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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    America's Best Gluten-free Mexican Fast Food Chains

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    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.

    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.

    User Feedback

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    As has been reiterated in sever responses, cross contamination is the real issue at any establishment that offers gluten-free options. for those of us with serious celiac sensitivities it is always important to know what cross contamination are "highly probable", "slightly probably" or "possible"!

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    This cavalier attitude about recommending restaurants that have "gluten free" options is disappointing. I went in to Chipotle when it opened in my town after hearing they had a gluten free menu and took one look and turned straight back out. People with celiac disease are truly broken hearted by articles that get their hopes up only to smash them once again. Thankfully there are a few restaurants in my area that do understand. Shame on you Mr. Adams for not getting it right!

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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.

    This was my experience as well. The person serving me changed his gloves and was going to follow my order all the way through while the person next to him was putting a spoon in containers of food that had touched a flour tortilla.

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    Everyone with celiac is responsible for learning for themselves what works.  The Chipotle in our area, thankfully, has been a safe option for my daughter.  That doesn't mean another Chipotle for another person will always be risk free.  Speak up at restaurants in a friendly way and teach the staff what works (if they don't already know).  I am very happy to know which restaurants have gluten free food.  I know the author cannot guarantee no gluten, but its good to know what options to explore.  Thank you for the article.

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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 2,000 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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