Things You Should Know About IHOP's Menu

People love IHOP for the pancakes but that's not all. The wildly popular breakfast chain serves all kinds of dishes, from salad to seafood to steaks. Judging by IHOP's 3.56 billion dollars in sales in 2023, customers must be satisfied to keep coming back for more. Yet for all the people who can't get enough of IHOP, there are plenty more who have a laundry list of reasons why they will never eat there. Several items on the menu can be questionable, not just in terms of nutrition but also taste and general health concerns.

IHOP isn't outright lying to customers, at least not since the IHOB stunt where the chain pretended to change its name. Still, some aspects of its menu and recipes are not widely publicized, and once you find out what they are, you'll understand why. For example, when you order eggs, you might expect a world-famous breakfast chain to serve fresh eggs. You might also assume that protein pancakes would be a healthy option. However, there are no guarantees. That's why we did a little digging and discovered quite a few things about IHOP's menu that you should know before you dine under that notorious blue roof again.

IHOP's scrambled eggs and omelets don't use fresh eggs

There are a lot of claims out there that IHOP doesn't use real eggs in some of the egg dishes on the menu. This is actually a half-truth. The real story is that there are no fresh eggs in the omelet or scrambled egg dishes. Instead, the company uses a bagged liquid egg substitute when making these items. But this isn't the same as fake eggs per se, as IHOP's mixture contains bonafide egg whites. So, they are still real eggs, just not fresh ones.

As a customer, this information can come in handy when ordering, because there's a catch. If you want fresh eggs at IHOP, you can get fresh eggs. All you have to do is specifically say that you want freshly cracked eggs when you order — and pay for the upcharge. An egg substitute isn't the go-to in all IHOP egg dishes, either. You'll automatically get fresh eggs on any order you ask for poached. All in all, it's still a bummer that one of the most famous breakfast restaurants in the world uses bagged egg substitute in any dish, but at least there's a workaround to keep it fresh.

Watch out for the secret ingredient in IHOP's omelets

Aside from the fact that IHOP's omelets aren't made with fresh eggs, there's yet another sneaky aspect and it's what makes them extra fluffy and delicious. The recipe includes buttermilk pancake batter, which explains why many of the omelet dishes are so high in calories and fat. All you have to do is peek at the nutrition label on any of IHOP's standard omelets to confirm. Even for a plain omelet, you'll find a long list of ingredients, which conspicuously includes flour and sugar, the main ingredients in pancake batter.

A simple omelet with no toppings has 400 calories and 28 grams of fat, 8 of which are saturated. For anyone who follows the FDA's daily recommendations for nutrition, that's 20% of the recommended calories and 40% of saturated fat in a single, plain egg omelet. To be clear, that's over double the amount of calories and fat in a normal two-egg plain omelet, according to the USDA.

Most items on IHOP's menu include more than a few additives

No one thinks the food IHOP serves is the pinnacle of nutrition, but they may also not realize just how heavily processed many menu items are. This lack of customer knowledge isn't IHOP's fault, though. The nutrition information of every item on the menu is listed right on the website, so it's up to customers to check it out. Secret or not, the truth is that nearly every dish IHOP sells has a long list of ingredients attached to it and many are chemicals and additives.

Let's look at the signature Buttermilk Pancakes, for example. The ingredients list contains dicalcium phosphate, cellulose gum, sodium phosphate, nisin preparation, liquid and hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial flavor, soy lecithin, and dimethylpolysiloxane. Take another basic dish, a Belgian Waffle, which has sodium aluminum phosphate, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium phosphate, citric acid, and nisin preparation. If these simple menu items include such a long list of additives, imagine what's in the more complex dishes. Needless to say, clean eating is not something you can associate with the IHOP menu.

The Strawberry Banana Protein Pancakes pack in a lot more than just protein

Despite not being known for its nutritious food, some items on IHOP's menu might trick you into thinking they're healthier than they really are. For example, from the sound of it, IHOP's Strawberry Banana Protein Pancakes could be fairly healthy, right? And they indeed include a whopping 38 grams of protein (the FDA's daily recommendation for protein is 50 grams). However, they also contain 740 calories and 18 grams of fat before adding butter, syrup, or sides. The other protein pancakes on the menu aren't much better, either. Don't let the Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Protein Pancakes deceive you with a healthy-sounding label. On top of 37 grams of protein, they also have 730 calories and 23 grams of fat. 

Does the massive amount of protein make up for these pancakes being so unhealthy in other ways? That's up for each customer to decide, but we thought we'd warn you. This goes to show that you can't let health buzzwords like "protein pancakes" fool you, especially not at IHOP. It's not a health-conscious restaurant, after all. It's where people go when they're craving dishes packed with flavor, without regard for nutrition facts.

The Nashville Hot Chicken Melt is a whole day's worth of calories in one meal

Some of IHOP's dishes are high in calories in a normal way, and other dishes take it to an excessive level. The latter is the case with IHOP's Nashville Chicken Melt, which has an astounding 2,100 calories, the highest caloric value on the whole menu. Now compare that to the FDA recommendation of 2,000 calories per day. It doesn't take a math wiz to realize that eating a Nashville Chicken Melt means consuming more than a whole day's worth of recommended calories in a single meal. And that's before you add any sides or a drink. Sheesh.

The only IHOP menu items that come close are the Nashville Hot Chicken & Waffles with 1,740 calories and the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Strips & Fries with Nashville Hot Sauce with 1,890 calories. Is it the fried chicken or the Nashville hot sauce that's causing the calories in these dishes to skyrocket? Whatever it is, it's better to be aware that you're choosing to eat that many calories in one meal before it's already done.

All that and a bag of salt

The FDA recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Anyone following those guidelines might want to think twice about dining at IHOP. The nutrition facts throughout the menu tell a grim story about how much salt you're consuming no matter what you choose to eat. For example, the menu item with the highest sodium content is the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Strips & Fries with BBQ Sauce. It has an astronomical 4,540 milligrams of sodium, nearly double what the FDA recommends, and many other IHOP items aren't too far off.

For example, even the more standard menu items, like the Original Buttermilk Pancakes or the Big Steak Omelet, have shocking sodium levels, at 1,560 and 1,750 milligrams respectively. The gluten-friendly pancakes have the lowest sodium content, yet they still have more than half the recommended daily sodium intake, with 1,250 milligrams. Regularly consuming a lot of salt is not ideal in terms of health, as it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney problems, stroke, and so much more. For this reason, it's probably better to make your trips to IHOP a treat rather than a regular outing. 

Just because it's a salad doesn't mean it's healthy

If you're ever at IHOP and trying to order something healthier, it makes sense that you would go to the salad section of the menu. However, at IHOP, ordering a salad is no guarantee that your dish will be healthy. Let's look at IHOP's Chopped Chicken Salad, which comes with a choice of crispy or grilled chicken. Both are way less healthy than you probably think, before you even add any dressing to the mix.

As a shocker to no one, the grilled chicken version of the salad is slightly healthier overall, but that's not saying much. It has 700 calories, 50 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, and 1,920 milligrams of sodium. To put those numbers in perspective, the FDA counts that as 64% of the total fat you should eat in a day, 95% of the saturated fat, and 83% of the salt, all in one deceptive salad. The version with the crispy chicken is worse, but not by much. It has 840 calories, 57 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, and 1,690 grams of sodium. Either way, it's likely a lot more than you bargain for when you order a salad thinking you're making a healthy choice.

The only maple syrup on the menu is in the Pepsi

You'd think that a restaurant renowned for its pancakes would give customers the full-service flavor experience with real maple syrup, but that's not the case at IHOP. Strangely though, IHOP offers maple syrup in another menu item nationwide: Pepsi. Now you may be thinking, why not just let customers have it on their pancakes, too? As it turns out, there's a good reason why IHOP can't do that. 

Pepsi Maple Syrup soda isn't made by drizzling maple syrup into the Pepsi right before it's served. It's a premade product and a special collaboration between IHOP and Pepsi sold exclusively at IHOP. This means IHOP continues to carry only the standard strawberry, butter pecan, or blueberry syrup flavors, all made using corn syrup. But if you order a Pepsi Maple Syrup soda alongside your pancakes, that perfect breakfast flavor combo of pancakes and maple might still hit you.

IHOP serves processed hashbrowns

An IHOP cook hopped on Reddit and told the public that the restaurant does not make hashbrowns from scratch. This might be hard to believe considering that hashbrowns are so easy to make. They're essentially just chopped or shredded potatoes with a little seasoning. Why buy a processed version when the original is so simple to make, especially when potatoes are such a beloved breakfast side? Nonetheless, the cook said IHOP's hashbrowns arrive "dehydrated and in a big cardboard carton." To make them, the cooks just have to add hot water to rehydrate them before grilling.

If you take a look at the long list of ingredients for IHOP's hashbrowns, the cook's claim seems legit. It includes things like disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfite, and dimethylpolysiloxane, ingredients that wouldn't be present if they were made in-house. While this isn't the worst news possible for IHOP's hashbrowns, learning that yet another menu item is processed is not ideal.

IHOP uses frozen steaks

IHOP isn't known for its steaks. There's a good reason for that, and it's unrelated to the fact that IHOP is most famous for its breakfast food. The consensus among online reviewers is that IHOP's steaks are not that good. One former IHOP manager reported on Quora that more people complained about the T-bone than any other item. She also mentioned that all the meat is frozen, which helps make sense of the complaints. The fact is, a frozen steak is rarely going to be as good as a fresh one.

If you look at the ingredient list for any steak on IHOP's menu, you'll notice a lot of preservatives, like TBHQ, citric acid, sodium phosphates, and dimethylpolysiloxane. These are commonly found in commercially frozen food products, so the ex-manager's statement checks out. This all boils down to one thing: If you plan to order a steak from IHOP, understand that it's previously been frozen so you don't end up hugely disappointed.

IHOP lets adults order from the kid's menu

The kid's menu at IHOP specifically says it's for ages 12 and under. Many restaurants are firm about this age limit, preventing adults from ordering these less expensive items. But sometimes, adults crave chicken strips too or they simply don't have the appetite or budget for the larger portions on the adult menu. IHOP gets this, which is why adult customers are usually able to order off the kid's menu.

IHOP is a franchise, so technically every restaurant can determine its own policy about how to deal with adults who order off the kids menu. This being said, different IHOP patrons on Reddit have confirmed that at their locations, IHOP servers had no problem with them ordering off the kid's or 55+ menu. Either way, if you're an adult at IHOP looking to order off the kid's menu, it's probably best to just ask your server first. A friendly smile can go a long way.