ice cream.

Most Nutritious Option

Kid’s Menu Strawberry Sundae

310 calories, 14g fat, 9g saturated fat, 90 mg sodium, 44g carbohydrate, 37g sugar, and 3g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Blue Ribbon Brownie

1410 calories, 68g fat, 36g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 760 mg sodium, 188g carbohydrate, 126g sugar, and 18g protein

The Brownie Bite is the lowest calorie option on the regular dessert menu. For 320 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 30 grams of sugar, the mini dessert is alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with warm fudgy chocolate syrup.

Without any decadent chocolate in the name, the Sizzlin' Caramel Apple Blondie might sound like a healthier option. In fact, with 1230 calories, it’s one of the highest-calorie desserts on the menu. It also has 49 grams of fat, 186 grams of carbohydrate, and 138 grams of sugar.

Applebee’s Kid's Menu also offers a selection of milkshakes, but they still carry a lot of calories. The Chocolate Shake has 740 calories, and the Vanilla Shake has 550 calories. The smoothies on the regular menu are healthier, as they only have 260-280 calories.

At some Applebee’s locations, you may find another option on the Applebee’s kid’s menu: a side of sliced strawberries and vanilla yogurt. For just 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 17 grams of sugar, you can have a low-cal, low-fat, slightly-sweet treat to finish off your meal.

Beverages

Water is always the healthiest drink to accompany your meal, but depending on your nutrition goals and taste preferences, you’ll have some other no or low-calorie beverage options such as sparkling water, black coffee, diet soda, and unsweetened iced tea at Applebee’s.

Most Nutritious Option

Bottled Water

0 calories, 0g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 0g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Strawberry Frozen Lemonade

180 calories, 0g fat, 50 mg sodium, 46g carbohydrate, 44g sugar, and 0g protein

Iced tea, diet soda, and light lemonade may not add many calories or fat to your meal, but they may be made with sugar substitutes or preservatives like aspartame, which some diners prefer to avoid.

If you want a fountain drink, an easy way to reduce the calories of your choice is to get a kid-size drink rather than the standard size. The typical 20-ounce serving of Sprite has 90 calories, but a kid’s serving only has 60 calories.

Diet-Specific Options

If you follow a special diet, you may find going out to eat challenging and have become used to having limited choices at most restaurants. One positive aspect of Applebee’s large menu is that it can accommodate a wide variety of tastes and dietary needs.

As you review the menu, ask your server for nutrition information or a list of ingredients if you don’t find the information you need. PDFs with this information are also available on Applebee’s website. If a particular meal isn’t suitable for your diet, ask if it’s possible to make modifications or swaps.

Gluten-free

Applebee’s doesn’t offer specific gluten-free options, but there are items on the menu that don’t contain gluten or wheat.

However, the chain points out that because all the meals are prepared in a shared kitchen space, it can’t guarantee a meal hasn’t come into contact with gluten or wheat-containing ingredients during the storage, prep, or cooking process.

If you need to avoid gluten or have celiac disease, it’s always best to exercise caution when dining out.

Items at Applebee’s that may be suitable for a gluten-free diet include:

  • Fries
  • Baked Potato
  • Chips & Salsa
  • 6-oz Sirloin Steak (no sides)
  • Grilled Chicken Breast (no sides)

Low-carb

  • 6-oz Sirloin Steak
  • Chicken Breast Patty
  • Grilled Chicken Breast
  • Blackened Cajun Salmon
  • Baby Back Ribs

Diabetes-friendly

  • Grilled Shrimp
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Side House Salad (no dressing)
  • Half-Rack Baby Back Ribs (no sauce)
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Low-fat

  • Tomato Basil Soup
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • 6 oz. Sirloin
  • Blackened Cajun Salmon
  • Chicken Breast Patty

Low-sodium

  • Kids Chicken Taco
  • Steamed Broccoli
  • Blackened Cajun Salmon
  • Brownie Bite
  • Half-Rack of Ribs with Texas-Style BBQ Sauce (no side)

Vegetarian & Vegan

Although you won’t find designated vegan options at Applebee’s, you can use items from across the menu to create a vegan diet-friendly meal. Just know that since Applebee’s uses meat and animal products in its kitchen, certain options may not work for you, depending on the type of diet you follow.

Menu items at Applebee’s that may be suitable for a vegan diet include:

  • Chips & Salsa
  • Baked Potato (no butter)
  • Steamed vegetables (no butter)
  • House Salad (no cheese) with dairy-free dressing (Honey French, Fat-Free Italian, Lemon Olive Oil Vinaigrette)

In addition to the vegan-friendly items, vegetarians may also enjoy the following menu items at Applebee’s:

  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Oriental Salad (without chicken, steak, or shrimp)
  • Black Bean Burger Patty or Vegetarian Burger Patty (where available)
  • Kid’s/Side Mac & Cheese or Classic Broccoli Alfredo (without chicken)
  • All dessert options, including the Triple Chocolate Meltdown and Butter Pecan Blondie

While French fries can occasionally be vegan and vegetarian fast food options, all fried items at Applebee’s are prepared using the same fryer, meaning they may not be acceptable for some plant-based diets.

Food Allergies and Safety

Applebee’s provides a downloadable PDF chart with information about common food allergens present on its menu. However, if you have a food allergy, you should be aware that Applebee’s can’t guarantee a particular item on its menu is completely free from allergens, as cross-contamination is possible.

Common food allergens Applebee’s you can look for include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Gluten
  • Tree Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts

While the chart indicates the presence of these allergens, Applebee’s website also states: “Due to the complexity of our ingredients, other allergenic foods may be present in a menu item, but not declared,” on the chart or the menu.

If you have a food allergy, exercise caution when you’re going out to eat, and always let your server know which ingredients you need to avoid when placing your order.

A Word From Verywell

Applebee’s large menu is varied enough that most diners will likely be able to order a meal that works for their specific dietary needs, tastes, and overall health goals. You can create a healthier meal from the menu options by ordering smaller portions, skipping extras, asking for low-carb swaps, and choosing sides that are lower in calories and fat. If you follow a special diet, you may not find specific meals on Applebee’s menu to suit your needs, but you can create a satisfying, tasty meal with the options you have.

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