To most people, “fast food” is synonymous with greasy, yet delicious burgers and fries. Well unfortunately for us gluten-free folks, we can count on the buns being off-limits 100% of the time. Even the seemingly safe French fries are very often fried in the same fryers as breaded chicken fingers.
What’s a gluten-free dieter to do? Keep driving until you come across a Boston Market.
Seriously – you’ll see why.
Our review of gluten-free fast food options continues this week as we explore McDonald’s, Burger King, Jimmy John’s, Boston Market, Whataburger, Krispy Kreme, Carl’s Jr., Popeye’s, and Zaxby’s.
McDonald’s Gluten-Free Menu
McDonald’s does not offer a gluten-free menu and does not have a dedicated fryer. In fact, the oil the fries are cooked in actually contains wheat derivatives. Fortunately, they’ve been upping the healthy food quotient on their menu lately, and there are several snack choices available such as apple dippers with low fat caramel dip, and the fruit and yogurt parfait – hold the granola. Beware of the Fruit and Walnuts though, as the walnuts contain wheat.
All of the chicken contains gluten except the grilled chicken fillet, but it does have soy lecithin which a lot of celiacs also avoid. Ice cream is always good, and so is a side salad with Newman’s Own dressings – all except for the sesame ginger flavor.
Burger King’s Gluten-Free Menu
Burger King stipulates that all of its hamburger patties as well as the tendergrill chicken fillet, ham slice, bacon slice and egg patty do not contain gluten, but they cannot guarantee they won’t come in contact with a gluten-containing product at some point during preparation.
The sausage patty, French fries and tacos don’t contain gluten, but unless they’re cooked in a dedicated fryer, they should be avoided. The garden fresh salad with apple and cranberry is a good bet (add the tendergrill chicken if you dare). It’s best to check with the manager about gluten-free food handling practices or else stick to the ice cream.
Jimmy John’s Gluten-Free Menu
A friend to celiacs and carb-cutters alike, Jimmy John’s sub shop will make any of their sandwiches wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun, and call it the JJ Unwich. They offer no specific gluten information but all of their ingredients are fresh and wholesome, with lots of veggies and sprouts. Skip the sauces if you’re not sure, but this is a great place to find a gluten-free gourmet sandwich!
Boston Market’s Gluten-Free Menu
Boston Market publishes a comprehensive nutrition guide, and gluten-free menu offerings are plentiful. In addition to the Southwest Santa Fe salad you can feast on fresh hot rotisserie chicken, roasted turkey breast, chicken tortilla soup with toppings, creamed spinach, fresh steamed vegetables, garlic dill new potatoes, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, loaded mashed potatoes, green beans, broccoli with garlic butter sauce, cranberry walnut relish and cinnamon apples. In 2011, Boston Market actually made their poultry gravy gluten-free as well! You can definitely make a meal out of that!
Whataburger’s Gluten-Free Menu
Whataburger offers no specifically gluten-free items, however offerings that don’t intrinsically contain gluten are bunless burgers and grilled chicken patties, the apple and cranberry salad, garden salad, apple slices, vanilla shake – skip the strawberry malt – and packaged fruit chews. Inquire about the possibility of a dedicated fryer before trying the French fries or hash brown sticks.
Krispy Kreme’s Gluten-Free Menu
Krispy Kreme offers no gluten-free products. All of Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts and pies are made with wheat products, and Krispy Kreme management has no immediate plans to offer gluten-free items, as they feel they couldn’t possibly come close to matching the flavor and texture of their current product (so it would not be worthwhile to them). Until technology improves, alas, no Krispy Kreme for celiacs, except maybe the coffee.
Carl’s Jr. Gluten-Free Menu
All of Carl’s Jr. bunless burgers, sausage patties, sauces, cheeses and toppings are okay except the Teriyaki versions, which have gluten in the Teriyaki sauce. Avoid all of the charbroiled chicken breasts, which are marinated in gluten-containing soy sauce. Ditto for the various grilled chicken salads.
Your best bet is the Low Carb $6 Burger, which is actually served without the bun anyway. Also the chili is fine, and if they have a dedicated fryer, go for the chili cheese fries. But stay away from the CrissCut fries; those have gluten in them no matter what they’re cooked in!
The cranberry apple walnut salad may sound like a winner, but it has the soy-marinated chicken and the walnuts are glazed in a honey coating containing wheat starch. Stick with the garden salad and hold the croutons. All of the dressings are fine. For dessert, shakes are great, but skip the malts.
Popeye’s Gluten-Free Menu
All of the tasty chicken entrees at Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen are coated with breading containing gluten. The only gluten-free items on the menu are apple sauce, Cajun rice, red beans and rice, corn on the cob, coleslaw and jalapenos. Not much of a meal there.
Zaxby’s Gluten-Free Menu
While offering the usual warning about common preparation areas, Zaxby’s does publish an allergen guide with a few gluten-free menu items, including chicken wings, crinkle fries, the Caesar Zalad with no chicken and no croutons, side salad, coleslaw, celery, various milkshakes, dressings, wing sauces and beverages. Sauces and dressings to avoid are the sweet and spicy sauce, honey sesame, Teriyaki sauce, light ranch dressing and citrus vinaigrette. All of the rest are safe and as usual, check for a dedicated fryer before trusting the crinkle fries.