How To Order Low Carb at Chili’s Grill & Bar
Chili’s Grill & Bar is a casual American restaurant with a southern flare. The first location was founded in Texas, so a lot of the food on the menu is inspired by smokehouse flavors, tacos, and lots of steak and burger options This is good news for low-carb or ketogenic dieters who find themselves in need of a low-carb meal here.
While it’s always best to prepare your foods at home, you can certainly find something low-carb to eat at Chili’s.
Keep in mind that low-carb isn’t the same as being strictly ketogenic, so don’t make eating out a habit. You can get better quality ingredients by shopping at your local grocery store and preparing the food yourself.
However, if you wind up at Chili’s for a work or social event, there are ways to make it work. Here’s how.
Tips For Ordering At Chili’s
When it comes to low-carb options, the menu at Chili’s is much better than other fast food places that we’ve covered on our site, but there are certain things you want to keep in mind when ordering here.
It’s easy to accidentally sabotage your meal by forgetting to ask for no sauce or swapping out starchy sides for low-carb veggies.
As we mentioned before, you don’t want to eat out often if you’re on a ketogenic diet. This is because some restaurants might use conventionally-raised meats and cheeses that are full of additives, refined sugar, and hormones or antibiotics.
On top of that, these foods are often cooked in vegetable oil instead of a healthy oil, such as coconut, avocado, or olive oils.
We’ve put together a list of tips that you’ll need to keep in mind when ordering at Chili’s.
#1. Beware of smoked meat and sauces
Texas is known for its bold flavors and generous portions of food, but this comes at a price for low-carb dieters.
Big, bold flavors often mean that your food has been enriched with sauces, artificial flavors, and chemicals to make it taste better.
Smoked meat might sound delicious, but research indicates that high-salt and nitrate-containing foods might increase your risk of stomach cancer (1, 2). This is why it’s best to purchase smoked meats at the grocery store that don’t contain excess levels of salt or nitrates/nitrites.
Organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed meat is always best. It’s also best to make sure your foods are minimally processed. Chances are you might be getting highly processed, low-quality ingredients at most restaurants, including Chili’s.
Additionally, Chili’s and other restaurants like to add barbeque and other sauces to their dishes to enhance the flavor.
Sauces tend to be full of refined sugar and carbs that can easily kick you out of ketosis. It’s easy to forget to ask for your meat dry, so be sure to follow our instructions for ordering each dish in the later sections of this article.
#2. Look for code words that indicate unhealthy ingredients
You can easily tell if a dish is low-carb or not just by paying attention to the way a restaurant describes it. For example, “crispy” is another term for breaded and fried.
This means that your meat will be coated in breadcrumbs and submerged in community vegetable oil that is probably also used to cook French fries and other foods in. Chili’s has lots of crispy meats on the menu, so be sure to ask for grilled instead.
For the record, it’s OK to fry your meats at home. You just have to use keto-friendly breadcrumbs!
Check out our crispy keto-fried chicken for a safe alternative to an old classic dish.
Other code words to watch out for include “sweet” and “tangy.” These words almost always mean that sugar has been added to the dish.
“Creamy” is a word that can sometimes indicate that cream, milk, and flour have been added together to create a smooth texture. Always ask for no sauce just to be on the safe side.
When it comes to salad dressing, ask for the ingredients. If unsure, ask for olive oil and vinegar instead of the regular dressing if you want to play it safe.
#3. Choose your sides carefully
All main dishes at Chili’s come with a side dish. If you’re a low-carb eater, then you can order keto-friendly vegetables or a side salad. But if you’re on the ketogenic diet, you’ll need to be a little pickier to keep your macronutrients in check.
The vegetable side dishes at many restaurants often include potatoes, corn, green beans and other starchy foods that might be OK on a low-carb diet but are not safe for strict ketogenic dieters.
Chili’s offers steamed broccoli or grilled asparagus and garlic roasted tomatoes as side dishes. Order one of these and stay away from the rice, beans, and coleslaw.
What To Order At Chili’s
Texas is home of the “go big or go home” mentality, and it definitely applies to the food at Chili’s. This means you definitely won’t leave there hungry, but you’ll need to order your meals precisely to avoid accidentally indulging in something you shouldn’t.
Most Chili’s restaurants are open from 11AM until 11PM, which means that you’ll probably eat here for lunch or dinner. We recommend ordering a salad or sandwich for lunch and a steak or burger for dinner.
Here are the safest low-carb dishes at Chili’s and how to order them.
- Fresh guacamole (you can order this without the chips and add the guac to your main dish)
- White spinach queso (again, you can order this without the chips and add the guac to your main dish; ask your server about ingredients as the Chili’s website does not offer this information)
Soups and Salads
- Santa Fe chicken salad (ask for no tortilla strips, spicy Santa Fe sauce, or ranch dressing; get oil and vinegar instead)
- Grilled chicken salad (hold the corn and black bean salsa and the honey-lime vinaigrette dressing; ask for oil and vinegar instead)
- Caribbean salad with seared shrimp (hold the mandarin oranges (these are usually canned and coated in heavy syrup), dried cranberries (sugar-coated) and honey-lime vinaigrette dressing; ask for oil and vinegar instead; if you’re ketogenic, hold the pineapple, too)
- Caribbean salad with grilled chicken (hold the mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and honey-lime vinaigrette dressing; ask for oil and vinegar instead; if you’re ketogenic, hold the pineapple)
- Side Caesar salad (hold the croutons)
- House salad (hold the croutons; get oil and vinegar dressing)
- Fresco salad (get oil and vinegar dressing instead of house)
- Southwest chicken Caesar salad (hold the croutons and tortilla strips)
- Southwest shrimp Caesar salad (hold the croutons and tortilla strips)
- Bowl of original chili (ask for no tortilla strips on top; be sure this contains no beans before ordering!)
Sandwiches and Burgers
For all sandwiches and burgers, ask for a side salad with oil and vinegar dressing and no croutons instead of fries:
- Bacon, avocado grilled chicken sandwich (hold the cilantro-pesto mayo and bun)
- California turkey club (hold the cilantro-pesto mayo and Texas toast)
- The boss burger (hold the BBQ and ranch sauces as well as the bun)
- Mushroom Swiss burger (hold the garlic aioli and bun)
- Queso burger (hold the white queso and tortilla strips)
- Alex’s Santa Fe burger (hold the spicy Santa Fe sauce and bun)
- Chili’s chili burger (hold the tortilla strips and bun)
- Oldtimer and oldtimer with cheese (hold any sauce that comes on it as well as bun)
- Southern smokehouse burger (hold the awesome blossom petals, garlic aioli and bun)
- Big mouth bites (minus the bun and ranch dressing)
- Just bacon burger (no garlic aioli or bun)
Ribs and Steak
For all ribs and steak dishes, ask for a side house salad without croutons and oil and vinegar dressing, steamed broccoli, or grilled asparagus as your side dish in place of fries, beans, coleslaw, rice, or corn:
- Original full order or half order ribs (ask for dry ribs with no sauce)
- Mix and match ribs (ask for dry ribs with no sauce)
- House BBQ full order or half order ribs (no BBQ sauce)
- Texas dry rub full order or half order ribs (no sauce)
- Honey-chipotle full order or half order ribs (ask for dry ribs with no sauce)
- Six-ounce classic sirloin steak with grilled avocado (ask for no spicy citrus-chile sauce)
- Classic ribeye (ask for extra steamed broccoli and no mashed potatoes)
- Ten-ounce or six-ounce classic sirloin (ask for extra steamed broccoli and no mashed potatoes)
- Smokehouse combo and ultimate smokehouse combo (hold the roasted street corn, fries, and chile-garlic toast; make sure all meat is dry and has no sauce on it)
For all fajita and taco dishes, hold the rice, sauces, black bean salsa, and tortillas; ask for extra veggies or guacamole instead
- Mix and match fajitas
- Mix and match fajita trio
- Chicken fajitas
- Steak fajitas
- Shrimp fajitas
- Mushroom jack chicken fajitas
For all taco dishes, hold the rice, black bean salsa, tortillas and all sauces; ask for extra guacamole, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream instead:
- Spicy shrimp tacos (no coleslaw and queso fresco)
- Chili’s 1975 soft tacos (no chips and salsa)
- Ranchero chicken tacos (no queso fresco or jalapeno aioli)
- Ancho salmon (hold the spicy citrus-chile sauce and queso fresco; ask for double steamed broccoli and no rice)
- Mango-chili chicken (ask for no mango glaze; order double steamed broccoli and no rice; if you’re strict ketogenic, then also hold the mango on the chicken)
- Margarita grilled chicken (order this minus the tortilla strips, rice, and black beans; get a side salad with oil and vinegar dressing instead)
Foods To Avoid At Chili’s
With so many options for low-carb dishes at Chili’s, it’s simply not worth your time or effort to try to custom order some of the more difficult dishes.
The following meals come breaded, fried, smothered in sauce, or contain too many high-carb ingredients. We recommend sticking with something on the safe list and don’t even try your luck with these!
- Triple dipper
- Awesome blossom petals
- Loaded boneless wings
- Boneless wings
- Bone-in wings
- Southwestern egg rolls
- California grilled chicken flatbread
- Margarita flatbread
- All nacho dishes
- Texas cheese fries
- Skillet queso
- Crispy cheddar bites
- Fried pickles
- Chips and salsa
Soups and salads:
- Santa Fe crispers salad (order the Santa Fe grilled chicken salad instead)
- Quesadilla explosion salad
- Boneless buffalo chicken salad
- All soups
- Buffalo chicken ranch sandwich
- All chicken crispers
- Black bean and veggie fajitas
- Bacon ranch chicken quesadillas
- Beef bacon ranch quesadillas
- Honey-chipotle crispers and waffles
- Chipotle chicken or shrimp fresh mex bowl (you could get this without the rice, corn and black bean salsa, and ranch, or you could just order a grilled chicken or shrimp salad)
- Cajun chicken or shrimp pasta
- Chicken enchiladas
- All desserts and sweetened beverages, including alcohol
Although we don’t recommend eating out more than once or twice a month if you are on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, Chili’s Grill and Bar is a better option than most. This is because they offer a wide variety of steak, burger, and chicken dishes.
Remember that eating low-carb is not the same as eating a strict ketogenic meal. We noticed that Chili’s doesn’t list their ingredients on their website, so it’s best to ask your server about what’s in a certain dish if you have questions.
For a fool-proof low-carb meal, stick with a grilled chicken salad or sandwich and ask to hold the dressing, bun, and any sauce that accompanies it. Chili’s likes to douse their meats in sauce, so watch out for this.
Also ask for oil and vinegar dressing in place of whatever normally comes on the salad. You can also get a bunless and sauceless burger or try a steak with double steamed broccoli in place of mashed potatoes, coleslaw, or rice.
Stay away from taco and fajita dishes if you can, unless you don’t mind eating with a fork and forgoing the flour tortilla. If you’re looking to stay under 630 calories, check out the options we listed for their guiltless grill menu.
For a full list of what you should eat and avoid on keto, check this guide!
Enjoy this post? Share to save for later!
Photo credit: jetcityimage2/Depositphotos.com