Chipotle is one of the best fast food chains for eating wild.  They have higher quality meat and ingredients, and it's fully customizable.  There aren't a lot of menu options, so here's how to do it.

1. Form: Order the salad, not the burrito – you can get any of the same ingredients, you just lose the tortilla
2. Filler: Pass on the rice and beans, but go for the sauteed vegetables – rice and beans are filler anyway, which is why they put them before the meat.  Realize that Chipotle wants to lower their food costs by stuffing you with the cheap stuff. 
3. Meat: Pick any meat – I love carnitas or barbacoa, but they're all good. *See bonus technique below for getting more meat without paying for it.
4. Toppings: Add pico de gallo  and guacamole, maybe add sour cream, but pass on the corn and cheese – Sour cream isn't orthodox paleo, but it's full of fat, which is much better than anything sugary.  
5. Dressing: Pass on the dressing, but use some of the hot sauce instead.  Mystery dressings can be loaded with sugar and gluten. Just ask for hot sauce (medium or hot) on the side, and use it as your dressing.
* Bonus Technique: There are ways to get more meat without paying more.  When you skip the rice and beans, your salad will look a bit scrawny.   Don't ask for extra meat (they'll charge you), but say something like "Make sure you put enough barbacoa on there" or "Don't hold back" or "That salad looks a little empty, can you make sure you've added enough?"  (Hat tip to Clark for the bonus technique.)
* Updated Bonus Technique: Commenters Sanjay and CJG suggest another brilliant trick to get more meat.  Ask for half of two different kinds of meat.  It's hard for them to do half spoonfuls, so the end result is that you get more.  This is a highly advanced technique and should not be tried by novices.
And there you have it.  You'll be able to fill up for under $10, you won't fall asleep afterwards, and you won't have to cheat on that late night run to go grab some chow with your buddies.

38 Responses to “How to eat wild at Chipotle”

  1. Adam Harlow says:

    Please note that they do saute their veggies in Soybean-oil, so technically not "Paleo".  But with that said, I eat the exact meal described every time I go, though I go ahead and spring for the extra meat, and it is delicious.


    • Jeremy says:

      I was going to comment on Chipotle’s use of soybean oil as well.  So just how strict should we be being on this Paleo diet to reap full benefits.  I already have Celiac’s so I’m used to going hard-line strict on forbidden ingredients.  That being said I would also think Chipotle’s medium & hot salsa’s would have vinegar in them as well – though I haven’t verified this yet.

      • Jonathan Swaringen says:

        Everyone who thinks they could improve should e-mail Chipotle if they think they have support for it they may improve.

        Things they could improve that I e-mailed them about are using Unrefined salt like Real Salt instead of refined, using naturally raised butter, tallow, lard instead of soybean oil.  Possibly using coconut flour or almond flour torillas.  There is a Paleo bread made by Julian Bakery.  If enough people talk about it could happen.

        • Anonymous says:

           No way would they ever use butter or lard. We paleo folks aren’t the only special diet they have to accommodate – vegan eaters wouldn’t take too nicely to animal fats. The best we could hope for is coconut oil, which would still be a nice improvement. But it’s much more expensive than soybean oil..

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks, great article =))

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks, great article =))

  2. CJG says:

    Another way to get more meat, ask for two meats (just a combo of the meats).  You won’t get charged for two meats and they’ll give you more.

  3. Dan says:

     I am not fond of Chipotle. I do agree that it is often the best choice, but the food is pretty bland and gross. I am always disappointed. I never have good experiences at food halls anymore. 

  4. Chris says:

    I wouldn’t eat there.  We don’t have a Chipotle chain restaurant within 2 hours of our hometown.  However, a local mom-n-pop Mexican restaurant opened with the name Chipotle’s some years ago.  After they had been open a couple years, Chipotle sued them, even though there was no similarity beyond "Mexican", and no competition between the behemoth chain and our local Mexican restaurant.  Chipotle’s didn’t have the money to fight in court and  had to close and re-open under the name "The Smoked Pepper."   Eat at Chipotle and support 80% of what’s wrong with American corporations.

    • Tyler says:

      hahaha! Do you really think if you opened a mom and pop Mexican restaurant called "Taco Bell’s" that you’d be left alone? Companies don’t shell out money to trademark themselves so any mom and pop — no matter how cute they are or how much better their food is — can use it too. You might want to rule out the use of any trademarked product in the history of anything ever if you’re going to boycott based on that alone.

      A note on Chipotle, too: they make a much more respectable effort than most of the competition out there to serve well-treated, clean, paleo-friendly animals. They are the one and only major fast food chain I would feel comfortable dining at in a pinch.

      • Chris says:

        Our local restaurant was not a trademark infringement.  Trademarks are trademarks, not licenses to exclusive use of words.  "Taco Bell" and "chipotle" are not in the same league.  Before the lawsuit was reported, neither I nor anyone I knew had heard of the chain restaurant.  I suspect the owners of The Smoked Pepper had not either.  The lawsuit occurred during the period when Chipotle was a McDonald’s product, and the local restaurant simply couldn’t afford to fight the suit.  The fact that large companies can afford to do this does not make it ethical.

    • Rose says:

       Wow. Yeah. Sorry for the independent folks. What’s in a name?… I  wish for local communities rallying for themselves, and people getting less sue-slap-happy and more supportive of everybody making their way forward.  I’d go to The Smoked Pepper if I knew where it was, and was in the neighborhood.

    • Mike says:

      Sadly the legal system makes it so big companies have to sue little guys that infringe on their trademarks. Otherwise other big companies can say hey these guys used it and they didn’t sue them so we should be able to use it too. I work at a big company where we had to do this, we all felt bad but we had to do it.

  5. Mark says:

    I like your list but I always skip the sauteed veggies b/c last time I checked, they used soybean oil.

    The meat is way too salty to double up the portion.

    My standard is lettuce, one helping of meat (usually beef), salsa (mild – the one with diced tomatoes and red onion), and guac.

  6. Pyman says:

    John, thanks for this kind of post. I really think this is the kind of stuff that helps followers of the Primal lifestyle. It goes back to the 80/20 rule. Since we live in a non-primal world we have to make the best choices within the constraints of our surroundings. Personal feelings about a restaurant chain or dismissing advice because of a bad oil, which I do try to avoid at all costs, misses the point…in my opinion. Keep up the good work.


  7. Eric M says:

    This is so funny because this is my “cheating” fast food chain! It’s really tough to find a place that’s fast and paleo!

  8. Alishahndra says:

    I am very excited to read this; I just moved to L.A. and have been going to In ‘n Out as my cheat (and getting my burger wrapped in lettuce).  There’s a Chipotle relatively near my apartment and for some reason, I have never visited the chain…

    • Eric M says:

      yeah i go with in and out every once in i while also double double protein style no cheese with a ice tea! 🙂

      • Larry says:

        Same here except I get a protein style/ANIMAL style single hamburger w/o "spead" (thousand island). Animal style gets the patty fried in mustard and it comes with grilled onions. I know where I’m going for dinner tonight! :^D

  9. Liz says:

    My thoughts exactly, H-G! The hormone/antibiotic-free practices of Chipotle are much appreciated. Back in June they announced that all their Barbacoa was "naturally raised" (though not grass-fed…antibiotic free, for now, is good enough for me as long as they keep taking steps forward. Same reason I’d choose Ben & Jerry’s for an ice-cream treat over most other names) I also appreciate the rBGH-free suppliers of their dairy products.

    My extra-bold advanced technique is to ask for a Burrito Bol, (not a salad) and boooy…when I say "no rice or beans" you should see the looks on their faces. The PILE on the meat & veggies like there’s no tomorrow. Combine this with other advanced techniques and you can eat on this for days. 

    • John says:

      Oh, burrito bowl, that’s a good idea. Just like people eat more soup when it’s served in a bigger bowl, the servers put more in. Like it — I’ll give it a try.

      • Larry says:

        Finally had a chance to get to a Chipotle today (chewing as I type). The guy at the carnitas station put some in. Then a little more. Then some more! I guess it didn’t look full to him!  :^D I don’t usually get guac (costs extra) but I wanted to get as much fat as possible and I LUUUUUUVVVS me some avocado. Apparently, it still seemed to empty because the guac lady gave me a TRIPLE dose of the good green stuff! SCORE!

  10. Great tips here!  I never thought about how to eat properly while out and about.  I generally try to plan meals ahead of time and ensure I have enough snacks. Bonus techniques work well….

  11. Jules says:

    Boyfriend picked up some Chipotle last week- I instructed him to use the Updated Bonus Technique, and I think it worked!  I had a delcious salad with chicken AND pork, woot!

  12. Joethecaveman says:

    Yea but the problem is most restaraunts and especially Chipoltle’s stuff is loaded with non-paleo and toxic stuff like most restaraunts and fast food:

    Soybean oil/protein

    MSG and its many different names IE: Hydrolzyed protein, "natural flavors"(not),

    Hydrogenated oils

    Random things made from grains such as wheat and corn(especially).


    It looks like meat but it’s not that simple. Restaraunts are in the MSG business, it’s unavoidable unless you’re paying out the ass for expensive and fresh food with no additives.


    There’s a reason fast food taste good, including chipolte. In Austin Texas we have "Freebirds’ which is similar and is just as filled with trash additives, plus cross contamination….


    I guess if you don’t have reactions then it’s okay to cheat, but as for me no way. I’ll carry a banana or beef jerky before I eat that! = P



    • ncyim says:

      The last time I ate at CG I became very gluten sick. I thought it was cross contamination – but maybe it was contaminated additives?   

    • Shelene says:

       Actually, Chipotle does not use MSG, their meat is raised naturally (without the use of antibiotics or hormones), and they source quality vegetables when in season as much as possible.  Check your facts.  🙂  Their pork carnitas are not marinated in soybean oil.  SO it’s one of the cleanest fast food places to eat, actually.  I’m grateful for Hunter-Gatherers info and look forward to eating there soon!


    • Shelene says:

       Actually, Chipotle does not use MSG, their meat is raised naturally (without the use of antibiotics or hormones), and they source quality vegetables when in season as much as possible.  Check your facts.  🙂  Their pork carnitas are not marinated in soybean oil.  SO it’s one of the cleanest fast food places to eat, actually.  I’m grateful for Hunter-Gatherers info and look forward to eating there soon!


  13. GiGi says:

    I ate at Chipolte once and got a salad with sauteed veggies but I brought my own can of mackerel and sardines so I had quite a delicious meal if you ask me 🙂 

  14. Alishahndra says:

    FYI: BOGO@Chipotle, till March 3rd.  Yeah, you have to watch a 90 second ad to get a coupon and the BOGO offer applies to burritos only, but just don’t eat the tortilla if you don’t want it.

  15. Allan says:

    Carnitas doesn’t use veggie oil, fyi, though all the other meats do.  I wish the fajitas didn’t because they are yummy.  Ah well.

    I get carnitas salad with pico, medium, and gauc.  

  16. I am pretty positive the salad dressing is wheat free.  It has about 1/3 cup honey to 1 1/2 cup oil.  I usually get the dressing and have half of it.  

    My primary question is what proportion of their meat is actually from a pastured farm?

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  18. plainOldPaleo says:

    Echoing what someone noted below, according the dietery page on Chipotle’s web site…




    Only the carnitas is devoid of soybeans (I’m assuming oil).  I also noted that the veggies are also listed as a soybean item, so I assume the are sauteed in soy oil.  That leaves limited options for veg.

    Just got a salad from them a few minutes ago and armed with the dietary page, I think I made out alright.  Salad with extra romain, carnitas (double order), salsa and guac.  Very tasty.


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  20. Anonymous says:

    Chipotle has standards on their portions. Some may give you a little extra meat to be kind, but extra meat is extra meat and you gotta pay for it. I worked there for a year and people don’t understand that you can’t get more for free. I disagree putting the employee on the spot like that. "Don’t Hold Back" is rude and unappreciated. Would you like to hear that if you worked there? I know I didn’t. If your salad looks empty add more lettuce, that’s free.  A standard portion of meat at Chipotle is 4oz, or if you need to see it, its the size of a filled salsa cup. So next time any of you go through Chipotle, be courteous and respectful. Not rude, ungrateful human beings. If you don’t like the way the portions are set, go somewhere else, or better yet…PAY for it. If you have never worked in the food industry or even customer service, you will probably find my opinion irrelevant to you or simply "stupid" because "the customer is always right". Sorry to burst any bubbles, but you are not always right.

    On a positive note, i love paleo and chipotle is a great place to stay on track. 🙂

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