The full infographics you can reference for this guide can be found at the bottom of this post.
If you’re following a high-protein diet, fast food may not seem like the greatest choice.
But you might be surprised to see that there are actually some great options out there for you!
I don’t want to try to direct you towards the “healthiest” item at every fast food restaurant, because we all define healthy differently. For you, healthy fast food might mean that a food is grilled, but for someone else, a healthy option might be anything that is lower carb.
Instead, let’s look strictly at which items have the most protein to help you hit your protein goals.
We’ll look at two options for high-protein fast food:
- The menu item with the highest protein overall. This is usually packed with calories as well, and isn’t necessarily a great protein source, but it’s interesting to see which items actually contain the most protein.
- The highest protein for a menu item under 500 calories. If you want to maximize your protein but don’t want to consume a ton of calories, looking at options under 500 calories will help keep you on track.
High protein doesn’t always mean it’s a great protein source
I just want to be very clear with this post that I’m simply pointing out some options you can order, but they aren’t necessarily the greatest sources of protein.
For example, one of the higher protein items at McDonald’s is the crispy chicken sandwich, which contains 470 calories and 26g of protein.
Is that a bad protein source? No, 26g of protein is pretty solid. But for almost 500 calories, it’s certainly not an amazing protein source, either.
You can absolutely get more bang for your protein buck by making some substitutions at fast food restaurants, but I wanted to keep this guide simple by showing you menu items you can expect to find.
Highest Protein McDonald’s Menu Item
Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese
740 Calories, 42g Fat, 43g Carbs, 48g Protein
This burger from McDonald’s is not necessary the “healthiest” option out there, but it’s the highest protein item that McDonald’s currently offers on their menu. I was surprised to find that a Big Mac actually contains much less protein, with only 25g of protein overall (with 550 calories).
Highest Protein McDonald’s Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Crispy Chicken Sandwich
470 Calories, 20g Fat, 46g Carbs, 26g Protein
You would expect that a fried chicken sandwich (check out how it compares to all the other fried chicken sandwiches out there in this post) would have more protein, but when there’s breading involved, you end up not getting a ton of white meat in there. Still, this is one of the better protein options at McDonald’s!
In fact, if you order a McChicken, it contains 400 calories but only 14g of protein overall, so this is a much better option.
Highest Protein Burger King Menu Item
Triple Whopper With Cheese
1,400 Calories, 95g Fat, 59g Carbs, 82g Protein
Burger King’s website is all over the place with its nutrition facts, so my Burger King Nutrition Guide seems like it’s changing by the day. However, it seems that they finally updated the nutrition facts to be accurate (at least much more accurate than before) so we can finally tell where the most protein can be found.
The triple Whopper with cheese is the most protein you’ll find at Burger King with a whopping (pun intended) 82g of protein! To be fair, that comes with 1,400 calories, which is quite high, but technically speaking, it is the highest protein item.
Highest Protein Burger King Menu Item Under 500 Calories
460 Calories, 25g Fat, 31g Carbs, 27g Protein
Surprisingly, the double cheeseburger from Burger King will get you nearly identical nutrition facts to the Crispy Chicken Sandwich from McDonald’s.
For reference, the double cheeseburger from McDonald’s is still very close, with 450 calories and 25g of protein, so they are extremely similar options.
Highest Protein Wendy’s Menu Item
Big Bacon Cheddar Triple
1,440 Calories, 103g Fat, 47g Carbs, 83g Protein
The Big Bacon Cheddar Triple from Wendy’s is a massive burger, so it comes as no surprise that it’s the highest protein item on the menu.
I’ll let the Wendy’s website explain this one to you: “Three-quarters of a pound* of fresh, never-frozen beef, covered in creamy cheddar cheese and bacon jam, topped with Applewood smoked bacon, crispy onions, and a slice of American cheese, all on a pillow-soft, toasted cheddar bun. It doesn’t get bigger than this. Or bacony-ier. Or cheddary-ier.”
In other words: this burger is absolutely massive.
Highest Protein Wendy’s Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Grilled Asiago Ranch Chicken Club
490 Calories, 21g Fat, 34g Carbs, 40g Protein
Wendy’s is one of the few fast food chains with a grilled chicken sandwich option, and it clocks in as the highest-protein item under 500 calories.
If you want to go with even lower calories, go for the Classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich. That sandwich contains only 350 calories and still packs 33g of quality protein.
Chick-fil-A is one of the best fast food restaurants out there if eating high-protein is your goal. By using lean white-meat chicken in most of their menu items, most of the options are actually low calorie and very high in protein.
Highest Protein Chick-fil-A Menu Item
30 Piece Nuggets
950 Calories, 43g Fat, 41g Carbs, 100g Protein
Odds are that you are not polishing off 30 Chick-fil-A nuggets (no judgment from me if you are, though) but I thought it’d be fun to include it here as it contains 100 grams of protein. If you want to get a ton of protein in, this is actually not a horrible option.
Of course, Chick-fil-A nuggets are nothing without dipping sauce, so the calories could quickly add up there if you are dipping 30 nuggets into sauce.
Highest Protein Chick-fil-A Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Chick-fil-A® Cool Wrap
350 Calories, 12g Fat, 29g Carbs, 42g Protein
The Cool Wrap is made up of grilled chicken, lettuce, and shredded cheese. On its own, it is rather low calorie, but be mindful of the dressing it comes with. If you pair the wrap with the Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing, it will add an additional 310 calories!
Highest Protein Chick-fil-A Menu Item Under 300 Calories
12 Piece Grilled Nuggets
200 Calories, 4.5g Fat, 2g Carbs, 38g Protein
If you follow a low carb or keto diet, the grilled chicken nuggets are going to be your go-to order. A 12-piece is only 200 calories and 38g of protein, on-par with any grilled chicken breast.
Much like the cool wrap, be mindful of the dipping sauce you choose. Depending on what you pair your nuggets with, you can easily add hundreds of calories to your meal.
Taco Bell is one of those places where you are almost ordering multiple items (like multiple tacos) so the protein will obviously vary wildly based on the quantity of your order. For this guide, I’m simply looking at single items that are available on the Taco Bell menu.
Highest Protein Taco Bell Menu Item Over 500 Calories
Double Beef Burrito
620 Calories, 30g Fat, 65g Carbs, 24g Protein
With over 600 calories and only 24g of protein, the double beef burrito is far from impressive, but it is the highest protein single menu item at Taco Bell. However, since you have the option for different types of meat, cheese, etc, there are much better ways to get your protein in at Taco Bell.
Here’s a better option if you choose to make some substitutions…
Highest Protein Taco Bell Menu Item if Substitutions Are Made
Cheesy Gordita Crunch with Extra Grilled Chicken
520 Calories, 26g Fat, 40g Carbs, 32g Protein
In recent years, Chipotle has stolen the crown from Taco Bell when it comes to Mexican food. When it comes to customizing your order and maximizing the nutrition, it’s tough to do better than Chipotle.
But many people don’t realize how customizable Taco Bell is, too! You can make plenty of substitutions to your order to make the most of the nutrition. If you order a Cheesy Gordita Crunch with Grilled Chicken and ask for extra protein, you’ll be getting in 32g of protein! Not bad at all.
Highest Protein Taco Bell Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Power Menu Bowl
460 Calories, 21g Fat, 41g Carbs, 27g Protein
The Taco Bell Power Bowl (essentially a burrito bowl) was added to the menu as a healthy option, and it does not dissapoint. This bowl packs grilled chicken, seasoned rice, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, reduced-fat sour cream, guacamole, and ranch.
As-is, this bowl has just under 500 calories and 26g of protein, but it can be customized to really maximize the protein.
If you leave off the guacamole, sour cream, and ranch, opting for salsa as a topping instead, and ask for extra chicken & black beans, you’ll bump the protein all the way up to 36g for the same amount of calories!
Highest Protein Arby’s Menu Item
Half Pound Roast Beef
610 Calories, 30g Fat, 38g Carbs, 48g Protein
Arby’s has the meats, that’s for sure. This half-pound sandwich is a real beast, weighing in at 610 calories, but also containing nearly 50g of protein. Since that sandwich might be larger than you’re even able to consume, the classic roast beef might be a better choice for you with only 360 calories and 23g of protein.
Highest Protein Arby’s Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Roast Turkey Gyro
470 Calories, 20g Fat, 48g Carbs, 25g Protein
While there are lower calorie options at Arby’s with a decent amount of protein, (like the Classic Roast Beef mentioned above) the Roast Turkey Gyro technically has the most protein for under 500 calories.
Highest Protein Panera Menu Item
Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
860 Calories, 41g Fat, 75g Carbs, 50g Protein
Many people are surprised to learn that Panera sandwiches are not low calorie in a lot of cases. I’m not saying that Panera is unhealthy, but my first impression was that the sandwiches would all be under 500 calories, and that was not the case.
When it comes to ordering at Panera, the “you pick two” option is popular, where you order half a sandwich and half of either soup or salad. In that case, this turkey sandwich would be 430 calories and 25g of protein.
Highest Protein Panera Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Chicken Casear Salad
440 Calories, 27g Fat, 21g Carbs, 29g Protein
The Caesar Salad with Chicken will get you the most protein for 500 calories or less at Panera. This is actually surprising to me, because caesar salad is notoriously high in calories, but it’s one of the lower-calorie choices here at Panera. If calories are a concern, ask for the salad dressing on the side so you can control how much goes onto your salad.
Also, be conscious of the sides. You can choose bread or chips as a side to your salad, but that will obviously come with a fair amount of additional calories. If you want to keep the calories low, you have the option to choose some fresh fruit, yogurt, or an apple.
Highest Protein KFC Menu Item
650 Calories, 35g Fat, 49g Carbs, 34g Protein
Okay, technically this sandwich is the second-highest in protein, and the highest is actually the option listed below. However, I wanted to highlight the chicken sandwich here because it is one of the highest fried chicken sandwiches out there. Check out my full guide comparing all the popular chicken sandwiches to see how this one stacks up.
Highest Protein KFC Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Original Recipe Chicken Breast
390 Calories, 21g Fat, 2g Carbs, 39g Protein
The chicken breast is going to give you the most bang for your buck at KFC, and you have the option to go with a fried or grilled version. The Original Recipe Chicken Breast contains 39g of protein, but 390 calories. If you go with the Grilled Chicken Breast, it will contain only 210 calories and 38g of protein, giving you the most protein for the fewest calories.
Highest Protein Subway Menu Item
The Monster Footlong Pro
1,470 Calories, 80g Fat, 83g Carbs, 114g Protein
Monster appetite? Subway has you covered.
The Monster contains steak, bacon, cheese, pepper, and onion, and if you make it a PRO footlong, you’ll get double the meat! That means you’ll get well over 100g of protein for the entire sandwich. Of course, it’s also incredibly high in calories with almost 1,500 calories total. If you want a lower calorie option, try…
Highest Protein Subway Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Roast Beef on Plain Wrap
500 Calories, 14g Fat, 58g Carbs, 38g Protein
At Subway, you can turn any sandwich into a wrap, which is a great way to maximize the protein with fewer calories.
While there are tons of options that are high in protein, the roast beef wrap will be one of the higher-protein options with 38g of protein.
Subway’s website has a great nutrition breakdown that you can find here.
Highest Protein Starbucks Menu Item
Turkey & Pesto Panini
550 Calories, 21g Fat, 53g Carbs, 34g Protein
The Turkey & Pesto Panini is a great lunch option at Starbucks if you want something high in protein to keep you full through the afternoon. With just over 500 calories, having 34g of protein is a solid option!
Highest Protein Starbucks Menu Item Under 500 Calories
Egg & Cheddar Protein Box
470 Calories, 25g Fat, 40g Carbs, 23g Protein
Starbucks has a wide range of “protein boxes” available, but not all of them are impressive in the protein department. Of all of the boxes, the Egg & Cheddar Protein Box will get you the most protein for the fewest calories.
For reference, the peanut butter and jelly box contains over 500 calories and only 20g of protein.
It’s worth noting that because this protein box contains whole egg and cheese, the fat content is a little bit higher, but it is mostly healthy fat that you do not need to be overly concerned with.
At Panda Express, you pair a main dish with a side option, so the nutrition will vary quite a bit. For this breakdown, I’ll share with you the highest calorie bowl option (entree with one side) as well as the highest protein single item.
Highest Protein Panda Express Bowl
Chow Mein with Teriyaki Chicken Bowl
850 Calories, 43g Fat, 94g Carbs, 54g Protein
As you’ll see below, the chicken teriyaki is the highest protein option at Panda Express on its own. The highest-protein side option is the chow mein (nearly twice as much protein as steamed white rice), so when paired together, this meal will have over 50 grams of protein.
Highest Protein Panda Express Entree
340 Calories, 13g Fat, 14g Carbs, 41g Protein
With 41 grams of protein and just over 300 calories, the chicken at Panda Express is one of the better protein sources out there when it comes to fast food. You’ll almost always pair this option with a side, so the calories can begin to add up depending on which you choose, but this chicken is still a great protein option.
Conclusion: where can you find the highest protein fast food?
As you can see here, there are plenty of high-protein options out there. Eating fast food doesn’t mean you’re going to fall off track with your diet!
While some options are certainly better than others, here are some handy graphics you can save to reference later.
First up, all of the highest-protein menu items regardless of calories. If you’re trying to gain weight, having some higher-calorie options can be very helpful.
And if you’re trying to keep your calories a bit lower, here are the highest-protein menu items under 500 calories.
Note: you can definitely bring the calories down even lower by making some changes, such as leaving the condiments off your sandwich.
If you’d like to see some other fast food restaurants added to this guide, let me know and I’ll do my best to get more added!