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Plus, specific menu items you can order at the most popular chains.
When you’re following a strict keto diet, every invitation to dinner with friends can be a little… complicated. Will there be anything other than pasta on the menu? Can I eat everything in this somewhat sugary sauce? What if there’s a bread basket!!
Thankfully, it’s getting easier and easier to find low-carb, high protein, keto-friendly meals at restaurants across the country—several popular chains have even added bonafide keto sections to their menus. The trick is to scout the menu in advance, don’t be afraid to ask to sub out carb-heavy sides for keto-friendly veggies and ask for sauces and condiments on the side, says Josh Axe, DNM, founder of Ancient Nutrition and author of Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, Boost Brain Health, and Reverse Disease.
“Restaurants that specialize in preparing good quality proteins, like wild fish, grass-fed beef or organic poultry, and offer a variety of salad or plant-based options are best when you’re on keto,” he adds. “If an entree includes a protein with rice or potatoes, get creative. Ask to sub in a salad and then add your fats, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado, feta or goat cheese, nuts and seeds. When in doubt, ask for olive oil, coconut oil, good quality butter, or mashed avocado, which will provide healthy fats.”
To help you out, we scouted the best keto-friendly restaurant chains, along with what to order once you get there.
Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to cash in on this chain’s infamous Cheddar Bay Biscuits — but Red Lobster is otherwise a dream for keto dieters. Seafood is low in carbohydrates naturally, and Red Lobster allows diners the chance to create fresh seafood platters through its Create Your Own Feast offerings. Its Garlic Shrimp Scampi is served without carb-heavy pasta but has plenty of savory butter and seasonings, clocking in at a mere 6g of carbohydrates. Salmon filets, steaks, fresh lobster and a myriad of shrimp dishes are all below 10g net carbohydrates; paired with steamed veggies or a house salad, these meals will quickly itch any keto-sized scratch for a seafood feast.
Create Your Own Feast Garlic Shrimp Scampi: 430 calories, 35g fat (7g saturated fat), 1,940mg sodium, 6g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 24g protein.
You may have to walk an obstacle course between breadsticks and giant bowls of pasta to get to your table at this always-popular chain, but once you get settled in your seat, you can feast on a scrumptious dish of herb-grilled salmon topped with garlic butter with a heaping portion of parmesan broccoli on the side. A true keto-dieter’s delight.
Herb-Grilled Salmon: 460 cals, 29 g fat, 8 g carbs, 4 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar, 45 g protein
Sure, you’re never going to sit down for a full keto meal at Starbucks, but while you’re grabbing your java (black coffee with Stevia is the go-to keto choice), you may get the munchies and wonder what you can snack on that will fit into your eating plan. Walk quickly past the display of scones and cookies, and look for either a Creminelli Snack Tray filled with salami and Monterey Jack cheese, or grab a couple of bacon and gruyere sous vide egg bites.
Bacon and Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites: 300 cals, 20 g fat, 9 g carbs, 0 dietary fiber, 2 g sugar, 19 g protein
When you’re hankering for a fresh, fast and keto-friendly lunch, head to your local Chipotle, but skip the carb-loaded burritos and ask for a Lifestyle Keto Bowl, which comes with either antibiotic-free chicken or steak, cheese, gaucamole and salsa over supergreens.
Keto Salad Bowl With Chicken: 560 cals, 37 g fat, 16 g carbs, 9 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar, 41 g protein.
RELATED: The 35 Healthiest Fast Food Orders You Can Get at Every Chain
Dr. Axe is a big fan of any restaurant that lets you build your own meal from bottom on up. “At Chopt, you can customize your meal with plenty of healthy options, like leafy greens, fresh herbs, meats, eggs, and fresh vegetables,” he says. But if standing at the counter trying to choose your ingredients with a line of hungry, impatient people waiting behind you is too much pressure, simply go for the Classic Cobb Salad, filled with yummy proteins and fats, including grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, eggs and blue cheese over greens.
Classic Cobb Salad: 635 cals, 40g fat, 19 g carbs, 10 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar, 52 g protein
In what seems like the deal of the century, you get 6 ounces each of a top sirloin steak and an Atlantic salmon filet for around 20 bucks at this moderately priced, family-friendly restaurant. Pass right by those mashed potatoes and opt for the broccoli, asparagus or green salad on the side instead.
Steak and Salmon Combo: 750 cals, 33 g fat, 5 g carbs, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar, 73 g protein
As a keto dieter, you’re probably up to your eyeballs in salmon. And though we love the fatty orange-fleshed fish, sometimes it’s nice to try something different! The old-timey family-restaurant chain Cracker Barrel has an appealing lemon-pepper grilled rainbow trout on the menu that will fit right in with your diet. Ask for country green beans, fresh steamed broccoli or turnip greens on the side.
Lemon pepper grilled rainbow trout: 330 cals, 14 g fat, 6 g carbs, less than 1 g dietary fiber, 0 sugar, 43 protein
If it’s steak you want, well, you’ll find about a dozen different varieties at this beef-centric chain — ribeye, sirloin, Kansas City Strip. But to get the best of both land and sea, order the Renegade Sirloin with Redrock Grilled Shrimp combo smothered in garlic butter (leave off the rice, of course).
Renegade Sirloin 6 oz with Redrock Grilled Shrimp (with garlic butter): 710 cals, 44 g fat, 6 g carbs, less than 1 g dietary fiber, less than 1 g sugar, 66 g protein
Bread is a staple at the Cheesecake Factory, so finding a bunch of low-carb options here is going to be tough — start your search in the menu’s Skinnylicious section (their word, not ours), where you’ll find two contenders. The Grilled Salmon entrée can be tweaked to your liking, but the Tuscan Chicken may be a smart choice; removing its bed of rice can help you save even more carbs in the long run.
Skinnylicious Tuscan Chicken: 590 calories, 21g fat (3.5g saturated fats), 1,020g sodium, 19g total carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 5g sugar, 81g protein.
Think of Chili’s as your new favorite steakhouse, as its steak offerings — and fresh veg sides! — can sustain a keto dieter who finds themselves at this chain. A ribeye or a sirloin can be served up with a hearty side of grilled shrimp and still remain nearly carb-less, depending on the side of your choice.
Classic 10z Sirloin: 390 calories, 19g fat (7g saturated fat), 960mg sodium, 2g carbs, 55g protein.
You wouldn’t think a restaurant with Noodles right in the name would have anything on the menu without a gazillion carbs, but thankfully this popular chain has added zucchini noodles to its tasty offerings! You can go straight to their nutrition calculator, which will advise exactly how to order a keto-friendly meal. Choices include zucchini noodles with basil pesto cream sauce or a spicy tomato cream sauce, topped with grilled chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes, or several different salad bowls.
Zucchini noodles with basil pesto cream sauce, garlic, grilled chicken, mushrooms, tomato and parmesan: 320 cals, 17 g fat, 11 carbs, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar, 32 g protein
The abundance of rice, noodles and sugary sauces can make the P.F. Chang’s menu tricky to navigate if you’re on a keto diet, but luckily there is one tasty option you can customize to make it work: Order the Asian Caesar Salad topped with salmon—but most importantly, skip the croutons to drop most of the carbs.
Asian Caesar Salad with Salmon (*includes croutons): 650 cals, 46 g fat, 26 g carbs, 4 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar, 37 g protein
You may feel hopeless arriving at a sandwich and soup-combo shop that doesn’t have low-carb options for most. Because most of the offerings at Pret are simply grab-and-go, you’ll likely do best with a salad — or, sadly, eating the fillings of your favorite sandwich without the bread itself. A classic Chicken Caesar salad is available here, and if you toss the croutons, you should be good to go.
Nutritionals are unavailable.
Moe’s is another favorite southwest-style joint where you can control your carbs by hand-picking every ingredient in your bowl. Start with either pork carnitas (131 cals, 8 g fat, 1 g carbs), white meat chicken (130 cals, 4 g fat, 0 carbs), or steak (104 cals, 5 g fat, 3 g carbs), then add on whatever veggies you like, plus cheese and guacamole, over a bed of greens.
Full nutritionals unavailable.
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The burger gods have smiled upon you! This beloved chain allows you to ditch buns entirely for a fresh lettuce wrap instead, which allows you to cut away 24g of total carbs entirely. While the chain’s ShackSauce isn’t carb-heavy and can be safely sampled, its cheese sauce is a different story, so just stick to a regular burger or a slice of American cheese.
Single ShackBurger With Lettuce Wrap: 325 calories, 24g fat (8g saturated fat), 920mg sodium, 3g carbohydrates.
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There’s a keto bonanza of grilled fish options at this popular seafood chain (you can also get a grilled bone-in pork chop if fish just isn’t your favorite dish). Skip the sugary mango salsa and pan-Asian sauces and top your entree with lemon butter or chimichurri instead. Add some broccoli or green beans on the side, and you’re good to go.
Wood-Fire Grilled Chilean Sea Bass: 570 cals, 47 g fat, 0 carbs, 0 fiber, 0 sugar, 36 g protein.
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Pasta and bread are in full swing at Carraba’s (more like Carb-as!) but there are lean cuts of protein bathed in creamy sauces that you’ll love instead. The Polla Rosa Maria feels like you’re eating a creamy pasta dish, without all the carbs, of course.
Polla Rosa Maria: 620 calories, 37g fat (19g saturated fat), 1,400mg sodium, 4g carbs, 1g fiber, 65g protein.
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Unfortunately, Boston Market doesn’t publish its nutritional specifics for each menu item currently — but a safe bet is the Rotisserie Prime Rib dinner, which is often served with a grain side, but you’ll opt for the steamed vegetables instead. An older version of the menu listed this beef-forward meal as below 10g net carbs.
Rotisserie Prime Rib With Steamed Vegetables: 690 calories, 50.5 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 810 mg sodium, 7g carbs, 4g fiber, 4g sugar, 57g protein.
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When your friends want to split a pie at this ubiquitous chain, just smile politely and order a protein-packed California Cobb Salad instead (mmm, gorgonzola!). If you want to go a little fancier, choose the Cedar-Plank Salmon, but swap out the white-corn succotash for a green salad.
Half-size California Cobb Salad With Blue Cheese Dressing: 570 cals, 45 g fat, 12 g carbs, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar, 29 g protein
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There are a myriad of hearty cuts of steak you can enjoy freely at Outback without impacting ketosis — but the safest entrée option from the chain’s Steak n’ Mate section includes fresh lobster and a generous 9oz filet. If you’re not in the mood for steak, your next best bet are the meaty pineapple glazed pork medallions, which clock in at 11g of total carbohydrates even with its special sauce.
Filet, 90z, and Lobster Tail: 790 calories, 48g fat (26g saturated fat), 1,720mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, .5g sugar, 86g protein.
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When you’re doing keto, a thick, gooey slice of ‘za is the ultimate high-carb no-no, so why is this build-your-own pizza chain on our list? Because they’ve created a delicious keto pizza crust, made of cauliflower and mozzarella! Top it with bacon and veggies, and add a drizzle of olive oil on top for an extra dose of healthy fats.
Keto pizza (2 slices): 340 cals, 22 g fat, 8 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2g sugar, 14 g protein
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With an equally impressive blend of locally sourced seafood and robust cuts of beef and pork, Seasons 52 may have the best range of options for keto dieters on this list. There are four keto-friendly appetizers on the menu that are below 10g of carbs in total, but the real draw may be the savory Lobster BLT Lettuce Wraps, which allow you to enjoy an app or an additional side without ruining your ketosis.
Lobster BLT Lettuce Wraps: 190 calories, 10g fat (4g saturated fat), 4g carbohydrates, 20g protein.
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This burger chain is known to keto dieters for a specific menu offering known as the Wedgie Burger — aka a burger or sandwich that’s made with a lettuce wrap instead of bread. The chain offers a side of broccoli, salad or bacon to sub for its fries, and there are more than six burgers to choose from that keep total carbs well below 16g.
Royal Red Robin Burger, Wedgie style: 890 calories, 73g fat, 9g total carbohydrates, 47g protein.
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While everyone else is making a beeline for the mac-and-cheese and fried chicken at this popular family-style buffet, head right over to the carving board, where you can fill your plate with sirloin steak or bone-in turkey and then pile on the sides of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. (Though the mashed potatoes and gravy in this photo do look delish, take a pass on those, as well as the bread and corn!)
Nutritionals are unavailable.
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There are many indulgent keto-friendly steak options, like Bone-In Dry-Aged Strip, at this elegant bistro that you can find in most big cities (think date night or business dinner), but the one that sounds most mouth-watering to us is the Seared Sea Bass topped with miso butter, with sautéed spinach or grilled asparagus on the side.
Seared Sea Bass With Miso Butter: 810 cals, 66 g fat, 6 g carbs, 2 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar, 47 g protein,
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Ordering entreés at this fan-favorite is easier than you’d think, as most are served independently of starchy sides or additions like pasta, and Ruby Tuesday offers an interactive nutritional calculator for guests. An assortment of steaks and chicken dishes await keto dieters, including a creamy Asiago Bacon Chicken entrée that’s dressed in a cream sauce. The best option is found in a seafood bake, though, below 5g net carbs entirely.
New Orleans Seafood: 320 calories, 14g total fat (6g saturated fat), 1,430mg sodium, 6g carbs, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 40g protein.
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This BBQ joint that supports veterans, servicemen/women, and first responders offers several keto-friendly fatty cuts of meat, such as brisket and pulled pork, as well as as tasty sausage. Match your meat with a side of green beans with bacon (skip the cornbread) for a meal that will make you feel good in more than one way.
Moist-style Brisket (8 oz): 595 cals, 3 g carbs, less than 1 g dietary fiber, 0 sugar, 39 g protein
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Keto dieters can take advantage of iHop’s fully customizable nutritional calculator to customize a breakfast of their dreams. While hashbrowns and pancakes are definitely off the menu, most of their omelets can be tweaked to reach a carb ratio you’re comfortable with — like the stuffed Bacon Temptation Omelette, which can be made with egg whites sans cheese sauce to keep breakfast below 5g of carbs in total.
Bacon Temptation Omelette With Egg Whites, No Cheese Sauce: 530 calories, 37g fat (14g saturated fats), 2,170mg sodium, 5g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 4g sugar, 46g protein.
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With “bread” in its name, you may be wondering how it’s possible to find a keto-friendly meal at Panera. Since soups are pre-made, and sandwiches are dependent on, well, bread, your best bet is a refreshing salad; the Caesar Salad with Chicken can be made without any croutons. And a full-sized salad clocks in at beneath 20g of total carbohydrates.
Caesar Salad With Chicken: 440 calories, 27 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 950 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (much less without croutons), 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 32 g protein
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This Southeast-favorite chicken spot uses a rub for its roasted chicken that’s entirely free of carbs — and since you can cherrypick from a suite of sides, keeping meals beneath 10g of net carbs is almost too easy. Skip rice, potatoes and macaroni to spring for items like the chain’s balsamic tomatoes, fresh veg, and lettuce bowls. Other keto-friendly options include roasted shrimp and mojo pork for when you need to switch it up.
1/4 Chicken, White Meat: 360 calories, 20g fat (6g saturated fat), 730mg of sodium, 0g carbohydrates, 43g protein.
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This warm chain is known for appetizers, but keto dieters will love that most burgers can be ordered “green-style” — meaning served hot on a hefty lettuce wrap instead of a carb-heavy bun. The Bacon Cheeseburger is a fat-rich option that is well below the limit you need to stay on ketosis, and the chain’s Million Dollar Cobb Salad is a lighter launch option that remains at 16g net carbohydrates.
Bacon Cheeseburger, Green Style: 580 calories, 43g fat (17g saturated fat), 2,540mg sodium, 12g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 7g sugar, 35g protein.
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The renowned burger joint has a rather limited menu when you compare it to other options, but keto dieters will be thrilled to hear that a ‘secret’ menu item is keto-friendly. Ordering an In-n-Out burger using the moniker of “Protein Style” will result in your burger patties being housed in a bed of fresh lettuce rather than a carb-loaded bun. The chain’s Animal Sauce won’t derail your diet, either, so feel free to ask for it when you customize your burgers (no fries, though!).
Double-Double With Onion, Protein Style: 520 calories, 39g fat (17g saturated fats), 1,160mg of sodium, 11g of carbohydrates, 3g of dietary fiber, 7g of sugar, 33g of protein.
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You have several options for keto-friendly proteins here, including a grilled chicken breast, a ribeye steak, or even a sirloin topped with shrimp in a creamy parmesan sauce. When you choose your two sides, say no thanks to the mashed potatoes and rice, and go for the broccoli and garlicky green beans.
8-ounce top sirloin with steamed broccoli and garlicky green beans: 540 cals, 32 g fat, 16 g carbs, 6 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar, 51 g protein
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This upscale seasonal fresh-food chain helpfully provides a keto menu that suggests what you can order and which substitutions you should make, such as swapping in lemon ricotta, pesto, or avocado. Delicious options include a grass-fed burger in a lettuce wrap, and pan-seared Sea bass (substitute cauliflower rice for the ancient grains and add seasonal vegetables tossed in kale salad dressing on the side).
Nutritionals are unavailable
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It may be known for breakfast — in which case you’d order a Build Your Own Grand Slam, minus pancakes or potatoes and doubling up on fried eggs and meat — but many Denny’s locations remain open nearly 24/7, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up looking for solid lunch or dinner options. Because their sandwiches can be fully customizable (and you can ask for a side salad), try one of their bacon avocado burgers or the Slamburger, which comes loaded with bacon, egg, and cheese.
Nutritionals are unavailable.