This post about the top gluten-free fast food options may include affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
If you’re gluten-free today, you’re in luck because there are many gluten-free fast food restaurants and gluten-free fast casual restaurants that will accommodate your special diet – and many do so with ease.
Mind you, these restaurants don’t only serve gluten-free food; rather, they have added gluten-free options to accommodate people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.
While eating gluten-free fast food options can help you in a pinch, be careful not to rely on them. There is still an inherent risk of cross contamination and gluten exposure at fast food restaurants. The staff is busy and typically comprised of low wage workers vs. a five-star restaurant where the chef is classically trained and knows gluten-free well.
That said, these gluten-free fast food options may be able to help you in a pinch. Also read my article, How Did 20 Restaurants Fare Against the Nima Sensor?
Top Gluten-Free Fast Food Options
1. Chipotle: You gotta hand it to Chipotle when it comes to catering to the gluten-free community. Every time I visit the restaurant, the staff knows exactly what to do after I disclose that I have a “gluten allergy.”
They change their gloves, gather fresh ingredients from the back or from under the counter, and they work hard to accommodate my visit at record speed.
You can enjoy a rice bowl topped with grilled chicken, black beans, fajita veggies, salsa, lettuce and cheese – all gluten-free. The chips and guac are also gluten-free!
The only thing on the Chipotle menu that has gluten in it is the flour tortillas, and they are easy to avoid.
2. Five Guys: I really enjoy eating at Five Guys. You can get a super juicy burger (lettuce-wrapped, of course!) and hand-cut fries that are the bomb! The staff at Five Guys are usually super careful about cross contamination too, changing gloves and preparing my food separately from the buns.
Read about my gluten-free Five Guys experience and check out Five Guy’s allergen menu. Avoid Five Guys if you anyone in your family has a peanut allergy. They use peanut oil and serve ballpark peanuts as an appetizer.
3. Chick-Fil-A: Everyone needs to make a run through the drive-thru every once in awhile. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just try to make a good choice when you do.
The grilled nuggets are gluten-free, as are the fries (just double-check with your local Chick-fil-a that they have a dedicated fryer). Chick-fil-a also has a gluten-free bun to house its grilled chicken sandwich.
4. Pei Wei: Pei Wei is the fast-casual spinoff from PF Chang’s and I love to eat there when I get a hankering for Asian-inspired food. The restaurant has several dishes that can be prepared gluten-free, including my favorite, the Kung Pao Chicken with rice (or you can do cauliflower rice instead – score!).
The staff knows exactly how to handle gluten issues and cooks everything separately. Read my article about eating gluten-free at Pei Wei.
5. Qdoba: Like Chipotle, Qdoba can offer you a yummy Mexican-style lunch. Get a rice bowl (aka “naked burrito”) with beans and grilled steak and dig into the guac and salsas too.
I’m a bit weary of their chips, taco shells and tortilla strips because they are labeled “may contain gluten.” I suggest avoiding those items and being extra cautious altogether. Check out Qdoba’s menu online for a complete list of Qdoba gluten-free items (click on “allergens” to view allergy menu).
6. Modern Market: Modern Market is only available in Colorado and Texas – but if you live in those states – you’re a lucky gluten-free gal (or guy).
Choose from a variety of salads, soups, pizzas and sandwiches – most which can be made gluten-free to order with a few substitutes. (The Modern Market Denver airport location does not offer GF pizza.)
Modern Market knows how to accommodate you and your food allergies – and you’ll feel totally satisfied and healthy after eating there! The menu is seasonal and can change from store-to-store. Click here for a list of gluten-free items at one of its Colorado restaurants.
7. Noodles & Company: Noodles is a fun place to go with the kids – they’ll love it! Try Noodles & Co.’s gluten-free fusilli noodles – I think they’re really yummy and satisfy that noodle craving us gluten-free folk often get.
Read the allergen menu carefully and ask the staff to avoid cross contaminating your items with gluten-y items. For example, the parmesan crusted chicken is not gluten-free, but the grilled chicken is; however they are cooked in the same pan. Just ask how they can accommodate you and it’s likely they will (for example, they can bake the chicken in the oven vs. pan). Read about my gluten-free Noodles and Co. experience.
8. Pizza Hut: I really enjoyed Pizza Hut’s gluten-free pizza – not because it was the best pizza I ever had, but because it’s totally certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group – yep, I said certified gluten-free!
I feel like whenever we’re road tripping across the U.S. there is always a Pizza Hut – I won’t fear it anymore.
In partnership with Udi’s, the brand has launched gluten-free pizza options in many of its restaurants nationwide. You can watch my Facebook Live Nima Sensor test of Pizza and learn more about my Pizza Hut experience here.
9. Jersey Mike’s: I was really happy to hear that a sandwich chain is attempting to do gluten-free right. Jersey Mike’s uses Udi’s bread and makes its gluten-free subs in a clean area. The restaurant has even trained its staff how to handle gluten-free requests.
The restaurant passed my Nima Sensor test too! Read my full report on what’s gluten-free at Jersey Mike’s.
10. Wendy’s: I can’t say Wendy’s is my first choice in fast food dining, but when traveling, it’s often an only choice. I would recommend forgoing the salads (you can’t have chicken on them and way) and burgers (risky cross contamination) and simply enjoying a baked potato with chili and cheese instead (and a Frosty).
ADDITIONS: Since I wrote this post, I have had the pleasure of trying a few new fast-casual restaurants. Here are the additions that made the list:
11. Five on Black: I had the opportunity to try this delicious fast-casual Brazilian restaurant in Denver, Boulder and several Montana locations too. Almost everything on the menu at this fast casual restaurant is gluten-free and pretty darn good too. (Read my review here.)
12. Uncle Maddio’s: I’m always wary of build-your-own pizza restaurants, but I was pleasantly surprised at how serious Uncle Maddio’s took my request.
The staff cleaned the prep area when I told them I was gluten-free, and they pulled from fresh, untouched ingredients to make my pizza. They also put my pizza on a sheet so it didn’t touch the oven surface – nice! (Read my review here.)
13. Larkburger: This is a fresh ingredient burger joint that definitely knows how to do gluten-free. Oh, and you can eat the fries – nuff said! (Read my review here.)
14. Zoe’s Kitchen: I’m a little obsessed with Zoe’s Kitchen these days – ever since one opened not far from my house in Denver, Colorado. So much of the menu is tailor made for us gluten-free folk – and the restaurant caters to all sorts of speciality diets – vegan, ketogenic, paleo, Whole 30 and more!
15. Yellowbelly Chicken: Yellowbelly has also become a new favorite gluten-free fast food restaurant for me because the fried chicken is gluten-free and everything put in its fryer is totally gluten-free too. That means you can not only eat juicy fried chicken, but also you can enjoy the chicken with smashed potato fries. Lots to choose from – and all delicious options! Check out Yellowbelly Chicken online.
What Do You Think of My Choices?
So there you have it, my top 10 – er, 15 – gluten-free fast food restaurants and gluten-free fast casual restaurants.
Remember, this information can change at any time, so it’s important to check a restaurant’s menu and confirm nutrition/allergen information with staff when placing your order.
Also, every restaurant is different and some staff are more committed to helping someone who is gluten-free than others. Ask questions. Be smart. When all else fails, use your Nima Sensor to test your food for gluten.
- Eating Out Gluten-Free (ebook)
- How Did 20 Restaurants Fare Against the Nima Sensor
- Great Big List of Gluten-Free Restaurants Nationwide and in Denver
- What You Need to Know about the Nima Sensor
Learn more about eating out gluten-free in my new ebook, Eating Out Gluten-Free. Now available for purchase!