Love to eat at Chili’s? I’ll share with you what’s gluten free at Chili’s and how to order safely. I also tested a few dishes for hidden gluten with my Nima Sensor. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
Have you ever wondered if you could eat gluten free at Chili’s?
In this post, I’ll share with you what you can eat at Chili’s when you can’t eat gluten, as well as share the results of my Nima Sensor tests with you.
The Nima Sensor is portable gluten-detecting device that allows you to test a portion of your food for hidden gluten. It’s a highly accurate device and a life saver to many people in the gluten-free community.
You can learn more about the Nima Sensor in my article, 13 Things You Need to Know about the Nima Sensor.
What’s Gluten Free at Chili’s?
The Chili’s “Gluten-Free Friendly” menu includes fajitas, burgers, fresh mex bowls, tacos, salads, grilled steaks and chicken, as well as its famous baby back ribs. There’s truly something for everyone on this menu.
That said, you must closely examine Chili’s gluten-free menu to really understand what is safe to eat. That’s because many items marked gluten free are highlighted in red and have an asterisk next to them.
The asterisk denotes that, while the item contains no gluten-containing ingredients, it’s prepared in shared fryer with food that contains gluten.
If you’re serious about being gluten free, and you’re on a medically necessary gluten-free diet, you cannot eat anything that comes in contact with gluten, such as items cooked in a shared fryer. This is why you must avoid French fries and tortilla chips at Chili’s, both are cooked in a shared fryer and deeply cross contaminated with gluten bits.
It’s also important to refer to the restaurant’s Allergen Menu before you go, this way you’ll know, for sure, what you can and can’t order. Knowing what you can order ahead of time will make life so much easier when you get to the restaurant.
You can see exactly what allergens are in each food item, and the menu also clearly identifies which items come in cross contact with other allergens (including all items that are deep fried).
I love ordering off of Chili’s Guiltless Grill, which are items that contain less than 650 calories, as many of the items are both gluten free and free from cross contact with other allergens. Plus, you’ll end up eating a little lighter and that is always a good thing!
You can order any of the following off of Chili’s Guiltless Grill:
- 6 ounce Sirloin with Avocado
- Ancho Salmon
- Mango-Chili Chicken (my favorite!)
- Grilled Chicken Salad
Nima Testing Chili’s Gluten-Free Menu
I brought my Nima Sensor during a visit to Chili’s so I could check my meal for hidden gluten. I wanted to know, for sure, if what I was about to eat was truly free from gluten.
While I know no restaurant can ensure a 100 percent gluten-free experience, as most kitchens do not have dedicated gluten-free kitchens, I also know that many chain restaurants are good about minimizing such risks. For example, Red Robin is phenomenal at minimizing cross contamination, as is Chick-fil-a.
Here’s what I ordered off Chili’s gluten-free menu and how each item fared:
I love fajitas and am thrilled they are part of Chili’s gluten-free offerings.
As you can see, the Nima Sensor is all smiles when I tested the chicken fajitas, black beans and rice for hidden gluten. A smile means no gluten found – whew!
When you order the chicken fajitas, always ask for the corn tortillas (vs. wheat tortillas). They are typically wrapped in parchment paper.
Here’s how the corn tortillas tested. Hint, good news, Nima is smiling again.
Chicken Chipotle Fresh Mex Bowl
When we ordered the Chicken Chipotle Fresh Mex Bowl, things got a little tricky, and unfortunately, my Nima Sensor came back with a “Gluten Found” message.
I conducted a second test of just the sauce topping, and Nima came back with the “Gluten Found” message again.
I believe the sauce may have contained gluten or come in cross contact with gluten. The server offered to make me a new one without the sauce, a very nice gesture.
About that Nima Sensor
The Nima Sensor is a portable gluten-detecting device. It allows you to test a pea-sized sample of your food for gluten. Nima will report back to you if it finds gluten in your food.
If the Nima Sensor doesn’t detect gluten, Nima will display a smiley face; if it finds gluten, it will display a wheat symbol and show the message, “Gluten Found”.
When I order my food, I always specify that I need the item to be made gluten free and with allergy prep (change gloves and clean surfaces). I always mention that I’m serious about being gluten free.
At Chili’s, the waiter assured me that Chili’s is good about allergens and that he would communicate my needs to the cook. Before he left our table, I showed him my Nima Sensor and told him that I was going to test my food for gluten. He said he was excited for me to test my food so he could know for sure, too.
I highly recommend that everyone with celiac disease or a serious gluten sensitivity invest in a Nima Sensor. This device is a life-saver indeed!
I love eating out despite my diet “disability,” and I’ve dedicated much of my energy to helping others eat out gluten free as safely as possible too.
Please consider reading my ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free if eating out is a source of angst for you. I’ll teach you how to do it as successfully as possible.
You can also get my book, Dear Gluten, It’s Not Me, It’s You, for more information about following a gluten-free lifestyle, including tons of information about eating out and traveling while gluten free.
I encourage you to invest in a gluten-detecting device. A few to research include Nima Sensor, ALLIS Sensor and The Allergy Amulet. Not all of these companies have gluten-detecting devices available at the time this article was last updated.
I also encourage you to visit my Eating Out Library to see how other restaurants fared when tested for hidden gluten.
Finally, you might enjoy this article, 5 Things I Wish Restaurants Knew About Gluten Free. I offer advice to restaurants on how they can step up their gluten-free game!