Tortilla chips are a popular snack food found at many restaurants. They are typically served alongside dishes like nachos, tacos, fajitas, and other Tex-Mex cuisine. Tortilla chips can vary in size, thickness, and flavor depending on the restaurant. Determining the calorie count of restaurant-style tortilla chips requires looking at the typical ingredients and preparation methods. This article will examine how many calories are in an average restaurant tortilla chip.
What Are Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips?
Restaurant style tortilla chips are mass-produced chips made from corn tortillas. They are usually made from a combination of corn masa flour, water, and salt. The dough is sheeted out, cut into triangular shapes, and then fried in oil until crisp. The frying gives the chips their signature crunch and toasted corn flavor.
Tortilla chips served at restaurants tend to be larger in size than typical bagged tortilla chips from the grocery store. They are also relatively thick, with a sturdy texture to support heavy toppings like cheese, beans, salsa, and guacamole. The large size and hearty construction allows the chips to stand up to dipping without breaking.
Many restaurants serve a basket or bowl of tortilla chips as an appetizer or side. The chips may be salted, flavored with spices like garlic or chili powder, or served plain. Salsa, cheese sauce, and guacamole are common accompaniments.
Nutrition Facts of Restaurant Tortilla Chips
The main nutrients in tortilla chips are:
– Carbohydrates: Tortilla chips get most of their calories from carbohydrates. This comes from the corn flour/masa and any additional starches or sugars used in flavoring.
– Fat: Frying the chips adds a significant amount of fat, depending on the type of oil used. Corn oil and canola oil are common options with around 14 grams of fat per serving.
– Protein: Corn chips have only small amounts of plant-based protein. A 28-gram serving may have 1-3 grams.
– Fiber: Some of the corn bran may provide 1-2 grams of fiber per serving.
– Sodium: Salt is added to the chip dough or sprinkled on top, contributing 200-400 milligrams of sodium.
– Vitamins and minerals: Corn masa contains small amounts of folate, magnesium, and potassium. The vitamins and minerals are minimal at less than 5% DV.
Besides the base corn masa ingredients, additional seasonings and flavorings will alter the nutrition facts. Garlic salt, chili powder, lime juice, etc. may be used, so nutrition will vary by restaurant.
Calorie Count of 1 Restaurant Tortilla Chip
The amount of calories in a single tortilla chip depends on the size and thickness of the chip. Here are some typical calorie estimates:
– Small chip (15g): Around 60 calories per chip.
– Medium chip (20g): Around 80 calories per chip.
– Large chip (30g): Around 120 calories per chip.
– Extra-large chip (40g): Around 160 calories per chip.
As a baseline, most restaurant tortilla chips average 70-150 calories each. This is based on a typical nutrition range of 400-800 calories per 100g serving size of tortilla chips. Smaller corn chips on the thinner side will be around 60-80 calories. While big, overloaded nacho chips may reach 150-200+ calories.
Restaurants usually estimate 20-30 chips per typical serving. This works out to 140-270 calories for a small side order of chips, and 400-800 calories for a large restaurant portion. However, the calorie counts can climb higher depending on any added toppings and dips.
Factors That Affect Calorie Count
Several factors impact the calorie count in restaurant tortilla chips:
The ingredients used to make the chips affect nutrition. Basic corn chips use a combination of masa harina flour, water, and salt. Adding ingredients like:
– Oils: Cooking oil adds 120+ calories per tablespoon used.
– Starches: Flours or starches increase calorie density.
– Sugars: Sugar adds carbs and calories.
– Seasonings: Ingredients like garlic, chili powder, lime juice, etc. add minimal calories.
– Toppings: Extra salt, cheese, spices on top add extra calories.
Using more fattening ingredients like oils and flours will result in higher calorie counts.
Larger tortilla chips contain more calories based on weight. Some restaurants serve massive overloaded chips. Typical sizes include:
– Small: 15-25g – 60-100 calories each
– Medium: 25-35g – 100-140 calories each
– Large: 40-50g – 160-200+ calories each
A bigger portion of chips means more calories overall. Shareable appetizer sizes can have 500+ calories total.
The cooking method also determines calories:
– Baked: Chips baked in the oven have around 30-40% less fat and calories than fried.
– Fried: Frying in oil adds calories and fat compared to baked chips. Using healthier oils can reduce overall calories.
Most restaurants fry their tortilla chips for the signature crunchy texture. But some may offer baked options with reduced fat and calories.
Sides and Toppings
Keep in mind that dipping sauces and toppings add extra calories:
– Cheese sauce: Can add 50-100 calories per tablespoon.
– Guacamole: Around 50-80 calories per tablespoon.
– Salsa: Usually minimal calories for fresh tomato salsa.
– Sour cream: Around 30-50 calories per tablespoon.
– Beans, ground beef, etc.: Can add 100+ calories per serving.
Loading up chips with high-calorie sauces or toppings increases the total calorie intake from this appetizer.
How Many Chips Are Typical Per Serving?
Restaurants serve tortilla chips in a wide range of portion sizes:
– Side serving: Approximately 15-30 chips.
– Small basket: Around 20-40 chips.
– Appetizer platter: Anywhere from 40-70 chips.
– Family style platter: Over 100 chips.
A serving of 20-25 medium sized chips would provide around 160-200 calories total. While a huge platter with 100+ chips could have over 1000 calories total.
– If served with salsa or light dip, around 20-30 chips per person is reasonable.
– For topping-heavy dishes like nachos, allowing 30-40 chips ensures everyone gets their fill of toppings.
– For multiple people sharing, get at least 10-15 chips per person as an appetizer.
In most cases, restaurants bring more chips than needed. Don’t feel obligated to finish a huge platter! Splitting a basket or asking for small portions can help control portions and calories.
Tips for Eating Restaurant Tortilla Chips
Here are some tips for enjoying tortilla chips in a healthier way:
– Ask for a small portion or split a basket to get fewer chips.
– Opt for baked instead of fried chips when available.
– Choose corn over flour tortillas which are lower in calories.
– Load up chips mostly with salsa and limit high-calorie dips like cheese sauce.
– Eat chips with a meal instead of alone as an appetizer.
– Slow down and savor each chip instead of mindless snacking.
– Skip the chips altogether and order a side salad instead.
– Share a platter as an appetizer instead of personal portions.
Restaurant tortilla chips can be a reasonable snack when sticking to sensible portion sizes. Focus on the enjoyment of each chip rather than quantity. Pair with lighter dips and toppings instead of going overboard. With some adjustments, tortilla chips can still be part of an overall balanced diet.
Nutrition Substitutes for Tortilla Chips
If you’re trying to cut calories, consider these lower calorie alternatives:
Baked Pita Chips
Baked pita chips have around 30-40% less fat and calories than tortilla chips. Whole wheat pita cut into wedges makes a fiber-rich substitute. Bake flavor with spices instead of oil. Pair with hummus instead of heavy dips.
Veggies and Hummus
Dip raw vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumber, or bell pepper strips into hummus. You’ll get filling fiber and protein with fewer calories than chips and dip.
Air-popped popcorn is a low calorie, high fiber alternative to tortilla chips. Sprinkle with spices instead of butter and salt.
Look for lightly salted rice cakes. Top with salsa or smashed avocado for a chip replacement.
Chips made from black beans, chickpeas, or lentils are high protein and fiber substitutes for corn chips. Brands like Beanitos have a similar crisp texture.
Portion-controlled 100-calorie packs of baked tortilla chips allow guilt-free snacking.
Healthiest and Unhealthiest Restaurant Tortilla Chips
Not all restaurant tortilla chips are equal from a nutrition standpoint. Here are some of the best and worst options:
– Baked instead of fried
– Plain, unflavored
– Corn instead of flour tortillas
– Portion controlled servings
– Served with salsa or guacamole instead of heavy cheese dips
Least Healthy Chips
– Fried and topped with salt or chili powder
– Made with white flour instead of corn masa
– Served in huge portions
– Covered in high-fat, high-calorie toppings like queso
– Paired with fatty dipping sauces like sour cream or bacon bits
In general, request baked corn chips made without any fattening additions. Keep portions reasonable, and minimize high-calorie sauces to keep tortilla chips relatively healthy
Healthy Homemade Tortilla Chips
It’s easy to make homemade baked tortilla chips that are crunchy and delicious with way less oil and calories than restaurant versions.
– 6 small corn tortillas
– 1 tsp olive oil or cooking spray
– 1/4 tsp salt
– Spices like garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, etc.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with desired spices and salt.
3. Stack tortillas and cut into 6 wedges each. Spread wedges out on baking sheet.
4. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and crispy. Flip chips halfway through baking.
5. Let chips cool before serving with salsa or other dip.
Baked tortilla wedges take just minutes to make at home with a fraction of the calories as deep-fried restaurant chips. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Making them fresh means you control the ingredients.
The Bottom Line
Restaurant tortilla chips can vary widely in calories based on size, thickness, ingredients, cooking method, and portion size. On average, a single tortilla chip contains about 80-130 calories. Smaller corn chips fried in healthier oil will be on the lower end, while bigger thick chips drenched in toppings will have more calories. Enjoy tortilla chips in moderation along with fresh salsa and guacamole instead of fatty dips to keep calories reasonable. And making a baked version at home is an easy way to control nutrition while still satisfying a craving for this tasty Tex-Mex treat.