This post about what’s gluten-free at California Pizza Kitchen contains affiliate links.
Finding pizza to eat outside of the home that is safely prepared gluten-free is a challenge for those of us suffering from celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.
A few months ago, I found myself at Pizza Hut using my Nima Sensor (see below for more information about the Nima Sensor) to test the pizza for hidden gluten. I’m happy to report that Pizza Hut passed with flying colors. (Read more about what’s gluten-free at Pizza Hut.)
Pizza Hut, like California Pizza Kitchen, has a certified gluten-free menu that includes pizza. In fact, these are the only two restaurants I’m aware of that offer certified gluten-free pizza. While many restaurants offer a “gluten-free pizza,” they cannot say they offer a “certified gluten-free pizza.”
Certified gluten-free means something to anyone who is serious about avoiding gluten. It means the pizzas are prepared using the strict procedures approved by The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). It means CPK not only uses certified gluten-free ingredients that have been verified by suppliers as gluten-free, but also the restaurant has procedures in place to avoid cross contact with gluten in the preparation of the pizza.
In terms of what’s gluten-free at California Pizza Kitchen, only four pizzas are bear the “certified gluten-free” moniker:
- The Original BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Mushroom Pepperoni Sausage
Other pizzas can be prepared gluten-free but the restaurant only certifies these four pizzas.
I put the certified gluten-free margherita pizza to the test on my latest Facebook live and found good news! Watch me test the Certified Gluten-Free pizza for gluten using my Nima Sensor in this short 3-minute video:
California Pizza Kitchen also offers a gluten-free pizza using its new cauliflower crust. The crust is made with gluten-free ingredients, and if you order it with one of the four certified gluten-free pizza toppings, it, too, is certified gluten-free.
If you’d like to try the cauliflower crust, discuss the preparation process with your server and ask for it to be certified gluten-free and order it only with the four approved certified gluten-free pizzas.
Also, the pizza MUST HAVE A TOOTHPICK IN IT THAT SAYS “GLUTEN-FREE.” If it doesn’t, it’s a red flag that it wasn’t prepared in the gluten-free designated area.
I also ordered and tested the cauliflower crust margherita pizza with my Nima Sensor and guess what, Nima found gluten! Major bummer!!
I discussed this finding with my server. She was very kind – she went back and made me a new gluten-free pizza instead (not on cauliflower crust). She didn’t know if it was the crust or maybe the ingredients were contaminated, or they used cross contaminated pizza cutters, so she didn’t want to serve me the cauliflower crust again.
I offered to test a fresh piece of the cauliflower crust with my Nima Sensor and Nima was all smiles. It wasn’t the crust that wasn’t gluten-free, Nima found nasty gluten CROSS CONTAMINATION!
UPDATE: CPK called me the next day after my Facebook Live. They were extremely apologetic and explained to me that the cauliflower pizza crust can be made certified gluten-free (which I didn’t realize during my Live video), and that it appears mine was not prepared that way.
My cauliflower crust pizza did not have the “certified gluten-free” toothpick in it, which I didn’t realize at the time, but I now realize meant it wasn’t prepared in the right spot that would have made it safe for me to eat. It was prepared in the regular pizza prep space, not in the certified GF prep space.
CPK’s spokesperson said they are using my experience as a training opportunity with their staff. Something went awry in the communication process, and I was served the wrong pizza. She said that my issue is being elevated to the highest levels at CPK, and that CPK is using this as a learning process with their staff to make it right. She also said she will update me with more details once they discuss it internally.
While my experience was difficult, I am grateful that CPK is trying to make things right. I know they care about the celiac and gluten-free community. Instead of being defensive, they are using this as a learning opportunity, as a chance to make things better in all CPK restaurants across the U.S. For that, I feel proud to have been a part of making sure my follow gluten-free diners get a safe pizza when they go to CPK.
Overall, I do believe you can get a cauliflower crust pizza gluten-free at California Pizza Kitchen – but I would test for cross contact before eating it!
The server told me they switched out all the tools and ingredients in the kitchen… so hopefully I left the place better for the next gluten-free diner. This was definitely another one of those #celiacwarrior moments!
What’s Gluten-Free at California Pizza Kitchen (besides pizza)?
There are several items that are made with gluten-free ingredients at California Pizza Kitchen, however, none are certified gluten-free.
For starters, the Charred Shishito Peppers are amazing. I seriously love this appetizer – order it!
CPK offers two Power Bowls that are made with gluten-free ingredients:
- The Santa Fe Bowl
- The Banh Mi Bowl
I’ve had the Banh Mi bowl in the past. It’s ok. I found it a bit dry, but fair.
There are also many salads that are prepared gluten-free at California Pizza Kitchen. They include:
- The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad
- Roasted Veggie Salad
- Classic Caesar Salad
- California Cobb Salad
- Thai Crunch Salad
- Waldorf Chicken Salad
- Quinoa & Arugula Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad (personal favorite)
You can also order the Roasted Garlic and Chicken and the Cedar Plank Salmon as gluten-free.
You’ll just want to refer to the gluten-free menu at CPK, and let your server know you cannot eat gluten, before ordering. Some dishes do require changes in order for them to be gluten-free compliant.
About the Nima Sensor
The Nima Sensor is a portable device you can use to test your food for gluten. Simply put a small pea-sized amount of food into the test capsule, turn on your Nima Sensor, and wait 2-3 minutes for a result. Nima will tell you if the item contains gluten – or not – and give you the information you need to decide if you want to eat that dish.
As you can see, you cannot trust restaurants to get it right – even if they claim to know what they’re doing. There is turnover in staff, and a new person in the kitchen can turn into a nightmare for you!
This is unfortunate, but true.
This is why you must ALWAYS allow Nima to take the first bite (and never become complacent). Nima can help you assess whether or not your dish is safe to eat. Nima is not perfect (you can read about its limitations here), but it works hard for me, giving me more information I need to make a more educated choice in what I’m about to eat.