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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.


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    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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    I was just going to say that!  I am on my way to Culvers now!

    They are always cool when I tell them I need gluten free.  And the burgers are to die for.

     

     

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    2 hours ago, Guest Chipotle Issues said:

    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. 

    Recently, both my daughter and I have had reactions from Chipotle.  Not sure if they have changed the seasoning in the chicken but we both have felt sick after eating there. 

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    Reading everyone’s comments is interesting as there’s many I wouldn't have known. I’ve not had issues at Chipotle. They have gone to great length to use utensils they keep set aside for gluten-free customers so there’s no cross contaminating. One I haven't seen mentioned is JimmyJohn’s! They will make any of their subs as an ”Unwich” lettuce wrap. And they have very specific procedures they do differently to to assure no cross contaminating. 

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    How can you leave Chick-fil-A off the list?! They have gluten-free fries (company policy is to fry the fries separately but you should always check with the manager.) Their grilled nuggets and grilled patty are gluten-free and (at least in Austin) they offer a gluten-free bun.

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    6 hours ago, Guest Guest MK said:

    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.  

    I couldn't agree with you more!

    I've stopped eating out due to always having symptoms and getting sick!  Since doing so, my health has improved greatly.

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    5 hours ago, Guest Chipotle Issues said:

    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. 

    Are they providing you with fresh, never touched lettuce and cheese?  Their practice, at least three years ago, was to roll the burritos with their gloved hands.  Those same hands then go down the line again and those same gloved hands are put into the lettuce and cheese, over and over again.

    I loved Chipotle, but they have gotten me sick more times than I'd like to remember.  I have stopped eating there, and in fact, I have stopped eating out.  And since doing so, my health has improved greatly.

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    I really wish I could say this article is providing some good information, but unfortunately cross contamination is just too high of a risk at ALL the establishments listed for those of us with Celiac Disease.

    It has been mentioned time and time again, that no amount of gluten is safe for those with Celiac Disease, and just because someone isn't directly showing signs of gluten ingestion, doesn't mean they are not ingesting some, causing damage.  Unless they are running blood panels, and testing every ounce of food they will sometimes never know.

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    I got sick after eating at a Subway restaurant.    I think that crumbs get into the food bins.  I got sick after I ate a salad there.  So I stopped by again and watched them make a sandwich. Well they put items from bins on the bread and if they put too much on the bread they put the items back into the bins.  Well by then it has been on bread so it goes back into the bin with bread crumbs on it.   Plus they carry bread near the bins so I think crumbs get into the food.  

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    After reading this article and everyone’s comments I truly believe there is no safe place to eat out.  The problem being Cross Contamination in most places.  I’ve eaten from Jersey Mike’s and did not feel good after.  I’m sorry I will just stick at home as I have been for the last 10 years.  It’s just not worth it.  

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    Guest Gluten Free Mom

    Posted

    Chick-Fillet (? spelling) offers a WONDERFUL gluten free bun for their chicken fillet sandwich!  The taste is almost like a regular bun, and with mayo, tomato & lettuce, and chips, I can't tell the difference!

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    My daughter 11 year old daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease 3 years ago and in my experience, i would not!! risk the chance of the extreme carelessness that occurs with cross contamination of the food chains claiming to be gluten-free. Why? Because 9×/10× the staff, even head chefs, cannot answer a simple question: "What measures do you take to ensure there is no cross contamination happening while perparing and serving your gluten-free food?" Ive asked this numerous times and usually get a blank stare or "im not sure." Unacceptable! There has only been 1 instance where i was satisfied with the response and where my daughter has never had an issue: Carrabas Italian Grill ( Brandon, FL). The server reported he had celiac disease himself, that the gluten-free spagetti with pomodora sauce (ask for NO Meatballs) is made in seperate pot of water and prepared away from gluten containing foods, seperate gloves are used and utensils are not shared". Thats the type of response you want if you are going to risk it.

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    Guest the unknown guy

    Posted

    I read that El Pollo Loco chicken and most of their sides are gluten-free for the most part although their might be some cross contamination.  But I wouldn't trust the corn tortillas they probably have wheat in them.

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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 biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. 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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