How to Eat Keto at El Pollo Loco

Are you hesitant of enjoying  a nice meal at El Pollo Loco because you're on a Keto Diet?

Well you've come to the right place! In this guide, you'll learn:

  • Is El Pollo Loco Keto-friendly?
  • What are some tips for ordering at El Pollo Loco on a Keto Diet?
  • What is Keto-friendly at El Pollo Loco?
  • And a whole lot more!
el pollo loco keto

El Pollo Loco is one of America’s favourite Mexican exports!

One of our favourite spots to grab some grub, El Pollo Loco is a cross between a casual dining sit-down restaurant and a place you can run into real quick to get a carry-out or even hit up the drive through!

It’s a hybrid mish mash of all forms of eateries providing authentic, delicious Mexican dishes with a certain unique specialization in Mexican grill style poultry that are simply a must eat!

Mexican cuisine is however abundant in carbohydrate rich food stuffs; beans, rice, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas to name the most popular menu items.

All potential pitfalls for your ketogenic state. But does this mean El Pollo Loco is completely off limits to the keto community?

Related: CrossFit & Keto Diet - The perfect combination to get super fit?

Is El Pollo Loco Keto-Friendly?

Of course it is!

As is the case every time you leave the comfort of your home to get a little adventurous with your food choices on a keto diet, it simply requires you focusing on eating smarter.

This simply means planning in advance, preparing for possible changes in schedule and being able to adapt to these changes if and when they come!

If you can’t pick and choose ready made menu options, you can always customize them yourself and we’re going to show you exactly how to do that and give you a low down on just how you can uphold your ketosis whilst enjoying everyone’s favorite Mexican eatery!

Tips for Ordering at El Pollo Loco on a Keto Diet

Our primary tip for eating at El Pollo Loco is to do your research on their menu. Thankfully they provide a full in-depth nutritional breakdown of all their menu items on their website. 

Although we’re going to highlight which choices to go for and which to avoid, knowing the nutritional information (and or at least having it on hand) of the options available will you make the most optimal choices conducive to your ketosis.

Another great tip is to identify multiple options in advance that you can choose that slot in nicely to your ketogenic lifestyle (and other dietary related goals).

Giving yourself flexibility with choice prevents a panic if that one option you had your heart set on isn’t available!

Read Also: How to overcome Keto Weight Loss Plateau

Order Chicken

No brainer really. El Pollo Loco specialize in chicken and chicken is perfect for keto.

Their chicken meals are naturally low to no carbohydrates per serving and rich in protein. A perfect option for optimizing body composition too if that’s your goal!

El Pollo Loco offer fire-grilled chicken thighs, legs, wings, and breasts, which are all great low-carb options. You can even get a chicken breast with or without skin if you’re trying to keep your fat intake down.

We’d advise though skipping on the dressings! They can be sugar laden and a one-way ticket straight out of ketosis if you’re not careful!

If you’re dieting, a grilled chicken breast with a side of steamed veg is a great option, but for everyone else a fattier cut of meat, like thighs, wings and even a leg may be a better choice and help to get those calories up!

Read Also: 5 Best Keto Multivitamins for your diet

Tacos with No Shell

How do you enjoy the taco with no taco?

Simple, replace it with some iceberg lettuce leaves but keep the glorious filling; which, might we say, has been perfected by the El Pollo Loco family.

Be mindful that the meat could be covered in some kind of carbohydrate rich sauce and or even topped up with non-keto friendly ingredients.

If you can, ask for the meat to be provided without sauce (or have the sauce on the side) and without any seasonings or other herbs (better safe than sorry here!)

Read Also: BistroMD - best weight loss meal prep and delivery service review

Add Guacamole or Bacon

As if you need an excuse to add more guac or bacon? Nature’s perfect keto condiments, these are a must add to virtually any El Pollo Loco meal.

Both conducive to your keto lifestyle and supplying health boosting vitamins, minerals and a touch of fibre with the guac and getting your dietary protein up with the bacon!

The guac is even made fresh every day! Even more reason to ask for an extra serving of the low-carb goodness!

el pollo loco keto facts

What Is Keto-Friendly at El Pollo Loco?

Thanks to the in-depth nutritional information, it’s actually a lot easier to identify what is and what isn’t keto friendly at El Pollo Loco.

We’ll let you in on this little-known secret; there’s more keto-friendly foods at El Pollo Loco than you probably thought! Here’s some of the tastiest, lowest in net carb options on the menu!

  • Fire grilled chicken thigh, wing, breast and leg with skin (less than 1g net carbs each)
  • Chicken avocado burrito with added bacon (without the shell, dressing and pinto beans) (Less than 8g net carbs)
  • Double chicken bowl with avocado salsa (without the rice and beans) (Less than 5g net carbs)
  • Original pollo bowl with avocado salsa (without the rice and beans) (Less than 2g net carbs)

Related: Upper body CrossFit Workouts - WODs & Circuits

El Pollo Loco Chicken Meals for Keto

The crown in El Pollo Loco’s culinary crown; their chicken. Unrivalled taste and succulence, these Mexican home grilled inspired portions of heaven are a must have for any and every member of the keto community!

Read Also: What are the Best Keto Meters for Weight Loss?

Whilst we recommend ordering them without sauces to avoid any unnecessary carbohydrate induced ketosis sabotage, there are a multitude of keto friendly salsas and other sauces that will be a perfect compliment (we’ll discuss these later on in the article!)

Back to the chicken! Here are our favorite choices from the menu!

Family Chicken Meals

  • 8-piece meal (Chicken only) : less than 5g net carbs
  • 10-piece meal (with steamed veggies) : less than 5g net carbs
  • 12-piece meal (with steamed veggies) : less than 5g net carbs
  • 14-piece meal (with steamed veggies) : less than 5g net carbs
  • 16-piece meal (with steamed veggies) : less than 5g net carbs

Individual Chicken Meals

  • Fire-Grilled Chicken Breast : less than 1g net carbs
  • Fire-Grilled Chicken Wing : less than 1g net carbs
  • Fire-Grilled Chicken Thigh : less than 1g net carbs
  • Fire-Grilled Chicken Leg : less than 1g net carbs
  • 2-Piece Meal (sides replaced with steamed veggies, with or without margarine) : less than 5g net carbs
  • 3-Piece Meal (sides replaced with steamed veggies, with or without margarine) : less than 5g net carbs
  • 4-Piece Meal (sides replaced with steamed veggies, with or without margarine) : less than 5g net carbs

Related: The Optimal Ketogenic Living (OKL) Chart - The right way of doing Keto

El Pollo Loco Salads for Keto

An essential staple for any keto dieter is having a salad option in their back pocket to fall back on if everything else goes pear shape.

However, salads shouldn’t just be seen as a last resort but a viable compliment to many dishes. Many in the keto diet neglect fruits and vegetables due to the fear it’ll knock them out of ketosis.

Not the case if you make smart choices, and choosing a salad conducive to a ketogenic lifestyle will also help you pack in a bunch of sorely needed vitamins, minerals and fibre!

El Pollo Loco offer a number of salads that take a little bit of customization (but thankfully they offer you full flexibility to do so!)

  • Chicken Black Bean Bowl (hold the beans and rice but add in extra baja shrimp) : less than 8g net carbs
  • Chicken Avocado Tortilla Wrap (hold the wrap but add in extra baja shrimp) : less than 8g net carbs
  • Double Chicken Avocado Salad (hold the corn but add in the creamy cilantro dressing) : less than 8g net carbs

El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing

One of our favorite salad dressings EVER and completely keto-friendly to boot!

Coming in at only 2g net carbs per serving, it really is the most perfect compliment to one of the delicious salads on offer at El Pollo Loco! Insanely creamy, tangy and rich, we really can’t state it enough; you have to have this!

Read Also: The Beginner's Guide for Intermittent Fasting

Tostada Salads El Pollo Loco

The tostada salads are an awesome alternative to go for if you’re not feeling the regular options! They also come with a few unique ingredients that you don’t get with the regular salad options!

You’ll have to hold steady on the tostada, but you have to be mindful of a few other ingredients too when ordering your salad!

  • Classic Tostada Salad (hold the tostada shell, beans and rice but add in extra baja shrimp) : less than 8g net carbs
  • Double Chicken Tostada Salad (hold the tostada shell, beans and rice but add in extra baja shrimp) : less than 9g net carbs

El Pollo Loco Low-Carb Bowls

We love a good El Pollo Loco Bowl on the go, but you have to get smart with your customization if you hope to keep it low carb; here’s how!

Read Also: What are the Best Keto Fiber Supplements for Optimal Health?

  • Original Pollo Bowl (hold the beans and rice) : less than 1g net carbs
  • Grande Avocado Chicken Bowl (hold the beans, rice and corn and add in baja shrimp) : less than 5g net carbs
  • Double Chicken Bowl (hold the beans and rice and add in baja shrimp) : less than 6g net carbs
  • Chicken Black Bean Bowl (hold the beans and rice and add in the baja shrimp) : less than 7g net carbs

Keto-Friendly Burritos and Quesadillas at El Pollo Loco


I don’t think you need us to mention that, if you do fancy ordering a burrito or quesadilla, you’re going to have to ask the staff to remove the tortilla wrap(s) component of the meal.

That however, does not mean they can’t still be as insanely tasty as we all know they are!

Here’s how to customize the world-famous burritos and quesadillas to make them fit your ketosis focus! 

  • Chipotle Chicken Avocado Burrito (hold the beans, rice and wrap and add in baja shrimp) : less than 10g net carbs
  • Chicken Avocado Burrito (hold the beans and wrap and add in baja shrimp) : less than 10g net carbs
  • Original BRC Burrito (hold the beans, rice and wrap) : less than 3g net carbs
  • Classic Chicken Burrito (hold the beans, rice and wrap and add in the baja shrimp) : less than 5g net carbs
  • Ranchero Burrito (hold the beans, rice and wrap) : less than 8g net carbs
  • Chicken Avocado Overstuffed Quesadilla (hold the wrap, add in baja shrimp) : less than 9g net carbs

Related: Is a Keto diet suitable for seniors and over 60's?

Tacos at El Pollo Loco for Keto Diet

Similar to the tostadas, burritos and quesadillas, you want to remove the primary carbohydrate source; the taco shell.

Again, that doesn’t mean these can’t be as delicious as you remember, just a different texture! And don’t forget you can add in extras like guac and bacon to really elevate the flavor!

Read Also: What is the Best 7-Keto-DHEA Metabolite?

Whilst the menu options are limited, there are plenty of add-ons outside of those we mentioned that staff are happy to accommodate you with (if you ask nicely!).

taco el pollo loco

Extra cheese, crispy lettuce leaves, more chicken breast pieces etc. are all great compliments to your newly customized open taco!

Chicken Taco El Carbon (hold the corn tortilla wrap and add in baja shrimp amongst other add-ons) : less than 2g net carbs

El Pollo Loco Sides for Keto

You’ll want to steer well clear of the carb rich sides; beans, rice, wraps, corn, macaroni and cheese as well as the mashed potatoes and gravy. 

Feel free to get yourself a loco side salad (6g net carbs), coleslaw (small portion size is less than 7g net carbs) and or steamed broccoli (0 – 3g net carbs depending on portion size).

You’ll also want to avoid the majority of the lemonades, carbonated drinks, ice teas and other sweetened beverages. Stick to the bottled water, horchata or a zero kcal (zero sugar) carbonated drink if you’re feeling parched (or you’re losing the fight to the spices!).

Read Also: What are the 12 Testosterone Boosting Foods to Eat to Get Jacked?

We alluded to these earlier, but El Pollo Loco also has a range of keto-friendly dressings, salsas and other condiments that would fit perfectly with whatever meal you ultimately decide to go for / build:

  • House Salsa (less than 2g net carbs)
  • Pico de Gallo (less than 2g net carbs)
  • Avocado Salsa (less than 1g net carbs)
  • Sour Cream (less than 2g net carbs)
  • Ranch Dressing (less than 2g net carbs)
  • Ketchup (less than 1g net carbs)
  • Jalapeño Hot Sauce (less than 1g net carbs)
  • Salsa Roja (less than 1g net carbs)
  • Light Italian (less than 2g net carbs)


Mexican food is far too tasty to ever go without. El Pollo Loco is a wonderful place, packed full of delicious food, a festive vibe and keto-friendly menu options; you just have to know where to look and how to adapt! 

From their one of a kind grilled chicken menu to their salads, open tostadas and even a range of sides, there’s something for every keto dieter here!

The great thing is, the majority of the options we’ve outlined are also calorie friendly too and high in protein; perfect if your main aim on a ketogenic diet is weight loss! 

Taco Tuesday isn’t just for the non-keto community!

Jamie Wright

Jamie Wright

Jamie is a registered accredited nutritionist with a MSc in Nutrition and BSc in Sports and Exercise Science. With published and presented research, he also runs his own nutritionist coaching service company, OUTWRK. Within his practice he works alongside a whole host of recreational exercisers/dieters to elite, internationally competing athletes across varying sports. Jamie's specialities are supporting athletes in optimizing their performance, helping individuals overcome eating disorders and working with individuals and groups to achieve long term, sustainable weight loss and subsequent management. You can message him on his site or via his social media channels @outwrknutrition / @jamiesdietguide to discover how he and his team could help you!

Other Fitness Guides

Check out some of our other in-depth fitness guides and product reviews to make sure you are getting the most out of your workout time. 

Leave a Comment