Are chicharrones de harina healthy?

Chicharrones de harina, also known as harina pulpeta, is a popular fried snack made from wheat flour in Latin American cuisine. It consists of dough made from wheat flour, annatto oil for color, and salt that is deep fried until crispy.

Chicharrones de harina have a delicious crispy, crunchy texture on the outside and soft, chewy interior. Their salty, savory flavor makes them an addictively tasty treat that’s hard to eat just one of!

However, as a deep fried food, many people wonder – are chicharrones de harina actually healthy? Or are they just a fatty, calorie-laden indulgence?

This article will examine the nutritional profile of chicharrones de harina to determine if they can be part of a balanced diet or if their fried nature makes them more of an occasional treat. We’ll look at their calorie, fat, and sodium content. We’ll also discuss any potential health benefits or drawbacks.

Nutritional Profile of Chicharrones de Harina

To determine if chicharrones de harina are healthy or unhealthy, we need to look at their nutritional makeup. Here is an overview of the main nutrients in a typical serving:


Chicharrones de harina are quite high in calories given their crunchy, airy texture. A 1 ounce (28g) serving contains around 153 calories (1). This calorie count is on par with similar fried salty snacks like potato chips, which contain about 155 calories per ounce (2).

So portion control is important with chicharrones de harina to avoid excess calorie intake. But the calorie count is not outrageous for an indulgent snack if eaten in moderation.


The main calorie source in chicharrones de harina comes from fat. A 1 ounce serving contains 9 grams of total fat, 3 grams of which are saturated fat (1).

Again, the fat content is comparable to potato chips, which contain 10 grams of fat including 1 gram of saturated fat per ounce (2).

The type of oil used to fry chicharrones de harina impacts the fat profile. Lard was traditionally used, but vegetable oils like canola are common today. So the specific fat content can vary. But it is quite high overall given the frying method.


Chicharrones de harina are typically seasoned with salt, which significantly increases their sodium content. A 1 ounce serving has about 380 mg of sodium (1).

This represents about 16% of the recommended daily sodium intake. So sodium is a nutrient of concern with chicharrones de harina, especially if consuming a larger portion size.


Compared to the high amounts of fat and sodium, chicharrones de harina are relatively low in protein. A 1 ounce serving only contains 2 grams of protein (1).

So they are not a significant source of protein in the diet. The protein content is lower than many other snack options.


There are 12 grams of carbohydrate in a 1 ounce portion of chicharrones de harina (1).

Since they are made from wheat flour, chicharrones de harina do contain more carbs than some fried snacks. But they are still relatively low in carbs compared to many other foods.


Chicharrones de harina contain minimal amounts of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Frying causes the loss of some B vitamins and vitamin E compared to the natural wheat flour (3). And the flour itself is refined rather than whole grain, further reducing the micronutrient content.

So chicharrones de harina should not be viewed as a source of essential vitamins and minerals. They are very low in micronutrients.

Potential Health Benefits

Based on their nutrition profile, do chicharrones de harina offer any potential health benefits? Let’s look at some of the possible pros.

Provide Fiber

The wheat flour in chicharrones de harina contains some dietary fiber, with 1 gram per ounce serving (1). Fiber plays an important role in digestive health.

So chicharrones de harina provide a bit more fiber than many other fried snack options that contain no fiber, like chips. The fiber content is modest but better than nothing.

Can Be Part of Balanced Diet

While chicharrones de harina are high in calories and fat when eaten in large amounts, they can potentially be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation.

A small 1 ounce portion as an occasional treat has around 150 calories, which can fit into a daily calorie target. And the taste and crunch they provide may satisfy cravings for processed snacks.

Of course portion control is essential to keep calories from fast adding up with more than 1-2 servings. But the nutritional value is not outrageous compared to similar snacks.

Provide Plant Protein

The 2 grams of protein in chicharrones de harina comes from wheat, a plant source (1). Choosing more plant-based proteins like wheat can have health and environmental benefits compared to meat proteins.

While the protein quantity is low, the plant-based source is a small advantage. Protein from whole grains like wheat flour is considered higher quality than refined flour.

Potential Health Drawbacks

However, there are also several potential downsides to consider with chicharrones de harina in terms of health effects:

High in Calories

The calorie count is a primary concern with chicharrones de harina. A 1 ounce serving packs over 150 calories, mainly from fat (1). It’s easy to overeat and take in extra calories, especially if eating directly from a bag.

So portion control is key. But benefits do not really exist for eating large amounts of this high calorie fried food. Weight gain is a risk if overconsumed.

High in Saturated Fat

Chicharrones de harina contain a significant amount of fat for the serving size, with 3 grams coming from unhealthy saturated fat (1).

Frequent intake of saturated fats from fried snacks can raise LDL cholesterol levels. This may increase risk for cardiovascular disease over time.

Contains Trans Fats

The packaging of some brands of chicharrones de harina list partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. This means they likely contain artificial trans fats, given the high heat frying method (4).

Trans fats are considered the unhealthiest type of fat. They raise bad LDL cholesterol and lower good HDL cholesterol. Even small amounts should be avoided.

High in Sodium

The 380 milligrams of sodium in just 1 ounce of chicharrones is of concern (1). The salty taste leads most people to eat far more than a 1 ounce portion.

A diet regularly high in sodium can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. People with these conditions need to be particularly cautious with salty chicharrones.

Lacking Nutrients

Besides sodium, chicharrones de harina provide very little in the way of beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients. They supply mostly just calories and fat.

So they are considered a nutritionally “empty” food. People following healthy diets emphasize getting nutrients from whole foods over fried snacks like this.

Fried Food Unhealthy

The method of deep frying to produce chicharrones de harina has negative effects. Frying causes glycidamide formation which may be carcinogenic. Fried foods are also linked to inflammation and oxidative stress (5).

For optimal health, fried foods should be limited as much as possible in the diet. Nutrition experts recommend avoiding them regularly.

Healthier Alternatives

Given the high calorie, fat, and sodium content, chicharrones de harina are likely best enjoyed occasionally rather than as a daily snack.

What are some healthier alternatives that provide similar satisfaction? Here are a few options:

Air Popped Popcorn

Plain air popped popcorn is a whole grain, fiber filled snack that is low in calories. Spice it yourself with just a touch of olive oil and chili powder or other herbs and spices.


These fun to eat soybeans are rich in plant protein, fiber, and nutrients. Lightly salted, they can satisfy a craving for something salty and crunchy.

Roasted Chickpeas

For a crunchy and portable snack, try roasting chickpeas with olive oil and your favorite seasonings. They contain fiber and plant protein.

Low-fat String Cheese

Part-skim mozzarella string cheese contains protein, calcium, vitamin D, and a modest amount of fat. It makes for a handy healthy snack.

Whole Grain Crackers

Look for crackers made with 100% whole grains. They provide more fiber and nutrients than heavily processed crackers. Pair with hummus for a filling snack.

Fresh Vegetables

Snacking on fresh veggies like carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, or broccoli with hummus or guacamole provides nutrition without the fat and sodium in chicharrones de harina.

Fruit and Yogurt

Nonfat Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries, banana slices, or other fruit makes for a protein and calcium rich sweet snack that is kinder on the waistline than fried foods.


Chicharrones de harina can potentially fit into an overall healthy diet in small amounts as an occasional indulgence. But it is best not to make them a daily habit due to their high calorie, saturated fat, sodium and low nutrient contents.

Practice portion control, and choose healthier snacks like air popped popcorn, edamame, and fresh vegetables more often. Eat chicharrones de harina only in moderation to avoid excess calories, fat, and sodium and reduce potential health risks.

With some restraint, these crispy, tasty fritters can be enjoyed as a special fried treat without going overboard. But balance is key – the bulk of snacking should comprise nourishing whole foods over fried snacks for good health.

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