What to Eat at El Pollo Loco: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

Grilled chicken tacos served with rice and beans

 Getty Images / John E. Kelly

In This Article

El Pollo Loco has been serving up Mexican-style food for decades and are widely known for their famous fire-grilled chicken. The chain originally started in Mexico but quickly made its way to the United States. Today, El Pollo Loco spans across six states with more than 400 locations nationwide.

Though it is a fast-casual restaurant with a drive-thru, El Pollo Loco makes an effort to include healthy options on its menu. Customers can choose low-calorie meals from the Under 500 Calories section of the menu or swap heavier menu items for lighter ones. The chain also introduced its chickenless pollo to appeal to vegetarian diets and a keto-certified taco to appeal to followers of the keto diet.

Whether you want to try one of the low-calorie menu options that complies with your dietary preferences or you want to indulge in Mexican-style comfort food, El Pollo Loco has an extensive yet straightforward menu that has something for everyone.

What Experts Say

"El Pollo Loco offers a variety of healthy menu options, including skinless chicken breasts and small bowls with high fiber beans. There's also a section of the menu that contains meals under 500 calories as well as sides like steamed broccoli, side salads, and chicken tortilla soup. If you are looking to eat healthier, you can certainly find something on this menu, just keep an eye out for the sodium content." —Barbie Cervoni, RD, CDE

Navigating the Menu

Like many fast-casual restaurants, El Pollo Loco has a large menu with a long list of meals to choose from. The vast menu can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Mix & Match Street Tacos
  • Baja Shrimp
  • Chicken Meals
  • Under 500 Calories
  • Bowls
  • Tostadas
  • Burritos
  • Kids Meals
  • Sides
  • Drinks
Most Nutritious Options
  • Chickenless Pollo Street Taco (Mix & Match Street Tacos)

  • Grande Avocado Baja Shrimp Bowl (Baja Shrimp)

  • Fire-Grilled Chicken Breast (Chicken Meals)

  • Double Chicken Avocado Salad (Under 500 Calories)

  • Chicken Black Bean Bowl (Bowls)

  • Classic Tostada Salad (Tostadas)

  • Original BRC Burrito (Burritos)

  • Kids Mini Pollo Bowl (Kids Meals)

  • Broccoli (Sides)

  • Bottled Water (Drinks)

Least Nutritious Options
  • Street Corn Chicken Street Taco (Mix & Match Street Tacos)

  • Baja Shrimp Tostada Salad (Baja Shrimp)

  • 4-piece Chicken Meal (Chicken Meals)

  • Homemade Tortilla Soup (Under 500 calories)

  • Double Chicken Bowl (Bowls)

  • Double Chicken Tostada Salad (Tostadas)

  • Ranchero Burrito (Burritos)

  • Kids Mac & Cheese Chicken Taco (Kids Meals)

  • Macaroni & Cheese (Sides)

  • Barq’s Root Beer (Drinks)

If you’re looking for the healthiest meal at El Pollo Loco, the Chicken Black Bean Bowl’s fresh ingredients and nutrition profile make it the best choice.

Mix & Match Street Tacos

El Pollo Loco’s Mix & Match Street Tacos allows you to order one or more tacos a la carte. You can choose between corn and flour tortillas as well as toppings like chicken, shrimp, salsa, lettuce, avocado, and more. The options also include menu items for people following a keto or vegetarian diet.

Most Nutritious Option

The various tacos are similar in nutrition profiles, but the Chickenless Pollo Street Taco is the lowest in calories and cholesterol. Each serving contains 190 calories, 8g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 22g carbohydrates, 11g protein, and 750mg sodium. It also contains 5g fiber per taco.

Least Nutritious Option

Of all the tacos, the Street Corn Chicken Street Taco comes in with the most calories and sodium. Each serving contains 310 calories, 19g fat, 5g saturated fat, 18g carbohydrates, 17g protein, and 770mg sodium. If you don’t want to try the vegetarian taco, the Spicy Shrimp Street Taco may be a better choice.

Baja Shrimp

Baja Shrimp is a popular category at El Pollo Loco because shrimp is low in fat. Menu items from this section include tacos, bowls, and tostadas. The bowls tend to be lower in carbs and calories since they swap tortillas for lettuce or veggies.

Most Nutritious Option

If you’re trying to maximize your nutrition at El Pollo Loco, the Grande Avocado Baja Shrimp Bowl is a great option. It contains 670 calories, 24g fat, 9g saturated fat, 89g carbohydrates, 23g protein, and 1,570mg sodium. Omit the sour cream and cheese to reduce the calories, fat, and cholesterol.

Least Nutritious Option

The Baja Shrimp Tostada Salad is high in calories, cholesterol, and fat. Each serving contains 850 calories, 49g fat, 12g saturated fat, 75g carbohydrates, 26g protein, and 1,480mg sodium. It also contains 110 mg of cholesterol per serving, which can be reduced by omitting the cheese and sour cream.

Chicken Meals

El Pollo Loco is famous for its fire-grilled Chicken Meals. Customers can order single pieces of chicken (breast, wing, leg, or thigh) or make it into a combo complete with rice, beans, and tortillas. 

Most Nutritious Option

Chicken breast is a classic health food, and El Pollo Loco allows you to order a single Fire-Grilled Chicken Breast. Each piece contains 220 calories, 9g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 0g carbohydrates, 36g protein, and 620mg sodium. It also contains 140mg of cholesterol per serving. This is a popular option for low-carb diets.

Least Nutritious Option

The 4-piece Chicken Meal includes four pieces of chicken, a side of rice, a side of beans, and a side of tortillas. Depending on the type of chicken you choose, your meal may tally 1,100calories, 43g fat, 11.5g saturated fat, 85g carbohydrates, 97g protein, and 2,830mg sodium. It is also high in cholesterol. For a similar meal with fewer calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol, opt for a two-piece meal.

Under 500 Calories

Anyone who follows a low-calorie diet will appreciate El Pollo Loco’s dedicated section of Under 500 Calories options. This section contains various bowls, soups, wraps, and salads.

Most Nutritious Option

While some salads contain far more than 500 calories due to the dressing and toppings, the Double Chicken Avocado Salad is a low-calorie yet a high-protein option. The salad contains 350 calories, 15g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 15g carbohydrates, 39g protein, and 1,040mg sodium.

Least Nutritious Option

The Homemade Tortilla Soup sounds comforting, but beware that it’s very high in sodium. The large serving of this soup contains 440 calories, 19g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 36g carbohydrates, 32g protein, and 1,710mg sodium. It also contains 125mg of cholesterol per serving. 

Bowls

Burrito bowls are a healthy way to enjoy Mexican-style food without the added carbohydrates and calories from tortillas. El Pollo Loco has several Bowls to choose from made with a base of classic ingredients like beans, rice, salsa, and avocado.

Most Nutritious Option

The Chicken Black Bean Bowl has been named the healthiest option at El Pollo Loco. This is because of the impressive nutrition facts. Each bowl is made with black beans, rice, broccoli, avocado, salsa, and fire-grilled chicken. It contains just 450 calories, 11g fat, 2g saturated fat, 57g carbohydrates, 33g protein, and 1,270mg sodium. You can reduce the sodium by omitting the chicken.

Least Nutritious Option

Doubling up on chicken means doubling up on cholesterol and sodium, which is why the Double Chicken Bowl is the least nutritious of El Pollo Loco’s burrito bowls. It contains 840 calories, 28 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 87 g carbohydrates, 57 g protein, and 2,370 mg sodium. It also contains 150 mg of cholesterol per serving.

Tostadas

El Pollo Loco offers two tostadas: classic and double chicken. Both contain a medley of lettuce, salsa, sour cream, avocado, rice, beans, cheese, and chicken wrapped up in a fried tostada shell.

Most Nutritious Option

The Classic Tostada Salad contains 820 calories, 42g fat, 11g saturated fat, 76g carbohydrates, 35g protein, and 1,480mg sodium. Omitting the fried tostada shell cuts many of these nutrients in half. For a salad with far fewer calories, fat, and sodium, opt to have your salad in a bowl instead of a tostada shell.

Least Nutritious Option

The Double Chicken Tostada Salad contains everything the original has but with twice the amount of chicken. Therefore, it contains 980 calories, 50g fat, 12g saturated fat, 80g carbohydrates, 53g protein, and 1,900mg sodium.

Burritos

Burritos are an important part of the El Pollo Loco menu. Like tacos, burritos are a classic Mexican-style food. The menu has six core burritos to choose from, including a vegetarian-friendly option.

Most Nutritious Option

The Original BRC Burrito contains the simplest ingredients with just rice, beans, and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. Each burrito contains 410 calories, 11g fat, 5g saturated fat, 61g carbohydrates, 14g protein, and 1,000mg sodium. Omitting the cheese makes this a cholesterol-free option.

Least Nutritious Option

Of all El Pollo Loco’s burritos, the Ranchero Burrito is the highest in calories and cholesterol. Each burrito contains 890 calories, 41g fat, 13g saturated fat, 84g carbohydrates, 46g protein, and 2,240mg sodium. It also contains 160mg of cholesterol per serving. For a similar flavor with significantly less cholesterol, consider the Chickenless Pollo Burrito.

Kids Meals

El Pollo Loco is a family-oriented restaurant, which explains their selection of Kids Meals. Kids can choose from tacos, burritos, bowls, or chicken legs complete with side and drink.

Most Nutritious Option

The kids Mini Pollo Bowl is a smaller version of El Pollo Loco’s full-size burrito bowls. It contains just three simple ingredients: beans, rice, and chicken. Each serving contains 290 calories, 4.5g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 44g carbohydrates, 18g protein, and 910mg sodium.

Least Nutritious Option

The Kids Mac & Cheese Chicken Taco is the least nutritious option because it's high in calories and sodium without accounting for a side or drink. A single Mac & Cheese Chicken Taco contains 260 calories, 12g fat, 5g saturated fat, 23g carbohydrates, 13g protein, and 810mg sodium.

Sides

El Pollo Loco has an extensive selection of sides ranging from fries, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes & gravy, coleslaw, and more. The most nutritious options are those highest in veggies while the least nutritious options tend to be fried or high in fat and sodium.

Most Nutritious Option

You can’t go wrong when ordering a side of broccoli. Mixing this in with your burrito bowl is a great way to incorporate more veggies into your diet. A small side of broccoli contains 30 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 6g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and 30mg sodium. The Loco Side Salad and Coleslaw are also great sides to meet your daily vegetable needs.

Least Nutritious Option

Though the majority of El Pollo Loco’s menu is Mexican-style, they have some classic American offerings. The Mac & Cheese comes in as the least nutritious side with 310 calories, 19g fat, 10g saturated fat, 24g carbohydrates, 9g protein, and 870mg sodium per a small side. The Tapatio Fries are also high in calories and sodium, so stick to rice, beans, and sides heavy in veggies.

Drinks

Visitors can choose from more than a dozen drinks at El Pollo Loco. Offerings include carbonated drinks, unsweetened and sweetened tea, horchata, fruit punch, water, and more. 

Most Nutritious Option

Ordering water is a great way to stay hydrated without consuming extra calories and sugar. Fortunately, El Pollo Loco offers bottled water.

Least Nutritious Option

Many of El Pollo Loco’s fountain drinks are high in sugar with more than 40 g sugar per serving. Among the options, Barq’s Root Beer contains the most sugar with 50mg per 13.4 ounces. A small Root Beer also contains 180 calories, 0g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 50g carbohydrates, 0g protein, and 40mg sodium.

Diet-Specific Options

While many Americans simply want to increase their consumption of vegetables and get enough protein in their diet, others follow a specific set of dietary guidelines. This may be related to health goals, allergies, or preferences. If you follow a specific diet, here is how to navigate the El Pollo Loco Menu.

Gluten-free

Though Mexican-style food is traditionally served with flour tortillas, this is not compliant on a gluten-free diet. El Pollo Loco offers several sides and salads that are gluten-free on their menu. Creating a meal with fire-grilled chicken breast and a side of rice and beans is one nutritious gluten-free option.

  • Fire-grilled Chicken Wing, Leg, Thigh, or Breast
  • Avocado Salad
  • Grilled Chicken Salad (omit dressing)
  • Beans and Rice
  • Mexican Cobb Salad

Low-carb

For those following a low-carb diet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that El Pollo Loco offers The World’s First Keto Taco. It contains 5g net carbs. They also offer low-carb classics like grilled chicken breast, salad, and broccoli.

  • The World’s First Keto Taco
  • Fire-grilled Chicken Wing, Leg, Thigh, or Breast
  • Loco Side Salad
  • Broccoli
  • Guacamole

Low-FODMAP

The low-FODMAP diet is designed to alleviate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Followers and proponents of the diet acknowledge it is increasingly difficult to eat at restaurants while remaining compliant on the diet.

When ordering at El Pollo Loco, avoid menu items that contain rice, beans, onions, and lactose-containing cheese. You may need to get creative and make your own bowl with the following low-FODMAP ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, and chicken or shrimp.

  • Fire-grilled Chicken Wing, Leg, Thigh, or Breast
  • Broccoli
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Baja Shrimp

Diabetes-friendly

People who follow a diabetes-friendly diet often opt for low-carb options to balance blood sugar. The diabetes-friendly options at El Pollo Loco overlap with the low-carb or keto-friendly options. A simple meal of grilled chicken with beans, rice, and veggies may be preferable.

  • The World’s First Keto Taco
  • Fire-grilled Chicken Wing, Leg, Thigh, or Breast
  • Loco Side Salad
  • Broccoli
  • Guacamole

Low-fat

El Pollo Loco has just a few low-fat options, so they could improve their selection. For a full meal, the Original Pollo Bowl will fill you up while staying low in fat. For a snack, consider the Chickenless Pollo Taco for a low-cholesterol, low-fat option.

  • Chickenless Pollo Taco
  • Original Pollo Bowl
  • Fire-grilled Chicken Leg
  • Rice and Beans

Low-sodium

Low-sodium offerings at restaurants are hard to come by. El Pollo Loco is no exception. If you’re watching your sodium intake, opt for a chicken leg and side salad.

  • Fire-grilled Chicken Leg
  • Black Beans
  • Coleslaw
  • Loco Side Salad
  • Tortilla Chips

Vegetarian

Mexican-style food is often vegetarian-friendly, so it’s no surprise that El Pollo Loco has meal and side options for vegetarians. The Chickenless Pollo Burrito is likely the most filling, and it’s the highest in protein.

  • Chickenless Pollo Taco
  • Chickenless Pollo Burrito 
  • Beans and Rice
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes

Vegan

Vegans have fewer options than vegetarians at El Pollo Loco because they do not consume eggs, cheese, or other animal products. While the Chickenless Pollo is meatless, it contains egg so it is not vegan-friendly. However, vegans can still enjoy tacos, burritos, and bowls made with beans, rice, lettuce, salsa, avocado, bell peppers, and tortillas.

  • Corn and Flour Tortillas
  • Beans and Rice
  • Salsa
  • Chips and Guacamole
  • BRC Burrito (omit cheese)

Food Allergies and Safety

El Pollo Loco does not claim that any of its menu items are completely free of the common food allergens, including peanut, fish, milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, soy, and shellfish. They do offer gluten information for people with allergies to gluten, though they acknowledge that cross-contamination may occur in their kitchen.

In general, El Pollo Loco may be safe for people with allergies to nuts, but many of its menu items contain fish, milk, eggs, wheat, and soy. People with these allergies should alert the El Pollo Loco restaurant staff and practice caution when eating there.

People with allergies can make substitutions, such as ordering without cheese or shrimp, to accommodate their dietary restrictions. However, cross-contamination may occur, so people with severe allergies should take that into consideration when eating at El Pollo Loco.

A Word From Verywell

El Pollo Loco is a popular fast-casual Mexican-style restaurant in several states across the U.S. You may find yourself interested in trying their keto- or vegetarian-friendly menu items such as The World’s First Keto Taco and the Chickenless Pollo Burrito. If you are drawn to eat there, you will likely find something on the menu that suits your preferences. Like many Mexican-style restaurants, the menu items at El Pollo are easily modified to accommodate your dietary needs. 

Though you will find clean eating classics like grilled chicken, avocado, and steamed veggies on the menu, keep in mind that restaurant food tends to be high in sodium, saturated fat, and carbohydrates. As always, indulgent foods can be consumed in moderation.

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