As adopting a gluten-free diet becomes more popular in the United States, gluten-free Americans have been wondering what fast food options they have. Some people with celiac disease may be allergic to the protein gluten that is typically found in wheat, rye and barley. Some Americans that are not allergic to gluten may still prefer to avoid it. Here’s a list of fast food restaurants in America that offer gluten-free options for both types of people.
This famous chicken fast food restaurant has been around since 1967, originating in Hapeville, Georgia. It is one of the largest American fast food restaurant chains with over 2,300 restaurants across the states. As most of their chicken is breaded, it is not gluten-free. That being said, they still have a lot of great gluten-free options. Notably, their grilled chicken and grilled chicken nuggets. To go with the grilled chicken, Chick-fil-A also offers a gluten-free bun made of quinoa. Another great thing about Chick-fil-A is that they cook gluten-free items in separate oil to lower the chance of cross-contamination for those with severe gluten allergies. This means that Chick-fil-A’s waffle potato fries and breakfast hash browns are also gluten free as they are fried in a separate canola oil while their breaded chicken is fried in peanut oil. Other sides on the menu that are also gluten-free include Chick-fil-A’s grilled market salad and spicy southwest salad, their fruit cup, yogurt parfait and also their ice dream dessert cup. Chick-fil-A also has menu items that are sealed to prevent cross contamination including: the cinnamon apple sauce, milk and the packaged apple and orange juice. Important to note though is that Chick-fil-A has said that while they try their best to limit cross contamination, they cannot guarantee that any menu item will be completely free of gluten. So, be weary if you have a severe allergy.
9. Panera Bread
Although this restaurant has bread in its name, Panera Bread does have some good, gluten-free options. This is a good restaurant choice if you want fast-food, but in a classier setting. Panera Bread is more so a bakery and café than a typical fast food restaurant. Though none of their bread is gluten free, Panera Bread has a lot of great sides and meals that are. This includes most of their salads like the Greek Salad, Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and the Southwest Chicken Tortilla Bowl. Some of their soups are gluten free without changing anything like the Baked Potato Soup and the Vegetarian Black Bean Soup. Other soups like the Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup can be modified to be gluten-free if you order it without croutons. Panera Bread also has a breakfast menu, so their Steel Cut Oatmeal is also gluten-free including a variety of flavors. To end your meal, Panera Bread carries two gluten-free desserts: a coconut macaroon and a triple chocolate cookie with walnuts. Lastly, most of Panera Bread’s drinks are also gluten free including their coffee drinks, tea, hot chocolate, smoothies, juices, lemonade, and soda. It is important to note that since Panera Bread’s bread is not gluten free, the rest of their food may have been cross contaminated with gluten. The restaurant has said that those with a severe allergy to gluten should still be cautious with their gluten-free items, just be sure to let the cashier know of your allergy before ordering!
Chipotle is one of the best fast-food options for people with a gluten-free diet. The restaurant has been around since 1993 serving Mexican food. Everything on the menu is gluten-free except for the flour tortillas. This means the only menu items that are off limits for gluten-free folk are the burritos and tacos as they are made with the flour tortilla. You can, however, ask for a taco on a corn tortilla instead to make it gluten-free. It is important to note though that Chipotle has said although their corn chips and tortillas are made without gluten, they may have trace amounts of gluten from co-mingling with grains that contain gluten when the corn was grown. Just be cautious when ordering corn tortillas if you are highly allergic. Chipotle has also said if you are allergic, let the staff know and they will change their gloves to lessen the chance of cross-contamination. The best thing about Chipotle is that you can see all your food being made and assembled in front of you to ensure there is no cross-contamination. With only one real menu item off limits at Chipotle, there are many possibilities for a great meal. Chipotle offers a variety of meat including chicken, chorizo, steak, braised pork and braised beef. You can choose to put any of these meats (or black beans if you’re vegetarian) in a salad, burrito bowl or corn tacos. Then, you can add any of the vegetables, cheese, sauces like salsa, guacamole, honey vinaigrette or sour cream, and you’re done! If you are allergic to gluten or prefer a gluten-free diet, Chipotle is a great option for you!
7. Five Guys
Although Five Guys is a U.S. chain which started in Virginia, the fast food restaurant has since expanded worldwide. With over 1500 locations across the United States, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Netherlands, and more, Five Guys quickly became the fastest-growing fast food chain when their sales increased by 32.8% from 2010 to 2011. Five Guys focuses on hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries. So, how much of it is gluten free? The good news is, almost the entire menu is gluten-free! Though Five Guys does not advertise their menu as being gluten-free and they do not have gluten-free buns available, the rest of the menu has no gluten. Many burger joints use fillers like bread crumbs in their burgers to help the meat stick, but Five Guys does not! Their burgers are made from 100% USDA ground chuck. This means that you can have the patty and all the fixings, just order the burger as a lettuce wrap or in a bowl instead of with the bun. Make sure you let your cashier know to ask the staff to change their gloves if you have a gluten allergy. This will help prevent cross-contamination from previous buns. Another good thing about Five Guys, aside from the huge amount of fries they give you, is that everything is fresh. The restaurants have no freezers, so everything is delivered and prepared fresh daily. This ensures that the freshest vegetables, which are also gluten-free, are available. Five guys’ toppings are also unlimited, so put as much on your burger, hot dog or sandwich as you want. The aforementioned french fries are also gluten-free as they are fried in 100% peanut oil. Not great news for those with a peanut allergy, but those with a gluten allergy can rejoice! Five Guys fries are hand-cut each morning with local potatoes. Five Guys also has great milkshakes, but the malted milk, cherry and Oreo cookie piece mix-ins all have gluten. This still leaves you with bacon, banana, chocolate, coffee, peanut butter, salted caramel, strawberry or vanilla milkshakes, so there are plenty of delicious, gluten-free options at Five Guys!
6. Taco Bell
Another well-known Mexican fast-food restaurant is Taco Bell. Though Taco Bell’s menu is not as gluten-free friendly as Chipotle’s, but there are still some gluten-free options. Taco Bell has been around for much longer than Chipotle as the restaurant originated in 1946 in San Bernardino, California. The restaurant started off as a hot dog stand named Bell’s Drive. It later became Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs. The owner, Glen Bell, realized that tacos were doing really well at surrounding restaurants, so he started to sell them as well. Thus, the first Taco Bell was opened in 1962. Taco Bell has emphasized that they are not a gluten-free environment as they have plenty of gluten tortillas and products, this means even gluten-free items may be at risk for cross-contamination. That being said, Taco Bell’s nachos, spicy tostada, hash browns, chips with guacamole, and black beans and rice are gluten-free. Taco Bell’s tortilla chips are made with white ground corn, not flour. So, the layered nachos and Boss nachos with chicken or steak are good options as mains. Taco Bell is well-known for their sauces and hot sauces and the diablo, hot and mild sauces are also gluten-free friendly. All of the sodas and frozen drinks like their popular Baja Blast are all gluten-free as well. If you are severely allergic to gluten, Taco Bell may not be the best option as there is there is the chance of cross contamination from their various gluten options. If you do, just make sure to tell your cashier and employees will change their gloves to try to limit cross-contamination as much as possible.
Sonic first came to be as Top Hat Drive in in 1953, but was changed to Sonic in 1959 in Oklahoma. Going to Sonic is more of an experience than anything. You can park outside the restaurant to order and a Carhop, as they call it, will come out on roller skates to bring you your food, even in winter! But, the real question is, what gluten-free options do they have? While Sonic does have plenty of gluten-free ingredients like all of their vegetables and meat, they do not have any gluten-free bread options – which seems to be the running theme here. The good thing is that none of their meat has any gluten additives, so if you go bun-less, bring your own bun or use lettuce instead, you can get a hamburger or hotdog without worries. Sonic does unfortunately fry all of their breaded products in the same oil. This means that the fries and tater tots may have traces of gluten in them, so it is probably best to avoid them if you’re severely allergic. Sonic does have an extensive dessert menu, so if you don’t want to risk the gluten contamination with a main, dessert may just be the option for you! Most of their milkshakes, ice cream cones and ice cream sundaes are gluten-free or can be made gluten-free without any mix-ins like Oreo pieces that do have gluten.
Wendy’s is one of the top three most well-known hamburger food chains in the United States, following Burger King and McDonald’s. The chain has been around since 1969 and currently has over 6000 locations, with 92% of them being in North America. Like many of the burger restaurants we’ve discussed, Wendy’s does not offer a gluten-free bun. That being said, they do have a great list of gluten-free sides to choose from. Wendy’s is well-known for their frozen dairy dessert the Frosty. Good news, it’s gluten-free! You can pair the Frosty with any of Wendy’s beef or chicken patties, just without the bun. If you want to load up on sides instead, Wendy’s has tons of side options like baked potatoes, chili, French fries and salad (but without the croutons). Their fries are fried in the same oil as the breaded, gluten products, so there is likely cross-contamination. So, if you are severely allergic, it may be best to avoid these items or avoid Wendy’s as a whole, unless you want a delicious Frosty! The Frosty alone is worth the trip.
3. Burger King
The next of the top three burger fast food burger joints in the United States is Burger King. Burger King was actually created due to McDonald’s success. The creators of the chain, David Edgerton and James McLamore, visited a hamburger stand operated by the McDonald brothers before building an “insta-broiler” stove and opening the first Burger King restaurant in Miami. Again, like the other burger restaurants we talked about, Burger King has plenty of gluten-free ingredients, but no gluten-free buns. You can make the same adjustments we’ve discussed already to make your burger gluten-free: such as taking off the bun. The beef and chicken patties are gluten-free, so you could get them wrapped in lettuce. Their fries are again, fried in the same oil as foods containing gluten, so just be cautious when ordering them. Burger King has a pretty good dessert menu with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milkshakes, soft serve ice cream, and caramel, chocolate fudge, and strawberry sundaes. All of their sodas and coffee drinks are gluten-free as well if you need a coffee pick me up.
As the largest fast food chain in the world with over 38,000 locations, McDonald’s had to be mentioned on this list. Unfortunately however, they don’t offer a lot of gluten-free options. McDonald’s buns and bread all contain gluten with no gluten-free substitute. So, much like our previous burger joints, one of the only ways to make your burger gluten-free is to order it without the bun. The best thing about McDonald’s is how customizable their menu actually is. You can ask to replace the buns with lettuce to make your burger gluten-free with no issues. It is important to note that some of the sauces do contain gluten, like McDonald’s famous Big Mac sauce, so you’ll have to go without. Though they are not famous for them, McDonald’s does have a lot of salads. Without the croutons or tortilla strips, the side salad, Cesar salad, premium southwest salad and premium bacon ranch salad are all gluten free. The Cesar, ranch, Cobb and low fat balsamic dressing are all gluten free as well. Maybe a little more appetizing is McDonald’s gluten free dessert section. The fruit and yogurt parfait (without granola), M&Ms McFlurry, hot fudge sundae, and caramel sundae are all gluten free. McDonald’s has announced that while they’re beef patties, grilled chicken patties and fries do not contain gluten, they are all made in a gluten-filled environment, so those who are allergic to gluten should beware.
Many people don’t realize, but Subway is actually the second largest fast food restaurant chain in the world. The restaurant is a close second to McDonald’s with over 36,000 locations in the world. Although they specialize in sandwiches, they are one of the only fast food restaurants we’ve discussed that carries gluten-free bread. Their gluten-free bread is manufactured offsite in a gluten-free facility, making Subway one of the most gluten-free friendly restaurants on this list. If you let the cashier know of your gluten allergy, workers will change their gloves, use fresh ingredients and a separate working space to try to ensure that your sandwich is totally gluten free. Subway does note that even though they try their best, their still may be some accidental cross-contamination. The overall theme for all of the restaurants we’ve discussed is: be careful if you’re severely allergic to gluten. You can still enjoy food at many fast-food restaurants, but cautiously.