Are black bean chalupas healthy?

Quick Answer

Black bean chalupas can be a relatively healthy option depending on how they are prepared. Black beans are a nutritious legume high in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. However, chalupas are often deep-fried and loaded with cheese, sour cream, and other unhealthy toppings. Choosing grilled or baked chalupas with lots of veggies and limiting high-fat, high-calorie toppings can help keep them as part of a balanced diet. Moderation is key, as even healthier preparations may be high in calories.

What are chalupas?

Chalupas are a popular Mexican street food consisting of a small, fried corn tortilla topped with various fillings and toppings. Traditional chalupa fillings include shredded chicken, ground beef, refried beans, or cheese. They are then topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and other ingredients.

Chalupas get their name from the Nahuatl word “chalupas” meaning “little boat”, referring to their boat-like fried corn tortilla shell. They originated in Mexico but are now popular menu items at many Mexican restaurants and fast food chains in the United States and around the world.

Types of chalupas

There are many varieties of chalupas featuring different fillings:

  • Chicken chalupas – Shredded chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese
  • Steak chalupas – Grilled steak, onion, cilantro
  • Carnitas chalupas – Braised pork, avocado, salsa
  • Veggie chalupas – Refried beans, peppers, mushrooms, spinach
  • Seafood chalupas – Shrimp, crab, fish fillet, cabbage slaw
  • Breakfast chalupas – Eggs, bacon, potato, cheese
  • Dessert chalupas – Fried tortilla, ice cream, fruit, chocolate sauce

The most common type of chalupa found on menus is the black bean chalupa, featuring refried black beans as the main filling.

Are black beans healthy?

Black beans are considered one of the healthiest bean varieties. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber. One cup of cooked black beans contains:

  • 15 grams protein
  • 15 grams fiber
  • Little to no fat
  • About 230 calories

Black beans also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals:

  • Iron – supports red blood cell production
  • Magnesium – involved in muscle, nerve and bone health
  • Phosphorus – aids kidney function and bone formation
  • Copper – helps form red blood cells and keeps nerves and immune system healthy
  • Manganese – assists in metabolism, bone development and wound healing
  • Folate – crucial for cell growth and DNA formation

The fiber and protein in black beans help promote fullness and stabilise blood sugar levels. The soluble fiber feeds healthy gut bacteria and helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Overall, black beans are low in fat, rich in nutrients, and offer health benefits for heart health, digestive health, and diabetes management. They are considered one of the healthiest protein choices in a plant-based diet.

Potential concerns

Most healthy adults can safely consume black beans as part of a balanced diet. However, there are some potential concerns:

  • Digestive issues – Beans contain FODMAPs and resistant starches that may irritate sensitive digestion. Those with IBS may need to limit portions.
  • Purines – Beans contain moderate purines levels which can trigger gout flares in those susceptible.
  • Phytic acid – Beans contain phytic acid that binds to minerals and inhibits absorption. Soaking, sprouting and cooking beans helps reduce phytic acid.

As long as consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, black beans are a nutritious choice for most people. Those with chronic digestive issues or gout should be mindful of portion sizes.

Are chalupas healthy?

Whether or not chalupas can be considered healthy depends greatly on how they are prepared:

Unhealthy preparations

Many restaurant chalupas are deep-fried and loaded with high-fat, high-calorie ingredients like:

  • Deep-fried tortilla
  • Refried beans fried in lard
  • Ground beef
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole

Frying the tortilla adds a significant amount of fat and calories. One deep-fried chalupa tortilla can have over 15 grams of fat. Toppings like ground beef, cheese, and sour cream pile on even more saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A loaded deep-fried chalupa can easily have over 700 calories.

This high-fat, high-calorie preparation negates most of the potential health benefits of the black beans. So deep-fried chalupas loaded with fatty meats, cheese, and creamy toppings are generally not considered a healthy option.

Healthier preparations

However, chalupas can be prepared in healthier ways at home:

  • Bake or grill tortillas instead of frying
  • Use lean chicken or fish instead of ground beef
  • Load up on veggies like lettuce, tomato, onion, peppers
  • Use just a sprinkle of reduced-fat cheese
  • Choose salsa, pico de gallo or guacamole instead of sour cream for added flavor

Baking or grilling the tortillas eliminates the added fat from frying. Choosing lower-fat proteins keeps saturated fat and cholesterol in check. Piling on vegetables boosts fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Going easy on high-fat toppings like cheese and sour cream reduces overall calories.

A chalupa prepared this way can come in around 300-400 calories rather than 700+ calories for a loaded deep-fried version. While not exactly a low-calorie health food, healthier homemade chalupas eaten in moderation can be part of a balanced diet.

Nutrition facts comparison

Here is a nutrition facts comparison of a typical deep-fried restaurant chalupa versus a healthier homemade version:

Deep-fried chalupa nutrition (1 chalupa)

Calories 712
Fat 42g
Saturated fat 18g
Carbs 59g
Protein 25g
Sodium 1065mg

Healthy baked chalupa nutrition (1 chalupa)

Calories 367
Fat 12g
Saturated fat 3g
Carbs 53g
Protein 19g
Sodium 762mg

The baked version cuts nearly in half the calories, fat, and sodium compared to the deep-fried chalupa loaded with high-fat toppings.

Healthy chalupa recipe

This recipe for healthy baked black bean chalupas maximizes nutrients and flavor while controlling fat, calories and portions:


  • 4 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 cup diced tomato
  • 2 tbsp reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt or crema
  • Lime wedges for serving


  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Place tortillas on a baking sheet and bake 5 minutes until lightly crisped.
  2. In a bowl, mash half the black beans with a fork. Stir in remaining beans, rice, salsa, cilantro, cumin and garlic powder until well mixed.
  3. Divide bean-rice mixture between the 4 toasted tortillas. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and yogurt.
  4. Squeeze fresh lime juice over each chalupa before serving.

Baking instead of frying keeps these chalupas lighter. Using flavorful seasonings, salsa, and just a sprinkle of cheese keeps them satisfying. Pair with a side salad for a balanced meal.

Should you eat chalupas on a diet?

When trying to lose weight, deep-fried, calorie-laden chalupas are not the best choice. But with some modifications, lighter chalupas can be worked into a reduced-calorie diet:

  • Choose baked or grilled over fried tortillas
  • Watch your portion size – stick to 1 chalupa
  • Load up on low-cal veggies like lettuce, tomato, peppers
  • Pick lean proteins like grilled chicken or shrimp
  • Use just a sprinkling of cheese
  • Ask for salsa on the side and control how much is added
  • Avoid sour cream, guacamole, ranch dressing
  • Ask for bean and rice fillings to not be refried in oil or lard
  • Enjoy with a side salad instead of chips

One reasonably portioned baked chalupa can come in around 300 calories. While not exactly low-calorie, that fits into a daily calorie budget on a reduced-calorie diet. Just balance it out with light meals and snacks the rest of the day. Moderation and making the healthiest choices possible when dining out are key principles for losing weight.

Healthy chalupa toppings

While fried chalupas don’t leave much room for veggies, healthy baked or grilled chalupas are the perfect canvas for loading up on nutritious toppings.


Aim for a spectrum of colors and textures. Bright vegetables add vitamins, minerals, and fiber with minimal calories:

  • Lettuce – Romaine, mixed greens, cabbage slaw
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Peppers – bell peppers, jalapenos, habanero
  • Radishes
  • Jicama
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Corn

Fresh herbs

Fresh herbs add flavor without calories, salt, or fat:

  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Basil

Salsa and hot sauce

Add a kick of flavor and complexity without much added sodium:

  • Pico de gallo
  • Salsa verde
  • Salsa roja
  • Habanero hot sauce

Limes and lemons

Bright, fresh citrus juice adds flavor without calories or sodium. Squeeze over chalupas just before eating.

Greek yogurt

Provides a creamy, tangy topping with extra protein. Choose nonfat plain yogurt.


Adds creaminess along with healthy fats. Watch portions, as avocados are high in calories.

What to avoid

On a healthy chalupa, limit high-calorie, high-sodium toppings like:

  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Ranch dressing
  • Guacamole
  • Chips on the side

Chalupa calories

As the comparisons above illustrated, the number of calories in a chalupa can vary dramatically based on preparation methods and toppings.

A deep-fried chalupa with lots of high-fat fillings and toppings can easily top 700+ calories.

On the lighter side, here are some estimated calorie counts for healthier chalupa options:

  • Baked chicken chalupa with lots of veggies: 300 calories
  • Grilled shrimp chalupa with salsa and lettuce: 350 calories
  • Veggie chalupa with beans, peppers, tomatoes: 280 calories
  • Baked chalupa with black beans, brown rice and light toppings: 367 calories

Controlling portions is also key. Many restaurants serve “loaded” chalupas approaching or exceeding 1000 calories. Enjoy healthier preparations, but be mindful of large portions that can sabotage your healthy efforts.

Are chalupas gluten free?

Traditionally, chalupas are made with corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are naturally gluten-free.

However, you need to check with restaurants to ensure their chalupas are prepared gluten-free:

  • Verify corn tortillas are used, not wheat flour
  • Fillings and toppings should not contain gluten ingredients
  • Confirm fillings are not thickened with wheat flour
  • Ensure fryers only fry corn tortillas and not other breaded, flour-coated foods

Some chains like Taco Bell offer gluten-free menu options. Look for chalupas prepared with corn tortillas and gluten-free ingredients. With the right precautions, chalupas can be safe for gluten-free diets.

Are chalupas vegetarian/vegan?

Chalupas can also be made vegetarian or vegan:

  • Use plant-based meat substitutes like soy protein crumbles instead of ground beef
  • Choose beans, rice, potatoes, or veggies for fillings instead of meat
  • Use vegan cheese like Daiya or veggie loaded chalupas with no cheese
  • Choose veggie-based salsas, guacamole, etc. instead of dairy-based sauces

Vegan chalupas swap out all animal products for plant-based alternatives. With the right substitutions, chalupas can be a tasty meatless meal.


Black bean chalupas can range greatly in nutrition and health impact depending on preparation. Loaded deep-fried versions don’t make the healthiest choice. However, homemade chalupas with a baked tortilla, lean protein, and lots of veggie toppings can be reasonably healthy in moderation. Controlling portions and toppings is key to keeping chalupas part of a balanced diet. Overall, enjoying chalupas occasionally as a treat need not sabotage an otherwise consistent healthy eating plan.

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