Among all keto restaurants in the US, Chipotle is probably the top mentioned institution in the “r/keto” Reddit community. It’s challenging to find a post about dining out without people bringing up this named after Mexican chili pepper chain at least once.
It’s yet unknown whether it has happened due to Chipotle’s popularity in the keto community, or due to the keto diet being popular among Chipotle’s executives, but the fact remains that they were the first chain to introduce the original keto dish — the “keto salad bowl”.
That is truly a seismic shift in the contemporary fast-food market. Not that it’s some cooking revolution, but these changes will inevitably force other competitors like McDonald’s and Taco Bell to respond proportionately.
A step forward, but only a baby step; eating out at Chipotle is still a tricky task if you want to fit your keto macros. Or, actually, it used to be a tricky task, because this guide will usher you through the maze called “ordering a keto meal.”
How to Order at Chipotle
You have two options: the easy one, and the right one. The easy one is for those who’re in a hurry or simply don’t care much — order Keto Salad Bowl and some water. The guide is over, thank you very much for reading.
Just kidding, though it makes some sense. The so-called “right” way (right isn’t carved in stone) is to know which ingredients are good for you and which are not, and to be able to combine various dishes that fit your nutritional criteria.
Let’s speak of those ingredients, young Padawan. The dark side comes first:
- Flour Tortilla. When rolled into a burrito and wrapped in foil, it might falsely appear to look like a lightsaber grip. Use the force to push those 50g carbs away.
- Chips. Since the inhibitor chips eventually failed to execute Order 66, tortilla chips are here to fill this vacant name. With 73g carbs, they won’t fail to execute you out of ketosis.
- Rice and Beans. They are abundant like clone troopers, but being armed with about 20–40g carbs per serving makes them even more dreadful than those armored snowflakes.
- Sofritas. It looks like meat, smells like meat, tastes like meat. It has 9g carbs per serving; the start was encouraging, wasn’t it, Anakin?
Arduous is the path of Jedi, but the light side is beckoning:
- Chicken, steak, barbacoa, carnitas. In Jediese: chicken, beef, and pork.
- Romaine lettuce. Green and good, just like Yoda.
- Tomato/tomatillo salsa. Alright, alright, no more Star Wars for today. These three salsas have about 4g net carbs each, which is relatively ok.
- Cheese and sour cream. One and two grams of carbs, nothing risky in here.
Aside from these, queso and fajita vegetables are relatively keto-friendly with 4g and 5g of net carbs respectively.
Not only is the light side beckoning, but it is also “baconing” in eight restaurants in Orange County. In the case of local success, Chipotle is going to run a full-market test. Not saying this is wrong, but why do you even need to run bacon tests in the 21st century?
Chipotle’s Guacamole Issue
Making a long story short: Chipotle’s nutrition calculator is broken. Not as if it doesn’t count at all, but it has been an eternity since two plus two equaled three or five.
Then why call it the “guacamole” issue if the entire thing is messed up? Because out of all ingredients guacamole has the biggest divergence in nutritional values, and coincidentally avocado is one of the most important components of a keto diet.
Let’s break it down. According to Chipotle’s nutrition calculator, guac has 8g carbs and 6g fiber. Logically, that adds up to 2g net carbs, and this also looks credible if you look at average guacamole nutrition. However, they say it provides 22g fat, 2g protein, and 230 calories. The energy value of 1g fat is 9 calories; 1g protein or 1g carbs is 4 calories. That adds up to 198 calories from fat, 8 calories from protein, 8 calories from carbs, or 214 calories in total.
That doesn’t add up. Then let’s check over the Keto Salad Bowl nutrition; it has 585 calories, 42g fat, 14g carbs, and 31g protein. The sum of these nutrients is 558 calories. Where’re the rest 27 calories? Do they come from carbs? Have they mistakenly — or maliciously — misplaced 5 and 8?
Reddit keto community confirms nutritional issues at this fast-food chain. Some Redditors said they reached out to Chipotle, who confirmed via email and Twitter that their calculator shows the net carbs value for “carbohydrates” instead of traditional total carbs.
That means Chipotle’s guacamole has 8g net carbs, but not 2g as it seemed to be. With all that said, you have to be aware of what this fast-food joint does.
Keto-Friendly Dishes at Chipotle
Good news, everyone! It’s time to deliver some keto-friendly dishes and break them down nutritionally. You can always add on some guac at your own risk, but keep the previous section in mind.
Keto Salad Bowl
The one and only premade keto dish which is actually named by Chipotle. The recipe is simple: carnitas (pork), guacamole, Monterey jack cheese, tomatillo red-chili salsa, romaine lettuce. Nutrition is 585 calories, 42g fat, 31g protein, 14g carbs, and 8g fiber.
Double-Chicken Cheese Bowl
While some claim chicken as a healthier source of protein than beef (might be true, might not), at least you can be entirely sure that you get zero carbs out of this silly bird. The other ingredients are cheese, sour cream, and romaine lettuce bed. Thoroughly mixed, they provide 585 calories, 31g fat, 72g protein, and 4g net carbs. This almost summed up without a mistake, good job Chipotle.
Double-Beef Extra-Cheese Bowl
Humanely raised Bessie grew so big she could be served both as half-steak and half-barbacoa. Garnished with romaine lettuce and beefed up by extra cheese and sour cream, it provides 495 calories, 31.5g fat, 36.5g protein, 6.5g carbs, and 2g fiber. Don’t even try to sum up nutrition energy values unless you want to feel despair. However, nothing looks dangerous to your keto diet in this recipe; feel free to order it.
Mad Meat Bandido
Not only is Bandido the most dangerous bull in rodeo history, but he also has a cool name for an authentic Mexican bowl. Because how else you would call a barbacoa-plus-carnitas cup with extra cheese, extra sour cream, and (tonight you ride) extra romaine lettuce. This meaty beast is a source of 830 calories, 53g fat, 63g protein, 10g carbs, and 3g fiber.
Chicken Queso Salad
This one is cheesy in a good way. With regular chicken, cheese, queso, sour cream, and romaine lettuce it provides 525 calories, 32g fat, 46g protein, 8g carbs, and 1.5g fiber. According to their website, queso consists of 25 ingredients; that’s almost half of everything they use in Chipotle. It would be a crime not to try it.
You might have noticed that neither salsas nor guacamole or fajita vegetables are included in these recipes. Not necessarily because somebody is a fan of dairy, but mainly due to their overall high carb content.
However, you may always omit sour cream (-2g carbs) or queso (-4g carbs) and add on any tomato-based salsa (+4g carbs) or fajitas (+5g carbs). When you go for protein sources, remember that beef contains more carbs than pork or chicken. And make sure you don’t go for meat-like sofritas (9g carbs) by a mistake.
Regarding drinks, every option that is present in their nutrition calculator contains too many carbs. What is not mentioned is that you can have a free cup of water at every Chipotle joint; they also have unsweetened ice tea which normally contains zero calories. However, the best tip would be to ask the staff to specify that. The best, but not the only tip.
How-to-Order Tips at Chipotle
Comparing Chipotle with other fast-food chains, keto-minded Redditors have found the former exorbitantly priced. Luckily, they’ve also suggested a couple of ways to handle it.
If Chipotle wants you to pay top dollar, you can get top meat with these tips:
- Claim the second portion after they give you the first one. If employees don’t know you’re going for the second scoop, the first one will be pretty big, because they don’t want to handle possible complaints. After they’ve played their hand you take the initiative by asking for double meat. They have no option but to give you an equally pleasing amount.
- Always order half-and-half. Yes, even when you need a single serving. It’s impossible to measure the exact half portion, so the staff tends to err on your side.
- Combine the two previous tips. Order half-and-half and then ask for a double, still half-and-half. Not only are you getting maximum meat, but also a respectful look from employees.
Unless you’re famished indeed the last “protip” is being sarcastic, but the first two provide consistently more food for your buck. The last piece of advice is to opt for the busiest locations — when it’s all about speed, they don’t care much about portioning and thus scoop generously.
Being indifferent to Chipotle is pretty much impossible. It’s a love-hate story; a drama of gappy scoops turning into extra gratis chicken romance.
Or, this one is personal, bitter irony of Chipotle updating their website right at the moment this article is being finished, so you must revise the entire piece because they’ve changed certain nutritional values but still gloriously failed to add them up properly.
But, despite this righteous indignation, Chipotle has plenty of virtues to be loved for. Food with integrity, plain ingredients, detailed yet user-friendly website, nutritional info for each and every piece of food. Delivery, after all.
Can you dine out in Chipotle while on keto? Damn straight. It is them who are the first chain to bring in Keto Bowls, not some Golden Bells or whosoever. And regarding their guacamole failure, who knows, maybe it’s just a label mistake. In the end, many fellow keto Redditors don’t hesitate to order it. It’s your call.