How to Eat Keto at Chili’s

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on October 06, 2021
4 min read

Grabbing a bite to eat at a restaurant can be tricky if you’re following a special diet like the ketogenic or keto diet. This can be especially true at a place like Chili’s, which is mostly known for its burgers, nachos, deep-fried appetizers, and other carb-laden menu items.

But it’s not impossible. Chili’s menu may have a lot of things that can throw a wrench in your diet, but if you bypass certain items for the vegetable and protein options, or customize certain entrees, you can stick to your diet and still enjoy a guilt-free meal.

The keto diet can be quite restrictive. Your daily nutrition will focus on fatty foods, which will make up anywhere from 60% to 80% of your daily calories. Proteins make up 15% to 20%, while your carbs are restricted to only about 5% to 10% of your daily intake. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this will be about 165 grams of fat, 75 grams protein, and 40 grams of carbohydrates.

Because you’re on a high-fat diet, your body will choose to burn fat for energy and produce “ketones.” Ketosis is the term used for the metabolic state your body enters when ketones are present in your blood. If you eat too many carbs, you may risk coming out of ketosis.

To stay in ketosis, here’s what you can eat from the Chili’s menu.

Most of the things on this section of the menu are deep-fried and filled with carbs and saturated fats, making them a big no-no if you’re on the keto diet. However, bone-in wings are a keto-friendly option. But avoid the boneless wings. They may be breaded and high in carbs.

For example, an order of the bone-in buffalo wings is 890 calories, 65 grams of fat, 4 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 73 grams of protein. The boneless wings, on the other hand, have 58 grams of carbs.

Steer clear of sweetened sauces like BBQ, mango habanero, or honey chipotle. Instead, go for ranch or bleu cheese on the side.

For the main part of your meal, this can range from burgers, steaks, or ribs to smokehouse combos. If you’re in the mood for a burger, go for it but skip the bun and the fries on the side. The 6-ounce classic sirloin from the “guiltless grill” section only has 4 grams of carbohydrates and is 1,020 calories if you order it as a combo with two sides. If you skip the sides, you get 1 gram of carbohydrate and a lot fewer calories: just 260.

You can also opt for the classic sirloin topped with grilled avocado slices. The 6-ounce portion has only 340 calories, 13g of total carbohydrates, 5g of fiber (8g net carbs), and 38g of protein.

If you’re in the mood for a salad, you can pick the lunch portion of Caesar salad without dressing, which has about 7 grams of carbs, or the house salad without dressing, which has 8 grams of carbs.

For soups, you can choose the clam chowder, but go with the cup size instead of a bowl. It’s heavy on fats with 12 grams and 170 calories (100 of them from fat) but has 10 grams of carbs and 5 grams of protein.

If you want something extra on the side, it may be tempting to get corn on the cob or mashed potato, but they are high in carbs. Instead, choose asparagus, which has 5 grams of carbs, or steamed broccoli with 8 grams.

When you’re at Chili’s, you may want a drink to go along with your meal, but if you want to stay in ketosis, it’s best to avoid sweetened or alcoholic beverages like iced tea, cocktails or beer. If you do choose to drink an alcoholic beverage, choose low-carb options like tequila or vodka and opt for soda water as a mixer.

Other items to watch out for are sauces and dressings. These have a lot of hidden calories, especially if they’re the creamy type. They’re also chock-full of refined sugar and carbs. The easiest way to avoid hidden calories is to ask for your order without sauce, just to be safe.

It’s also a good idea to avoid anything that’s “crispy.” It’s code for deep-fried breaded items. As for desserts, the cheesecake, cookies, and chocolate pastries are packed with calories and carbs. This makes them a big no-no if you’re on the keto diet.