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

Chili's

Verywell / Christian Alzate

Chili’s menu is predominantly inspired by bold Southwest flavors. You’ll find a mix of traditional Tex-Mex dishes such as fajitas and tacos, entrees like steak, pasta, soups, sandwiches, and salads, as well as classic burgers and fries.

As with other sit-down eateries, Chili’s meals are generally high-calorie, high fat, and served in large portions. Checking out the menu ahead of time and using the online nutrition chart to get an estimate of the calorie count of a meal can help you make choices that best suit your tastes and health goals.

What Experts Say

“The menu at Chili’s includes vegetarian and vegan options and the ability to personalize an order to exclude some allergens (but there's no guarantee). While there are whole grain options and veggie sides to add fiber to your meal, the sodium levels of most dishes are very high. Even if you opt for lower sodium foods for your other meals, you may find you are still exceeding your daily sodium limit if you eat here regularly.”

Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

If you have special dietary needs or food allergies, Chili’s offers helpful information about the ingredients it uses to create its menu and notes which dishes contain the most common food allergens. You’ll also find a selection of vegan and vegetarian options on the regular menu, as well as a separate gluten-free menu at Chili’s.

What to Order & Avoid at Chili's
 Most Nutritious Options Least Nutritious Options
Chips & Guacamole (Appetizers) Texas Cheese Fries with Chili (Appetizers)
Alex's Santa Fe Burger (Big Mouth Burgers) Bacon Rancher (Big Mouth Burgers)
6 oz. Classic Sirloin with Grilled Avocado (Ribs & Steak) Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs (Ribs & Steak)
Shrimp (Fajitas) Grilled Steak (Fajitas)
Grilled Chicken Salad (Salads) Quesadilla Explosion Salad (Salads)
Southwest Chicken Soup (Soup) Original Chili (Soup)
Mango-Chile Chicken (Chicken & Seafood) Honey-Chipotle Crispers & Waffles (Chicken & Seafood)
California Turkey Club (Sandwiches) Bacon Avocado Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Sandwiches)
Spicy Shrimp Tacos (Tacos & Quesadillas) Beef Bacon Ranch Quesadillas (Tacos & Quesadillas)
Chicken Bites (Kids Entrees) Cheesy Chicken Pasta (Kids Entrees)
Asparagus (Sides) Awesome Blossom Petals (Sides)
Mini Molten Chocolate Cake (Desserts) Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie (Desserts)
Dasani Water (Beverages) 2% Chocolate Milk (Beverages)

Most Nutritious Option

For the most nutritious meal at Chili's, order the shrimp fajitas, which come packed with healthy protein for few calories and fat.

Appetizers

Most of the items on Chili’s menu of starters contain a meal's worth of calories (or more). When you’re dining out, focus on choosing a nutrient-dense entrée instead of filling up on appetizers before your main meal arrives. If you order an appetizer, look for smaller portions and share with your companions.

✓ Fresh Guacamole

Chips and guacamole might look like a small starter compared to other menu items like a large plate of nachos—but the appetizer-size serving of tortilla chips and fresh guacamole appetizer at Chili's delivers 1,140 calories, 66g fat, 10g saturated fat, 128g carbohydrates, 16g protein, and 2,350mg sodium.

However, some of the fat and calories come from the guacamole, which offers healthy monounsaturated fats and lots of fiber (18g in this appetizer portion). If you enjoy guacamole, consider sharing this appetizer or asking for other dipping options, such as fresh veggies instead of tortilla chips.

✗ Texas Cheese Fries with Chili

The Texas cheese fries with chili, on the other hand, bring 2,250 calories, 150g fat, 62g saturated fat, 113g carbohydrate, 102g protein, and 5,320mg sodium. If you're craving the chili cheese fries, consider ordering the half portion, and make it your full meal rather than an appetizer.

Big Mouth Burgers

Chili’s “Big Mouth Burger” menu lives up to its name. Every hamburger on the menu has over 1,000 calories; several options, including the Southern smokehouse burger and Big Mouth Bites, have over 1,500 calories.

✓ Alex's Santa Fe Burger

Alex's Santa Fe burger at Chili's comes loaded with avocado, cheese, onion, jalapeños, tomatoes, pickles, cilantro, and sauce, and provides 950 calories, 62g fat, 25g saturated fat, 49g carbohydrate, 51g protein, and 1,160mg sodium. The addition of avocado helps it deliver 6g of fiber.

✗ Bacon Rancher Burger

The bacon rancher burger comes with extra meat, including two patties and six slices of bacon, as well as cheese, onions, pickles, and ranch. It has 1,780 calories, 128g fat, 53g saturated fat, 49g carbohydrate, 104g protein, and 2,780mg sodium.

While the burgers are some of the highest-calorie options at Chili’s, it is possible to customize your burger to change its nutritional profile. Skip extras like bacon, cheese, and sauces to reduce calories, fat, and sodium.

Swapping the beef patty for a black bean patty will also save calories and fat. A beef patty has 510 calories, 39g fat, and 38g protein, while a black bean patty has just 200 calories and 8g fat but still provides 17g protein.

Ribs & Steak

Chili’s is known for its baby back ribs. While a full rack of ribs or large steak can easily account for more than one meal's worth of calories, Chili’s also gives you the option of smaller portions, such as a half-order of ribs or a 6-ounce steak.

✓ 6 oz. Classic Sirloin with Grilled Avocado


The 6-ounce classic sirloin with grilled avocado comes with a side of roasted asparagus. It has 340 calories, 16g fat, 4g saturated fat, 13g carbohydrates, 38g protein, and 1,200mg sodium. You can also order a 6-ounce classic sirloin, but it comes with loaded mashed potatoes (350 calories and 20g fat).

✗ Texas Dry Rub Baby Back Ribs (Full Rack)

A full rack of the Texas dry rub baby back ribs contains 1480 calories, 107g fat, 41g saturated fat, 5120mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 99g protein, and 5,120mg sodium. If you want to center your meal around steak or ribs, be choosy about sides. A side of homestyle fries adds 420 calories to your meal, for example.

Choosing a side of steamed broccoli only adds 40 calories, but also gives you 4 grams of fiber. A drizzle of Black Pepper Gravy has 25 calories, 10g fat, and 240mg sodium.

Fajitas

Chili’s menu of Southwestern-style fare includes Tex-Mex favorites fajitas, all of which come served with rice, beans, and flour tortillas. Chili's does allow for substitutions—swap for corn tortillas to cut down on calories—and sides of cheese, salsa, and sour cream can be added or skipped depending on the meal.

✓ Shrimp

The shrimp fajitas are Chili's most nutritious fajitas option, with a customizable platter of shrimp, onions, and bell peppers. Without toppings or tortillas, it contains 320 calories, 16g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 21g carbohydrates, 21g protein, and 2,670mg sodium.

✗ Grilled Steak

The grilled steak fajitas offering provides 580 calories, 30g fat, 9g saturated fat, 25g carbohydrates, 57g protein, and 2,230mg sodium. If looking for a lower-calorie or low-sodium dish, try mixing and matching items from the side and kid’s menu to create your own lower-calorie Tex-Mex inspired dish.

For example, an order of grilled chicken dippers from the kid’s menu has 300 calories, Order it with a side of tortillas to DIY your own fajita dish.

Salads

While you might expect salads to always be the healthiest choice, several of Chili’s salads are actually among the highest-calorie items on the menu. Avoid salads loaded with fried chicken or seafood, topped with crunchy extras, and doused in a high-fat dressing.

✓ Grilled Chicken Salad

While the house salad at Chili's contains fewer calories, the protein makeup of the grilled chicken salad makes it quite a nutritious option. It comes with 440 calories, 24g fat, 5g saturated fat, 22g carbohydrates, 37g protein, and 990mg sodium.

✗ Quesadilla Explosion Salad

With chicken, cheese, tomatoes, corn, beans, and quesadilla triangles, the quesadilla explosion salad has 1,400 calories, 95g fat, 27g saturated fat, 84g carbohydrates, 58g protein, and 2,590mg sodium.

To make a more filling salad from a side order of greens, look elsewhere on the menu for protein-rich sides. On the kid’s menu, you’ll find smaller portions of grilled chicken and even fresh pineapple, which you can use to add interesting flavors and fiber to your salad.

On the fajita, sandwich, and sides menus, you’ll find an array of veggie toppings that can spice up a salad without dressing. If you do want to add dressing, order it on the side and avoid creamy dressings which can be high in calories, fat, and even sugar. Chili's honey lime vinaigrette has 130 calories per 1.5 ounce portion. Or ask for the greens to be tossed with just a classic mix of oil and vinegar. 

Soups & Chili

Chili’s serves up a few varieties of soup by the bowl or cup, as well as paired with soups or sandwiches as part of a meal deal. Choose from Southwestern-inspired recipes with chicken, chili, and even clam chowder.

✓ Southwest Chicken (Cup)

For a hearty side to your meal, reach for a cup of the Southwest chicken soup, which includes 120 calories, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 14g carbohydrates, 5g protein, and 690mg sodium.

✗ Original Chili (Bowl)

A bowl of the original chili provides 760 calories, 47g fat, 18g saturated fat, 28g carbohydrates, 39g protein, and 2,070mg sodium.

While soup can be a low-calorie choice, it may not be filling enough on its own. A cup of chicken enchilada soup has 210 calories and 13g fat, but if you pair it with the Santa Fe crispers chicken salad, you add 940 calories and 69g fat to your meal. If you add dressing to your salad, that’s another 100 to 300 calories.

If you want to turn a cup of soup into a heartier meal, choose a lightly-dressed house salad or a side of black beans for 7g protein and 6g fiber.

Chicken & Seafood

In addition to burgers and sandwiches, Chili’s also offers several chicken and seafood entrees. Look for grilled options rather than fried, and veggie-laden sides rather than starchy fries, waffles, or pasta (since these tend not to be fiber-rich whole-grain versions). Try seared shrimp or grilled salmon paired with a side of veggies or used to top a salad.

✓ Mango-Chile Chicken

The mango-chile chicken, which features a side of Mexican rice and steamed broccoli, is the most nutrient-packed dish on the chicken and seafood section of the menu. In total, it provides 510 calories, 20g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 50g carbohydrates, 36g protein, and 1,570mg sodium.

✗ Honey-Chipotle Crispers & Waffles 

The honey-chipotle crispers and waffles—Chili's take on chicken and waffles—have 2,590 calories, 126g fat, 42g saturated fat, 303g carbohydrates, 63g protein, and 5,180mg sodium.

If you're craving a chicken option, consider the margarita grilled chicken or the chipotle chicken fresh Mex bowl. Otherwise, if you're looking for a seafood dish, you can use the salmon and shrimp options creatively to create a healthier meal. Stick with veggie sides to boost the nutrition and fiber on your plate

Sandwiches

Chili’s offers limited sandwich choices, all of which are high-calorie (especially with all the fixings and sides). However, there are a few swaps you can use to make a more nutritious sandwich.

✓ California Turkey Club

A lunch portion of the California turkey club—made with bacon, tomato, onion, cheese, avocado, and mayo—provides 550 calories, 32g fat, 10g saturated fat, 39g carbohydrates, 27g protein, and 1,130mg sodium. Skip the side of fries to avoid additional calories and sodium on your plate (or ask for asparagus, corn on the cob, or steamed broccoli as your side for fewer calories and less sodium and fat).

✗ Bacon Avocado Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Chili's bacon avocado grilled chicken sandwich provides 1,160 calories, 61g fat, 15g saturated fat, 75g carbohydrates, 83g protein, and 2,390mg sodium. The go-to method for reducing the calories of any sandwich is to skip the cheese, bacon, and high-fat condiments. Instead of creamy mayo, add a few slices of avocado for 80 calories and 7g of mostly healthy fats along with some filling fiber.

Passing up a side of fries will save over 400 calories and 600 mg sodium. If you want something crunchy to go with your sandwich, a kid’s menu side of celery sticks with ranch dip is only 180 calories.

Tacos & Quesadillas

Alongside the fajitas, Chili's offering of tacos and quesadillas further expands on its Tex-Mex menu.

✓ Spicy Shrimp Tacos

The spicy shrimp tacos come topped with coleslaw, pico de gallo, and avocado, and are served in flour tortillas. You'll consume 1,000 calories, 43g fat, 11g saturated fat, 111g carbohydrates, 38g protein, and 3,190mg sodium in this dish.

✗ Beef Bacon Ranch Quesadillas

The dinner serving of the beef bacon ranch quesadillas includes steak, cheese, and bacon, and comes served with additional ranch and sour cream. The plate provides 1,790 calories, 134g fat, 43g saturated fat, 70g carbohydrates, 80g protein, and 4,000mg sodium.

For a lower-sodium quesadilla option, consider looking toward the kid's menu. Pair up the grilled chicken dippers and cheese quesadilla, and you have a 700-calorie meal.

Kids Entrees

For its younger diners, Chili's offers a selection of special kids' entrées and sides, available for lunch and dinner.

✓ Chicken Bites

An order of chicken bites contains 290 calories, 7g fat, 2g saturated fat, 34g carbohydrates, 24g protein, and 550mg sodium. Pair this dish with a side of steamed broccoli for an additional 40 calories (plus fiber and vitamins).

✗ Cheesy Chicken Pasta

If looking for a low-calorie and low-sodium meal for yourself or your child, avoid the cheesy chicken pasta. This dish has 670 calories, 32g fat, 15g saturated fat, 46g carbohydrates, 50g protein, and 1,460mg sodium.

Sides

Chili’s offers a range of side dishes, but not all are created equal. Some options, like steamed veggies, can increase the nutrition in your meal by contributing vitamins, minerals, and fiber without saturated fat.

✓ Asparagus

A side serving of the roasted asparagus provides 35 calories, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 5g carbohydrates, 3g protein, and 135mg sodium. This low-fat side option also include 3g fiber, making it a healthy addition to any meal.

✗ Awesome Blossom Petals

The Awesome Blossom Petals—a signature Chili's dish, and their take on onion rings—deliver 760 calories, 50g fat, 8g saturated fat, 70g carbohydrates, 9g protein, and 1,650mg sodium. Other choices (especially those that are fried) may account for a meal on their own in terms of calories. If you want to round out your entrée with a side, stick to veggies.

Dessert

The selection of sweets at Chili’s is similar to other casual dining restaurants and all the options are high in calories, fat, and sugar without adding much helpful nutrition. Large portions make it harder to determine the nutrition content of a single serving. If you do choose a sweet treat, sharing with friends or packing up half to take home to enjoy later will help keep calories and added sugar in check.

✓ Mini Molten Chocolate Cake

A mini version of the molten chocolate cake provides the sweet treat in a smaller serving. In total, it provides 670 calories, 31g fat, 14g saturated fat, 95g carbohydrates, 7g protein, and 700mg sodium.

✗ Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

The skillet chocolate chip cookie, which comes topped with ice cream and hot fudge, provides 1,180 calories, 49g fat, 24g saturated fat, 177g carbohydrates, 14g protein, and 890mg sodium.

To finish off with something just a little sweet, a side of fruit like pineapple or mandarin oranges will add fewer than 100 calories and 20g sugar to your meal, along with some fiber and vitamins.

Beverages

Chili’s has most of the classic beverage choices, such as fountain sodas, iced tea, lemonade, fruit juice, and milk. The chain also has a full menu of alcoholic drinks including beer, wine, and cocktails, though these beverages can add a lot of extra calories (and even sugar) to your meal.

✓ Dasani Water

Reach for the Dasani water for 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 0g protein, and 0 mg sodium. This beverage choice will add no nutrients to your meal, and will keep you hydrated for no additional calories, sodium, or sugar.

✗ 2% Chocolate Milk

A kids' size of the 2% chocolate milk includes 290 calories, 7g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 45g carbohydrates, 11g protein, and 250mg sodium.

Most of Chili’s non-alcoholic beverages are "bottomless,” meaning your drink will be refilled continuously unless you ask your server to stop. Those calories can quickly add up. For example, one regular size strawberry lemonade has 140 calories. But if you have three lemonades during your lunch, you've consumed 420 calories and over 100g of sugar.

Whether you’re ordering take-out, dining out, or eating at home, water is the healthiest beverage choice. Black coffee, iced tea, and diet soda tend to add few (if any) extra calories to your meal. Keep in mind that these choices often contain sugar substitutes or preservatives, such as aspartame, which you may want to avoid.

Diet-Specific Options

With such a wide-ranging menu, Chili’s offers options that suit a variety of dietary tastes and preferences. If you follow a special diet or avoid certain ingredients due to a food allergy, many meals at Chili’s can be prepared according to your needs as long as you let your server know when you place your order.

Gluten-Free

Chili’s gluten-free menu is available to diners who need to avoid gluten or wheat due to sensitivity or celiac disease. You can view the gluten-free menu online or request it when you’re dining in. You can also make modifications like ordering a burger without the bun. The ancho salmon is a nutritious option that provides 48g protein in a single serving.

  • Bone-in wings
  • Bottomless tostada chips and salsa
  • Guacamole and chips
  • Texas cheese fries
  • White spinach queso and chips
  • Fajitas (chicken, steak, or shrimp; request corn tortillas)
  • Chipotle chicken or shrimp bowl
  • Sirloin with grilled avocado
  • Ancho salmon
  • Classic ribeye or sirloin steak
  • Grilled chicken salad (all salad dressings are free of gluten ingredients)
  • Caribbean salad
  • Caesar or house salad (omit croutons)
  • Southwest Caesar salad
  • Mango-chile chicken
  • Margarita grilled chicken
  • Baby back ribs (all flavors; no sides)
  • Loaded baked potato soup
  • Southwestern chicken soup
  • Original chili
  • All sides except Awesome Blossom Petals

If you need your food handled according to special protocols to reduce cross-contamination of allergens, let your server know. While Chili’s staff can take steps to prevent contamination with gluten-containing products, these ingredients are present. Therefore, Chili’s can’t guarantee a meal is completely free from gluten.

Chili's Allergy Statement

"Chili’s makes no claim that these items meet the definition of gluten-free, defined as containing less than 20 ppm of gluten per FDA standards. Because we have multiple sources of gluten in our kitchen, there is a risk that gluten cross-contact may occur during the preparation and cooking of these items."

Low-Carb

Focus on lean proteins and veggie sides to limit carbs at Chili's. You can also customize by asking for burgers without a bun, salads without croutons, and so on. For only 1g carbohydrates, order the 6-ounce classic sirloin steak—a nutritious option.

  • Caesar salad (ordered LC, 7g carbs)
  • House salad (ordered LC, without dressing, 8g carbs)
  • Seared shrimp add-on (1g carbs)
  • 6-ounce sirloin with grilled avocado (13g carbs)
  • Grilled chicken salad (22g carbs)
  • Southwestern Chicken Soup (Cup)
  • Original BBQ baby back ribs, half rack (10g carbs)
  • Buffalo bone-in wings (4g carbs)
  • Kids' grilled chicken dippers (2g carbs)

Diabetes-Friendly

Depending on their needs, people with diabetes may look to reduce carbs and sugars and increase protein. Create your own diabetes-friendly dish by mixing and matching a couple of dishes, such as the house salad (skip the dressing) and the grilled chicken dippers from the kids' menu.

  • Kids' grilled chicken dippers
  • Turkey patty
  • Buffalo bone-in wings
  • 6-ounce sirloin with grilled avocado
  • 6-oz Sirloin with Avocado
  • House salad (no dressing)

Low-Fat

It can be hard to limit fat intake when dining out, but Chili's has a couple of options suitable for a low-fat diet. For a full meal, order the margarita grilled chicken—it contains only 17g fat for a full serving, which includes tortilla strips, rice, and beans. Three sides are also very low in fat: asparagus (1g fat), black beans (1g fat), and steamed broccoli (0g fat).

  • Black bean patty (8g fat, 1g saturated fat)
  • Shrimp fajitas without toppings or tortillas (16g fat, 3.5g saturated fat)
  • Margarita grilled chicken (17g fat, 3g saturated fat)
  • 6-ounce classic sirloin (13g fat, 4.5g saturated fat)
  • Kids' menu chicken bites (7g fat, 2g saturated fat)
  • Caesar salad ordered LC (14g fat, 2.5g saturated fat)
  • House salad, no dressing (7g fat, 3g saturated fat)
  • Southwest chicken soup, bowl (11g fat, 2g saturated fat)

Low-Sodium

Restaurant meals tend to be very high in sodium, and many of Chili's menu offerings serve up 2,000mg of sodium per more (likely more than a day's worth of sodium if you are on a reduced-salt diet). Consider pairing a half order of seared shrimp with asparagus for a total of 535mg sodium.

  • Classic beef patty (350mg sodium)
  • Caesar salad ordered LC (250mg sodium)
  • Caribbean salad (310mg sodium)
  • House salad ordered LC, without dressing (140mg sodium)
  • Asparagus (135mg sodium)
  • Clam chowder, cup (380mg sodium)
  • Seared shrimp, half order (400mg sodium)

Vegetarian

If you don’t eat meat or consume animal products, you’ll find a few vegetarian options at Chili’s. While the menu offerings aren’t as robust as they are at other popular chain restaurants, some meals can be customized to be vegetarian, and Chili's has a chart you can consult to determine what menu items are suitable for you. For a nutritious, plant-based meal, order the house salad with the veggie fajitas. Other options include all vegan offerings, plus:

  • Awesome Blossom Petals
  • Crispy cheddar bites
  • Fried pickles
  • Black bean patty
  • Black bean and veggie fajitas
  • Chipotle bowl (omit protein)
  • Kids' menu cheese quesadilla
  • Kids' menu cheese pizza
  • Caribbean salad
  • Quesadilla Explosion salad (omit chicken)
  • House salad (with any dressing except blue cheese and Caesar)
  • All desserts
  • Fruit and veggie sides
  • Macaroni and Cheese

Vegan

Some dishes on the restaurant's menu make great options for vegans. However, since Chili’s does use animal products, even meat-free options are prepared in shared kitchen space, meaning they may not be suitable depending on the diet you follow. Create your own vegan meal by ordering the black beans and chips and guacamole.

  • Bottomless tostada chips and salsa
  • Fresh guacamole and chips
  • Fried pickles (without ranch dressing)
  • Caribbean salad (no dressing)
  • House salad (without dressing, croutons, cheese)
  • Black beans
  • Tortillas
  • Homestyle fries
  • Mexican rice
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Corn on the cob

Food Allergies and Safety

Chili’s provides a chart to help diners with food allergies and other special dietary considerations navigate its menu. While Chili’s can’t assure an allergen-free meal due to the potential of cross-contamination of ingredients in the kitchen, it does denote the presence of several common food allergens on its menu, including:

The matrix also notes which dishes are at risk for cross-contact with allergens. If you have food allergies, it’s best to exercise caution and review the information carefully when dining out.

A Word From Verywell

Inspired by Southwestern-style fare as well as traditional casual dining favorites, Chili’s extensive menu caters to many different tastes and diets. However, with large serving sizes, bottomless drinks, and a menu of salty, high-calorie dishes, finding nutritious options can be challenging. If you opt for the smaller portions of grilled meat, choose a serving of steamed veggies as a side, and skip drinks with added sugar, it is possible to create a nutritious, satisfying meal at Chili’s.

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.