Are Chicharrones Healthy? This Dietitian Says It’s Complicated

If you’re like me, you may love a bag of chicharrones with lime and hot sauce. But you may have thought there’s no way chicharrones are actually healthy, is there?

Well, as a Latina dietitian, the best answer I can give you is that it’s complicated!

Chicharrones have some nutrients we may not get enough of in the rest of our diets, and they’re a low-carb snack option. But they are also a fried food that provides significant cholesterol and saturated fat. 

I’m a firm believer that all food has value, and that there’s a time and a place for every food. 

So if you’re curious about the nutrition pros and cons of chicharrones, keep reading! We’ll cover the nutritional value of chicharrones (both pork rinds and chicharrones de harina), and I’ll share some tips for incorporating them into an overall balanced diet. 

So let’s dive in!

bowl of chicharrones. text reads "are chicharrones healthy?"

What are chicharrones?

Chicharrones are fried pork skins, just like pork rinds. They are crispy, and have a light, almost airy texture. 

In Mexican food culture, you’ll find crunchy chicharrones served as a snack with limón and hot sauce, or cooked in a green salsa for breakfast. 

Note that in El Salvador the word “chicharrón” may refer to a type of shredded pork. 

Chicharrones de harina

While this article is mainly focused on pork rinds, there is another type of chicharron in Mexican food called chicharrones de harina (flour chicharrones). These are puffy fried wheat chips. You may also see them called “duros”. 

Chicharrones de harina most famously come in a pinwheel shape, but you may see other shapes, as well. 

Like pork rinds, chicharrones de harina are a fried food and frequently eaten with lime juice and hot sauce as a snack. 

Nutrition Facts

1 cup of chicharrones (pork rinds) provides the following nutrients (1):

Calories163 kcal
Protein18.4 g
Fat9.39 g
  Saturated Fats3.42 g
  Monunsaturated Fats4.44 g
Carbohydrates0 g
Cholesterol28.5 g (14% of recommended upper limit)
Sodium546 mg (23% daily value)
Choline49 mg (12% daily value)
Vitamin B120.19 mcg (8% daily value)

Chicharrones de harina

Since they are made from wheat instead of pork skin, chicharrones de harina are higher in carbs and lower in protein than pork rinds. 

However, one potential advantage of the chicharrones de harina is they are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. 

Health Benefits

It’s easy to want to categorize chicharrones as “junk food,” but the truth is a little more complicated than that. 

There are some potential nutritional benefits to chicharrones, including:

  • Source of collagen: collagen is a connective tissue found in skin and bones. Consuming collagen may help support joint health and skin hydration (2, 3) . Pork rinds are a good source of collagen thanks to the skin (4). 
  • High in protein: Pork rinds may seem like a chip, but they’re actually much higher in protein than your average chip. Having protein in a snack can help you stay full and regulate your appetite (5).
  • Low in carbohydrates: While carbs have a place in a healthy diet, some people have medical reasons to watch their carb intake. Chicharrones can provide the satisfaction of a crunchy snack without as many carbs as typical snack foods. 
  • Provides some healthy fats: It’s easy to want to categorize all fats as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” The truth is most fat sources provide a mix of both saturated and unsaturated fats. Pork rinds actually provide more unsaturated fats than saturated fats. 
  • Good source of choline: Choline is a nutrient important for brain development (6), but 90% of the population doesn’t consume enough choline (7). 1 cup of pork rinds can help boost your choline intake by providing 12% of the daily recommended value. 
  • Good source of B-12: Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products. Insufficient vitamin B12 can be associated with neurological symptoms (8). 

Nutrition Drawbacks

Because they are a low carbohydrate, high protein snack, pork rinds have had a bit of a resurgence in popularity. This is partially because of the popularity of low-carb diets. 

But while they fit the criteria for a low-carb diet, chicharrones do have some nutrition drawbacks to be aware of. Things to watch out for include: 

  • Cholesterol content: While eating cholesterol isn’t necessarily what causes you to have high cholesterol levels, some people are especially responsive to cholesterol (9). In these cases, you may want to avoid high cholesterol foods like chicharrones. 
  • Saturated fat content: While chicharrones contain more unsaturated fats than saturated fats, they’re still relatively high in saturated fats. You may want to watch out for this if you have high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease. 
  • Fried foods: In addition to the type of fat, there’s the fact that chicharrones are fried. High intake of fried foods is associated with a higher risk of heart disease (10). 
  • Sodium content: Just one cup of chicharrones contains 23% of the daily recommended sodium (salt) amount. While some sodium is necessary, excessive sodium intake can be associated with high blood pressure (11). 

Making a balanced meal with chicharrones

As we can see from the health benefits and drawbacks of chicharrones, they’re neither perfectly healthy nor completely unhealthy.

This means with chicharrones, the rest of your plate is especially important in building a balanced meal. As always, remember to build a balanced plate by combining protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber and vegetables. 

Since chicharrones provide fat and protein, you’ll want to look for carbohydrates, fiber, and vegetables to serve alongside them. 

Let’s look at some of the most popular ways to serve chicharrones to see how they stack up:

  • Served alone with hot sauce and lime juice. You get a little extra vitamin C when you serve chicharrones this way, but not much else. This is a good option for a snack but isn’t enough for a meal.
  • Chicharrón en salsa verde: chicharrones stewed in a green salsa is a common breakfast dish and taco filling. This is a very balanced way to serve chicharrones, since the salsa adds extra vegetables to your meal, and corn tortillas can provide fiber. 
  • Chicharrones preparados: To make this dish, take a long rectangular chicharrón de harina and top it with crema, avocado, cabbage, tomato, and cheese. This pairs lots of veggies and a small amount of protein with the carbs from the wheat. This is a fairly balanced snack, but not enough for a meal.

Other ideas: 

Dip chicharrones in salsa, or serve with cacahuates locos for a nutritionally balanced snack. 

I like to top chicharrones de harina with chopped cucumber and jicama for a crunchy, refreshing snack.

chicharrones de harina topped with hot sauce, lime juice, cucumber and jicama.

The Big Picture

Chicharrones are neither healthy or unhealthy. They have some health benefits, but also some nutrition concerns you should be aware of (especially if you’re at risk for heart disease). 

While chicharrones may be a good snack option for people looking for a low-carb, crunchy snack, the saturated fat and cholesterol may not be the best idea for others. 

You can get the most health benefits out of chicharrones if you serve them as part of a balanced meal with vegetables and fiber, like chicharrones en salsa verde.

Looking for more nutrition advice about your favorite Latino foods? Start with my 1-week Mexican meal plan! You’ll get an idea of what a week of healthy Mexican meals looks like, and plenty of healthy recipes to get you started! Sign up below. 


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