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  • Jefferson Adams

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

    Jefferson Adams
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    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


    Image: CC--Mike Mozart
    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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    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.

    I agree about Panera. Some of their shops are very good about gluten but some are not. I find that many of their workers are not informed about gluten and it takes too much time to explain it and I don't feel safe ordering.

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    There are several places to eat that were not mentioned. Bob Evans has wonderful vegetable soup and chili. Outback Steak

    House has a great G.F. menu. BJ'S Brewery has a gluten-free pizza and gluten-free buns available.Uno;s Chicago style has a gluten-free menu also.

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    This month, I've been Gluten-free for one year (blood-test-diagnosed for Celiac Disease; had extreme bowel symptoms, weight loss, etc.

    I went on the Gluten-free diet and the symptoms disappeared within three days. The most noticeable difference seemed to be from cutting-out bread consumption, as that was the first particular food item that I stopped eating (subs, sandwiches and pizza), and there was a significant reduction in symptoms from that alone. 

    Given the above, I've been ordering via delivery "Papas Gino's" Restaurant's "Gluten-free pizza." In about eight months of eating this food-item once a week (typically a standard cheese pizza with green peppers and hamburg) I've had absolutely zero adverse reactions. Not even a little heartburn that I would experience now and then with "regular pizza" in the  "pre-Celiac days".  

    They use "Udi's" bread, which seems to be (as evidenced by how often this brand-name shows-up in discussions) an excellent tip-off for food outlets that are serious about providing Gluten-free items.

    Also, there's a  written description  on-line of the Gluten-free preparation this chain-restaurant (it's probably not viewed as "fast-food" generally, but it does have a  busy: "order-at-the-counter-and-take-out" set-up) follows; which usually indicates that that restaurant "gets"  the technical aspects of what Gluten-free actually means (i.e., cross-contamination precautions, etc).  

    Trade-off, there always seems to be one, but you'll probably have to eat this pizza with a knife and fork, due to the necessary texture that goes-with Gluten-free bread. The gluten-free bread is harder than  their traditional pizza's bread, but it's worth it, imo, as the pizza is pretty good standalone, not just "good -for- a gluten-free pizza."  You might try asking them to add a little more oil to soften it up though.  The "small-size," 8-slice pizzas go-for about $19.50 before a "delivery-tip," but, hey, you're having a pizza.       

     

     

       

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    On 2/11/2019 at 10:41 AM, 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. 

    So I have had issues at chipotle too after they change their gloves. But figured out it was the lettuce! That is the only ingredient they touch with their hands and doesn’t have a scooper. The same person/same gloves that rolls the flour tortillas is touching the lettuce, which obviously every single piece they touch isn’t going into the dish they’re making. If you avoid the lettuce too, your bowl should be safe :) 

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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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