El Pollo Loco may not be known all over the country. But, it’s a staple for those living in the Southwest and is often referred to as the west coast’s answer to Taco Bell or the next Chipotle.
It’s famous for its Sinaloan-style fire-grilled chicken, but it has more than just that. The restaurant chain offers a variety of Southwestern-Mexican dishes. The food is known to be fresh and veggie-forward. But, is it vegan-friendly? We’ll have to figure it out.
Let’s go over the restaurant’s menu and dig through other online sources to learn about El Pollo Loco vegan options.
Does El Pollo Loco Have Vegan Options?
There is nothing labeled ‘vegan’ on the El Pollo Loco menu. But, like most other eateries, you can get yourself something to eat through custom orders. And since it’s a Mexican food place, you would have chips and guac to fall back on. Not an ideal situation, I know, but it is what it is.
In case you’re the one who keeps up with vegan food news and wondering why I haven’t mentioned Chickenless Pollo that the restaurant introduced for vegans in 2020, I hate to break it to you that it’s been taken off the menu.
What is Vegan at El Pollo Loco?
El Pollo Loco has an extensive menu. While nothing on it comes labeled vegan-friendly, the wide variety of food is always a good sign. The more food variety a restaurant offers, the higher chances for us to find (or customize) something that fits our dietary needs.
Here’s what I found could be your customized vegan options at El Pollo Loco:
- Veggie Bowls
- Sides and Salsas
Keep reading to know your exact options in each of these El Pollo Loco vegan food categories, along with ordering instructions. Since the restaurant doesn’t offer an allergen guide (the worst thing about it), I will also try to answer some questions about the El Pollo Loco vegan menu.
El Pollo Loco Vegan Options 2023 – A Detailed Breakdown
Here are all the vegan foods that you can get at El Pollo Loco:
If you went to a Mexican restaurant and didn’t have nachos, did you even go? If these crispy, fried tortilla chips are as essential a part of a Mexican meal for you as they are for me, don’t forget to order nachos for yourself.
Listed as ‘Chicken Nachos Combo’ in the ‘Fire-Grilled Combos’ section of the menu, this dish, as the name clearly tells, doesn’t come standard as vegan-friendly. However, they allow you to customize it with toppings of your choice.
So, when eating vegan at El Pollo Loco, order the nachos without chicken, queso, and sour cream. You will get fried tortilla chips topped with pinto beans (they are vegan according to PETA), pico de gallo, and guacamole.
And since this is a combo, you also get a drink of your choice on the side [find vegan drink options below].
El Pollo Loco Vegan Burritos
Whether you’re looking for hearty breakfast options, quick lunch foods that you can eat on the go, or weekday dinner meals that are delicious, filling, and affordable, a burrito is one of your best options.
While finding a vegan burrito at chain restaurants can be difficult, most will happily customize it for you. It’s the same at El Pollo Loco. The restaurant doesn’t offer any ready-to-eat vegan-friendly burritos, but you can order vegan burritos at El Pollo Loco through custom orders.
You can get all the burrito varieties available at El Pollo Loco made vegan. But, which one you want to order depends on what combination of ingredients you like more.
Here’s how to order El Pollo Loco burritos vegan style:
- Original BRC Burrito – Order this classic BRC burrito without cheese to have a vegan bean and rice burrito.
- Chicken Avocado Burrito – Skip the chicken, cheese, and cilantro dressing to have a vegan avocado burrito at El Pollo Loco. It will have avocado slices, pinto beans, pico de gallo, cabbage, and fresh cilantro in a flour tortilla.
- Chipotle Chicken Avocado Burrito – When ordering this El Pollo Loco burrito vegan, ask them to hold the chicken, sour cream, and cheese. You will get a meatless flour tortilla burrito made with avocado slices, pinto beans, rice, cabbage, and salsa Roja.
- Queso Blanco Burrito – Queso, as we all know, is not vegan, so skip that along with the chicken to make this burrito vegan-friendly. You will have a flour tortilla stuffed with rice, pinto beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole.
- Chicken Tinga Burrito – Order it without chicken and cheese to have a plant-based burrito with rice, pinto beans, pico, and avocado slices.
- Classic Chicken Burrito – When made vegan by eliminating chicken and cheese, this El Pollo Loco burrito will become the same as a vegan BRC burrito with rice and beans.
- The World’s First Keto Burrito – Made with keto flour tortilla, this El Pollo Loco burrito has chicken, cotija cheese, lettuce, blend, cabbage, and avocado slices, pico, and creamy cilantro dressing. Order it without chicken, cheese, and dressing to make it vegan.
Vegan Tacos at El Pollo Loco
Want to enjoy the burst of flavors that Mexican food is known for but do not want to eat anything that’s too heavy on the stomach? Taco makes a great option. This restaurant offers three different varieties of tacos. However, as mentioned earlier, none of them is vegan.
Even when we talk about customizing, there’s only one option, and even that isn’t the best choice. I have had much better vegan tacos at other places. But, if you’re dining at El Pollo Loco and craving a taco, here’s how you can get one for yourself:
Chicken Avocado Street Taco
Made in a 6” flour tortilla, this El Pollo Loco taco contains chicken, avocado slices, shredded lettuce, Monterey Jack cheese, pico de gallo, and cilantro dressing.
Get this taco without chicken, cheese, and cilantro dressing when ordering vegan at El Pollo Loco. You may also request to substitute chicken for beans or more avocado.
You may also try requesting a vegan sauce instead of cilantro dressing or order it on the side to add more flavor to your El Pollo Loco vegan taco.
El Pollo Loco Vegan Bowls
Rice bowls are not just delicious; they also fill you up but are not too heavy on the stomach. El Pollo Loco has three varieties of ‘rice and chicken’ bowls. Here’s how you can make them vegan:
Original Pollo Bowl
A good option for those who like their food simple, without too many ingredients, this El Pollo Loco rice bowl is made with rice, chopped chicken breast, pinto beans, pico de gallo, diced onions, and cilantro.
It’s also the easiest to customize. Simply ask for it without chicken to enjoy a vegan bowl at El Pollo Loco.
Grande Avocado Chicken Bowl
This one is for avocado lovers. It has rice, chicken, cheese, avocado slices, cabbage, corn, pinto beans, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Ask for the rice bowl without chicken, sour cream, and cheese to make it vegan.
Like avocados a little too much? You may ask them to substitute chicken in your bowl with avocados.
Double Chicken Bowl
Like the combination of ingredients in the avocado bowl, but not a fan of corn? Get this Double Chicken Bowl without meat, sour cream, and cheese. You will have a plant-based bowl with rice, pinto beans, cabbage, pico, and avocado slices.
El Pollo Loco Vegan Salads
What’s a better way to incorporate veggies into your diet than adding salads to your meals? But, it’s easier said than done for people like me who find salads too bland and boring.
El Pollo Loco has options for both people like me and those who don’t mind (or prefer) simple, basic salads. They do not come standard as vegan-friendly, so read on to know how to order a vegan salad at El Pollo Loco:
Double Chicken Avocado Salad
Listed in the Pollo Fit Menu (with foods under 500 calories), this keto-friendly salad is made with lettuce, avocadoes, corn, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and chicken. It comes with your choice of dressing, from creamy cilantro dressing and Mexican vinaigrette.
When ordering it vegan, get it without chicken and cheese.
For the dressing, Mexican vinaigrette seems to be a vegan-friendly option. However, since El Pollo Loco doesn’t provide ingredient lists or an allergen menu on the website, I couldn’t confirm its vegan status.
So, make sure to ask your server to avoid any misunderstanding. Cilantro dressing is not vegan.
Double Chicken Tostada Salad
Order it without chicken, sour cream, and cheese to have a vegan tostada salad at El Pollo Loco. When customized, you will get a mix of rice, pinto beans, avocado slices, shredded lettuce, and pico in a crispy fried tostada shell.
It’s like a rice bowl in a tostada shell.
Classic Tostada Salad
Not a fan of avocados? Get this classic tostada salad without chicken, sour cream, and cheese. You will get a fried tostada shell filled with rice, pinto beans, shredded lettuce, and pico.
Vegan Extras at El Pollo Loco
Make your vegan meal at El Pollo Loco more interesting by ordering your choice of vegan extras on the side from the following options:
- Chips & Guacamole
- Tortilla Chips
- Jalapeno Hot Sauce
- Mexican Vinaigrette [confirm its vegan status before ordering]
El Pollo Loco also offers corn and flour tortillas in the ‘extra’ category, but I don’t see the point of ordering them unless you want to carry them back home to make your own vegan tacos or burritos.
Vegan Sides at El Pollo Loco
Order your choice of items from these El Pollo Loco vegan salsas and sides to make your meatless meals more filling:
- Pinto Beans
- Loco Side Salad – Skip the cheese and check other ingredients as well [they don’t provide its ingredients list online]
- Pico De Gallo
- House Salsa
- Salsa Roja
- Avocado Salsa
- Jalapeno Hot Sauce
El Pollo Loco Vegan Drinks
Drink options at El Pollo Loco are limited to standard soda options and a few iced tea varieties. Your vegan choices include:
- Diet Coke
- Cherry Coke
- Dr. Pepper
- Diet Dr. Pepper
- Fanta Orange
- Barq’s Root Beer
- Hi-C Flashin’ Fruit Punch
- Minute Maid Lemonade
- Minute Maid Strawberry Lemonade
- Vitamin Water XXX
- Fresh Brewed Iced Tea by Gold Peak – Sweetened and Unsweetened
- Fresh-Brewed Mango Passion Fruit Iced Tea by Gold Peak
- Fuze Sweetened Raspberry Iced Tea
* El Pollo Loco also offers Horchata. While it is traditionally a plant-based drink, many restaurants add regular dairy milk to get a creamy flavor and texture. You will have to ask your local El Pollo Loco to figure out if the Horchata they offer is vegan.
El Pollo Loco Vegan Food – FAQs
- Does El Pollo Loco have vegan chicken?
Not anymore! They introduced vegan chicken across all its locations across the US in 2020. However, it’s no longer available on the menu, which means it’s not longer available.
- Are the beans at El Pollo Loco vegan?
El Pollo Loco beans are vegan, according to PETA.
- Are the churros at El Pollo Loco vegan?
El Pollo Loco churros are not vegan; they contain milk.
Conclusion – Is El Pollo Loco Vegan Friendly?
Although you can get some plant-based foods here, El Pollo Loco cannot be termed a vegan-friendly restaurant. There is not even a single vegan food item on the menu, and they have even discontinued the vegan chicken, which is a huge bummer.
Also, there aren’t many choices available for extras, toppings, and sauces. You may likely find better vegan Mexican food options elsewhere.
Did you find this article helpful? Interested to know if there’s any eatery that offers plenty of vegan Mexican food options? Check out my article Vegan Nom Menu to learn about one such restaurant and all it has to offer.