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How many calories in a taco salad with grilled chicken?

A taco salad is a Tex-Mex dish that typically consists of a fried tortilla shell filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, seasoned ground beef or chicken, beans, and other toppings. It’s often served with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and ranch or other dressing on the side. Taco salads are a popular menu item at many Mexican restaurants and fast food chains. They make a tasty, filling, and portable meal or appetizer. But how many calories are actually in a taco salad made with grilled chicken? Let’s take a closer look.

Calories in Grilled Chicken

To determine the calories in a taco salad, we first need to know the calories in its main ingredient – the grilled chicken. Chicken breast is a lean, protein-rich food that is relatively low in calories if it is not breaded or fried in oil.

According to the USDA, a 3 oz. portion of boneless, skinless chicken breast that has been grilled or broiled contains the following calories:

Chicken Portion Size Calories
3 oz 140

As you can see, a standard 3 oz. serving of grilled chicken breast contains 140 calories. This portion is about the size of a deck of cards.

A full, 6 oz. chicken breast half would contain approximately 280 calories. Many taco salad recipes call for between 4-8 oz. of chopped, grilled chicken breast.

So if we estimate using a 6 oz. portion of chicken, that would equal about 420 calories just for the chicken alone.

Calories in Tortilla Bowl

In addition to the chicken, we have to account for the calories in the fried tortilla bowl or shell that serves as the base of the taco salad.

The tortilla bowl is usually made by taking a 10-inch flour tortilla and deep frying it until it turns into a crispy shell. The calories can vary slightly depending on the brand and size of tortilla used.

According to CalorieKing, here are the approximate calories for a 10-inch fried flour tortilla taco shell:

Tortilla Taco Shell Calories
10-inch fried flour tortilla 278

As you can see, a single 10-inch fried flour tortilla shell contains about 278 calories. This varies a bit from brand to brand, but is a good general estimate.

So if we add the 420 calories for 6 oz. of chicken plus the 278 calories for the tortilla shell, that brings us to a total of 698 calories so far.

Calories in Taco Salad Toppings

In addition to the chicken and shell, most taco salads are topped with a mix of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and salad dressing. All of these extras will add more calories to the total.

Here are the approximate calories for standard taco salad toppings based on a 1 cup serving size:

Taco Salad Topping Calories (1 cup)
Shredded lettuce 10
Diced tomatoes 32
Shredded cheddar cheese 228
Black beans 227
Salsa 30-50
Guacamole 242
Sour cream 138
Ranch dressing 285

Most taco salads include at least 1 cup of lettuce, 1/4 cup each of beans, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream or dressing.

If we add the calories for typical amounts of these ingredients, that contributes an additional 956 calories to our taco salad.

Total Calories in Taco Salad with Grilled Chicken

Now we can calculate the total calories in our taco salad:

Taco Salad Ingredients Calories
Grilled chicken (6 oz) 420
Fried taco shell (10-inch) 278
Taco salad toppings 956
Total Calories 1,654

Based on standard ingredients and portion sizes, a typical taco salad with grilled chicken contains approximately **1,654 calories.**

This number can vary depending on the exact ingredients and amounts used. Using more or less of ingredients like beans, cheese, guacamole or salad dressing will raise or lower the calories. Going lighter on the fried tortilla shell and heavier on the lettuce and tomatoes will also make it somewhat less caloric.

But in general, an average sized taco salad with grilled chicken will contain around 1,500-1,700 calories.

Ways to Make Taco Salad Lower Calorie

Here are some easy ways to lighten up a taco salad and make it a bit lower in calories:

– Use a bowl or tortilla chips instead of a deep-fried tortilla shell
– Choose chicken or turkey breast without skin
– Load up on lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn instead of cheese and heavy toppings
– Use just a sprinkling of shredded cheese instead of 1/4 cup
– Go easy on high-calorie toppings like guacamole and sour cream
– Use salsa, pico de gallo, or fresh lime juice for extra flavor instead of fatty dressings
– If using dressing, stick to 1-2 Tbsp maximum
– Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy options when possible

Making these simple substitutions can easily shave off a few hundred calories from your taco salad. This makes it a lighter and healthier option while still tasting delicious!

Nutritional Benefits of Taco Salad

While taco salad is high in calories, it can also provide many beneficial nutrients, especially when made with wholesome ingredients. Here are some of the nutrition pros of taco salads:

– Protein – Grilled chicken and beans provide lean protein to help fill you up.

– Fiber – From the beans, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and tortilla shell. Fiber is good for digestive health.

– Vitamin C – The tomatoes, peppers and salsa provide this immune-boosting antioxidant.

– Vitamin K – Found in the leafy greens. It’s important for blood clotting.

– Iron – The meat, beans and lettuce supply this mineral that aids oxygen transport in the blood.

– Calcium – The cheese and sour cream provide bone-strengthening calcium.

– Potassium – Especially high in tomatoes and beans, potassium helps control blood pressure.

So while it’s a calorie-dense dish, the taco salad nutrients can be beneficial when consumed as part of an overall healthy diet. Moderating portions is key to keeping calories under control.


A taco salad made with grilled chicken contains approximately 1,500-1,700 calories depending on the portion sizes and specific ingredients used. The main sources of calories are the chicken, fried tortilla shell, beans, cheese, guacamole, and dressing or sour cream. There are many ways to tweak the recipe to make it lower in calories while still retaining great Tex-Mex flavor. Taco salad can provide protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as part of a balanced diet. Just be mindful of overdoing it on the higher calorie ingredients and portions to keep the calorie count reasonable.