This post about what’s gluten-free at California Pizza Kitchen is sponsored by Nima Sensor and contains affiliate links. This post has been updated on December 2018 to reflect changes to the CPK menu and a second round of Nima Sensor testing.
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 five pizzas bear the “certified gluten-free” moniker:
- The Original BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Mushroom Pepperoni Sausage
- Traditional Cheese (new as of Dec. 2018)
The restaurant ONLY certifies these five pizzas with absolutely no variations (which I learned the hard way, more on that to come).
All gluten-free pizzas are served on a gluten-free cauliflower crust only. Please note that CPK discontinued the gluten-free pizza crust made from rice flour as of Dec. 2018.
If You Eat at CPK, READ THIS
I have to say, I’ve been a little jilted eating at California Pizza Kitchen as of late. That’s because I’ve tested the restaurant – TWICE – for hidden gluten using my trusty Nima Sensor and twice my Nima Sensor has found gluten.
(If you’re scratching your head asking, “What’s a Nima Sensor?”, scroll down a bit. I discuss the Nima Sensor, in detail, later in this article.)
Here’s how it all went down:
In July 2018, I tested the gluten-free cauliflower crust pizza with my Nima Sensor, only to find it contained gluten. Apparently my waitress put my order in wrong. Grrr!! Glad I tested it first.
I came back in December 2018 to give CPK a second chance. I believe in second chances and allowing restaurants to make things right. I was actually rooting for CPK to get it right. I had a lengthy discussion with the company’s marketing director and she explained that what happened to me was an isolated incident and that they will focus on re-training staff. She even said my Facebook Live video had been elevated to the higher ups at CPK (I do all my tests live on Facebook – you find out when I find out!).
Unfortunately, my December Nima Sensor test STILL found gluten. Ug!
Why? Apparently because I added tomatoes to my certified gluten-free pizza CPK no longer considered it or prepared it certified gluten-free. Thanks for not telling me, CPK. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)
If you eat at CPK, you MUST do the following:
- Order one of the five certified gluten-free pizzas with NO variations. Want them to add tomatoes or olives? Too bad. They cannot handle such a difficult request and your pizza will no longer be prepared gluten-free. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes as I write this.
- 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. Send it back and request a certified gluten-free pizza. Your server screwed up, which is a regular occurance apparently (at least it happened TWICE to me). The toothpick, however, will give you assurance that it’s certified GF.
- Test your food with a Nima Sensor. Sorry, I now have major trust issues with CPK and won’t eat there without my Nima Sensor.
You can watch me do the test on Facebook Live. Keep watching until the end because you will see me go to combat with the manager. I wanted you to see how I approach things when I get a “gluten found” message on my Nima Sensor.
All’s Well that Ends Well – Maybe
I’m not sure if I feel confident eating pizza at California Pizza Kitchen anymore, but the restaurant did try to make things right. Both times the waitress sent over the manager and both times they remade my pizza correctly.
Here is the final pizza that I ate – notice the toothpick and NO additional toppings (once again, you CANNOT deviate from the menu, not even to add a totally gluten-free topping like tomatoes).
What’s Gluten-Free at California Pizza Kitchen (besides pizza)?
If you’re feeling jilted, like me, and would rather skip the gluten-free pizza altogether, the good news is that there are several items that are made with gluten-free ingredients at California Pizza Kitchen. Keep in mind, however, none are certified gluten-free.
For starters, the Charred Shishito Peppers are amazing. I 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 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.
Now About that Nima Sensor
As you can tell, the Nima Sensor is the star of this story. It truly saved the day – TWICE!
A 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 the result. Nima will tell you if your dish contains gluten – or not – and give you the information you need to decide how to proceed.
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 the information I need to make a more educated choice in what I’m about to eat.