By/ Last Modified On August 7, 2023
When you’re crunched for time or craving something a little “naughty,” gluten-free fast food can satisfy like nothing else.
From burgers to fries to shakes, we’ve scoured the menus of all the top fast food chains for the best gluten-free fast food options.
We’ve also included some fast food joints that you can probably keep driving past.
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food?
Whether you have celiac disease, gluten allergies, or gluten intolerances, plenty of people have a hard time eating whatever and wherever they want. In fact, something like 6-7% of the population struggles with gluten (myself included).
Just because you’ve got certain dietary restrictions doesn’t mean that a “quick bite” is off the table. Plenty of restaurants understand that the food market is shifting – and we’re pleased to see so many jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon.
How the Gluten-Free Fast Food Culture Is Shifting
Over the past decade, gluten-free fast food options have skyrocketed. And while there’s a long way to go, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come!
More Items Available
Fast food corporations didn’t get where they were by ignoring what customers want. Plenty of restaurants are including their fast food items with gluten-free buns, separate fryers, and alternative meals to meet that demand. We’re here for it!
By law, fast food restaurants are required to include allergen information on their menus (though they can often be hard to find on websites). This information needs to include gluten, milk, soy, and more.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Not to worry: There are plenty of gluten-free food apps to choose from. They help take the guesswork out of finding.
With so many Americans suffering from food allergies and sensitivities, corporations and franchises are taking greater responsibility through training. Improved food preparation and storage means less health risk and better customer satisfaction.
The 8 Best Gluten-Free Fast Food Restaurants
We’ve put together this comprehensive list of gluten-free fast food options. We’ve chosen these restaurants for their transparency, selection, and availability across the US.
We’re always looking to learn more about delicious options. If our list is missing a restaurant, let us know in the comments below!
They’ve got the meat – and milkshakes. While you won’t find any GF bread on Arby’s menu, there is a selection of condiments, meats, and milkshakes to choose from. You’ll need to consult with the team about their crinkle-cut fries, as some franchises opt to fry them with glutinous foods.
Chick-fil-A has introduced a gluten-free bun that’s served in separate packaging. While that means you’ll need to assemble your sandwich, it dramatically cuts down on cross-contamination issues.
From their Spicy Southwest Salad to grilled nuggets to waffle fries (cooked separately in peanut oil), this restaurant chain offers an impressive selection of fast food with gluten-free options, for sure. Feel free to dip your waffle fries in any of their dipping sauces.
Unfortunately, their eponymous fried chicken sandwich can’t be made celiac-friendly.
When I found out about Chipotle Mexican Grill’s gluten-free options, I could barely contain my excitement. Sure, you can’t eat the flour tortillas, but everything else on the menu is listed as gluten-free. A Carnitas bowl with extra guacamole, white rice, and fajita vegetables? Yes, please!
As they say, “Unless you have an allergy to delicious food, we might have an issue.”
As a born-and-raised midwesterner, I’d be remiss not to mention Dairy Queen. While you probably can’t order much in the way of food, you’re probably there to get ice cream anyway. Their soft serve can safely be consumed in a dish – and Dilly Bars are ideal any day of the week (shoutout to their new gluten-free, dairy-free Dilly Bar).
Unless a staff member ensures that the Blizzard machine is thoroughly sanitized, you’re risking cross-contamination.
The crunchiest fries in the game might belong to Five Guys, thanks to their use of 100% peanut oil. Want a burger or hot dog? Ask the team to roll it up in lettuce – and then put literally any topping on it (minus malt vinegar and fry sauce). Nearly every milkshake add-on is GF, too. There’s a reason this brand has taken the UK by storm in the past few years: It’s obscenely good.
Note: We love that the Five Guys allergen menu is one of the most detailed out there.
A West Coast staple, In-N-Out Burgers offers ProteinStyle® options. Rather than using a bun, your custom order will be wrapped in lettuce for a crispy, gooey meal. Add an order of fries and a milkshake – pure bliss.
Be sure to order it without the plainly-named “spread,” as that’s the only sauce not on the GF menu.
Just like Chipotle, Qdoba offers plenty of GF options to “build-your-own” meal. With a massive selection of grilled meats, beans, veggies, white and brown rice, and sauces, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything!
Tortillas, seasoned potatoes, and chips (prepared in a shared fryer) are a no-go. However, the tortilla strips are on the gluten-free list, so you’ll still have that satisfying crunch.
On the East Coast, Shake Shake has built a reputation for delicious food made with high-quality ingredients. Like many other burger joints, their hamburgers can be made with a lettuce wrap. If you have a milkshake or ice cream float craving, go right ahead – they’re all safe.
Avoid the Shake Shack fries. They’re technically gluten-free but fried in the same equipment as gluten-containing foods. We’d also caution against ordering the ‘Shroom Burgers and Veggie Patties, too.
A Shout-out: Gluten-Free Fast Food Fries
Plenty of restaurants offer options for gluten-free french fries (check out the link for more details). Shout-out to the following restaurants for slinging fries that are completely gluten-free:
- Hopdoddy Burger Bar
- Red Robin (be sure to ask your server about your gluten-free order)
- Ted’s Montana Grill
- Five Guys
Can I Trust GF Fast Food?
Listen, no one wants to get cramps, digestive issues, headaches, hives, or fatigue after eating anything. We don’t wish that on anyone!
Even if food products are touted as “gluten-free,” there’s a lot more to it than that. If gluten-free items are prepared on shared surfaces – without proper cleaning procedures – you risk cross-contamination. And that means they can’t actually be considered gluten-free.
What Should I Look for?
You’ll need to do plenty of research before hitting the drive-thru. From asking the kitchen staff whether they use separate fryers and surfaces to checking ingredient lists, there’s a steep learning curve.
If you’re concerned that a fast food restaurant isn’t adhering to proper preparation methods, don’t risk it. You may also want to consider contacting management.
Sure, you might go home empty-handed, but you won’t be dealing with negative side effects. Plus, if you know how to cook for yourself, you’ll always have something to eat at home!
Fast Food Restaurants That Offer Poor GF Selections
During our research, we were surprised to find that some of the most popular fast food joints across the US offer the fewest gluten-free options.
Buffalo Wild Wings
This chicken wing monolith has over 1,000 locations in the United States. While it’s incredibly popular, the company released a statement that says, “we cannot eliminate the risk of cross-contact or guarantee that any item is free of any allergen and no items are certified gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan.”
In a company statement, Burger King acknowledges that items may be prepared in shared areas (and with the same utensils). Therefore, your order “may come in contact with other food products, including other allergens.” If you have serious allergies or celiac disease, we’d recommend passing on BK, just to be safe.
We did our best to find information on Hardee’s gluten-free menu, but nothing was available on their website. This also applies to Carl’s Jr. (owned by the same company). Because we came away empty-handed, we’d recommend that people with celiac avoid eating from this menu.
Jack in the Box
There are a number of gluten-free salads on Jack in the Box’s menu, though you’ll need to order them without crunchy toppings and with certain dressings (we like the Creamy Southwest variety). Otherwise, the GF selection here is extremely limited: Who wants a salad when they’re buying fast food?
While people with celiac can’t eat any of the chicken products at KFC, there are a handful of side dishes available. These include mashed potatoes (without the gravy), corn, corn on the cob, green beans, and coleslaw. If you have a craving for KFC, it’s incredibly easy to make gluten-free chicken nuggets!
Getting rid of their salad line in 2020 meant that there are virtually no gluten-free options at McDonald’s. Even if an item is labeled as gluten-free, their kitchen setup means that McDonald’s “cannot guarantee that cross-contamination will not occur.” If you have a serious allergy or celiac disease, ordering from this chain could be tricky.
Is it surprising that a restaurant with “bread” in the name cautions their gluten-free guests about cross-contamination issues? While Panera Bread’s gluten-free menu showcases a few items that are wheat-free (like their Vegetarian Mexcian Street Corn Chowder, Baja Bowl, and Mediterranean Bowl), it might not be the most solid choice for folks with celiac disease.
According to Sonic Drive-In, they “cannot eliminate the risk of cross-contact or guarantee that any item is free of any allergen and no items are certified gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan.” Their deep fryers are shared, too. As far as drinks go, the company states that their blended, mixed, and frozen drinks are all made in the same preparation areas. You might have to stick to a lemonade.
A favorite fast food chain of vegetarians, Taco Bell’s gluten-free menu is totally lacking. In fact, due to the common kitchen areas and shared fryers, the company doesn’t recommend their products to people with celiac disease. That said, you can still enjoy a Baja Blast Mountain Dew, though!
Unfortunately, Wendy’s states that cross-contamination can’t “guarantee that any menu item can be completely free of allergens.” You’ll probably be fine with a Frosty, but you won’t have any french fries to dip into it.
Hitting the Road?
If you’re going on a vacation anytime soon, there’s never a bad time to start planning the restaurants you want to visit. While you might be stopping for gluten-free fast food en route, you’ll want to check out these touristic hotspots:
- Gluten-Free Las Vegas Restaurants
- Eating Gluten-Free at Disneyworld
- Best Gluten-Free Restaurants in NYC
Want to Make Your Own?
Making your own version of classic fast food favorites at home means you are 100% sure all ingredients are safe and gluten-free. And while it's not as quick or easy, it's more delicious and satisfying.
Try these recipes:
- Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns
- Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets
- Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders
- Gluten-Free Orange Chicken
- Homemade Gluten-Free Hot Dog Buns
- Gluten-Free Chicken Wings