Pollo Loco is a popular fast food restaurant chain that specializes in fire-grilled chicken. The name “Pollo Loco” literally translates to “Crazy Chicken” in Spanish. So what exactly is this famous “crazy chicken” made of?
Ingredients in Pollo Loco’s Signature Chicken
According to the Pollo Loco website, their signature citrus-marinated chicken is made from the following key ingredients:
- Chicken breast meat
- Orange juice
- Lime juice
- Guajillo chiles
- Sea salt
The chicken is marinated in a proprietary blend of fresh-squeezed orange, lime, and lemon juices mixed with garlic, cilantro, guajillo chiles, and sea salt. It is then fire-grilled and basted to order.
Here is an overview of how Pollo Loco prepares their famous chicken:
- Fresh, raw chicken breast meat is delivered to each Pollo Loco restaurant daily.
- The chicken breasts are trimmed and portioned into uniform sizes for marinating.
- The chicken is marinated in large containers for at least 4 hours using Pollo Loco’s signature marinade blend.
- When an order comes in, the marinated chicken pieces are threaded onto skewers for grilling.
- The skewers are placed on a fire-grilled gas broiler at a high heat.
- The chicken is grilled for 5-7 minutes per side, with constant basting.
- The grilled chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces.
- The chopped chicken is then used in Pollo Loco’s signature dishes like tacos, burritos, and salads.
This quick fire-grilling method helps seal in the marinade flavor while lending the chicken its signature char-grilled taste.
Pollo Loco maintains high standards when it comes to their chicken quality:
- They only use fresh, never frozen chicken breasts.
- Their chickens have no added hormones or steroids.
- They do not use any fillers, binders, or preservatives.
- Their chicken is certified halal.
- Suppliers must meet animal welfare standards for housing and preparation.
- Restaurants follow strict food safety and prep guidelines.
By controlling their supply chain and preparation methods, Pollo Loco can ensure consistent quality and taste.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the ingredients that make up Pollo Loco’s signature marinade:
Freshly squeezed citrus juice provides the tangy, citrusy flavor in the chicken. Pollo Loco uses a blend of orange, lemon, and lime juices in their marinade. The acidity in the citrus juice also helps tenderize the meat.
Garlic adds an aromatic punch and savory flavor to the marinade. Garlic contains enzymes that also aid in tenderizing the chicken.
Cilantro offers a fresh herbal note. As a marinade ingredient, it infuses the chicken with flavor rather than just topping it with fresh cilantro at the end.
These dried chiles lend a mild heat and smoky raisin-like flavor to Pollo Loco’s marinade. Guajillo chiles are one of the milder chile varieties, adding fruity depth without too much spiciness.
Sea salt seasons the chicken and enhances flavor. The salt also aids in breaking down muscle fibers to make the meat more tender.
The Secret’s in the Marinade
While fire-grilling contributes aroma and charred bits, most of the chicken’s signature flavor comes from marinating. The citrus juices tenderize and moisturize the meat while infusing bright, tangy citrus notes. Garlic, cilantro, guajillo chiles, and sea salt all permeate the chicken with savory complexity.
Marinating is key. Unmarinated chicken cooked the same way would lack the depth of flavor and juiciness delivered by Pollo Loco’s proprietary blend of fresh juices and spices.
Other Menu Items
While citrus-marinated fire-grilled chicken is the star of the menu, Pollo Loco also serves other tasty dishes.
For some hearty sides to go with your chicken, Pollo Loco offers items like:
- Double Scoop Rice
- Black Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Mac & Cheese
- Mashed Potatoes
You can enjoy Pollo Loco’s signature chicken in Mexican-inspired entrees like:
Their menu also features other Mexican favorites like quesadillas, tortas, and enchiladas.
For lighter fare, Pollo Loco has options like:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Pressed Avocado Salad
- Mango Quinoa Power Bowl
While staying true to their signature product, Pollo Loco rounds out their menu with diverse flavors and healthier choices.
Kids’ Meal Options
Pollo Loco offers a Kids’ Meal section with smaller portioned items:
- Chicken & Cheese Quesadilla
- Crispy Chicken Tacos
- Chicken Fingers
Kids’ meals come with a side of rice, beans, applesauce, or yogurt and a drink. This gives kids a chance to enjoy Pollo Loco’s flavors in child-friendly preparations.
Family Meal Bundles
For feeding a whole crew, Pollo Loco provides family meal bundles like:
- Tacos & Burritos Family Meal
- Chicken & Sides Family Meal
- Enchilada Family Meal
- Fiesta Pack
These convenient family-sized options allow you to order an assortment of menu items in bulk for sharing or meal prepping.
Pollo Loco caters for larger gatherings and special events. Catering options include:
- Signature Chicken Platters
- Taco Bars
- Burrito/Ensalada Bars
- Fajita Bars
- Dessert Platters
- Drink Packs
The catering menu lets you customize orders with your choice of proteins, sides, salsas, and toppings to find the perfect party package.
Pollo Loco offers nutrition and allergen information to help guests make informed choices. Here are some key stats on their signature chicken:
|Original Pollo Boneless Breast (6oz)
|Double Chicken Breast Salad
While not the lowest calorie options, many of their preparations like salads can be modified to reduce calories, fat, and carbs for a healthier meal.
Pollo Loco notes that their food is prepared in shared cooking and preparation areas. They provide allergen information online and in-store as follows:
- Wheat/Gluten: Flour tortillas contain gluten. Grilled chicken and citrus-marinated chicken are gluten-free.
- Dairy: Cheese, cream, sour cream, and butter contain dairy. Grilled chicken items can be ordered without cheese.
- Egg: Chicken is egg-free but some side dishes may contain egg.
- Fish/Shellfish: No fish or shellfish ingredients.
- Tree Nuts: No tree nut ingredients.
- Peanuts: No peanut ingredients.
- Soy: No soy protein but soybean oil is used in cooking.
- Wheat: Flour tortillas contain gluten. Chicken has no wheat.
Those with food allergies or celiac disease should exercise caution and inform staff of dietary needs.
Is Pollo Loco Healthy?
The signature fire-grilled chicken at Pollo Loco can be a nutritious choice if ordered wisely. Chicken breast is lean protein and lower in saturated fat compared to other meats. The citrus marinade adds lots of flavor without extra calories, fat, or sodium. Going easy on cheese, crema, chips, and higher calorie sides helps balance out the meal.
However, the tortillas, oil used for frying, and some preparation methods do mean that some items like tacos and burritos can be high in calories. Load up too much on beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, and other extras and your “healthy” chicken sandwich could end up skewing towards higher calories or sodium.
Overall, Pollo Loco offers the following benefits if you build your meal carefully:
- High protein chicken as the core ingredient
- Use of fresh, natural citrus juices in marinades
- Option to skip fried shells on tacos and burritos
- Ability to swap out sides for lower calorie choices
- Availability of soup, salad, and power bowl options
Just be mindful about your total order and Pollo Loco can be a good place to get your protein fix on-the-go.
Is Pollo Loco’s Chicken Healthy?
Yes, Pollo Loco’s fire-grilled chicken on its own can be considered a healthy choice for the following reasons:
- It starts with fresh, raw chicken breast which is a lean cut.
- Chicken breast is low in fat and high in protein.
- It contains no breading, frying, or extra fat used in preparation.
- The citrus marinade adds lots of flavor, not calories.
- Grilling gives great flavor with minimal added fat or calories.
- Chopped into pieces, it’s an easy way to get high protein.
A 6 oz portion of their Original Pollo Boneless Breast contains 230 calories, 3.5g fat, and 43g protein. So on its own, the chicken is low calorie, low fat, and high protein.
While the chicken may be healthy, what you add to it can pile on calories, saturated fat, carbs, and sodium. Some of the unhealthier add-ons could include:
- Fried taco shells
- Sour cream
- Butter or creamy sauces
- Large portions of rice, beans, guacamole, etc.
Load up a burrito with lots of cheese, sour cream, guacamole, rice, and chips for example, and you could be looking at over 1,000 calories.
Making Healthier Choices
You can enjoy the delicious fire-grilled chicken and still eat healthy by making modifications like:
- Get a salad or rice bowl instead of high-carb tortillas.
- Choose corn tortillas which have fewer carbs and calories than flour.
- Skip the shell on tacos for lower calories and carbs.
- Order items “Fresco Style” to skip cheese and sour cream.
- Load up on veggies like lettuce, pico, onion, and keep rice and beans to a minimum.
- Choose black beans or coleslaw as lower calorie sides.
- Dip chips lightly in salsa instead of smothering in toppings.
- Ask for dressings and sauces on the side.
With smart modifications and lighter accompaniments, you can enjoy Pollo Loco’s signature chicken as part of a nutritious meal.
Pollo Loco’s fire-grilled chicken starts with fresh, high quality ingredients like chicken breast, citrus juices, garlic, cilantro, and guajillo chiles. It’s the signature marinade that makes this chicken stand out from the flock. While delicious, accompanying items like chips, cheese, rice, and creamy sauces can pile on the calories. Overall, with some healthy preparation choices, you can feel good about including Pollo Loco’s lean protein in your diet.