This article will help you safely enjoy frozen yogurt, ice cream and soft serve at popular ice cream and frozen yogurt shops. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
Going out for frozen yogurt or ice cream is something my family loves to do. My kids love frozen sweet treats, and it’s always good family fun to visit a frozen yogurt or ice cream shop.
But, like many restaurants, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops are full of gluten.
Have no fear because in this post, I will share with you:
- How you can enjoy ice cream and frozen yogurt at popular ice cream restaurants and shops.
- How a popular frozen yogurt store (Yogurtland) stood when put to the Nima Sensor gluten detecting test.
- Tips to safely enjoying gluten-free frozen yogurt and ice cream outside of the home.
Let’s start by discussing some of the most popular ice cream shops and how you can eat safely at each.
What’s Gluten Free at Dairy Queen?
If you find yourself at Dairy Queen, there are a few gluten-free items you can order that will be safest for you. Check with your local Dairy Queen for the latest ingredients and allergen disclosures.
The safest options at Dairy Queen include the pre-manufactured gluten-free novelties, including:
- Fudge Bars
- Vanilla Orange Bars
- Starkiss Bars
These novelties can be found in clear, sealed plastic wrappers and are made without wheat, rye, oats, or barley in a facility that has limited cross contact risk with gluten.
The Dilly Bars and Buster Bar Treats, found in paper bags, do not contain gluten, but they are made on the store premises and are therefore subject to potential cross contact.
The following items also do not contain gluten, but they may pose a potential cross contamination risk:
- Soft serve ice cream, served in a cup
- Hot fudge sundae with chocolate or caramel sauce (both gluten free)
- Fruit smoothies
- Orange Julius drinks
I highly recommend avoiding Blizzards as the machines come in contact with gluten bits and are used to make Blizzards containing gluten.
Please read the Dairy Queen Allergen Menu carefully to understand what is and isn’t gluten-free safe.
What’s Gluten Free at Baskin Robbins?
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, I do not recommend eating at Baskin Robbins because all the ice cream flavors are scooped using ice cream scoopers that have been used to scoop both gluten-y and gluten-free ice cream varieties.
Even if the server gets a clean ice cream scoop for you, the damage has been done. Previous scoopers have touched the ice cream you would like to eat and cross contact is inevitable.
Sometimes the server will fish out a fresh, untouched tub of ice cream for you, and if that happens, then you can safely eat at Baskin Robbins.
You can find a list of ingredients, along with the clearly labeled allergens, on the Baskin Robbins website. Click on each individual flavor to decode its ingredient list and allergen labels.
What Gluten Free at Cold Stone Creamery?
Be careful eating ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery as the ice cream scoopers are used to scoop and mix both gluten-free and gluten-y ice cream flavors. Cake batter, cinnamon bun, cookie dough and oatmeal cookie batter contain gluten, and many of the ice cream toppings contain gluten as well.
If you tell your server you have a “gluten allergy,” they will wipe down the stone to prepare your ice cream (this is ESSENTIAL), however, residual gluten may still be on the mixing surface. You’ve been warned!
If you do decide to eat here (no judgement), reference the Cold Stone allergen menu for more information on which flavors are made without gluten.
All the sorbets and yogurts are free from gluten, and many ice cream flavors do not contain gluten either.
What’s Gluten Free at Yogurtland?
When my family wants to enjoy a safe, cold treat, we head to our local frozen yogurt shop – TCBY, SweetFrog and Yogurtland are some that come to mind.
My frozen yogurt shop of choice these days is Yogurtland. There is one near my house just outside of Denver.
Inside the store, each flavor is clearly marked with an allergen label, making it easy to navigate the frozen yogurt bar with ease.
If your frozen yogurt shop does not have these labels, consult the store manager about what is gluten free. Ask to see the allergen menu so you can see for yourself what is and isn’t safe. Don’t rely on the memory of those working at the shop.
Online, you can use Yogurtland’s Flavor Finder to identify which flavors are gluten free. One exciting thing about Yogurtland is that many of the flavors that sound like they would contain gluten, like cake batter, are actually gluten free.
I took my Nima Sensor to Yogurtland so I could be certain I was indeed getting a gluten-free frozen yogurt treat.
In order to test a sample of my frozen yogurt for gluten with the Nima Sensor, I put a pea-sized amount of it into the test capsule. In about 2-3 minutes, Nima reveals if the food contains gluten.
Below are the test results. A smiley face means no gluten found.
You can learn more about the Nima Sensor in this detailed article. I carry my Nima Sensor wherever I go, and if something is in question, I have Nima by my side to help me.
You’ll notice that frozen yogurt toppings are mostly self-serve these days, and the topping’s bar is where cross contamination is rampant.
While you already know M&Ms and chocolate chips are gluten free, what you don’t know is if bits of other toppings (like Oreos) have been dropped into those bins, or if the scooper has scooped/touched gluten-y toppings as well.
This is why I highly recommend avoiding the toppings bar altogether.
Instead, ask the person working at the shop if you can scoop toppings from a clean tub that hasn’t been exposed to the self-serve bar. This way you get to scoop from the fresh stuff and you won’t have to worry about what toppings may have come in cross contact with gluten.
You can also bring a bag of M&Ms or chocolate chips with you, and then add them to your frozen yogurt (discreetly, of course) to be extra safe.
Tips to Staying Gluten Free Safe
Now that you understand a bit more about how to eat gluten-free frozen yogurt and ice cream outside of the home, I want to offer a few tips to ensure a safe, all-around experience:
(1) READ ingredient labels carefully. Avoid anything with wheat, barley, rye and oats. Be particularly aware of barley malt – it is not gluten free and is often found in ice cream. Barley malt is not detected by the Nima Sensor either because it’s fermented (fermentation breaks down the gluten protein) and the Nima Sensor cannot detect gluten in fermented foods.
(2) AVOID ice cream flavors with “cookies” and “dough” in it unless otherwise specified as gluten free.
(3) REQUEST a sample-size of your choice flavor before you order. Test the sample with your Nima Sensor.
(4) CHOOSE soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt over scooped ice cream. Soft serve comes straight from the tap and is less likely to come in cross contact with other flavors.
(5) AVOID ice cream scoopers as they are used to serve all flavors.
(6) ASK for fresh toppings that are not found in the display case and therefore have not been exposed to potential cross contact with gluten.
(7) BEWARE of malt, shake and Blizzard(R) machines (at Dairy Queen) due to cross contact with gluten flavors and toppings.
I hope you learned a lot about how you can safely enjoy eating out gluten-free frozen yogurt and ice cream. It’s always a learning process, but with time, you get a better sense of what you can and cannot safely eat.
And trust me, don’t be tempted to order something that you’re unsure about. It’s not worth the risk of getting sick, especially given that you can easily buy gluten-free labeled containers of ice cream at the grocery store without missing out on your favorite frozen treat.