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  • Jefferson Adams

    America's Best Gluten-free Mexican Fast Food Chains

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.   eNewsletter: Get our eNewsletter

    Celiac.com 03/20/2015 - Mexican food and tacos are one of my most consistent gluten-free food options. If I'm on the road, or pressed for time, sometimes fast food chains are the only option.

    Photo: CC--Shane AdamsBut not all Mexican fast food chains are created equal when it comes to gluten-free options. Some do a good job, others do not.



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    So here is a list of Mexican fast food chains that do a good job with gluten-free food options. As always, your individual experience at any of these restaurants may vary, so observe, ask questions about any item you're not sure about, and gauge your comfort level accordingly.

    If you have feedback, or know of any other Mexican fast food chains that offer good gluten-free food options, be sure to tell us in the comments below.

    Best Mexican Fast Food Chains:

    #1: Chipotle
    Chipotle gets high marks for gluten-free options. Pretty much everything that is not served with a flour tortilla is gluten-free.

    So, at Chiptole, that means all soft and hard corn taco shells, all meats, beans, vegetables and sides are gluten-free.

    #2: El Pollo Loco
    El Pollo Loco is another chain where you can get a good, healthy meal without thinking too hard about gluten.

    El Pollo Loco gluten-free menu includes their flame grilled Mexican chicken, corn tortillas, pinto beans, refried beans, avocado salsa, Cotija Cheese, mixed vegetables, and flan.

    Basically, avoid any flour tortillas, and you can easily eat gluten-free at El Pollo Loco.

    #3: Jimboy's Tacos
    Jimboy's has long been a favorite of mine, because they prepare all their food fresh from scratch and offer a pretty robust gluten-free menu that includes Jimboy's original tacos, including bean, ground beef, chicken, steak, and carnitas, Tacoburgers, Taquitos in both ground beef, and chicken, Tostadas, including bean, ground beef, chicken, and steak, Ground Beef Kid's Taco, Ground Beef Pepper Poppers, and Jimboy's Guacamole & Sour Cream.

    #4: Baja Fresh
    Baja Fresh offers a pretty good range of options for gluten-free eaters. Gluten-free options include Baja Tacos made with corn tortillas, any “Bare style” burrito, and any Baja Ensalada with choice of steak, chicken, or grilled shrimp, as well as grilled vegetables, carnitas, rice, and both varieties of beans.

    All Baja Fresh dressings and salsas are gluten-free.

    #5: Qdoba
    Qdoba is another fast Mexican food chain that offers a solid eating experience for gluten-free diners. Qdoba's gluten-free menu options include all Chicken, Chorizo, Flat Iron Steak, Ground Sirloin, Pork, and Seasoned Shredded Beef.

    Also gluten-free are their Soft White Corn Tortilla, Cilantro Lime Rice, Black Beans, Tortilla Soup, all Salsas and Dressings, 3 Cheese Queso and Guacamole.

    #6 Taco Cabana
    I had the good fortune of trying Taco Cabana on a trip to Albuquerque a while back. I was not disappointed.

    Taco Cabana does gluten-free eaters right with a wide variety of gluten-free options, including their Black, Borracho, and Refried beans, their Barbacoa, Chicken Fajita Meat, Rotisserie Chicken, Shredded Chicken Taco Meat in their Crispy Tacos, Chorizo, Chalupas or Nachos Steak Fajita Meat, Ground Beef Taco Meat (Crispy Tacos, Chalupas or Nachos), and Street Tacos in both Chicken & Steak.

    As with most places on this list, diners can substitute corn tortillas for flour tortillas in all tacos, fajitas, & plates.

    Other gluten-free options include Guacamole, Hash Brown Potatoes, Pico de Gallo, Rice, and Salsas – Fuego, Roja, Verde, Ranch, and Sour Cream.

    #7: Mighty Taco
    Mighty Taco makes it easy on gluten-free eaters by offering any taco with a corns shell, and most anything else on their menu except flour tortillas.

    Mighty Taco's gluten-free menu includes: Mighty Taco with Seasoned Ground Beef or Chicken, Mighty Pack with Seasoned Ground Chicken, Refried Bean and Cheese, Meatless Mighty, Veggies and Cheese, Seasoned Ground Chicken, Seasoned Ground Beef, Fajita Chicken, Buffito Chicken, and the Taco Beef Salad, Mighty Chicken Salad, Chicken Fajita Salad, and the Chicken Buffito Salad.

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    Sorry but I disagree. I went to a local Chipotle and within 2 minutes I knew I could not eat there. They were using the same spoon for everything. I when they put the food onto each plate they would touch the Wheat Flour items that were already on the plate. That created a problem with contamination.

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    I love Taco Cabana! Nothing beats a salsa bar. Chipotle is also nice, but a bit pricier.

     

    I hope we get El Pollo Loco in the Dallas area soon. We have similar Mexican chicken places like Pollo Regio.

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    I am very disappointed in this article and I do not think it can be trusted. I say this because I called Chipotle myself and asked if they were serious about the gluten-free items listed on their menu, specifically asking if they could guarantee their gluten-free options were safe for celiacs. They said absolutely NO, their wheat-flour tortillas and gluten-free corn tortillas and all other such foods were all handled by the same people in the kitchen and no one changes their gloves or even wipes up the counters. They said it was more for people with a mild gluten intolerance, whatever that is supposed to mean. They recommended to me that a person with celiac NOT eat at their restaurants and offered an apology for the misleading menus. Did you do any research or just read menus? Restaurants are not to be trusted.

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    Observations of assembling a gluten-free bowel is Chipotle uses the same ingredients that touch flour tortillas and may cross contaminate them. I love their food but it isn't enough for celiacs with high sensitivity to gluten. Sad but true.

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    El Pollo Loco home page states their kitchen area along with prep areas, utensils are not dedicated for gluten free safety therefore cross contamination is highly probable.

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    An interesting list. My personal experiences with Mexican chains or restaurants has been marginal however. The food may be gluten-free but cross contamination has always been a big concern (and a problem in my area). Even when I have been assured of good practices that has not been the case so I just don't take the chance any more.....

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    El Pollo Loco home page states their kitchen area along with prep areas, utensils are not dedicated for gluten free safety therefore cross contamination is highly probable.

    We think the work "possible" rather than "highly probably" is more accurate.

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    I am very disappointed in this article and I do not think it can be trusted. I say this because I called Chipotle myself and asked if they were serious about the gluten-free items listed on their menu, specifically asking if they could guarantee their gluten-free options were safe for celiacs. They said absolutely NO, their wheat-flour tortillas and gluten-free corn tortillas and all other such foods were all handled by the same people in the kitchen and no one changes their gloves or even wipes up the counters. They said it was more for people with a mild gluten intolerance, whatever that is supposed to mean. They recommended to me that a person with celiac NOT eat at their restaurants and offered an apology for the misleading menus. Did you do any research or just read menus? Restaurants are not to be trusted.

    No restaurant that serves regular gluten options, and certainly not a chain restaurant, would ever "guarantee" that their food will always be 100% gluten-free. Many celiacs still eat at them without issues by taking very basic steps and speaking to those preparing the food about their condition. Obviously this article is not for those celiac who never eat out.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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