What to Eat at KFC: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

KFC Nutrition Facts
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In This Article

Kentucky Fried Chicken, or just KFC, is one of the most popular fast food restaurants in the world. KFC has been serving its Original Recipe Chicken for over 70 years. Today, the menu at 21,000 locations around the world also includes sides, sandwiches, and desserts.

As its name implies, the KFC menu is built around poultry. Chicken is usually a good source of lean protein—except when deep fried in rich, high-calorie, high-fat batter.

The side dishes at KFC are mostly comfort foods like mashed potatoes, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese, which are also generally high in fat and calories while providing very little nutritional value.​

Most items at KFC are served family-style, which can make portion control difficult. Unless you’re ordering for a group, avoid KFC meals, buckets, and combos. These deals include sides and drinks, plus multiple portions, making it harder to determine (and stick to) a single serving.

Lastly, you can view nutrition, ingredient, and food allergy info for the menu before you go on KFC’s website. You can also use KFC’s nutrition calculator to get an estimate of the calorie content and nutrition info of your order.

What Experts Say

“KFC offers a few vegetable side dishes that can be added to your meal, but many of their options do not contain veggies or much fiber. The sodium levels are also high for many meal options. If eating at KFC often, try to choose your other meals so that they contain less sodium and more veggies, as well as high fiber foods, to help offer daily nutritional balance.”

Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

Most Nutritious Options

  • Original Recipe Chicken Wing

  • Extra Crispy Drumstick

  • Grilled Chicken Wing

  • Hot Honey Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders

  • Chicken Littles

  • Snack-Size KFC Famous Bowl

  • Green Beans

  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookie 

  • Sobe Lifewater

Least Nutritious Options

  • Original Recipe Chicken Breast

  • Nashville Hot Extra Crispy Breast

  • Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Breast

  • Popcorn Nuggets

  • Colonel’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich 

  • Chicken Pot Pie

  • Potato Salad

  • Café Valley Mini Chocolate Chip Cake

  • Code Red Mountain Dew

Original Recipe Chicken

KFC’s Original Recipe is hand-breaded and seasoned with a blend of 11 herbs and spices that have been kept secret since the chain began. You can order an iconic bucket of fried chicken in 8, 12, or 16 pieces or as part of meals. Original Recipe also appears in other menu items, like sandwiches.

Most Nutritious Option

130 calories, 8g fat, 2g saturated fat, 380 mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 10g protein

Least Nutritious Option

390 calories, 21g fat, 4g saturated fat, 1190 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 39g protein

Original Recipe Chicken Thighs are a middle-of-the-road option in terms of calories: one Original Recipe chicken thigh has 280 calories and 19g fat, plus 19g protein.

Extra Crispy Chicken

The double-breaded version is a crispier, flakier version of KFC’s original recipe. With more batter and breading, Extra Crispy Chicken is higher in calories than the classic recipe.  

Most Nutritious Option

170 calories, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 390 mg sodium, 5g carbohydrates, 0g sugar, and 10g protein

Least Nutritious Option

770 calories, 60g fat, 10 saturated fat, 1530 mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 35g protein

While higher in calories and fat than the grilled options, crispy chicken tenders can be another lower-calorie option compared to Original Recipe. A single Extra Crispy chicken tender has 140 calories and 7g fat.

KFC's tender-size portions are a great way to add protein to a simple side salad.

Grilled Chicken

While fried chicken is KFC’s focus, there are a few grilled selections on the menu that are healthier options. Grilled Chicken Breast has only 180 calories, 6g fat, and 31g protein.

Most Nutritious Option

70 calories, 3g fat, 1g saturated fat, 180 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 9g protein

Least Nutritious Option

260 calories, 12g fat, 3g saturated fat, 790 mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 38g protein

Grilled chicken thighs have half the calories and fat of Original Recipe: one grilled chicken thigh has just 150 calories and 9g of fat but is still a good source of protein with 17g per serving.

Chicken Wings, Tenders, & Nuggets

In addition to KFC’s classic style of serving chicken, you can also order items in other popular fast-food styles, such as chicken tenders and nuggets. On their own, these smaller-sized options can be lower in calories—just remember that dipping sauces add calories, salt, and sugar and can be difficult to have in moderation.

Most Nutritious Option

Hot Honey Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders (per tender)

190 calories, 12g fat, 1.5 saturated fat, 490 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 10g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Popcorn Nuggets (Large)

620 calories, 39g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1820 mg sodium, 39g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 27g protein

Special flavors of KFC's chicken, like Nashville Hot, Smoky Mountain BBQ, and Georgia Gold, are marinated and therefore may be higher in calorie, sodium, and even sugar than the plain versions.

While an order of KFC Hot Wings is just 70 calories, the serving size for a single wing is small. You might find it all too easy to eat more than one portion if you don't feel satisfied after just one chicken wing.

Sandwiches

Quick and portable chicken sandwiches are another popular option at KFC, though they aren’t among the healthiest choices. Adding bread to already breaded and battered chicken makes KFC's sandwich options some of the highest carb items on the menu.

Most Nutritious Option

300 calories, 15g fat, 2.5 saturated fat, 620 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 14g protein

Least Nutritious Option

460 calories, 25g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 1170 mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 24g protein

When available, KFC's Crispy Twister wrap is among the highest-calorie menu items. With 630 calories, the sandwich (crispy chicken, pickle, mayo, and hot sauce wrapped in a tortilla), has 53g of carbohydrate, 37g fat, and 1260mg sodium.

Pot Pies & Bowls

Pot Pie is a classic chicken dish and KFC has its own take on the meal. However, these options are among the highest calorie on KFC’s menu and are high in sodium.

Most Nutritious Option

KFC Famous Bowl—Snack Size

270 calories, 13g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 820 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 11g protein

Least Nutritious Option

720 calories, 41g fat, 25g saturated fat, 1750 mg sodium, 60g carbohydrate, 5g sugar, and 26g protein

As with sandwiches, combing several carb-heavy ingredients, like mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and flaky pot pie crust, makes these choices high-calorie and high-carb.

Sides

KFC has a menu of classic sides, as well as the occasional limited-time or regional selection. While these options can round out family-style meals, you can also use the smaller portions to build a sensible meal.

Most Nutritious Option

Green Beans (individual)

25 calories, 0g fat, 260 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, <1g sugar, and 1g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Potato Salad (individual)

340 calories, 28g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 290 mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 2g protein

If you choose to add a side, stick to the individual menu. Family-size orders of sides can easily account for more than a meal’s worth of calories on their own—if not more. KFC’s family-size potato salad has 1,200 calories—almost a day’s worth of calories.

Avoid sides macaroni and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, and cornbread muffins, which add calories, carbs, and fat without leaving room for much of chicken's nutritional benefits—namely protein.

If you’re looking for more protein in your meal, don’t assume a side of BBQ Baked Beans is a healthy choice: while beans can be an excellent source of protein, KFC’s recipe adds 240 calories and 18g of sugar.

Instead of mashed potatoes slathered with gravy, which has 120 calories, opt for a side of plain mashed potatoes for only 90 calories.

The other veggies KFC offers can be better choices: Corn on the Cob has only 90 calories and a side of Sweet Kernel Corn only adds 80 calories.

In general, salads can be a healthy option, but KFC only offers two side salads—neither of which come with grilled (rather than fried) chicken. Calorie counts posted on the menu board also don’t include salad dressings or extras like croutons.

The plain house salad (no dressing or toppings) only adds 15 calories and the Caesar salad just 40 calories. Either can make a good base for protein-packed grilled chicken, which you can order from the regular menu and add yourself.

Desserts

KFC only offers two types of dessert items on its menu—cakes and cookies—but these options pack a punch in terms of calories, fat, and sugar.

Most Nutritious Option

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie (per cookie)

150 calories, 6g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 90 mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 13g sugar, and 2g protein

Least Nutritious Option

300 calories, 12g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 190 mg sodium, 49g carbohydrate, 35g sugar, and 3g protein

KFC offers several flavors of cake, each of which is about 300 calories per slice. They do vary in sugar content, though. The lowest sugar slice you’ll find is the Lemon Cake, which has 20g sugar.

Beverages

As with most fast food restaurants, KFC offers a typical selection of fountain sodas, as well as lemonade and iced tea. Even when presented with options, it’s usually best to drink water when you’re dining out—especially when eating a meal high in sodium, such as fried foods.

Most Nutritious Option

0 calories, 0g fat, 45 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 0g protein

Least Nutritious Option

430 calories, 0g fat, 125 mg sodium, 116g carbohydrate, 115g sugar, and 0g protein

In addition to adding calories to your meal, soda can also be a source of sodium and sugar. Diet beverages may not add calories, but they’re usually made with artificial sweeteners and preservatives like aspartame, which you may prefer to avoid.

Diet-Specific Options

If you have special dietary considerations or are adhering to a specific diet, you may be able to find options that suit your tastes and your needs.

KFC’s menu isn’t as customizable as other fast food restaurants, but the chain does make information about its ingredients and nutrition available to consumers to help guide their choices.

Gluten-free

KFC Food Allergy Statement

“We cannot guarantee that cross-contact with allergens will not occur and neither KFC, our employees, or our franchisees assume any responsibility for a person’s sensitivity or allergy to any food item provided in our restaurants.”

Several items on KFC’s menu do not contain gluten or wheat. However, these dishes are stored and prepared in a cooking area, and by employees, who also handle ingredients that do contain the allergens.

If you are gluten sensitive or have Celiac disease, exercise caution when ordering.

KFC menu items that may be suitable for a gluten-free diet include:

  • Applesauce (Kid’s Menu)
  • Green Beans and Coleslaw
  • House and Caesar Side Salad
  • Mashed Potatoes and Potato Salad
  • Corn on the Cob and Sweet Kernel Corn

Low-carb

  • Hot Wings (1)
  • Green Beans, Coleslaw
  • Original Recipe Drumstick
  • Grilled Chicken (wing, thigh, breast, drumstick)
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressing, croutons, or meat)

Removing the skin from KFC chicken reduces the carb content. Without breading, chicken can be part of a low-carb fast food meal.

Diabetes-friendly

  • Creamy and Bacon Ranch Dipping Sauce
  • Extra Crispy Whole Wing and Hot Wings (1)
  • Grilled Chicken (wing, thigh, breast, drumstick)
  • Original Recipe and Extra Crispy Bites (Kid’s Menu)
  • Green Beans and House or Caesar Salad (no dressing, croutons, or meat)

Low-fat

  • Hot Wings
  • Grilled Chicken Drumsticks and Wings
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressings or toppings)
  • Corn on the Cob (no butter), Sweet Kernel Corn, BBQ Baked Beans
  • Honey Sauce, Lemon Juice, Summertime BBQ Sauce, Sweet ‘n Tangy Sauce

Low-sodium

  • Hot Wings
  • Grilled Chicken Drumsticks and Wings
  • Honey Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressings or toppings)
  • Green Beans, Cole Slaw, Corn on the Cob (no butter), Sweet Kernel Corn,

Vegetarian & Vegan

As of 2019, KFC doesn’t have designated vegetarian and vegan-friendly options on its menu. As the chain’s primary focus is chicken, even items on the menu that do not contain meat and are not made with animal products may have come into contact with them during storage, preparation, or cooking.

KFC's website notes: "All vegetarian ingredients are handled by our employees in common with meat ingredients, which may not be acceptable to certain types of vegetarian diets.”

However, there are a few items on KFC’s menu which may be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Vegan-friendly options:

  • Green Beans
  • House Salad
  • Potato Wedges
  • Sweet Kernel Corn
  • Corn on the Cob (no butter)
  • Applesauce (from the KFC Kid’s Menu)

In addition to the vegan-friendly options at KFC, vegetarians may also enjoy:

  • Biscuits
  • Coleslaw
  • Cornbread
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes (without gravy)
  • Cakes, Cookies, and other dessert items

Food Allergies and Safety

If you have food allergies or are adhering to a specific diet, KFC lets you search for menu options according to which ingredients or allergens you want to avoid on its website, including:

Most, but not all, KFC menu items are included. For some limited-time or regional items, you may need to ask for the most up-to-date nutrition information or ingredients list.

KFC Allergen Statement

“No allergen or nutritional information on our website should be considered a guarantee, but simply a good faith effort to serve our customers.”

As a general best practice, let employees know if you have a food allergy when you place your order.

Sometimes, even when a menu item says it does not include an ingredient, your meal may have come into contact with the food allergen in another way. This is referred to as “cross-contamination.” It can happen during production, transport, storage, or prep of ingredients.

Restaurants and employees who handle food prep may be able to take extra precautions to avoid cross-contamination and may even have separate procedures and/or equipment to accommodate food allergies.

A Word From Verywell

KFC is a fast food favorite around the world for “finger-licking good” fried chicken, but if you’re following a special diet or have food allergies, the chain’s menu can present some challenges. High-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium meals served in large sizes can make keeping track of nutrition and portions tricky. Viewing the menu online and using KFC’s nutrition calculator can help you plan your order ahead of time. You can create healthier options at KFC if you choose grilled rather than fried chicken and stick basic salads instead of high-fat, high-carb sides.

You might also be interested in getting tips about what to order at Nando's, another chain that's well-known for its chicken.

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