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The Best & Worst Menu Items at El Pollo Loco, According to a Dietitian

An RD breaks down the entire menu so you know what to order for a healthier meal.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

El Pollo Loco (The Crazy Chicken) started in the mid-70s as a single restaurant in Sinaloa, Mexico. The restaurant chain expanded into the United States in 1980 and now operates more than 500 restaurants located primarily throughout the western United States including California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. The chain was founded on creating Mexican dishes made with fresh ingredients every day and is best known for its citrus-marinated, fire-grilled chicken. In fact, this grilled chicken is the star ingredient in many choices across the entire El Pollo Loco menu.

Since El Pollo Loco is a fast-food chain, you may be wondering how healthy their food is. Thankfully, there are several great options on their menu if you're trying to eat out without derailing your efforts to eat right and level up your life.

Read on to learn about 15 of the best and worst menu items at El Pollo Loco, which are divided by menu categories. Then, check out The 86 Unhealthiest Fast-Foods on the Planet.

Chicken Meals

Best: 2 Piece Leg and Thigh

El Pollo Loco 2 Piece Leg and Thigh Chicken Meal
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (4.7 oz):
Calories: 310
Fat: 19g (Saturated fat: 5.5 g)
Sodium: 800 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 32 g

Dark chicken meat (leg and thigh) is higher in calories and saturated fat compared to white meat. However, this two-piece combination is a better bet than a 3-piece or 4-piece at the chain. This high-protein meal is moderate in calories and has no carbohydrates for individuals seeking a lower-carb lifestyle.

 I'm a Dietitian—Here's What I Order at a Mexican Restaurant

Best: 2 Piece Breast and Wing

el pollo loco 2 piece chicken meal
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (5.6 oz):
Calories: 270
Fat: 11g (Saturated fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 970 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 44 g

This protein-lovers meal packs 44 grams of protein for just 270 calories, and it is relatively low in saturated fat for a main meal. The sodium is high, however, and is consistent with sodium levels in fast-casual restaurant meals.

Worst: 4 Piece (Breast, Thigh, Wing, Leg)

el pollo loco 4 piece chicken meal
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 11.3 oz.):
Calories: 580
Fat: 30 g (Saturated fat: 9 g)
Sodium: 1,770 mg
Carbs: 2 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 76 g

This protein-packed option is not the worst choice on the menu but is the worst option of the fire-grilled chicken choices. Stick with 2-piece chicken choices to keep your calorie, fat, and saturated fat intake within normal limits. This choice provides about half of the saturated fat that you should have in a day and provides too much protein for one meal.

 The #1 Healthiest Order at 9 Major Mexican Chains


Best: Broccoli

el pollo loco broccoli
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 3 oz.):
Calories: 30
Fat: 0 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 30 mg
Carbs: 6 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 2 g

No surprises here, ordering a side of broccoli will be the best option for your overall diet and health. Broccoli is a cruciferous veggie with numerous health-promoting qualities including anti-cancer benefits. The menu has other nutritious sides, including pinto beans, rice, corn, and salad.

Worst: Macaroni & Cheese

el pollo loco mac and cheese
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 6 oz serving):
Calories: 310
Fat: 19 g (Saturated fat: 10 g)
Sodium: 870 mg
Carbs: 24 g (0Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 9 g

This is the worst side nutritionally, due to the high levels of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium. This side provides nearly half of all the saturated fat you should have in an entire day and just packs in too many calories for a side dish.

 6 Unhealthiest Fast-Food Mac & Cheese Dishes

Snacks and Add-Ons

Best: Chicken Tortilla Soup

El Pollo Loco's Homemade Tortilla Soup
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per small Cup):
Calories: 240
Fat: 9 g (Saturated fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 1,250 mg
Carbs: 19 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 23 g

The best option of the snacks on the menu is the protein-rich Chicken Tortilla Soup. It has a moderate amount of calories, is low in saturated fat, and provides 23 grams of high-quality protein. It is high in sodium but that is consistent with most fast-food soups. Be sure to order the small size as the large size packs in nearly double the calories, fat, and has more sodium than you need in an entire day!

 The #1 Healthiest Soup at 10 Major Restaurant Chains

Worst: Chips & Queso Blanco

El Pollo Loco Chips & Queso Blanco
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 5.7 oz serving):
Calories: 540
Fat: 36 g (Saturated fat: 12 g)
Sodium: 590 mg
Carbs: 45 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 11 g)
Protein: 11 g

The chips and queso come in two sizes—regular and small. The regular sizes are meant to be shared and will pack in more than 1,000 calories, so be sure to look at the size of the snacks you're ordering at the chain. This menu option is a pure fail due to the amount of cheese and fried chips that make it too high in fat, saturated fat, and sugars.

Tostadas, Double Tostadas, & Salads

Best: Double Chicken Avocado Salad

El Pollo Loco Double Chicken Avocado Salad
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 13.3 oz serving):
Calories: 350
Fat: 12 g (Saturated fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 810 mg
Carbs: 12 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 51 g

If you're a protein-seeker, this is a great option on the menu. It provides a whopping 51 grams of protein for just 350 calories. What's more, avocados provide healthy, unsaturated fats to your diet.

 The Best & Worst Fast-Food Salads

Worst: Double Chicken Tostada

El Pollo Loco Double Chicken Tostada
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 20.1 oz serving):
Calories: 990
Fat: 46 g (Saturated fat: 13 g)
Sodium: 1,760 mg
Carbs: 82 g (Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 64 g

Due to its hefty serving size, this menu option has too much of pretty much everything —calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein. Because of this, it's definitely a menu option best split with a friend.


Best: Original Pollo Bowl

El Pollo Loco Original Pollo Bowl
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 18.1 oz serving):
Calories: 580
Fat: 10 g (Saturated fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 1,990 mg
Carbs: 83 g (Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 40 g

Like any Mexican-style restaurant, bowls are generally lower-carb options than burritos, tacos, enchiladas, or tostadas.  This bowl comes with chicken breast, pinto beans, rice, pico, onions and cilantro. Although it's extremely high in sodium, the calories, saturated fat, fiber, and protein counts make it a best bet when ordering a bowl at El Pollo Loco.

 6 Fast-Food Chains That Serve the Best Bowls

Worst: Double Chicken Bowl

El Pollo Loco Double Chicken Bowl
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 24.1 oz serving):
Calories: 930
Fat: 33 g (Saturated fat: 13 g)
Sodium: 2,630 mg
Carbs: 87 g (Fiber: 11 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 74 g

Due to its super-sized portion, this bowl is the worst choice. Its calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, carbs, and protein are enough for two meals. Unless you plan on sharing this or enjoying it for two main meals, it's best to skip it.


Best: Taco al Carbon

taco on a black plate
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 3.1 oz serving):
Calories: 170
Fat: 5 g (Saturated fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 250 mg
Carbs: 17 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 15 g

The term al carbon means "cooking over coal" in Spanish. These tacos use the same grilled chicken for which El Pollo Loco is known. They're the best option, as they weigh in at less than 200 calories per taco, are low in saturated fat, provide 2 grams of fiber, and have 15 grams of high-quality protein to help keep you satisfied. A meal of 2-3 of these tacos would be a better bet than most of the other main options on the menu.

 6 Healthiest Fast-Food Tacos to Try Right Now

Worst: Chicken Avocado Taco

El Pollo Loco Chicken Avocado Taco
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 6.4 oz serving):
Calories: 340
Fat: 19 g (Saturated fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 800 mg
Carbs: 18 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 24 g

Since most people enjoy two or more tacos as part of their meal, eating this popular taco (or multiple of them) can pack in significantly more calories and saturated fat in your meal than what you'd get from the other taco options, which have between 170 and 210 calories per taco.

 7 Unhealthiest Fast-Food Tacos To Stay Away From Right Now

Burritos & Quesadillas

Best: Original BRC Burrito

El Pollo Loco Original BRC Burrito
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 7.6 oz serving):
Calories: 410
Fat: 11 g (Saturated fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 1,000 mg
Carbs: 63 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 13 g

Located on the Kid's Menu, this burrito is the best bet for adults and children alike. It's made with nutritious Mexican dietary staples like rice, beans, and cheese. It won't break your calorie budget and has enough protein and fiber to keep you satisfied.

 9 'Healthiest' Fast-Food Burritos To Order Right Now

Worst: Chicken Avocado Stuffed Quesadilla

el pollo loco chicken avocado overstuffed quesadilla
El Pollo Loco
Nutrition (Per 13.3 oz serving):
Calories: 960
Fat: 58 g (Saturated fat: 25 g)
Sodium: 1,730 mg
Carbs: 56 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 54 g

A cue that a menu item isn't a healthy choice is when the word "stuffed" is in the name. This worst bet is excessively high in calories, has the saturated fat of more than a cup of super-premium ice cream, and nearly all the protein most adults need in a day.

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD
Julie Upton is an award-winning registered dietitian and communications specialist who has written thousands of articles for national media outlets, including The New York Times, US News & World Report, and USA Today. Read more about Julie
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