Fast Food With Gluten Free Buns

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Fast food with gluten free buns. Food allergies can be a real pain—or potentially even life-threatening. But if you have a gluten allergy, it’s likely to be less of a huge deal and more of a mild annoyance. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who are diagnosed with Celiac disease, or simply prefer to avoid gluten for other reasons, then you’ve probably come to terms with the fact that eating out is basically impossible.

But not anymore!

We’re taking a look at some of the best fast food restaurants out there that offer gluten-free buns on their menu. And no, they don’t all taste like cardboard!

So read on and prepare to be shocked by how many options you actually have when you’re looking for fast food with gluten free buns.

Fast Food With Gluten Free Buns

Arby’s

Arby’s features a fairly comprehensive gluten-free menu for a fast food restaurant.

If you’re gluten-free, it’s possible to dine at Arby’s on most of the meats (without a bun, of course) and on the Farmhouse salad with roast turkey. The chocolate, jamocha swirl, and vanilla shakes also are listed as gluten-free.

However, unlike Chick-fil-A (and like most other fast food restaurants), Arby’s prepares its fries in the same oil as it cooks gluten foods, so Arby’s fries and potato cakes are not safe.

You’ll also need to work with the person behind the counter to avoid gluten cross-contamination.2

Bonefish Grill

If you like fresh seafood and you’re looking for a more upscale restaurant (more fast casual than fast food), you’ll be thrilled with the gluten-free menu at Bonefish Grill—almost all the seafood dishes are naturally gluten-free. The upscale chain, which is owned by the parent company of Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s, has locations in nearly 30 states.

It’s possible to start with one of two or three appetizers or a salad, and then choose a seafood dish (topped with one of several sauces) or a steak or chicken entrée.

Some possible gluten-free choices include:

  • Seasonal Vegetables and Mussels Josephine appetizers
  • Bonefish House Salad or Classic Caesar Salad (request no croutons)
  • Choice of grilled fish with a gluten-free sauce (mango salsa, lime tomato garlic, chimichurri, or lemon butter)
  • Lily’s Chicken or Filet Minion

For dessert, there is only one gluten-free option currently – a decadent flourless macadamia nut brownie with raspberry sauce.3

Boston Market

Gluten-free guests at Boston Market can order a comparably wide selection of entrees and sides from the chain’s gluten-free list. And, you can have gravy, since it’s also gluten-free.

Gluten-free options include:

  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Roasted turkey breast
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Southwest cobb salad
  • Holiday ham
  • Holiday turkey

Sadly, there are no gluten-free desserts.

Check out the Food Allergy Search section on Boston Market’s website, which allows you to list only the gluten-free menu options.4

Carrabba’s Italian Grill

You might not think of Italian food as being particularly gluten-free friendly, but Carrabba’s Italian Grill—owned by the same company as Bonefish Grill and Outback Steakhouse, with locations in 33 states—provides lots of great gluten-free options.

Start your meal with the grilled asparagus with prosciutto, Italian lettuce wraps, tomato Caprese with fresh burrata, Mama Mandola’s chicken noodle soup (request without noodles), minestrone soup, or one of several salads, including the Tuscan strawberry salad (ask your server to fix it in a clean bowl).

Numerous entrees are gluten-free; however, if you choose a grilled item, request it without the grill baste, and be aware that it will be cooked on the same grill as gluten-containing items.

If you’re very sensitive, you might be better off with an entree not cooked on the grill, so ask your server.5

Chick-fil-A

chick fil a gluten-free bun
© Chick Fil A

Chick-fil-A provides the best gluten-free list of any fast food restaurant—they list a huge variety of menu options and provides the ingredients for each one, so people with additional food allergies or intolerances can determine what’s safe for them to eat.

Chick-fil-A gluten-free options include:

  • Grilled chicken sandwich on a gluten-free bun
  • Breakfast egg white sandwich on a gluten-free bun
  • Breakfast hash browns (cooked in a dedicated gluten-free fryer)
  • Grilled chicken nuggets
  • Grilled Market salad
  • Spicy Southwest salad (without chili lime pepitas)
  • Waffle fries (cooked in a dedicated gluten-free fryer)
  • Fruit cup
  • Frosted lemonade

It’s possible to enjoy a chicken sandwich with bun, several different meal-sized salads (with chicken or without), a couple of different breakfast items, and Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries, which are cooked in separate fryers (be sure to check with your individual restaurant to be sure about the fryer status).

In addition, the fast food chain offers grilled gluten-free chicken nuggets and blended fruit applesauce on its kids’ menu. Chick-fil-A’s yogurt parfait and Ice Dream dessert cup are listed as gluten-free. Many people report good gluten-free experiences at Chick-fil-A.

When you order, make sure to place an “allergy alert” on your food for gluten.6

Chili’s Bar and Grill

Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant, which has locations throughout the U.S. and in 34 other countries, has a fairly extensive gluten-free menu, with some caveats. This is another restaurant that fits more into the “casual dining” category than the fast food category.

Gluten-free options at Chili’s include:

  • Loaded baked potato soup
  • Santa Fe grilled chicken salad
  • Craft burgers without buns
  • Fajitas with corn tortillas
  • Baby back ribs with some sauces
  • Ancho salmon

Chili’s notes that its gluten-free menu is based on information from food suppliers, and says it can’t guarantee the absence of allergens in the food, in part because of the possibility of gluten cross-contamination in the kitchen.7

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which spans the gap between a fast food restaurant chain and a casual dine-in restaurant, offers a huge variety of options for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. In fact, everything on Chipotle’s menu except for the flour tortillas is listed as gluten-free on the company’s allergens list.

Of course, the flour tortillas could prove a problem if you’re particularly sensitive to trace gluten, since workers routinely touch them and then reach into the containers of tortilla fillers. Ask the workers to change gloves prior to making your order.

In addition, those who react to distilled vinegar should avoid the red tomatillo salsa. Also, Chipotle’s notes that anything with corn might have been contaminated by other grains before ever getting to the restaurant (they’ve obviously done their homework!).

Otherwise, if you’re lucky enough to have a Chipotle’s nearby, enjoy. Just make sure to ask the people making your food to change their gloves first.8

Five Guys

This made-from-scratch chain offers mainly burgers, hot dogs and fries. Beyond hamburger and hot dog buns, only three items on Five Guys’ menu contain gluten: malted milk, cherry flavoring, and Oreo cookie mix-ins (all of which are for the chain’s milk shakes). The staff cleans the milk shake machine in between uses, but you may want to steer clear of shakes if you’re particularly sensitive.

Five Guys does not offer a gluten-free bun, but you can order your burger wrapped in lettuce. All the possible toppings are safe. In addition, the chain’s fries are cooked in a dedicated gluten-free fryer and are safe.

Make sure to ask for the person making your burger with lettuce wrap to change gloves in order to minimize the risk of gluten cross-contamination.

Note that Five Guys serves peanuts in the shell for free in its stores (which routinely have peanut shells scattered around the tables and floors), so if you’re allergic to peanuts, you should choose another fast food chain.9

In-N-Out Burger

Devotees of In-N-Out Burger (and there are quite a few in the gluten-free community) order their burgers “protein-style,” or wrapped in lettuce instead of in a bun.

This is such a popular item (both for the gluten-free and for Atkins devotees) that the fast food restaurant chain has it listed on its secret menu. In addition, the In-N-Out fries should be gluten-free and therefore safe (but never forget to ask).10

Old Spaghetti Factory

 At the Old Spaghetti Factory, which has multiple locations in 13 states, you don’t need to forgo spaghetti and other pasta—the fast-casual restaurants serve gluten-free pasta off their “gluten friendly” menus.

As long as you request gluten-free pasta, you can enjoy any of Old Spaghetti Factory’s pasta sauces, including marinara, rich meat, clam, sauteed mushroom, Mizithra cheese and browned butter, and Alfredo sauce.

You also can consider ordering baked chicken marinated in garlic and lemon juice. Several of the sides, including the Sicilian-style Italian sausage, also are gluten-free.

There’s also a children’s menu, mainly with child-sized portions of gluten-free pasta. Dessert (if you still have room) is limited to vanilla ice cream or spumoni.11

Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse, with hundreds of locations throughout the U.S., represents a real go-to fast casual restaurant for the gluten-free crowd, especially while traveling.

Outback features an extensive gluten-free menu, filled with steaks, seafood, salads, sides and an excellent gluten-free dessert, the flourless Chocolate Thunder from Down Under brownie.

There’s also a gluten-free kids’ menu, with smaller portions and a gluten-free sundae for dessert.

Gluten-free options at Outback include:

  • Aussie Cobb salad
  • Brisbane Caesar salad (no croutons)
  • Ribeye steak
  • Victoria’s filet mignon
  • Perfectly grilled salmon
  • Alice Springs chicken
  • Baby back ribs
  • Grilled Chicken on the Barbie
  • Homestyle mashed potatoes
  • Chocolate Thunder from Down Under

Although attention to the problem of cross-contamination can vary from location to location, for the most part Outback’s staff is well-trained. Definitely talk to a manager before ordering, however, since most locations are busy at peak times, which means problems involving cross-contamination can occur.12

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

P.F. Chang’s is another favorite fast casual go-to restaurant for those who eat gluten-free, and many gluten-free diners have had good success ordering off the chain’s dedicated gluten-free menu.

The choices include a wide variety of appetizers, gluten-free egg drop soup, a noodle dish, plenty of entree options and even vegetarian options. You even can order a great dessert, P.F. Chang’s excellent GF flourless chocolate dome.

Gluten-free options at P.F. Chang’s include:

  • Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps
  • Egg drop soup
  • Fried rice
  • Spicy chicken
  • Mongolian beef
  • Shrimp with lobster sauce
  • Pad Thai
  • Chocolate souffle

All of P.F. Chang’s gluten-free dishes are served on a special plate with the chain’s logo so that you know you’re getting a safe meal. The restaurant also uses gluten-free soy sauce in its GF creations.

fast food gluten free

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of gluten — even if you’re not really sure what it is. Essentially, gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye (and sometimes co-mingled with oats) that help make dough elastic and stick together (like glue). The primary reason a person would avoid gluten is if they have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body in response to gluten being consumed. 

According to the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago, one in 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States has celiac disease — that’s at least 3 million Americans. On top of those 3 million, research reported by Beyond Celiac estimates that as many as 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity. This means that traditional breads, other baked goods, pasta, and lots of sauces and soups, plus things you’d never imagine, are off-limits to a large proportion of the population. 

Now consider that almost 40 percent of Americans eat fast food on a given day and you’re probably wondering what people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can eat when they order fast food. Here are the best options.

Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A is known for their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s a way to get both of those things gluten-free. In 2017, Chick-fil-A added an individually packaged gluten-free bun to their nationwide menu, suddenly making those (grilled) chicken sandwiches a possibility for those who are gluten-free. Leslie Neslage, senior consultant of menu development at Chick-fil-A, said in the press release, “We know our customers are looking for more gluten-sensitive alternatives. They asked, and we listened… Our hope is that the Gluten-Free Bun addition opens up options for gluten-sensitive customers to enjoy more of our menu.”

But what about the waffle fries? You may be wondering how the waffle fries can be safe considering the fried chicken at Chick-fil-A is not. The answer lies in the cooking oil. While fried chicken is cooked in peanut oil, the waffle fries are cooked separately, in canola oil. Another perk? Chick-fil-A serves grilled chicken nuggets that are cooked separately from the fried chicken, and all of their dipping sauces (except Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Sauce) are also gluten-free.

Five Guys
If it’s a burger you’re craving rather than a chicken sandwich, look no further than Five Guys. While there isn’t a gluten-free bun option at Five Guys, there is a way to get your burger gluten-free and that’s with a lettuce wrap. No, it isn’t quite the same as having a juicy burger on a bun, but it’s the next best thing and sure beats having a burger patty just hanging out on a plate (though if you prefer it that way, you can also get your burger in a bowl). 

One of the things that makes Five Guys so great is the number of toppings available, like jalapeño peppers, green peppers, or grilled onions and mushrooms, to name just a few. Lucky for the gluten-free among us, all of the burger toppings are also gluten-free. And because Five Guys only serves burgers and fries as far as food goes, and because their fries are just potatoes and nothing more, the fries are gluten-free as well. In fact, the only sources of gluten at Five Guys are malt vinegar, fry sauce (available only in Utah), hamburger buns, and some of the milkshake mix-ins. Otherwise, go nuts!

Boston Market
Given the type of food sold by Boston Market (comfort food at its finest), you may not immediately consider it fast food, but it technically is. With offerings like chicken pot pie, you may assume that there aren’t many good options if you’re gluten-free, but you’d be very wrong. 

Boston Market makes it easy to see which items on its menu are gluten-free, and there are a surprising number of safe options ranging from brisket to certain flavors of their half and quarter chickens, plus tons of really delicious sides. From creamed spinach and cheddar broccoli to mashed potatoes and sweet corn, there are plenty of options to choose from. 

What many a gluten-free person no doubt knows, but which may fly under the radar for those who don’t have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, is that most gravy is off the table when it comes to being gluten-free. But if you’re eating at Boston Market, you’re in luck. Both the poultry gravy and the beef au jus are gluten-free, so go ahead and lay it on thick. Your mashed potatoes will thank you. Just be careful not to get the beef gravy — it is unfortunately not gluten-free.  

Chipotle
If it’s Mexican-inspired food you crave, you can certainly get your fill at Chipotle Mexican Grill. While the flour tortillas at Chipotle have gluten, meaning that burritos and certain tacos are off the menu, everything else at the chain is gluten-free. That means you’ve got the all clear on crunchy corn tacos, burrito bowls with any meat (or non-meat) topping you can imagine, chips and guacamole, and salad (with the dressing). 

Assuming carnitas or sofritas with rice and beans are what you crave, Chipotle may just be the next best thing to making all your food at home, at least where allergens are concerned. Just be sure to ask the Chipotle employee to change gloves before you order your gluten-free smorgasbord since cross contact with gluten is possible. Chipotle also offers a disclaimer that’s true of anything made with corn: “You should be aware items containing corn, including corn tortillas (chips and crispy corn tortillas) and corn salsa, may have trace amounts of gluten from potentially co-mingling with gluten-containing grains in the field.”  

Wendy’s
When it comes to standard burger-and-fries fast food, Wendy’s has always been a standout thanks to their “fresh, never frozen” beef patties and of course the deliciousness that is the Frosty, but Wendy’s also has some really great options that extend beyond your typical burger joint, and they’re great if you’re gluten-free. 

Specifically we’re talking about Wendy’s chili and baked potato options. Both are fantastic on a cold day and, paired together, make quite the satisfying meal. And don’t think you have to stick to the plain baked potato, or even the Sour Cream and Chive version. Both the Bacon Cheese Baked Potato and Cheese Baked Potato are also gluten-free. So is the Chili & Cheese Baked Potato, for that matter, if you’d rather have your chili and baked potato all in one bite. 

If baked potatoes and chili aren’t your thing, you still have some other gluten-free options at Wendy’s, but you’ll have to work with the menu a little bit. Several of their burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches served without the bun would be safe bets as are most of their salads (just look out for croutons). And while you can enjoy a delicious Frosty without worry, don’t go dipping fries in it, at least not without confirmation that there’s a dedicated fryer for them. Otherwise they’re cooked in the same fryer as the battered chicken, so gluten is sadly a concern.

Popeye’s
When you think of gluten-free food, you probably don’t think of fried chicken, and for good reason. So you’re probably surprised to see Popeye’s on this list. Sadly, the chicken at Popeye’s is still off-limits like you’d expect, but luckily there are some things you can eat if your whole crew has decided Popeye’s is the choice of the day. 

Unfortunately, the only gluten-free options at Popeye’s are sides, so you’ll need to cobble together a meal from them. Your best bet is the Red Beans and Rice. Ask any Louisianan and they’ll tell you that red beans and rice are easily a meal unto themselves, and while Popeye’s version may not compare to what you’ll get at a restaurant in New Orleans, they’re still great in a pinch. Plus, you can increase the size of your meal by adding a few of the other gluten-free sides, including applesauce, corn on the cob, and coleslaw. Who knows, maybe you won’t even miss the fried chicken.

Subway
Although there aren’t as many Subway restaurants in the United States as there used to be, there are still over 25,000 locations in the US, and that’s a lot of sandwiches. Unfortunately the standard Subway sandwich isn’t a great option if you’re gluten-free, but you can get pretty much any of your favorite subs in the form of a salad. There are, however, still some ingredients you’ll need to avoid like the Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Strips, Meatballs, Chicken Enchilada, Orchard Chicken Salad, Falafel, Seafood Sensation, and the Veggie Patty. Luckily though, all the cheeses, veggies, and condiments are gluten-free. 

Not feeling a salad? You may be in luck. There’s always soup, at least a few of them. Of the 10 soups Subway offers, four of them are listed as not containing gluten: Black Bean, Broccoli & Cheddar, Spicy Chicken Tortilla, and Tomato Basil. The other six are off the table. 

But if it’s really a sandwich you crave, some Subway restaurants also offer gluten-free bread that is baked off-site in a gluten-free facility. That said, it isn’t available at all stores and you still need to be careful of cross-contact with the other foods, so make sure the Subway employee making your sandwich knows to change their gloves and be careful of cross contact on surfaces.

Jersey Mike’s
If Subway isn’t your thing, but you’re still in the mood for a submarine sandwich, check to see if there’s a Jersey Mike’s in your neck of the woods. With over 1,500 locations across the United States, there’s a pretty decent chance there’s one near you. Like Subway, there are a few things you can’t get gluten-free, like meatballs, traditional chicken Parmesan (though there is a grilled version that’s safe), and the Teriyaki Chicken Cheesesteak, but pretty much everything else is safe to have “in a tub,” which is really just their version of a bowl, but “sub in a tub” sounds cooler. 

Luckily, Jersey Mike’s also has a gluten-free roll that they introduced nationwide at the end of 2017, just in case you aren’t in the mood to eat your sub with a fork. So if you have a Jersey Mike’s nearby, you have plenty of gluten-free subs at your fingertips.

Captain D’s
Since 1969, Captain D’s has been serving up all kinds of seafood at what is now more than 500 stores in the United States. While their batter-dipped fish might be what they’re famous for, the Captain also serves up some delicious gluten-free options that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve been fed to the fishes. 

While there isn’t an option for a gluten-free fry batter, there are plenty of grilled options to satisfy your fish craving, including Blackened Tilapia, Grilled White Fish, Shrimp Skewers, and Wild Alaskan Salmon. You won’t have to skimp on sides either, as many of their options are also gluten-free, including the baked potato, coleslaw, green beans, broccoli, corn, seasoned rice, and side salad. Just avoid the fries and hush puppies because there’s plenty of gluten in/on those. As always, don’t forget to mention your food restriction to the employees preparing your food so you can be sure to avoid cross contact.

Pizza Hut
Don’t adjust your screen, you really are seeing Pizza Hut as an option for gluten-free food. Unlike some fast casual pizza restaurants like Domino’s, which notes that its gluten-free crust is not appropriate for customers with celiac disease, Pizza Hut apparently goes above and beyond with their gluten-free crust. 

Offered in over 2,100 locations (and counting), the gluten-free crust Pizza Hut uses is actually made by Udi’s, a gluten-free brand you’ve probably heard of once or twice. From there, Pizza Hut employees are very careful when preparing the pizza, according to the company website. Not only is the crust stored in a separate container on a separate shelf of the fridge, the marinara sauce, cheese, and pepperoni used for gluten-free pizzas are also stored in a gluten-free designated kit, plus the gluten-free pizzas are baked on specially designated parchment paper to avoid cross contact with regular, gluten-filled pizzas. Finally, Pizza Hut notes that team members who make the gluten-free pizzas wear clean gloves and use a designated pizza cutter that is only used on gluten-free pizzas. 

The main drawback is that you can only get a cheese or pepperoni pizza prepared gluten-free, but given all the precautions taken, you can rest fairly easily that you’ll be safe. If your Pizza Hut isn’t one of the locations that offers gluten-free pizza, you can request to have it added to the local menu.

Panera Bread
Yes, it may have the word “bread” in its name, but Panera Bread actually offers a few gluten-free options that are worth a visit. All that said, this does come with a warning. Panera bakes their bread and other baked goods fresh in their stores, so the chances that there’s gluten flying around at any given time may be high. While that means Panera may not be a good option for those with celiac disease, others who are eating gluten-free may have no problem with the gluten-free options. Talk to you doctor and choose wisely. 

If you do choose to eat at Panera, there are several menu items that are already prepared gluten-free, including the Greek Salad, Fuji Apple Salad, Greek Goddess Cobb Salad, Turkey Chili, Baked Potato Soup, and oatmeal, to name a few. There are also items, like the Caesar Salad and Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup, which can be made gluten-free simply by asking for no croutons. Panera Bread may not be the number one spot for eating gluten-free, but it can certainly be done.

Burger King
Like Panera Bread, Burger King offers several items that are not prepared with gluten or gluten-containing ingredients, but which may not really be suitable for people with celiac disease. Still, if Burger King is your only choice, you have a few options. Unfortunately, there’s no gluten-free bun to speak of, but if you don’t mind eating your burger and toppings out of a salad container, you could always go for a Whopper without the bun. 

Not only is the Whopper patty gluten-free (as is the standard hamburger patty), all of the other ingredients in a Whopper are gluten-free as well. If you’re feeling chicken instead of beef, the Tendergrill Chicken Filet is also gluten-free and you can even add a slice of bacon or ham if you’d like. Several of the salad dressings at Burger King are also gluten-free, including the apple cider vinaigrette, lite honey balsamic, and avocado ranch, so that’s always a good option. Just don’t try the fries — they’re fried in the same oil as the breaded chicken and other gluten-containing items.

Arby’s
If there’s one thing we all know about Arby’s, it’s that they “have the meats.” Luckily, meat is typically gluten-free, as long as there aren’t any grain-based fillers in there. It’s for this very reason that Arby’s can be a pretty decent place to grab some gluten-free fast food. 

The Angus Beef, Corned Beef, Pepper Bacon, Roast Beef, Pit-Smoked Ham, Roast Turkey, and Smoked Brisket are all gluten-free, but the catch is that you’ll need to eat them without a bun or any kind of bread accompaniment, as Arby’s doesn’t offer a gluten-free option for bread. Still, you could get all the meats on top of a salad, just make sure it’s a gluten-free option like the Chopped Farmhouse Salad or the Chopped Side Salad. Whether you get a typical salad dressing with that or you go for one of the dipping sauces or other condiments is up to you — there are multiple of each that are gluten-free. Sadly, you’ll have to skip the curly fries because they aren’t gluten-free.

Here’s the Beef on the Best and Worst Gluten-Free Fast-Food Options

If you’re craving some greasy fries or a juicy burger but you’re gluten-free, it can be hard to find fast-food options.

Ronald McDonald might not be showing off a gluten-free menu, but some fast-food chains have upped their gluten-free game. Chains like KFC and Popeyes, which are known for fried items, likely won’t have too many options.

But fear not — some restaurants are hopping on the gluten-free train. We’ve rounded up the top gluten-free fast-food options, and we’ll tell you how fast food stacks up when it comes to gluten contamination.

gluten-free fast food
Getty Images

Can you trust them? Are they actually GF?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to avoid any products that contain this protein. Wheat products like breads and pastas may be the first to come to mind, but gluten can sometimes pop up in other packaged foods too.

When eating out, it can be difficult to eat gluten-free since sandwiches come on buns and salads often include breaded chicken and croutons. Even if you order your meal without these gluten-containing foods, cross contamination can happen in the kitchen.

As you would at any other restaurant, be mindful of the possibility of cross contamination at fast-food joints. The biggest culprit is frying oil.

Oil is naturally gluten-free, but restaurants may use the same batch of oil to fry a bunch of different foods. Once that oil has been used to fry gluten-containing foods (nuggets, anyone?), it’s def contaminated — and so are the french fries or any other foods that take a dip in the oil afterward.

Even with GF labels, the risk could still be high since the food prep is fast. If you have an allergy, don’t be afraid to ask specifically how your food is cooked and mention that it must be gluten-free.

Telling the staff might help limit cross contamination that can happen if folks touch gluten-containing foods while prepping your meal.

So, how do you choose the best gluten-free fast-food options?

Wondering what you can actually eat? After weighing all the gluten-free options, we’ve broken down what’s available and what’s potentially risky at America’s fave fast-food chains.

Here’s how we evaluated our GF picks:

  • Was there a gluten-free menu? We searched each restaurant’s website and menus to see which options should be gluten-free or are clearly labeled.
  • Best gluten-free options. We looked over the entire menu to see what the options are and whether the most popular menu items are considered gluten-free.
  • Best menu item. What is a well-known or most popular item on the menu? We researched what the GF community loves.
  • Cross-contamination risk. Do they use the same or different fryer oils? How is the food prepared? We looked at processes to note where the risks are.
  • Transparency. Some websites clearly state whether the restaurant is a gluten-free-friendly environment or not, giving a heads-up about fryer oil and cross contamination. We considered what restaurants might be better based on their transparency about GF menu items and cross-contamination practices.

KNOW BEFORE YOU EAT!

There is ALWAYS a risk of gluten cross contamination unless a restaurant is specifically gluten-free.

To help minimize risk, let the staff know about your gluten allergy or intolerance when ordering. But contamination is still possible, so eat fast food with caution.

If you have celiac disease, a heightened gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy, you might want to avoid fast food completely.

The best gluten-free fast-food options

Five Guys

Good news for all the Five Guys fans: You can eat a lot here if you forgo the bun. The website also has a chart for anyone with specific allergies.

Most of the toppings on the menu are gluten-free, and you can get burgers wrapped in lettuce. Most importantly, all fries are cooked in a gluten-free fryer.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • burgers (no bun or with lettuce wrap)
  • fries
  • plain milkshakes
  • hot dogs (no bun)

Bottom line: High five, guys

Since Five Guys has a pretty gluten-free-friendly menu, there’s a lower risk of cross contamination. That doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk, but the odds are in your favor in comparison to other chains.

You can also specifically tell them you have an allergy, which they will note when making your order.

Five Guys also mentions to avoid these foods due to gluten:

  • malted milk and cherry milkshake mix-ins
  • Oreo piece mix-ins
  • malt vinegar
  • Fry Sauce

Note: Five Guys uses peanut oil to fry, so you’ll want to avoid this chain if you have a peanut allergy.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, but it has a larger number of options than similar fast-food joints. You always have the option to skip the bun for a gluten-free burger. Salads without fried chicken and croutons are also considered gluten-free.

The chain also acknowledges on its website that it’s not considered a gluten-free restaurant but notes items on the menu that contain wheat.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • taco salad
  • chili
  • variety of baked potatoes with toppings
  • Frosty *cue the balloons and streamers*

Bottom line: Wendy’s is pretty fresh for GF peeps

Even though Wendy’s doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, it has quite a few options that are actually a meal and should be gluten-free.

As with most small-environment fast-food places, there is a risk of contamination. But our top GF picks naturally don’t contain gluten and are often prepped ahead of time. The contamination risk for these items is a lot lower than the risk when getting a burger without a bun.

Chick-fil-A

Your favorite cow mascot is not considered gluten-free, but there are some options, including a new gluten-free bun. That’s a pretty big deal for a fast-food chain.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • waffle potato chips (fried in different oil than the breaded chicken)
  • fruit cups
  • side salads
  • added bacon
  • grilled chicken
  • grilled chicken nuggets (not breaded)

Bottom line: You can prob eat more chicken here

If you want an actual meal, you can get one here. Just give them a heads-up when you order so they’re aware of any cross-contamination risk. Chick-fil-A does acknowledge that cross contamination is a risk, so you’ll still want to be careful.

But the separate frying oil is a game-changer if you need your fry fill. And having a gluten-free bun shows they’re trying.

Chipotle

Just about everything at Chipotle is gluten-free except the flour tortillas (so sorry, no iconic burritos). Chipotle also has a comprehensive list on its website of all items for anyone with certain allergies or special diets.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • burrito bowl with any of the toppings, even the famous guacamole (And yes, we know guac costs extra…)
  • corn tortillas

Bottom line: Have your guac and eat it too

Because you have almost no restrictions on what you can eat, Chipotle may be one of the best chains for gluten-free eating.

But cross contamination is possible as a result of the ingredient ladles touching flour tortillas when burritos are being made. If you have celiac disease, you might want to skip this chain or be extremely cautious.

In-N-Out Burger

Good news! Just about all In-N-Out Burger items are gluten-free without the bun! All burgers can be made “protein-style,” which means wrapped in lettuce and free of gluten.

Another plus: The french fries are cooked separately in 100 percent sunflower oil, so they’re perfectly gluten-free for you.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry shakes
  • french fries
  • hamburger with onion (no bun)
  • cheeseburger (no bun)
  • Double-Double Burger with onion (no bun)

Bottom line: Lettuce give thanks for protein-style and GF fries

In-N-Out Burger appears to do a pretty decent job with gluten-free options and tries to avoid contamination. The restaurant even has an allergy button when ordering, which might help limit contamination risk if you have celiac disease.

The just “meh” gluten-free fast-food options

Shake Shack

We have to give Shake Shack mad props for having an in-depth section on its website about allergies, including wheat. It includes descriptions of what has wheat and what might have a trace of wheat.

All fry options have a chance of cross contamination, so you’ll want to ditch the fries.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • burger patty with gluten-free bun
  • all floats
  • vanilla, chocolate, coffee, strawberry, and peachtree milkshakes

If you’re getting any ice cream, be sure to lose the cone and have it in a cup. But pretty much everything on the menu is full of heavy gluten-containing items.

Bottom line: Stand for some… burgers and shakes

If a single beef patty on a gluten-free bun and a milkshake is your fast-food vibe, go for it. But no fries here, which is a bummer.

Just remember that Shake Shack is still higher-risk due to the amount of gluten-containing food being made in a small work environment.

Arby’s

Arby’s does a good job of keeping its customers aware of which foods contain gluten and which can be easily contaminated. Most of the meals are gluten-free if you skip the bun.

Arby’s does warn customers to avoid any potato-based items, like the Homestyle Fries and Potato Cakes, because they’re fried in the same oil as gluten-containing foods.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • vanilla and chocolate milkshakes
  • Chopped Farmhouse Salad with roasted turkey
  • sausage and bacon
  • Angus beef (no bun)
  • roast beef (no bun)

Bottom line: Has the meats but not the bun

This chain might be good for a salad or shake, but what’s an Arby’s sandwich without the bun? Definitely not a top contender, but there are options.

Panera Bread

Don’t let the name fool you — Panera Bread has a pretty decent variety of gluten-free menu items and lists them on its website. Unfortunately, no sandwiches are on that list, but all soups and salads can be made without croutons.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • Baja Warm Grain Bowl
  • Mediterranean Warm Grain Bowl
  • Greek salads
  • Fuji Apple Salad
  • Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken
  • yogurts and oatmeals
  • Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup

Some favorite GF treats at certain locations include the coconut macaroon and the triple chocolate cookie with walnuts. Shout-out to Panera for having some GF dessert options!

Bottom line: Food as it should be… if you don’t have celiac disease

Celiac peeps should be wary. While Panera is more gluten-conscious than some other chains, cross contamination can happen. (It is a bakery, after all.)

Panera specifically notes that if you have celiac disease, its GF items might not be for you. (Translation: There’s a contamination risk.) Always be sure to mention your allergy or sensitivity when ordering.

Sonic

Sonic is another chain without a gluten-free menu, but the chain says all its grilled items are gluten-free (except the buns).

The ice cream is supposedly gluten-free, but keep an eye on any add-ins you get in your shake. You also probably won’t find gluten-free fries or Tater Tots if they’re cooked in the same oil as the breaded items. But some locations may have separate fryers — just ask.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • hamburgers and hot dogs (without buns)
  • bacon
  • sausage
  • eggs
  • ice cream and shakes (watch the toppings)
  • slushes

Bottom line: Service at the speed of sound… with a side of contamination?

It’s a toss-up whether the fries and Tater Tots are gluten-free, and there’s a high risk of cross contamination.

Sonic is a tricky one for GF food options, so be sure to tell the employees about your allergy when ordering. If you’re ordering with someone else, be sure their food doesn’t touch yours. You don’t want those gluten-y fries all up on your bunless burger.

But if you’re craving ice cream or a slush, you should be A-OK at Sonic.

Subway

This is a tough one. It doesn’t look like you’ll be getting a gluten-free $5 footlong from Subway. The restaurant lists on its website all foods for anyone with allergy sensitivities, but most of the menu includes gluten. Your best bet would be a salad plus most meats or soups.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • Tomato Basil Soup
  • Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
  • Black Bean Soup
  • Gluten-Free Brownie (certain locations)
  • gluten-free packaged English muffins for breakfast sandwiches (certain locations)

Bottom line: Eat fresh if you don’t want a sub

Cross contamination is a high risk at Subway, and the options are pretty minimal. While certain locations have some GF options, you’re not gonna get the iconic Subway meal — just some soup or a salad.

The worst gluten-free fast-food options

Taco Bell

Taco Bell doesn’t claim that any of its food is gluten-free due to contamination risk during prep. Even though some items are made without gluten, they may be made with the same fryer oil or in the same area as gluten-containing foods, risking gluten exposure.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • Power Menu Bowl
  • Black Beans and Rice
  • Crunchy Taco
  • Hash Brown
  • Doritos Locos Tacos

Bottom line: Live Mas, but with contamination risks

This one is fairly high risk, since Taco Bell doesn’t claim to be a gluten-free fast-food chain. Be wary before ordering if you have celiac disease or are gluten-sensitive.

McDonald’s

Hello, nostalgic childhood Happy Meals. McDonald’s is one of the first names to come to mind when thinking of fast food. Unfortch, McDonald’s doesn’t have a gluten-free menu — but any burger can be made gluten-free without the bun. Sorry, Sir Mix-a-Lot, perhaps a lettuce wrap instead?

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • burgers without buns
  • most salads (grilled chicken only!)
  • McFlurry with M&Ms
  • yogurt parfait

Bottom line: We’re not lovin’ it

McDonald’s might be one of America’s top fast-food joints, but those with gluten allergies or celiac disease might want to head elsewhere. Risk of cross contamination with gluten is pretty high here.

Oh, and sorry to break it to you, but the Special Sauce on the Big Mac isn’t gluten-free, either.

KFC

Well, there’s not much to say here except Kentucky. Fried. Chicken. The menu is solely based on breaded and fried foods, so if you want anything here, it’s gonna have to be a side dish.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • mashed potatoes
  • corn on the cob
  • coleslaw
  • green beans

Bottom line: Probs avoid the colonel if you want a GF meal

KFC might not be the best place to run to for some fast gluten-free comfort food unless you’re really craving some mashed potatoes or green beans. Options are limited, and contamination risk is high.

Popeyes

Popeyes is known for its famous fried chicken. So, as with KFC, there aren’t too many options to give you the gluten-free love you deserve. But unlike KFC, Popeyes has a bit more variety of sides to choose from.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • green beans
  • coleslaw
  • Cajun rice
  • red rice and beans

Bottom line: Louisiana fast, but not super GF-friendly

Popeyes wouldn’t be our first choice for gluten-free fast food because of the high risk of contamination. But you can get a more complete meal here than at KFC.

Burger King

The last on our list is one of the most popular fast-food chains in America, Burger King. But don’t get your paper crown out yet, because there isn’t much to celebrate. BK lists on its website the items that are considered gluten-free, but it’s not a gluten-free restaurant.

Here are the best gluten-free options:

  • Whoppers (without a bun)
  • apple slices
  • sausage
  • bacon
  • milkshakes
  • Garden Fresh Salad
  • sundaes

Bottom line: The King is risky

Be sure to check whether the type of patty you’re ordering is considered gluten-free. BK comes with a high risk for cross contamination, so if you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, this shouldn’t be one of your top choices for fast food.

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