Gluten Free Fast Food
The easiest way to eat gluten free and be sure of what contains gluten is to cook all your food at home. That’s probably the healthiest, too. And the cheapest. However, it just isn’t always practical. Sometimes you need a change of pace. Or you’re out and realize you left your lunch at home. Whatever, the point is, sometimes you need to eat out.
It can be tricky to eat gluten free outside the home, particularly at fast food places. Very often the workers have no clue what’s in the food being served. Luckily, many places have their allergen information on their websites. If you can, check that info before you go out.
Remember that cross-contamination can be an issue in some fast food establishments, so particularly sensitive people may still have problems even when eating gluten free options.
The following info is current as of January 2013, but restaurants can change ingredients or vendors at any time, so it’s always a good idea to check.
Arby’s posts their gluten free menu online, along with a note that the items contain no wheat, rye, barley (malt), or oats. Most of Arby’s meats are gluten free, so you could get a sandwich without the bun. Try the Angus beef, corned beef, pepper bacon, roast beef, or roast ham. Another good option is the chopped farmhouse salad with roast turkey. Other gluten free choices include:
- Chopped side salad
- Chocolate shake
- Vanilla shake
- Mocha shake
- Strawberry yogurt dip
- Egg patty
- Sausage patty
- Breakfast bacon
Burger King also has an online gluten free menu. They mention that people with severe intolerance or allergies should not eat Burger King food. Many of the sandwich items are gluten free if ordered without the bread or bun:
- Whopper patty
- Whopper Jr patty
- Hamburger patty
- BK Chef’s Choice patty
- Tendergrill chicken filet
- Egg patty
The sausage patties, french fries, and tacos are technically gluten free, but they are fried with gluten-containing foods at some locations. Many of the condiments, toppings, and beverages are also gluten free.
Carl’s Jr doesn’t specifically mention gluten on its allergen menu, but they do mention wheat. They offer a low carb option for some of their foods. This basically means that the sandwich is served in lettuce instead of a bun. The Low Carb Six Dollar Burger is free of wheat, as are the French fries, sweet potato fries, and chili cheese fries.
Chick Fil-A is my family’s favorite gluten free fast food option. We like the grilled chicken nuggets and the waffle fries. In our local Chick Fil-A, the fries have a dedicated fryer, so the chance of cross-contamination is greatly reduced. This seems to be company policy, but you should still double check at your Chick Fil-A to make sure. Other gluten free options include:
- Chargrilled chicken sandwich with no bun
- Chargrilled chicken garden salad with no croutons
- Chargrilled chicken and fruit salad with no croutons
- Fruit cup
- Cole slaw
- Carrot and raisin salad
- Yogurt parfait with no topping
- Hash browns
Chipotle is a great choice for gluten free dining. Obviously, the flour tortillas contain gluten, but everything else on the menu is gluten free! All of the meats, veggies, sauces, toppings, corn tortillas, and chips are gluten free. Remember that cross-contamination is always a possibility, though. Chipotle’s website says that employees are always happy to change their gloves to help reduce contamination, so feel free to make that request.
Jack In the Box
Jack In the Box offers a few wheat free options (the site doesn’t give gluten info). The side salad and the Southwest Chicken Salad with grilled chicken strips are good choices, but make sure there are no croutons or other crunchy toppings on your salad. Other options include:
- Hashbrown sticks
- Hearty breakfast bowl
- Grilled chicken strips
When we first went gluten free, we made the mistake of thinking Taco Bell’s crunchy tacos would be gluten free. After all, it’s a corn tortilla, beef, cheese, and veggies… where’s the gluten? Turns out, there’s a lot of gluten on Taco Bell’s menu. Just about everything on the menu other than beverages or sauces either contains gluten, is prepared on shared equipment, or contains something that may cause sensitivity. If you are highly sensitive to gluten, it’s best to avoid Taco Bell.
As of 2011, Taco Cabana offered quite a few gluten free options, including barbacoa, fajita chicken, fajita steak, beef taco meat, chicken taco meat, all salsas, con queso, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, rice, street tacos, and all beans. Although the flour tortillas do contain gluten, the corn tortillas do not, and these can be substituted for flour in fajitas and soft tacos. Be aware that most Taco Cabana locations use a shared fryer, so gluten free fried items like corn chips and crispy tacos may still cause sensitivities in some people.
Wendy’s has an actual gluten brochure, complete with information about gluten sensitivity and their own gluten free options. They even offer meal suggestions, such as a BLT cobb salad with a chocolate Frosty or a sour cream and chives baked potato with a bowl of chili. Other options include:
- Hamburger patty (no bun)
- Grilled chicken filet (no bun)
- Apple pecan grilled salad without the pecans
- Caesar side salad without croutons
- Garden side salad without croutons
- Baja chili salad
- Bacon and cheese baked potato
- Plain baked potato
- Brocolli and cheese baked potato
- Cheese baked potato
So, while eating out on a gluten free diet isn’t ideal, many fast food restaurants are making it easier than ever. Just remember to do your homework before you go. Use this list as a starting point, but double check that nothing has changed. And always be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination.