Is El Pollo Loco chicken tortilla soup gluten-free?

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people avoiding gluten for health or dietary reasons. For those adhering to a gluten-free diet, dining out can present challenges as many menu items contain gluten. When craving soups and Tex-Mex flavors, many gluten-free diners turn to El Pollo Loco, a popular chain restaurant known for its fire-grilled chicken. But is El Pollo Loco’s famous Chicken Tortilla Soup gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Gluten?

Before discussing whether El Pollo Loco’s Chicken Tortilla Soup contains gluten, it helps to understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Many breads, baked goods, pastas, and other food products contain gluten. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune response in the body that damages the small intestine. This damage makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food. Other symptoms of gluten ingestion can include bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, and headaches. The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly adhering to a 100% gluten-free diet. Limiting gluten intake also helps manage non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten-Free Diet Basics

When following a gluten-free diet, it’s essential to avoid all foods and products containing wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. Some of the most obvious sources of gluten include bread, baked goods, cereals, pasta, pizza dough, beer, etc. Beyond the more obvious sources, gluten can also turn up in less expected places like soy sauce, salad dressings, seasonings, broths, soups, processed meats, french fries, and more. Dining out while gluten-free requires diligence in confirming menus items are prepared without gluten-containing ingredients.

When in doubt if a menu item is gluten-free, those adhering to a strict gluten-free diet should ask for details on how the meal is prepared and what specific ingredients it contains. Many restaurants now offer gluten-free menus, though cross-contamination is still a risk in kitchens also preparing items with gluten. For very sensitive individuals, the safest approach is selecting more whole, fresh foods requiring little preparation such as salads, grilled meats, and steamed vegetables.

Is Chicken Tortilla Soup Gluten-Free?

In determining whether El Pollo Loco’s Chicken Tortilla Soup is gluten-free, let’s start by looking at the main ingredients. The primary components include chicken, onions, tomatoes, chilies, broth, tortilla strips, rice, beans, and various seasonings. None of these ingredients contain gluten in their natural forms. The chicken, onions, tomatoes, chilies, rice, and beans offer gluten-free protein and carbohydrates. While these whole food ingredients are naturally gluten-free, we need to take a closer look at how the tortilla strips and broth are prepared.

Tortilla Strips

Traditional flour tortillas contain gluten from wheat flour. However, corn tortillas are naturally gluten-free. According to El Pollo Loco’s website, the tortilla strips used in the Chicken Tortilla Soup are made from corn, not flour tortillas. This means the tortilla strips themselves are gluten-free. However, there is still a possibility of cross-contamination if the restaurant uses shared frying oil to prepare both corn and flour tortilla chips. When ordering the soup, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may want to ask whether the restaurant uses separate fryers.


The broth is the other main ingredient we need to explore further. Many store-bought broths and stocks contain gluten from additives and flavorings. A chicken broth could pick up traces of gluten from thickeners, stabilizers, or seasonings added during processing. When dining out, it’s important to ask restaurants if they make their soups and broths totally from scratch. Homemade broths prepared from scratch with real chicken and vegetables are naturally gluten-free.

After checking with customer service, El Pollo Loco has confirmed their Chicken Tortilla Soup broth is made fresh in restaurants daily using all gluten-free ingredients. The broth contains no thickeners, stabilizers or wheat-based seasonings.


Based on an analysis of the individual ingredients and preparation methods, El Pollo Loco’s Chicken Tortilla Soup can be considered gluten-free. The whole food components of chicken, veggies, rice, beans and corn tortilla strips are naturally gluten-free. El Pollo Loco also verifies their soup broth is made fresh in-house using gluten-free ingredients and no stabilizers or wheat-based seasonings. While these factors make their Chicken Tortilla Soup safe for gluten-free diets, it’s always smart for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to confirm with the restaurant their protocols for avoiding cross-contamination with gluten-containing menu items. With the right precautions, El Pollo Loco’s famous Chicken Tortilla Soup can be safely enjoyed on a gluten-free diet.

Nutrition Information

When following a gluten-free diet, it’s important to maintain balanced nutrition to ensure you are getting adequate vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for a serving of El Pollo Loco’s Chicken Tortilla Soup:

Nutrient Amount Per Serving
Calories 210
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 25mg
Sodium 730mg
Total Carbohydrates 28g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 3g
Protein 12g

Chicken Tortilla Soup provides a good amount of protein as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The 12g of protein per serving comes from both the chicken and beans. Fiber is provided from the beans, rice, and vegetables. The soup also contains Vitamin A, calcium, iron, and potassium. This gluten-free soup offers a nice balanced meal with protein, carbs, fat, and key micronutrients.

Gluten-Free Soup Alternatives at El Pollo Loco

In addition to their Chicken Tortilla Soup, El Pollo Loco also offers some other soup options that can fit into a gluten-free diet:

Chicken Avocado Soup

This creamy soup features chicken, avocado, rice, vegetables, and lime. It can be customized to be made gluten-free.

Chicken Tortilla Salad Soup

Similar to their Chicken Tortilla Soup but served over lettuce without the tortilla strips.

Vegetable Soup

A veggie-packed soup made with tomatoes, carrots, peas, potatoes and onions in a vegetable broth.

While soups are often a reliable gluten-free choice when dining out, it is still important to ask about preparation methods and cross-contamination risks. Be sure to confirm which soups are made without gluten-containing thickeners or stabilizers. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should also consider potential cross-contact from shared cooking and prep areas in most restaurant kitchens.

Other Gluten-Free Menu Options at El Pollo Loco

In addition to their gluten-free soup choices, El Pollo Loco offers these other menu items that can be prepared gluten-free:


Try the Ensalada Sin Pollo salad without croutons or the Aguacate Salad without tortilla strips. Be sure to request no bread on the side.


Build your own gluten-free bowl starting with a base of cilantro lime rice, black beans, pinto beans, or vegan chicken. Top with grilled chicken, steak, or sauteed shrimp. Add salsa, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, and corn salsa.

Pollo Bowls

Select a grilled chicken, adobo chicken, or vegan chicken pollo bowl with white rice or black beans and topped with salsas, cabbage, and avocado.

Chicken, Steak & Shrimp Entrees

Grilled chicken, carne asada steak, and sauteed shrimp entrees come with rice and beans. Enjoy with corn tortillas on the side.

With the right modifications, gluten-free diners can enjoy chicken, steak, salads, rice bowls, and more at El Pollo Loco. Double check ingredient lists and preparation methods when ordering.

Tips for Eating Gluten-Free at El Pollo Loco

Here are some helpful tips for safely navigating gluten-free dining at El Pollo Loco:

  • Review the menu online in advance and identify naturally gluten-free choices
  • Ask if corn or flour tortillas are used in soups and salads
  • Request all bowls and entrees be prepared with corn tortillas
  • Verify menus are made without gluten-containing thickeners, stabilizers or wheat-based seasonings
  • Ask about risk of cross-contamination from fried tortilla chips or grilled proteins
  • Consider potential cross-contact from shared kitchen surfaces and utensils
  • Ask lots of questions and request staff change gloves before preparing your meal

With good communication and awareness, those adhering to a gluten-free diet can safely enjoy the bold, Mexican-inspired flavors of El Pollo Loco. Be sure to confirm preparation details and protocols for avoiding cross-contamination when ordering.

El Pollo Loco Gluten-Free Dining Tips

Dining out gluten-free requires some extra care and planning. Here are some key tips for eating at El Pollo Loco while avoiding gluten:


  • Review gluten-free menu options online first
  • Ask about corn vs. flour tortillas in menu items
  • Request plain grilled chicken, steak or shrimp entrees
  • Ask if soups and sauces are thickened with wheat flour
  • Verify preparation methods and possibility of cross-contact


  • Assume all menu items are gluten-free
  • Order breaded or flour-dusted proteins
  • Add croutons to salads or tortilla chips to entrees
  • Eat fried tortilla shells or chips due to fryer contamination risk

With the right questions and customizations, those avoiding gluten can safely navigate the menu at El Pollo Loco. Just be sure to communicate with staff to ensure proper preparation and prevent cross-contamination.

Is El Pollo Loco Chicken Tortilla Soup Gluten-Free? The Bottom Line

For those adhering to a gluten-free diet, determining “safe” menu items at restaurants can feel like navigating a minefield. But some dishes, like El Pollo Loco’s Chicken Tortilla Soup, can be customized to accommodate gluten-free needs. By using corn tortilla strips and preparing their broth with gluten-free ingredients, El Pollo Loco has designed their signature soup to be able to be enjoyed gluten-free. As always, be sure to communicate with staff to confirm preparation protocols and prevent cross-contamination. With the right modifications, the Chicken Tortilla Soup can be a delicious gluten-free option for those who love the spicy, Tex-Mex flavors of El Pollo Loco.

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