It wasn’t so long ago that gluten-free menu options didn’t exist anywhere. You had to guess and hope or miss out entirely. Although there are a lot of great gluten-free meals available these days, eating out can still be frustrating, especially if it’s fast food. All those buns and breading can seem ubiquitous.
Luckily, there are more choices available now than you might expect if you know where to go. Most fast-food establishments have gluten-free menu items, or they can modify existing food to exclude the glutinous parts. Bookmark this page, and you won’t have to settle for an upset stomach or staying in. The biggest problem will be picking from so many different places you didn’t know you could eat.
Gluten-Free Fast-Food List
Fast food has been notoriously slow to adapt to the needs of those with dietary restrictions. People with diabetes on low-sodium diets probably have it the worst, but finding safe gluten-free options has always been ridiculously challenging too. Below are foods for every meal and situation, so you can easily find tasty, gluten-free options anywhere.
- Eggs- Scrambled, fried, as an omelet, or poached, most eggs get a little salt and pepper but no gluten.
- Just Egg- Most vegan options use gluten, but Just Egg is a gf food.
- Bacon and Ham- Pork products are usually safe to eat so long as they aren’t breaded or on a bun.
- Hashbrowns- Some forms of this shredded potato dish are a safe choice for GF diets. Unfortunately, like french fries, some hashbrowns get additional flavors and coatings that include gluten, so always check the company website for nutrition information before ordering.
- Grits- Grits are a southern staple breakfast item made from dried and coarse ground corn. Some people like them plain, others prefer cheese, butter, or even honey, but it’s all gluten-free corn.
- Yogurt- On its own, in a smoothie, or as a parfait-style treat, yogurt can make a fantastic breakfast option when you want to avoid gluten.
- Salads- Many fast-food restaurants offer salads, and some are exceptionally tasty. Skip the crackers and croutons to keep the gluten out of your meal.
- Sandwiches and Burgers With No Bun- Most everything that can go on a bun or between slices of bread is gluten-free. Always double-check the ingredients in ground meat, like burger patties, and avoid anything breaded. Keep in mind that wraps are usually made inside flour tortillas, so you can order those with no tortillas as well.
- Mexican Food- The main ingredients in most Mexican food are meats, beans, rice, and vegetables like corn, tomato, and avocado. If you skip the flour tortillas and pan (bread), you can have a lot of Mexican or Tex-Mex meals. Ask if they have a corn tortilla option or substitute for corn chips.
- Barbecue- Barbecue is all about the sauce, and some places use gluten, but most do not. You can have brisket, barbecued meats, ribs, and chicken if they make a gluten-free sauce in-house.
- Shrimp- So long as it’s not breaded, you can have the shrimp. Cocktail sauces with no vinegar are also usually gluten-free.
- Soy- Soy is naturally gluten-free.
- Baked Potatoes- Skin-on baked potatoes are wheat and gluten-free. Moreover, the toppings they traditionally come with, like butter, sour cream, cheese, salt, pepper, and chives, also have no gluten.
- Chili- Chili usually contains beans, onions, tomatoes, spices, and meat, but not wheat or gluten.
- Coleslaw- Coleslaw, broccslaw, and other ‘slaws’ are made of shredded vegetables and mayonnaise with spices. Mayo doesn’t usually contain gluten.
- Sliced Fruit- It’s not just for kids’ meals. SIdes of sliced fruit offer a mildly sweet and totally gf option for hungry fast-food diners.
- Rice- No matter how you eat it, natural, wild, brown, or white, rice has no gluten.
- Beans- Beans are one of those foods that you will find contain lots of sodium and occasional dairy or lard, but no gluten.
- Vegetable Sides– Options like corn and green beans are a safer selection than french fries because many fast food places use beef and wheat-based coating on fries to give them the flavor and texture people have come to expect.
Desserts & Sweets
- Ice Cream- Many ice cream and soft-serve flavors are made without gluten and processed in plants with no wheat ingredients. A few specialty ice creams may have brownies, cookies, and other glutinous treats inside, but vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are everywhere.
- Frozen Custard- The main ingredients in custard are milk, sugar, and eggs, all with no gluten. Some brands use a gluten-based thickener, so this is another dessert you should check on first.
- Blizzards, Milkshakes, Flurries, Frostys & Frozen Coffee Drinks- If it looks like some form of milkshake, and has no cookies, pies, brownies, or other gluten-based ingredients added, then it’s probably okay to order.
- Smoothies- A smoothie combines fruit, vegetables, juice, milk, yogurt, and additives like tumeric or even sugar. Not all smoothies are the same, but none of the regular ingredients have gluten.
- Coffee- Coffee is made from coffee beans and water.
- Juice- Juice is water, sugar, and fruit, or sometimes vegetables.
- Soft Drinks- Soft drinks are often packed full of sugar, caffeine, and artificial ingredients, but in North America, they rarely have gluten. Coke, DrPepper, Mountain Dew, Sprite, Fanta, and other favorites are all gf diet approved.
- Teas (Hot and Cold)- Tea is made from tea leaves, herbs, and/or dried fruit.
Foods You Should Always Double Check for Gluten
Some foods can be gluten-free but are often made with gluten as a thickener or part of the flavoring mix. A classic example of this is French fries, which start as potatoes but may get tossed in a starchy, wheat, and beef-based mixture. Other foods you should check every time include sauces and soups. Sadly, the majority of vegan fast-food options use wheat or other gluten for texture as well.
Fast Food Restaurants with Gluten-Free Options
Below is a list of major fast-food restaurants that offers reasonably safe gluten-free options. Those with gf bread or french fries have a * next to their name as this is relatively rare. Some places have more options than others, and it’s important to note that franchisees and branches in other cities or states may not carry the same menu as your local restaurant. When in doubt, always call ahead and ask.
- Zoe’s Kitchen
- * Sonic
- * Shake Shack
- * In-N-Out Burger
- * Five Guys Burgers And Fries
- * Chik-Fil-A
- Boston Market
Fast Food With GF Options But A High Risk of Cross-Contamination
The following places often have a few choices for food without gluten. However, there is also a very high percentage of glutinous food in the kitchens. Resultantly, the chances of accidental cross-contamination are much higher.
- Burger King
- Carl’s Jr.
- Most Pizza Places
Whether you are just beginning a gluten-free lifestyle or you’ve been eating this way for years, restaurants change the menu all the time. That goes double for fast-food places as they adapt to the evolving trends. That can be great news for people who don’t want gluten, but unfortunately, some food places still lack reliable gf options. Here are a few commonly asked questions and their answers to help you eat out.
Mcdonald’s has quite a few gluten-free menu options. The fruit and yogurt parfait is a favorite. However, any non-breaded sandwiches or burgers are gluten-free if you order them without the bun. Additionally, there are salads, sliced apples, and McFlurries.
KFC fries are not gluten-free. Potatoes on their own, regardless of how you cut them, and most vegetable oils used for frying are gluten-free, but those aren’t the only ingredients. Like many other fast-food restaurants, KFC uses wheat and beef-based flavoring on their fries. Wheat contains gluten, so celiacs and gluten-sensitive individuals should avoid the fries.
Burger King does not have a gluten-free menu. Furthermore, there are relatively few gf options at this particular chain. Most of the beverages and sauces are okay, but other than that, you are limited to just a handful of burgers. The Cheeseburger, hamburger, Whopper, and Whopper Jr. are all gluten-free if you skip the bread.
Taco Bell is not gluten-free and does not recommend gf products to customers. Unfortunately, this is one place where someone who needs to avoid gluten cannot reliably have a meal. Even the foods without gluten in them share preparation space with items containing gluten, and the chances of food accidentally coming in contact are high.
Subway does have gluten-free bread, but they only carry it at some locations, so it’s best to call ahead. The gf bread is available in six-inch size only and is made and packaged at a dedicated gluten-free facility. All the rest of Subway’s signature bread contains gluten and is made on-site in individual restaurants.
Don’t let dietary restrictions stop you from grabbing a quick bite to eat. Now that you know how many places offer easy gluten-free fast-food, you’ll be spoiled for choice like everyone else. Some foods, like sandwiches, still have a long way to go. Likewise, it’s best to avoid Panera, Panda Express, Noodles & Company, Taco Bell, and other places with little to no chance of uncontaminated gluten-free food. Still, things are changing for the better, and people with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivities can join in on the convenience of drive-throughs and fast food.