Chipotle Mexican Grill is a popular fast-casual restaurant chain that offers Tex-Mex inspired cuisine like burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and of course, salads. A salad at Chipotle contains fresh ingredients like lettuce, beans, salsas, vegetables, and protein options assembled together to create a delicious and customizable meal. In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at what exactly goes into a Chipotle salad, the different elements you can choose from, nutrition information, and how it compares to other menu items. Whether you’re a regular Chipotle customer or considering trying one of their famous salads, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about what makes up a salad at Chipotle.
Salad Base Options
The foundation of any Chipotle salad begins with the base. You have a choice between:
- Romaine Lettuce – The most commonly chosen salad base. Romaine lettuce leaves are dark green and full of nutrients.
- Rice – White or brown rice can be substituted for lettuce for a heartier salad.
- No Base – You can also opt to have no base at all.
The standard salad comes with romaine lettuce, but rice or no base offer a couple different options depending on your taste and dietary needs. Romaine lettuce is a good source of vitamins A, K, and C. For a low carb salad, no base skips the added grains or greens entirely.
Adding beans to your Chipotle salad gives it an extra boost of plant-based protein and fiber. You have the choice of:
- Black Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Fajita Veggies – This option includes sauteed onions and bell peppers.
- No Beans
Most people opt for black or pinto beans to add texture and substance to their salad. Both are high in protein and fiber. Going without beans creates a lighter salad.
Chipotle offers four signature salsas that add flavor, spice, and acidity to balance out the ingredients in their salads. You can choose from:
- Tomato Salsa – Mildly spicy with diced tomatoes.
- Roasted Chili Corn Salsa – Charred chili peppers, corn, onion, garlic, and lime.
- Tomatillo Green Chili Salsa – Spicy green tomatillos with jalapeño.
- Tomatillo Red Chili Salsa – Red chili based salsa with smoky jalapeño.
Most people stick with the classic tomato salsa or tomatillo green chili salsa. However, experimenting with different salsas can significantly change up the flavor profile of your salad. Be aware that the chili corn and red chili salsas pack more heat. You can also opt for no salsa at all.
In addition to beans, you have the option to add fajita veggies to your Chipotle salad. This mix contains sauteed onions and bell peppers that have been seasoned with signature spices. The vegetables add freshness and texture to balance out heartier ingredients like beans and rice. This is a good option for vegetarians looking to add more produce.
Adding protein to your salad is optional, but gives it extra substance and nutritional value. Chipotle offers several different protein choices:
- Chicken – Seared, shredded chicken seasoned with signature spices.
- Steak – Marinated, grilled steak for a heartier salad.
- Barbacoa – Shredded beef barbecue braised with spices.
- Carnitas – Braised pork with garlic, bay leaves, and oregano.
- Sofritas – Spiced tofu simmered with peppers and spices (vegetarian).
- No Protein
Chicken is the most commonly added salad protein at Chipotle, but steak and barbacoa are also popular options. Vegetarians can enjoy sofritas or a salad with just beans. You also have the choice to make your salad completely protein-free.
After assembling the base, beans, salsa, and protein – you can finish off your Chipotle salad with a variety of flavorful toppings:
- Cheese – Monterey jack or shredded cheese blend.
- Romaine Lettuce – Extra greens for a bigger salad.
- Corn Salsa
- Queso – Creamy cheese sauce.
Cheese, extra lettuce, and guacamole are popular salad toppings for adding creaminess, crunch, and richness. Feel free to add one or multiple toppings to customize your salad to your preferences.
To finish off your salad, select from one of Chipotle’s tangy salad dressing choices:
- Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette
- Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
The Chipotle honey vinaigrette has a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. Meanwhile the cilantro lime vinaigrette offers bright, herbal flavors. The dressing is a final touch that brings all the ingredients together.
Putting It All Together
When ordering a salad at Chipotle, you get to travel down an assembly line and customize your ingredients. Here are the steps:
- Choose base – romaine lettuce, rice, or no base
- Pick beans – black, pinto or no beans
- Select salsa – tomato, corn, green chili tomatillo, red chili tomatillo, or no salsa
- Add fajita veggies (optional)
- Pick protein – chicken, steak, carnitas etc. or no protein
- Add toppings like guacamole, cheese, corn salsa (optional)
- Choose dressing – Chipotle honey vinaigrette or cilantro lime
You can customize your salad with as many or as few ingredients as you want. The workers then toss everything together in a bowl for you fresh to order.
Salad Nutrition Information
The nutrition information for a Chipotle salad can vary significantly based on your customization choices. Here are some of the ranges for key macros:
- Calories – 210 to 870 calories
- Total Fat – 7g to 50g
- Carbohydrates – 20g to 120g
- Fiber – 6g to 22g
- Protein – 10g to 60g
Some key factors that increase the calories, carbs, fat, and protein are:
- Choosing rice as base instead of lettuce
- Adding beans, cheese, protein, guacamole
- Using dressing
Meanwhile a salad with just lettuce, salsa, and no toppings is on the lower end for calories and carbs. In general, Chipotle salads provide a fiber, vitamin, and nutrient boost from fresh vegetables and lean proteins.
Salad vs Burrito Nutrition
How does the nutrition of a Chipotle salad compare to one of their famous burritos? Here is a general comparison:
|Nutrition Facts||Salad w/Chicken||Chicken Burrito|
As shown, a salad with chicken has about half the calories and carbohydrates compared to a chicken burrito. The burrito does contain slightly more protein. However, the salad provides a good mixture of lighter ingredients, making it the healthier choice overall.
Salad Dressing Nutrition
Chipotle’s salad dressings add great flavor, but also extras calories, fat, and sodium. Here’s a comparison:
|Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette||140||12g||280mg|
As you can see, the Chipotle honey vinaigrette packs about 50 more calories and 3g more fat per serving compared to the cilantro lime dressing. If limiting calories, the cilantro lime is the better choice. However, both dressings have high sodium levels to be aware of.
Low Carb Salad Option
For a low carb Chipotle salad, follow these guidelines:
- Choose lettuce or no base – skip the rice
- Add fajita veggies instead of beans
- Limit high carb toppings like corn salsa
- Avoid dressing or use sparingly
- Include protein like chicken or steak
This builds a salad with less than 20g net carbs for a low carb, high protein meal. You still get delicious flavor from fajita veggies, salsa, and protein.
Vegetarian and Vegan Salad
Vegans and vegetarians have great options for building a salad at Chipotle:
- Choose fajita veggies instead of meat
- Add sofritas spiced tofu for a vegan protein
- Include beans for plant-based protein
- Add extras like guacamole
- Use chili corn salsa for a vegan salsa choice
- Ask for no cheese or sour cream
You can make a very hearty and flavorful veggie or vegan salad with beans, sofritas or fajita veggies as the protein replacement. Enjoy extras like guacamole to add richness. Overall, it’s easy to make any salad vegetarian or vegan friendly.
For a gluten-free Chipotle salad:
- Choose lettuce or no base
- Avoid flour tortillas on the side
- Pick corn salsa instead of cheese
- Ensure meat, beans, salsas are prepared gluten-free
- Use gluten-free dressing options
Rice contains gluten, so stick with lettuce or no base. Double check preparation methods with staff and use online allergen guides. This builds a tasty gluten-free salad.
Keto Salad Option
To make your Chipotle salad keto-friendly:
- Use lettuce or no base
- Skip beans and rice
- Choose low carb salsa like tomato
- Add extra fajita veggies
- Include protein like chicken or steak
- Use fajita veggies instead of beans
- Limit high carb toppings
- Avoid dressing or use sparingly
This creates a keto salad with under 20g net carbs for the entire meal. You still get great flavors from fajita veggies, salsa, guacamole, and protein while limiting carbs.
Salad Dressing on the Side
Don’t want soggy salad? At Chipotle, you can request dressing on the side. Then you control how much dressing you add with each bite. This prevents weighed down lettuce and lets you avoid excess dressing calories.
A salad from Chipotle makes for a fresh and customizable meal. You have plenty of choices for your salad base, beans, salsa, protein, toppings, and dressing. Combining your favorites leads to a salad packed with nutrients and delicious Tex-Mex flavors. Chipotle salads have less calories and carbs compared to burritos and tacos, making them a lighter choice. You can also modify your salad for any dietary needs, including vegetarian, vegan, keto, and gluten-free. Hopefully this guide gave you a thorough understanding of how to order and what goes into building your perfect Chipotle salad.