Gluten-Free at Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Sonic and More

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I recently had the pleasure of going to a large fast food chain and ordering a burger on a gluten-free bun. The gluten-free buns were available at every location in the country and extreme care was taken by the staff to avoid cross-contamination.

The name of this particular fast food chain is Burger Ranch.

Now, I’d be very surprised if you’ve heard of Burger Ranch. The reason? It’s a large fast food chain in Israel and unfortunately, I don’t think they plan on expanding to the United States any time soon.

Well, unless you’re going to Israel in the near future; that leaves you with the gluten-free options at American fast food chains.

Our review of gluten-free fast food options continues this week as we explore Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Sonic, Little Caesar’s, Jack in the Box, Papa Murphy’s, Einstein Bagels and Checkers.

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Taco Bell’s Gluten-Free Options

 

If you’ve been craving Mexican food, now is your chance to eat at Taco Bell with their new Cantina Bowl, which consists of citrus-herb marinated chicken, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo (roasted corn and pepper salsa), drizzled with a creamy cilantro dressing and served on a bed of Latin rice. It’s also available in steak or veggie.

Other than that, the menu’s off limits except for the pintos ‘n cheese, Latin rice, black beans and rice, cheesy nachos, XXL steak nachos or chips and salsa. A word of caution on the nachos and chips, though; the menu says they’re prepared in common equipment.

 

Wendy’s Gluten-Free Options

 

According to the Wendy’s published gluten-free menu, the applewood smoked bacon hamburger patty is gluten-free, but it “may come in contact with gluten-containing foods during preparation.” The ultimate chicken grill fillet is a safe bet, however, as are all of their baked potatoes as well as the chili.

Salads are always a good choice (hold the croutons), especially the Baja chili salad, and the seasoned tortilla strips are made with corn and are also gluten-free. Try a frosty shake for dessert, or the apple slices. Check with your local restaurant to find out if they use a dedicated fryer for their French fries.

 

Sonic’s Gluten-Free Menu

 

Sonic Drive-In offers a number of gluten-free choices, including the bunless hamburger patty, bacon, breakfast sausage, sliced ham, pork and beef hot dogs, Philly steak, grilled onions, red and green peppers, French fries, potato tots, all cheeses, Fritos corn chips, apple slices, Sonic mint, all sandwich toppings, dressings and condiments.

Most of the dessert items are safe except for the Oreo cookie topping, malt powder, graham cracker crumbs and ice cream cones. There is a possibility of gluten cross-contamination from fried items, so it’s best to check with the manager as to whether that particular restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free fryer.

 

Little Caesars’ Gluten-Free Menu

 

Apart from beverages, Little Caesars has virtually no gluten-free items on the menu – in the United States, anyway. Little Caesars restaurants in Australia have introduced gluten-free pizzas in a variety of specialties, including vegetarian, seafood, meat, chicken and even dessert pizzas, which are doing quite well Down Under. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before they bring the gluten-free crusts to the United States!

 

Jack in the Box Gluten-Free Menu

 

Jack in the Box does not list specific menu items that are gluten-free, but they do provide a listing of all ingredients used on their menu and allergens they contain. Apart from a bunless hamburger patty or grilled chicken fillet, the best choices are the grilled chicken salad, chicken club or Southwest chicken salad with grilled instead of crispy chicken.

While the croutons are obvious off-limits, the spicy corn sticks are okay, as are most of the sauces and dressings, with the exception of the teriyaki sauce. Breakfast options are the scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage and for desert they offer a variety of gluten-free ice cream shakes (skip the Oreo cookie version) and a root beer float.

 

Papa Murphy’s Gluten-Free Menu

 

Papa Murphy’s is not recommended for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. The only menu items that do not contain gluten are the Caesar salad without dressing or croutons, the Mediterranean salad without dressing or croutons, and the nacho cheese sauce. While the salad dressings do not actually contain gluten, they are listed as containing ingredients that have been manufactured in a facility that shares common equipment with gluten-containing ingredients. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to eat at a Papa Murphy’s, it’s best to bring your own salad dressing to be on the safe side.

 

Einstein Bros. Bagels Gluten-Free Menu

 

As the name implies, Einstein Bros. sells bagels, and all of their bagels are made with wheat flour. So even though all of the lovely toppings are gluten-free, it doesn’t help if there is nothing to “shmear” them on. They do offer a wide variety of hot and cold beverages, specialty coffee drinks, lattes, etcetera, which are all gluten-free, so stopping in for a morning java or a cold lemonade on a hot afternoon is not out of the question. Other fairly safe side items are the fruit cup / fruit salad, potato salad, garden salad, strawberry chicken salad, chipotle chicken salad, the strawberry banana smoothie and the ultimate blueberry smoothie.

 

Checkers Gluten-Free Menu

 

All of Checkers / Rally’s Classic Wings are listed as gluten-free, in flavors ranging from honey BBQ to extra hot, parmesan garlic, Asian kick and medium buffalo. The only other items listed are vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and banana milkshakes. Unfortunately, they do not list separate items such as bunless burgers and hot dogs. Check with the manager if you are interested in those items. All of the French fries are listed as containing gluten.

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Comments ( 48 )

  • April

    At Taco Bell you forgot the tostada and also a Mexican pizza no beef substitute beans. Unless you know of something different about their recipe than in previous years?

    • Crittervamp

      Be careful of the sauce… Alot of their hot sauce packets have wheat in them aso.

    • Steve

      I’d be careful with the mexican pizza. The shells that they use for it aren’t typically the same as the tostada. It’s more akin to the Taco Salad shell which (if I remember right) is a wheat flour based shell.

    • Kathy

      Why are you substituting beans for the meat, I have beef tacos all the time and don’t have a problem . Is their something in the meat that i’m not aware of. I also make tacos at home and i use taco bell seasoning and don’t have a problem but i would like to know either way. Thank You

      • Eric

        taco bell’s meat contains gluten. I’m assuming it’s in the seasoning.

        • Sherry

          I don’t have problems with the meat.

      • D

        It was stated that Taco Bell adds flour to their meat. This was mentioned in the media when one of the beef companies filed a claim that they should call it beef because they add so much flour.

      • Jamie

        Yes, it has been confirmed that the taco meat has gluten. This is often true at most mexican places, but not all. So check to be sure. Even fajita meat CAN contain gluten in the marinade at many places, and the same goes with shiskabobs. So again, please check the ingredients with a manager. Don’t assume it is okay. Also, Taco Bell’s red sauce used on the pintos and cheese and other items has gluten. BUT, their steak fajita meat does NOT. So, it is okay.

    • Sherry

      I eat the crunchy tacos and have no problem. Maybe some locations put something in the sauce?

    • Jamie

      Even if sub beans for the meat, the mexican pizza is not okay because it is made with flour tortillas.

  • Linda

    You mentioned under Sonic, their breakfast sausage. When I grocery shop, there are almost no safe sausages! Perhaps it is the MSG, which one chef told me was pure gluten. If we have few options shopping, I don’t see sausage being a good choice. For myself, I have had the breakfast sausage at Denny’s and ended up itching (my reaction to gluten and MES)

    • Crittervamp

      Alot of people can not tolerate MSG especially celiac patients because the lining of our stomach is so damaged fromt he disease. MSG is not gluten

    • Jamie

      That chef doesn’t know what they are talking about. MSG is not pure gluten. It is soybean based.

  • Giliah

    Hey Linda. While the name “monosodium glutimate” can sound deceiving, MSG doesn’t actually have any gluten in it. It is 100% gluten-free!

  • Liza

    Locally we have had BIG issues with cross contamination at most fast food places. Sonic’s sausages are NOT GF….sausage almost always contains filler. Only Wendy’s here uses a dedicated fryer for fries, the rest do not. We only trust ChickFilA, Del Taco, Wendy’s & In& Out Burger here…since we took the time to contact them and educate them on true, contamination-free prep. Many people with gluten issues also have problems with dairy, soy, MSG and often egg too (our family has to avoid all). So a lot of the items you mentioned are still off limits! Many of those dairy-free shakes, etc also have chemical ingredients or soy…we react to them even worse than to real dairy!

    • Kotsu

      Wendy’s fryer policies must vary state to state. When I lived in NC, every one I tried would have cross-contaminated my food had I not inquired.

  • Amy

    I’ve found that Sonic is the most tolerable of fast food available in the South. I’ve tried so many gluten free pizzas even at local hip eateries. They tasted great but I think the binder they used for the crust made me “run for the border”. Fast food is always going to be hit and miss like any diet challenge gluten free or not. At least it’s a hot topic! Things will improve!

  • Paul Avery

    I would like to point out that Eat N Park which is a chain of moderately priced sit down restaurants in the east has a great celiac menu including gluten free buns for their sandwiches. Red Robin also offers a gluten free bun for their burgers. What a refreshing change from having to eat your burger naked on a plate with a fork!!! Hats off to these two fine restaurant chanins!!!

    • Lazy gluten free mom

      not all red robins are yet offering a GF bun.. the 3 locations in my area (Anchorage Alaska area) certainly do not.. I get the lettuce wrap as that’s the only thing they offer.

  • Paul

    If you are in Chicago and want a fabulous pizza, Connie’s Pizza has the absolute best pizza ever and its Gluten Free. The neat thing there is not only do they offer the GF crust, but all of their meats are GF as well so load it up any way you like it and you are good to go!! Cottage Inn also offers a gluten free and they will tell you what toppings are available.

  • Nancy

    For sausage bought in the store, Jones brand is gluten free, says it right on the package. Not only that, but they work with the GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) and the Celiac Disease Foundation – also says that right on the package.

  • Crittervamp

    BJ’s Bistro has amazing pizza & Freddies Frozen Custard has amazing GF buns with their GF burgers. Just some suggestions

  • Deb

    Jimmy johns offer an umwhich which is what ever kind of sub you want but wrapped in lettuce. The beef meat is not and the cheese meets guideline to be glutten free. If you google it will tell you a list of what i and what isn’t glutten free.

    • Chris

      We used to eat the Unwich at Jimmy John’s, but often had contamination problems. Notice that the meat and toppings are all pulled from bins where gloved hands have been handling and slicing buns before touching the toppings. Crumbs everywhere is pretty much the norm, and seems unavoidable.

  • Roshann

    Despite what corporate want to tell us, CORN is not gluten free, it has a very similar protein as wheat and causes inflammation the same as gluten. Be wary of ALL corn products, including corn chips, corn oil, cornstarch, corn syrup, etc.. Rice is also very inflammatory for celiacs as well.

    • Mandy

      Corn IS gluten-free. It may have a similar protein but that protein is NOT gluten. YOU may have an issue with corn and rice, but not all of us do.

    • Kotsu

      Roshann, I appreciate your post. Corn and rice do not contain gluten, but they do contribute to inflammation, and I appreciate the reminder. Systemic inflammation is my worst symptom. Another thought: even if food manufacturers are careful, grains likely get cross-contaminated with other grains getting from field to manufacturer. Companies that buy corn, rice, & wheat from the farmer may or may not use dedicated chute lines for each when unloading or storing. Small local grain hubs with 2-3 silos are unlikely to have always been dedicated to only one grain. And from there, trucks that transport it may or may not have only and always been used to haul only that grain. And some farmers grow corn AND wheat, and they likely use the same truck to transport both to the hub or mill. Then those mills may or may not be keeping each grinder dedicated life-long to one particular grain. Few grains arrive on your table uncontaminated by other grains. Organic grain products might, though.

  • Michelle

    I have never had a problem with Jimmy Johns unwich in Lakeland, FL. There are several brands that make gluten free meats, including sausage. Jones, Al Fresco, Hormel.Do your homework and ask your local stores to start carrying these items. Kroger and Publix do very good with marking their shelves to help you find gluten free items.

    • Kotsu

      Do watch out for carageenan and MSG in many sausages, however. They aren’t gluten, but they can affect us as badly because of how our intestines are (in a less than ideal state). Please read my post about carageenan below, my specialist was the one who first warned me. (MSG gives me headaches, so that’s a different story.)

  • Melisa

    I got sick from a supposedly gluten-free shake at Sonic. After looking into it, it was probably contamination from the shake mixer because they don’t clean it off between shakes and their malts do contain gluten. Now, I only get shakes from places that don’t also serve malts or any varieties that containg gluten, like Wendey’s.

    • Kotsu

      Ack!! Jeez, I guess we’ve got to think very concretely about what exactly is going on in a restaurant kitchen at each step of our food prep. The inadequately trained (not taught about gluten!) staff at many fast food places simply don’t know to (or bother too, as they are underpaid) clean out a shake/malt mixer. Thanks for the tip, Melisa! I’ll pay more attention.

  • Melisa

    I haven’t had a problem with the unwiches at out Jimmy John’s although cross contamination could happen. I ask them to change their gloves, make it on a piece of paper instead of on the counter, and give me a pack of mayo instead of spreading mayo on because they cut the bread with the mayo knife.

  • Michelle

    I went to the grocery store since my earlier post in found the Boarshead meats are gluten free, including their sausages. Aidell, spelling may be incorrect, has a gluten free sausage also.

    Burger 21 has gluten free buns and they are very careful to use a dedicated mixing attachment to mix their shakes. The Banana Fosters is so good, it should be illegal.

    We all need to remember that not all food servers and handlers are aware of what gluten is and the incredible amount of ways it could be hidden. Also, there are too manyof them that assume we are choosing to be gluten free as a fad diet. You have to let them know it can make you very ill with the tiniest about you come in contact with.

  • Mandy

    I am a super sensitive Celiac with a wheat allergy and don’t have a problem eating tacos at Taco Bell and Taco Bueno. Just FYI.

    • Sherry

      I have been eating corn tacos at Taco Bell for a long time and haven’t had any problems. in Livermore, CA

  • Kotsu

    My G.I. doctor said to stay away from carageenan if you have gluten issues, and I have discovered he’s right; it’s a huge aggravator of symptoms (and it’s in many, many foods). So, while the Wendy’s baked potato is safe, their fake sour cream is not; it contains carageenan.

    I accidentally started eating carageenan when the coconut milk ice cream manufacturer started using it and I didn’t notice the ingredients list for a while. My symptoms got worse fast,a huge downhill slide, until I figured it out. Still took me months to get asymptomatic again after that.

  • Kotsu

    In the Seattle area, we’re blessed with GF take-out pizza from Garlic Jim’s. It’s unbelievably good! They only need 15 minutes to prep it, and unlike many GF flour products, the crust holds together well. (It’s a crispy crust.)

  • Sherry

    Z Pizza in Livermore, CA, is good, not great. It has a thin crust and gets soggy quickly. It is also very expensive.

    • Sherry

      I have found Freschetta frozen GF pizza is excellent. It is only cheese, so you have to add your own toppings. It doesn’t fall apart in the oven unlike other frozen GF
      pizzas I tried.

  • Sheri

    Some Johnsonville sausages are GF as are Aidell and Boarshead meats either. I used to take a cooler to an Italian deli 3 hours away to buy a large quantity of Boarshead to bring home & freeze. High quality product. Thankfully a nearby Kroger now carries it.
    Regarding fast food fryers: many establishments change oil once a week. I found I have fewer issues if I don’t get fries on the day or two before the change. Potatoes contain tiny amounts of gluten but are tolerable for most GF people in moderation. But oil that has seen many potatoes pass through it may be bad for very sensitive folks. Figured this out after visiting the same place some days with no problem and having harsh effects on different days of the week; 2 docs and a chef whose wife is celiac confirmed my suspicions. Unless the grill surface has been scraped down and completely cleaned, it’s a no go for me. Too easy for contaminates to still be on the surface or spread over.

  • Barbi

    With regard to the Einstein Gluten Free Bagels–what great news….More great news,,,, if there is a Wal Mart near you, they carry a wonderful Cream Cheese called “Great Value”!and it is gluten free!

  • M

    Red Robin Gourmet Burgers now offers gluten-free buns also.

  • Paul

    Additionally, at Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers, several other salads, the chili, baked potato and packeted hot sauce are all gluten free!

  • Sherry

    In n Out has lettuce-wrapped burgers (called protein style) and the only thing they deep fry is their yummy french fries.

  • Heather

    My local dominos in Indiana has a gluten free pizza crust that is also vegan. It’s delicious and their website also specifies the few toppings and sauces that are not gluten free.

  • Helper

    Fudruckers has GF buns, while In-N-Out and Carl’s Jr. offers lettuce wraps.

  • Pam

    Taco bell now has cool ranch shredded chicken tacos that are gluten free.look up gluten free menu at taco bell they have pretty good selection.

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