Gluten Free Fast Food

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Eating out with a gluten sensitivity can be hard — really hard. While fast food restaurants are convenient for most, for people with celiac disease, it means a whole lot of reading ingredient lists, asking employees all kinds of questions, and maybe even disclosing health issues. That makes hitting the drive-thru far from fast or convenient.

There are six "obvious ingredients" that contain gluten to watch out for, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. They include wheat, barley, rye, malt, brewer's yeast, and oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free). Those are easy to spot, once you have the fast-food ingredient lists. But there are also lots of menu items that contain sneaky gluten, like apple slices or french fries, that you have to watch out for.

Depending on your gluten sensitivity, it may not be enough to simply avoid fast food items that contain gluten. Cross-contamination can occur when employees use unwashed equipment like knives on gluten-free food, don't change gloves before handling gluten-free food, or cook non-gluten-free foods in the same fryers as gluten-free.

There are some good gluten-free fast food options, though. Just make sure to use your best judgment and follow your doctor's advice for dining out.

Best Gluten-Free Fast-Food Restaurants

  • Chipotle: The majority of menu items are gluten-free. According to Chipotle's allergen tracker, only the flour tortillas contain gluten. 
  • Shake Shack: Offers gluten-free hamburger buns.
  • Chick-fil-A: One of the few fast-food chains with gluten-free fries. Plus, they offer gluten-free buns in individual packaging, and the grilled chicken items are gluten-free.
  • In-N-Out Burger: Offers lettuce wraps instead of buns, plus gluten-free fries and shakes. 
  • Wendy's: Lots of substantial gluten-free menu items, including dessert.
  • Five Guys: Only a few menu items include gluten, and the freshly cut fries are not one of them.

1. Burrito Bowl at Chipotle

You can order confidently at Chipotle since only the tortillas contain gluten. Choose any meats, rice, beans, veggies, and salsas you like to fill up your burrito bowl. We're partial to the chicken and barbacoa — plus guacamole, of course — but you do you.

Also order: Chips and queso, salad, crunchy tacos

What to avoid: Quesadillas, soft tacos

2. ShackBurger on a Gluten-free Bun at Shake Shack

You can grab your Shake Shack burger on a gluten-free bun for an extra charge, or you can order it in a lettuce wrap. Bacon, avocado, and cherry peppers are all GF, but Shack Sauce is processed in a facility where cross-contamination could occur, so you may want to order your burger without it. The frozen custard, too, carries the cross contamination warning, so shakes are out.

Also order: Bacon Avocado Burger on gluten-free bun, SmokeShack on gluten-free bun

What to avoid: fries, Chicken Shack, 'Shroom Burger

3. Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich on a Gluten-free Bun at Chick-fil-A

All of the grilled chicken is gluten-free at Chick-fil-A, and you can get it on a gluten-free bun. Pair it with a side of the famous waffle fries, because they usually have a dedicated fryer (but you should always double-check at your restaurant). 

Also order: Grilled chicken nuggets, spicy Southwest salad, Greek yogurt parfait, strawberry shake

What to avoid: Sweet and Spicy Sriracha sauce, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Cobb Salad

4. Double Double Protein Style at In-N-Out Burger

Protein Style at In-N-Out is code for wrapping your burger in lettuce instead of a bun. The fries are gluten-free as well, and don't be afraid to order them well done or Animal Style.

Also order: shakes, 3x3 or 4x4 if you're extra hungry

What to avoid: grilled cheese, anything on a bun

5. Chili and Cheese Baked Potato at Wendy's

Sure, you can get your burgers wrapped in lettuce at Wendy's, but there's more interesting gluten-free menu items to be had. All the chain's baked potatoes are GF, as is chili. The most exciting thing? Frostys are GF as well.

Also order: Bacon cheese baked potato, taco salad, lettuce-wrapped cheeseburger

What to avoid: fries (ask if your location uses a separate fryer), breakfast sandwiches, chicken nuggets

@noglutengabby No GF buns :( BUT for a quick burger, this is the best place for people with a severe allergy! Separate fryers and all :) #celiac #glutenfree ♬ Freefall (feat. Oliver Tree) - Whethan

6. Cheeseburger Bowl at Five Guys

There are two ways to order burgers gluten-free at Five Guys. The first is as a bowl, where the meat and toppings come in a bowl-like container, while the other is a lettuce wrap for a handheld meal. Since fries are the only thing going in the fryers, they're gluten-free.

Also order: Any burger toppings you want, chocolate shake

What to avoid: Shakes with Oreos or peanut butter cups, malt vinegar on your fries

7. Classic Beef 'N Cheddar, No Bun at Arby's

Arby's doesn't have a gluten-free bun option, but it does have a very comprehensive list of gluten-free ingredients, including corned beef, roast beef, and roast turkey. Curly fries are out of the question, but it's worth asking if the crinkle fries are fried separately, because they're otherwise gluten-free.

Also order: Jamocha Shake, Bronco Berry sauce, Corned Beef Reuben, no bread

What to avoid: Greek Gyro, curly fries, chicken tenders

8. Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken at Panera Bread

As you might expect, Panera doesn't offer a ton of gluten-free menu items, plus the risk of cross contamination is high. But both the Mediterranean and Baja Bowls are gluten-free, as is the turkey chili, Greek salad, and green goddess cobb salad.

Also order: Coffee drinks, chicken tikka masala soup, Greek yogurt with mixed berries parfait

What to avoid: Flatbreads, broccoli cheddar soup, Asian sesame salad

9. Power Menu Bowl at Taco Bell

Everything that goes into Taco Bell's Power Menu Bowl is gluten-free, including the chicken or steak. You'll want to avoid anything with a flour tortilla, of course, but the crunchy corn shells are GF.

Also order: Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco, hash brown, crunch taco supreme, 

What to avoid: Crunchwraps, Gorditas, burritos

10. Burrito Bowl at Qdoba

Like Chipotle, Qdoba is a great place for people with celiac disease to eat. Most of the main ingredients besides flour tortillas are gluten-free, including the cilantro lime rice, beans, fajita veggies, and salsas.

Also order: Tortilla soup, salad, queso

What to avoid: Burritos, tacos, tortillas chips because of cross-contamination

Frequently Asked Questions

Can celiacs eat any fast food?

Yes, people with celiac disease can eat some fast food. No large fast food chains guarantee that the food is gluten-free, though, so it takes some research, question-asking, and a certain level of personal comfort for someone with a gluten intolerance to eat fast food. Cross-contamination is always a risk, so it's best to check with your doctor if you're not sure.

Are french fries gluten-free?

Most french fries at fast food restaurants don't contain gluten. However, they're usually cooked in the same oil as things like breaded chicken or onion rings that do contain gluten. Therefore, many fast-food chains do not have gluten-free french fries.

What is gluten-free at Taco Bell?

Power Menu Bowls, crunchy tacos, Doritos Locos Tacos, black beans, rice, hash browns, guacamole, many sauces, and most toppings at Taco Bell are gluten-free. There is a large risk of cross-contamination with the flour tortillas, though, so many gluten-sensitive people do not feel comfortable eating there.

The Bottom Line

Eating fast food when you have a gluten allergy can be anxiety-inducing. Some restaurant chains have better gluten-free options than others. In general, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out, and Five Guys are all preferred choices for people avoiding gluten. No matter where you go, you may need to ask employees to change their gloves, use clean utensils, or get fresh ingredients from the back to have a totally safe meal. 

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