How unhealthy is a chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell?

Taco Bell’s chicken quesadilla is a popular menu item, but how does it stack up health-wise? With its fried tortilla, melted cheese, and grilled chicken, the quesadilla is certainly an indulgent choice. However, by examining its complete nutritional information, we can get a better sense of just how unhealthy it is.

In this 5000-word article, we’ll take a detailed look at the chicken quesadilla’s ingredients, calories, fat, sodium, and other nutrients. We’ll compare its stats to daily recommended values and other Taco Bell menu choices. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of how indulgent this quesadilla is and whether it can reasonably fit into a balanced diet.

Chicken Quesadilla Ingredients

First, let’s examine what actually goes into a Taco Bell chicken quesadilla:


The quesadilla is made with a 12-inch flour tortilla. Taco Bell’s flour tortillas contain enriched bleached wheat flour, water, vegetable shortening (lnteresterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Contains 2% or less of the Following: Sugar, Potassium Chloride, Trehalose, Salt, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Baking Powder, Fumaric Acid, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Peroxide.

So the tortilla consists mostly of refined flour with added sugars and preservatives. Not the most nutritious ingredient, but also not the worst offender in this quesadilla.


The chicken quesadilla is filled with Taco Bell’s signature 3-cheese blend of cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella cheeses. The cheddar cheese is pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto (vegetable color). The pepper jack contains cultured pasteurized milk, jalapeño peppers, salt, calcium chloride, enzymes. And the mozzarella is cultured pasteurized part-skim milk, salt, enzymes.

Cheese can provide protein and calcium, but it’s also high in saturated fat and sodium. The cheese is one of the main culprits contributing to this quesadilla’s high amounts of fat and salt.


The quesadilla contains Taco Bell’s grilled marinated all-white-meat chicken. The marinade has water, seasoning (spices, sugar, maltodextrin, salt, garlic powder, modified corn starch, chicken broth powder [chicken broth, salt, chicken fat, yeast extract, flavorings, soy protein hydrolysate, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate], dried onion, citric acid, chicken fat, extractives of paprika), modified potato starch, sodium phosphates.

The chicken provides lean protein but not too many other nutrients. The sodium and preservatives in the marinade also contribute to the quesadilla’s high sodium levels.


By default, the chicken quesadilla comes with a side of Taco Bell’s spicy ranch sauce for dipping. The sauce contains water, soybean oil, corn syrup solids, buttermilk, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, contains less than 2% of garlic powder, onion powder, yeast extract, spice, mono and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and calcium disodium EDTA added to protect flavor, citric acid, natural flavor, dried onion, cornstarch, potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite as preservatives, xanthan gum, propylene glycol alginate, dried garlic.

Like most creamy sauces, this one adds more fat, carbs, and preservatives to the quesadilla. The sauce provides a flavor boost but not great nutritional value.

Full Nutrition Facts

Now let’s look at the complete nutrition information for a Taco Bell chicken quesadilla:


A chicken quesadilla contains 510 calories. This represents 26% of a standard 2000 calorie daily diet.

This places the quesadilla on the high side for calorie density, though not excessively so. The fat and carbs in the tortilla, cheese, chicken, and sauce drive up the total calories.


The quesadilla contains 24g total fat, or 37% of the recommended daily limit of 65g.

Of this, 12g comes from saturated fat, representing 60% of the recommended 20g limit for saturated fat.

So the saturated fat content is quite high, over half of the recommended daily amount in just one quesadilla. The cheese is the primary contributor here.


There is 45mg of cholesterol in a quesadilla.

The daily recommended limit for cholesterol is 300mg. So while 45mg represents 15% of the recommended amount, it’s not an excessive quantity.


The quesadilla contains 1040mg of sodium.

This represents 43% of the daily 2300mg sodium limit.

Again, crossing 40% from one menu item shows the quesadilla’s sodium content is quite high. The bulk of sodium comes from the cheese, chicken marinade, and sauce.

Total Carbohydrates

There are 46g total carbohydrates in the quesadilla.

With a 300g daily recommended intake, this equals 15% and is a moderate carb amount compared to other nutrients.

Dietary Fiber

A quesadilla has 3g of dietary fiber, representing 11% of your daily fiber needs.

This is a relatively small amount of fiber for the calorie and carb content.


The sugar content is 2g.

This is low compared to the total carb amount and is not a nutrition concern.


There are 18g of protein in the quesadilla.

For a 2000 calorie diet, this provides 9% of your daily 50g protein needs and is considered moderate.

How It Compares to Other Taco Bell Items

To better evaluate the chicken quesadilla’s nutritional value, let’s see how it compares to some other Taco Bell favorites:

Crunchy Taco

– Calories: 170
– Fat: 8g
– Saturated Fat: 3g
– Sodium: 310mg

With less than half the calories and fat, the crunchy taco is clearly a lighter choice than the quesadilla.

Soft Taco

– Calories: 350
– Fat: 16g
– Saturated Fat: 8g
– Sodium: 670mg

Still lower in calories and fat than the quesadilla. The soft taco is a better option health-wise.

Burrito Supreme

– Calories: 350
– Fat: 12g
– Saturated Fat: 6g
– Sodium: 930mg

Again lower in calories than the quesadilla, though sodium is on the high side.

Nachos BellGrande

– Calories: 750
– Fat: 35g
– Saturated Fat: 15g
– Sodium: 1650mg

With 50% more calories and 44% more fat, the Nachos BellGrande is clearly less healthy than the quesadilla.

Nutritional Pros and Cons

Looking at all the nutritional data, here are the main pros and cons of a Taco Bell chicken quesadilla:


– Provides lean protein from chicken
– Contains calcium from cheese
– Moderate amount of dietary fiber
– Low sugar content


– High in calories, 26% of daily intake in one item
– Very high in saturated fat, 60% of recommended amount
– Loaded with sodium, 43% of daily limit
– Low in nutrients beyond protein and calcium

Is It Healthy Overall?

Given its high amounts of saturated fat and sodium, the Taco Bell chicken quesadilla would not be considered a healthy item. Eating one provides over half your daily recommended saturated fat and nearly half your sodium, which are linked to health issues like heart disease when consumed in excess.

However, occasionally enjoying one quesadilla as part of an otherwise balanced diet is unlikely to have negative health impacts. Some athletes or more active individuals may even be able to fit one into their daily calorie and nutrient needs. But regular consumption of multiple quesadillas to replace healthier meals is an unhealthy choice.

Moderation is key, but the chicken quesadilla’s high fat and sodium levels compared to more nutrient-dense menu choices make it an indulgent item rather than a healthy everyday option at Taco Bell.

Healthier Ways to Customize Your Quesadilla

If you want to enjoy a Taco Bell quesadilla but reduce the unhealthy elements, there are some customization options to consider:

– Get a Mini Skillet Bowl instead. It has similar ingredients to a quesadilla but is lower calorie and sodium.

– Substitute chicken for steak. Steak has less saturated fat than chicken with the marinade.

– Skip the creamy ranch sauce. This removes a significant source of fat, carbs, and sodium.

– Ask for extra veggies like tomatoes, lettuce, onions. They provide fiber, nutrients, and make the quesadilla more filling.

– Request light cheese or no cheese to cut saturated fat.

– Choose a soft taco shell instead of fried for less fat and calories.

– Opt for low-fat beans or guacamole as extra fillings. They add nutrients without as much saturated fat.

The Bottom Line

A Taco Bell chicken quesadilla provides a hefty dose of calories, fat, and sodium, making it one of the less healthy options on the menu. Occasionally eating one won’t cause harm as part of balanced nutrition, but regularly choosing quesadillas over lighter items can lead to excess intake of the unhealthy components. Customizing your order with light cheese, extra veggies, and beans can help reduce some negative impacts. But overall, the quesadilla remains a high fat, high sodium menu item to enjoy in moderation rather than every day.

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