What to Eat at Papa John’s: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

papa johns pizza boxes


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Living up to its motto, "It’s Pizza, It Has To Be Fun," Papa John's offers four types of crusts and several customizable specialty pies, all designed to meet patrons' ever-changing flavor and texture preferences.

Papa John's crust options include a gluten-free version, which is also lower in sodium and saturated fat than other crust choices. You can also select a thin crust option. Pick your own toppings for a create-your-own pizza, often for $10 or less.

What Experts Say

"Papa John’s serves a variety of pizza, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. To save on calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium, it’s best to choose a thin crust slice. Add vegetables for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals."

Barbie Cervoni, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN

Navigating the Menu

Papa John’s offers several types of crusts: gluten-free, thin, original, stuffed, and New York style. You can choose from pre-selected toppings or pick your own for a custom pie.

For sandwich eaters, the establishment has flatbread "papadias" (a sandwich substitute) made from the original crust dough; each comes with a dipping sauce. You'll also find appetizers ranging from wings and jalapeño poppers to carb-rich options such as breadsticks, cheese sticks, and garlic knots.

You can order take-out or delivery, and view the menu, nutrition information, and allergen information at the Papa John's website.

What to Order & Avoid at Papa John's
 Most Nutritious Options Least Nutritious Options
Thin-Crust Cheese Pizza (Specialty Pizza) Pepperoni, Sausage & Six Cheese Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza (Specialty Pizza)
Anchovies (Meat Toppings) Steak (Meat Toppings)
Vegetables (Additional Toppings) 3-Cheese Blend (Additional Toppings) 
BBQ Chicken & Bacon (Papadias) Parmesan Crusted Italian (Papadias)
Jalapeño Poppers (Sides) Garlic Parmesan Wings (Sides)
Chocolate Chip Cookie (Desserts) Cinnamon Pull Aparts (Desserts)
Crushed Red Pepper (Extras) Blue Cheese Sauce (Extras)
Aquafina Water (Beverages) Mountain Dew (Beverages)

Most Nutritious Option

One of the most nutritious options on the Papa John’s menu is a slice of thin-crust cheese pizza piled with veggie toppings: banana peppers, fresh spinach, green peppers, onions, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, and jalapeños.

Pizza

You can order a specialty pizza or build-your-own pie on your choice of crust. Toppings include anything from standard vegetables and meats to more inventive toppings, such as Philly cheesesteak, tomato Alfredo, and buffalo chicken.

✓ Thin-Crust Cheese Pizza

One slice of thin-crust cheese pizza provides 210 calories, 11g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 20g carbohydrates, 8g protein, and 490mg sodium. Stick to the thin-crust option to reduce calories, carbohydrates, and sodium.

✗ Pepperoni, Sausage & Six Cheese Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza

The pepperoni, sausage, and six cheese pizza on an epic stuffed crust delivers 480 calories, 26g fat, 12g saturated fat, 40g carbohydrates, 20g protein, and 1,220mg sodium per slice.

If you're craving a meaty pizza, order the small The Meats pizza on original crust. With plenty of sausage, bacon, and pepperoni, it's slightly lower in calories, fat, and sodium. It includes 250 calories, 12g fat, 5g saturated fat, 26g carbohydrates, 11g protein, and 720mg sodium per slice.

Meat Toppings

If you want to create your own pizza, you'll have plenty of options. The menu at Papa John's has 11 different types of meats, ranging from your standard pepperoni and sausage to the more unusual Philly steak and bacon. Anchovies are the most nutritious. If they aren't to your taste, chicken is the next best option. It contains only 15 to 20 calories per slice, depending on the size.

✓ Anchovies

Choosing anchovies as your meat provides 10 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g carbohydrates, 1g protein, and 210mg sodium per slice of pizza. Another salty option is Canadian bacon. It has 20 calories, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g carbohydrate, 2g protein, and 160mg sodium on an XL slice.

✗ Steak

You'll consume 50 calories, 3g fat, 1g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrates, 5g protein, and 200mg sodium when ordering the steak topping on one XL slice.

Additional Toppings

If you stick to a vegetarian pizza, the calories are primarily limited to the crust, cheese, and pizza sauce. Papa John's offers seven vegetable toppings that don't add many calories, but do provide some fiber.

✓ Vegetables

Toppings such as banana peppers, fresh spinach, green peppers, onions, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, and jalapeños are nutrient-dense veggie toppings for your pizza. They add vitamins and minerals with minimal calories, fat, and sodium.

✗ 3-Cheese Blend

Adding the 3-cheese blend to an XL pizza will add 25 calories, 2g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and 55mg sodium per slice. You can also order a "light" portion of cheese, which will give you some flavor for fewer calories and less sodium.

Papadias

A more portable alternative to pizza, these sandwiches use pizza crust as a flatbread base. Each comes with dipping sauce on the side. Choose original pizza crust or a parmesan-crusted version.

✓ Grilled BBQ Chicken & Bacon

Of the five choices, the grilled BBQ chicken and bacon papadia is the most nutritious choice with 840 calories, 28g fat, 13g saturated fat, 85g carbohydrates, 60g protein, and 2,410mg sodium.

The Philly cheesesteak papadia has a fairly similar nutrition profile. It has 810 calories, 35g fat, 15g saturated fat, 80g carbohydrates, 40g protein, and 2,090mg sodium.

✗ Parmesan Crusted Italian 

The parmesan crusted Italian papadia has 1.070 calories, 62g fat, 26g saturated fat, 76g carbohydrates, 49g protein, and 3,010mg sodium. With nearly a day's worth of sodium, this dish is best shared or skipped altogether. If you're craving a papadia, consider ordering the regular, not the parmesan crusted variety, to save on calories, fat, and sodium.

Sides

In addition to pizza, Papa John's offers starters ranging from wings and breadsticks to spicy poppers. Ordering wings alone and skipping the pizza will provide a protein-rich meal. The healthiest wing order is the eight-piece "unsauced" option, which has about 100 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat per wing. If you prefer breadsticks, one 14-inch breadstick provides 150 calories.

✓ Jalapeño Poppers

One roll of jalapeño poppers contains 60 calories, 2g fat, 1g saturated fat, 9g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and 140mg sodium. Note that a full order contains 8 rolls.

There's also a garden salad on the Sides menu at some locations. It provides 120 calories, 7g fat, 3g saturated fat, 10g carbohydrates, 5g protein, and 340mg sodium.

✗ Garlic Parmesan Wings

Wings are available in 8-, 16-, 24-, 32-, and 50-piece orders. Per wing, the garlic parmesan option provides 130 calories, 10g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrates, 8g protein, and 290mg sodium.

Desserts

For those who prefer to end a meal on a sweet note, Papa John’s offers three desserts: brownies, cookies, and cinnamon pull aparts. The desserts are served family-style and cut into pieces.

✓ Chocolate Chip Cookie

One slice of the chocolate chip cookie has 190 calories, 9g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 26g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and 105mg sodium. Note that there are 8 slices per order of this dessert.

✗ Cinnamon Pull Aparts

One tray of the cinnamon pull aparts contains 1,960 calories, 94g fat, 36g saturated fat, 264g carbohydrates, 19g protein, and 1,660mg sodium.

The Papa John's nutrition chart does not state how many servings there are per tray; for comparison, the other desserts have 8 or 9 portions. The nutrition facts per one-eighth tray of pull aparts are: 245 calories, 12g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 33g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and 207mg sodium.

The only other option on the dessert menu—the double chocolate chip brownie—contains 240 calories, 12g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 34g carbohydrates, 2g protein, and 70mg sodium per square, with 9 total squares in an order.

Extras

Extra toppings include red pepper flakes, special seasonings, parmesan cheese, and pepperoncinis. You can also add a dipping sauces to your order. Options are:

  • BBQ
  • Blue cheese
  • Buffalo
  • Cheese
  • Garlic
  • Honey mustard
  • Pizza
  • Ranch

These range in calories from 15 to 160 per cup, and several are low in fat and saturated fat: BBQ, buffalo, cheese, and pizza.

✓ Crushed Red Pepper

One packet (1g) of crushed red pepper has 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrates, 0g protein, and 0mg sodium. Add this on top of your pizza for an extra kick of spice.

✗ Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

A cup of blue cheese dipping sauce has 160 calories, 15g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrates, 1g protein, and 250mg sodium. Consume this dip in moderation and if you're craving a creamy dipping sauce, opt for the cheese sauce—it provides just 40 calories per serving, and 3.5g fat.

Beverages

Papa John's sells Pepsi products, along with Aquafina water. Your healthiest option is water. If you opt to drink soda with your pizza, Diet soda is calorie-free but contains sodium.

✓ Aquafina Water

Choose water, such as Aquafina water, as your beverage of choice when possible. It contains zero calories and will keep you hydrated throughout your meal, especially when consuming dishes higher in sodium.

✗ Mountain Dew

A two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew, which is available for delivery or pickup at Papa John's, contains 930 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 262g carbohydrates, 0g protein, and 340mg sodium. A diet version of the soda is also available for 35 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrates, 0g protein, and 290mg sodium in a two-liter bottle.

Diet-Specific Options

Despite a list of menu items full of carbs and saturated fat, you can still follow a number of specialty diets at Papa John’s. There are options for people who follow gluten-free, low-fat, low-sodium, and vegetarian diets, but the restaurant does not have many options for those following low-carb, low-FODMAP, diabetes-friendly, and vegan diets.

Gluten-Free

Papa John's offers gluten-free crust made from sorghum flour and modified rice starch. However, the gluten-free dough contains milk, soy, and egg.

For a nutritious, gluten-free meal at Papa John's, create your own pizza and load it up with your favorite toppings (except meatballs, which contain meat. Opt for lots of vegetables to increase the nutritional value of your meal. Depending on your Papa John's location and its offerings, you may also be able to customize a specialty pizza on a gluten-free crust.

  • Any pizza with gluten-free crust (avoid meatball topping)
  • All wings except garlic parmesan flavor
  • All dipping sauces and seasonings except Special Seasoning

Low-Fat

To limit saturated fat and consume a heart-healthy meal, opt for pizza toppings that are lower in fat, such as anchovies, chicken, and vegetables. Skip other meat toppings, order light or no cheese, and choose the thin crust or gluten-free crust for a lower-fat pie (both have 11g fat and 4.5g saturated fat per slice). Or consider making a meal of sides:

  • Breadsticks (2g fat per 12" breadstick)
  • Jalapeno poppers (2g fat per roll)
  • Garlic parmesan sticks (5g fat per 12" breadstick)
  • Papa's garden salad (7g fat)

Low-Sodium

Most menu items at Papa John's contain a lot of sodium. The lowest-sodium option is a thin crust pizza (490mg sodium per slice) with veggie toppings.

Vegetarian

You can order or create a meatless pizza, and Papa John's offers a number of other vegetarian menu items. Both the gluten-free and thin crusts contain milk and the gluten-free crust is made with eggs. But the original crust contains no animal products, so it is suitable for people following a vegan diet.

Vegetarian menu items include the following:

  • All vegetable toppings
  • All desserts
  • Garlic knots
  • Garlic parmesan breadsticks
  • Breadsticks
  • Cheesesticks
  • All dipping sauces

For a vegetarian meal, enjoy the garden fresh pizza, or make your own with any of the available vegetable toppings at your local restaurant.

Food Allergies and Safety

If you have food allergies and intolerances, be sure to take the necessary precautions with your Papa John's order. To avoid tree nuts, eggs, dairy, gluten, soy, fish, shellfish, or wheat, you may need to modify your order. For example, stick to a build-your-own pizza for which you can pick toppings that are safe for your food allergies.

Familiarize yourself with Papa John's website, which contains an allergen guide listing peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and sesame. Speak to the staff if you have questions or concerns.

Know that cross-contamination can occur. The gluten-free crust might not be completely gluten-free, as the original dough may be made in the same kitchen. If you have concerns, ask the staff about cross-contamination at the location you are ordering from.

A Word From Verywell

The create-your-own pizzas at Papa John's allow you to meet your diet-specific needs and eat a heart-healthy meal. Boost the nutrition of your order by loading on the vegetable toppings and order a gluten-free or thin-crust pizza to avoid excess carbs and saturated fat.

For the non-pizza eater, Papa John's doesn't have many offerings other than starters, such as wings, poppers, and breadsticks. For those looking to stick to a low-carb diet, there aren't many options available other than wings.

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