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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Which Fast Food Outlets Offer the Best Gluten-Free Options?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      You’ll likely want to get beyond McDonald’s and Burger King to find the best reliable gluten-free fast food options. These are the most reliable gluten-free and gluten safe fast-food options we kn


    Caption: Image: CC--Mike Mozart

    Celiac.com 02/04/2019 - With the rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet, and with more people being diagnosed with Celiac disease, more restaurants are offering gluten-free alternatives. While this is a great advancement, it’s important to note that not all gluten-free restaurant choices are created equal. Even if food is labelled “gluten-free,” the risk of cross-contamination could still be high, especially given the speed with which food is prepared.

    We see a lot of questions about gluten-free and gluten-safe fast food. One especially prominent question was “Is Burger King gluten-free?” The answer to that is that there is almost nothing gluten-free or gluten-safe at Burger King.

    There are far better options than Burger King in the otherwise bleak gluten-free landscape of American fast food. In fact, if you want reliable gluten-free and gluten-safe options, you’ll probably want to get beyond Burger King and McDonald’s.

    After a bit of research, these are the best, most reliable fast-food chains with gluten-free options we know about:

    Chipotle

    As long as you skip the four tortillas, Chipotle is a solid gluten-free choice. Chipotle’s burrito bowl allows you to choose from rice, meat, beans, and numerous gluten-free fixings. The tortilla chips salsa and guacamole are gluten-free. With numerous locations nationwide, Chipotle is a solid option for gluten-free diners looking for safe, reliable gluten-free fast food.

    Panera Bread

    You might not think it to look at the name, but Panera Bread offers a number of “gluten-friendly” options, mainly soups and salads, as long as you skip the croutons and the bread. Note that they changed their offerings from “gluten-free” to “gluten-friendly” due to the risk of cross-contamination, and their Web site indicates that their offering are not safe for celiacs. 

    Panera’s gluten-friendly options include delicious options like the Greek Salad, Fuji Apple Salad, Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa, Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken, Baked Potato Soup, Black Bean Soup, Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries, and many of their steel cut oatmeal dishes.

    For desert, Panera offers gluten-friendly triple chocolate cookie with walnuts and a coconut macaroon. If you decide to eat there make sure you’re very clear while placing your order that you need your meal to be gluten-free.

    Wendy’s

    Wendy’s burgers are gluten-free when made without the bun, and you can also get several of their salads without the chicken or the croutons. Wendy’s famous chili and their baked potatoes and toppings are also a safe bet. The Frosty is gluten-free, too. 

    Wendy’s has more and better gluten-free options than most major burger chains, and information about cross-contamination on their website shows that they understand gluten-free cooking.

    In’N’Out Burger

    In’N’Out is a family run California burger chain with a die-hard fan base. In’N’Out offers burgers, fries, shakes and drinks. That’s it. They make their fries fresh from scratch and will make any burger “Protein-style,” that’s lettuce-wrapped without a bun. As burger chains go, In’N’Out is a reliable stop for many gluten-free Californians. Basically, their buns are the only gluten in the joint. Their open kitchen allows you to watch as they prepare your order.

    Five Guys

    Like In’N’Out, Five Guys is likely a bit safer than other burger chains, simply because it uses very few products that contain gluten. There are no breaded items it Five Guys, and Five Guys’ burgers, fries, and hot dogs, and nearly all toppings, are gluten-free, just make sure you skip the bun, the malt vinegar, and the fry sauce. Five Guys milkshakes are gluten-free, too, just watch out for the Oreo cookie pieces, the malted milk, and cherry milkshake mix-ins.

    Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

    The only gluten-free options at Popeyes are side dishes. But, their gluten-free side options are not bad, and include their Cajun rice, red beans and rice, coleslaw, and corn on the cob.

    Subway

    Subway tested gluten-free buns and toyed with rolling out guaranteed gluten-free offerings, but then pulled back. Subway still offers gluten-free rolls at branches in Oregon and Washington state. Subway does offer salad version of many of their classic subs, like the spicy Italian Salad.

    Chili's

    Chili's isn’t a fast food chain, but a casual dining restaurant with popular take-out options. Chili’s does offer gluten-free patrons an allergen/vegetarian fact sheet and separate gluten-free menu. Chili's bone-in buffalo wings, bottomless tostada chips, and fresh guacamole are all gluten-free. Chili’s does warn diners that cross-contamination is possible, and advises that they consult a manager before ordering.

    Do you have a favorite gluten-free or gluten-safe fast food restaurant that we’ve missed? Share your thoughts below.

    Read more at Thrillist.com, and Thedailynutrition.com


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    Guest Other options

    Posted

    Having been gluten-free for about 3 years due to celiac, I have had to find some alternatives for the nights when I just don't want to cook. Hardee's/ Carl's Jr. Is my go to for a quick burger, ask for low carb and they lettuce wrap it. The breakfast bowl is gluten-free and is pretty good. Papa Murphys is the best tasting gluten-free pizza and my local shop has a separate prep area to reduce cross contamination.  For sit down, Red Robin has been the safest other than local mom/pop places that have experience with celiac. At all of these places I let them know every time that I am requesting gluten-free because I am highly allergic to the gluten. I haven't had many issues yet and I am highly sensitive. 

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    I would NOT recommend Panera.  My reasoning has more to do with staff than the food.  We experienced EXTREMELY rude staff when inquiring about gluten free options.  Basically they laughed hysterically and informed us "this is a bread place".  Sorry to say that one experience turned us off to Panera and we will not even try it again.

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    Jersy Mikes offers gluten free hoagies/subs and are very sensitive to cross contamination.  The roll they use is Udi's.  It still doesn't perform like a good hoagie roll (Amoroso is the best but not gluten free), but at least it's a reasonable alternative until something better comes along. We grew up on Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies in NE philly and really miss them and pizzas.

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    While its good to share information that can help people who need to eat gluten-free conveniently get choices that are commonly available, I don't know that this informational is really quite up to step with modern times. There are so many GREAT fast food genuine gluten-free offerings now that we really shouldn't be rewarding companies that have made a poor effort to serve gluten-free needs with free advertising. Sadly the gluten-free community have pretty much all had appalling experiences at almost all of the stores mentioned here. If you ever find yourself asking for a "Protein Style" burger then you are doing yourself a disservice - they can do much better (and should), and you can also go somewhere else and get a burger that doesn't run up your sleeve and take 15mins to order correctly.

    Better try Smash Burger - this is the undisputed champion of the irresistible gluten-free burger, coming in a variety of styles served by knowledgeable staff who care about gluten-free. If you can't find a Smash Burger, then both Chick Fil a and Shake Shack provide good options.

    Please remember that your gluten-free dollar is very valuable these days. There is no need to accommodate under performing menus and accept a poor quality burger without a bun anymore. 

     

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    This is not safe information! Many people trusted this website for factual info. What you’ve published is NOT. Example - Panera specifically says they’re NOT for Celiac’s and they’ve even changed their marketing of their Gluten products to say “Gluten Friendly” not Gluten Free in order to keep Celiac’s safe and fully aware of the risks. This article should be revised or removed. It makes me wonder how many other articles I’ve read are not factual.  

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    On 2/4/2019 at 2:40 PM, Guest jlm said:

    I would NOT recommend Panera.  My reasoning has more to do with staff than the food.  We experienced EXTREMELY rude staff when inquiring about gluten free options.  Basically they laughed hysterically and informed us "this is a bread place".  Sorry to say that one experience turned us off to Panera and we will not even try it again.

    Panera has changed their entire marketing from Gluten Free to Gluten Friendly and it isn’t just due to staff. They make homemade breads. It’s too much of a risk and they know it and took it upon themselves to properly inform customers. Shame on whoever said this article was ok to publish! Check out Panera’s own website it states clearly not for Celiacs. 

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    I want to add Shake Shack. They offer a gluten-free bun from a company in Brooklyn NY. It is very good. You have to tell them it is a gluten-free allergy and they will all change their gloves. I'm super sensitive to any cross contamination and they are safe and accurate. They are a great choice at an airport.  Avoid their shakes as they can't clean the mixer. They mix gluten with it.  You can ONLY have the burger there. No fires or shakes. 

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    Jersey Mike's takes great care to provide gluten-free subs on an Udi's roll or in a box on lettuce if you are also watching carbs. Chick Fila does a good job, too. Our closest "go-to" for fast gluten-free food is Culver's. They have the Udi's gluten-free bun and an allergen listing. You can have a burger or chicken sandwich or a great salad. Their custard is gluten-free unless you are looking for add-in's that aren't fruit based.

     

     

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    Guest Chipotle Issues

    Posted

    I know Chipotle says they are gluten-free.  I have issues if I eat there, and I have those issues at several east cost Chipotle's in NJ, NY and CT. Even though I have them change their gloves and have the same person walk the line with me, I will be ill for 5 days after. Their Corporate people can't explain what it can be. But I get ill every visit. I'd love to know the problem item. Being 5 days it might not be gluten, but nothing I eat has ever caused GI symptoms for 5 days. I avoid them. 

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    1 hour ago, Guest Guest MK said:

    Panera has changed their entire marketing from Gluten Free to Gluten Friendly and it isn’t just due to staff. They make homemade breads. It’s too much of a risk and they know it and took it upon themselves to properly inform customers. Shame on whoever said this article was ok to publish! Check out Panera’s own website it states clearly not for Celiacs. 

    Thanks for the info, we updated the article to reflect this.

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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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