Curious about what’s gluten free at the Cheesecake Factory? I’ll give you the full scoop and let you know what happened when I put the restaurant to the Nima Sensor hidden gluten test (it’s not pretty). This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures for details.
You might be wondering what’s gluten free at the Cheesecake Factory, a restaurant that boasts the “world’s largest menu.”
In fact, the Cheesecake Factory has more than 250 dishes on its 12+ page menu, making it really hard to decide what to order.
I did a little detective work to help you better understand how to safely eat gluten free at the Cheesecake Factory, and why I will likely never go back myself.
Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
- A deep-dive into what’s gluten free at the Cheesecake Factory.
- My experience [trying] to safely eat gluten free at the Cheesecake Factory.
- How the Cheesecake Factory fared when put to the Nima Sensor test.
The Nima Sensor is a portable gluten detecting device that allows you to test your food for gluten. You simply put a small piece of your food in the single-use test capsule, and in 1-2 minutes, Nima will tell you if it finds hidden gluten in your food. It’s highly accurate for detecting even small amounts of gluten.
Before investing in a Nima Sensor, please check out the new kids on the block: ALLIS Sensor and The Allergy Amulet. Please also note that the Nima Sensor went out of business, but is now back under new ownership (as of September 2021).
Does Cheesecake Factory Have a Gluten-Free Menu?
Before heading to the restaurant, I checked the Cheesecake Factory’s website to see if I could find a gluten-free menu. I could not.
I later learned that gluten-free items are labeled directly on the menu – no separate menu needed.
I also found information about how the restaurant caters to the allergy community in the FAQ section of its website:
“We offer a variety of substitution options and always do our best to accommodate special requests to prepare your meal just the way you like it. In addition, almost all our restaurants offer a gluten-free menu. When ordering, please inform your server of your needs and we will try to accommodate.”
It sounds promising, right? But of course, like most restaurants, there are no guarantees.
Also note that the Cheesecake Factory updates its menu twice per year, and the menu and allergen offerings can vary from restaurant to restaurant.
When examining the Cheesecake Factory menu (at Park Meadows Mall in Colorado), I noticed it had a “GF upon request” logo next to many of the items, indicating that these items could be made gluten free, upon request.
Remember, you must request for the item to be made gluten free; it does not mean its automatically gluten free. Never assume.
Additionally, my server showed me a purple slip of paper he said he had to fill out when someone conveys they cannot eat gluten. It’s a checklist that the cook preparing my meal must run through. Here is what it looks like:
I can’t help but wonder if there needs to be a few additional items on this checklist, like “Use clean pasta water.” More on that in a bit…
What to Order
With such a huge menu, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of [possible] gluten-free options to choose from as well.
The extensive gluten-free selection includes salads, burgers, steaks, pastas, tacos, corn tamale cakes, Shepherd’s pie and even two different gluten-free cheesecakes for dessert.
Additionally, you can eat the French fries as my server told me that all fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer at the Cheesecake Factory (no worry of cross contamination in the deep fryer).
Please note that I did not eat nor test the fries during my visit (maybe another time). And if you decide to eat fries at the Cheesecake Factory, inquire whether the location you’re at has a dedicated fryer.
Nima Sensor Testing
Because the Cheesecake Factory says it cannot guarantee anything will be 100% gluten free in its shared kitchen, I still wanted to eat there with my family and I just decided I would check for myself before eating anything.
That’s why I’m so happy I have a Nima Sensor. It allows me to test a piece of my food for hidden gluten before I take a bite.
I ordered the following dishes, all specified to be gluten free upon request (and all which involved me having a lengthy conversation with my server to discuss the seriousness of my “gluten allergy“):
- Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer (gluten free upon request)
- Chicken Soft Tacos (gluten free upon request)
- Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta (gluten free upon request)
- Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake (gluten free upon request)
Here is how each item fared against the Nima Sensor and a bit of commentary about each as well. As you will soon see, you win some and you lose some.
(1) Chicken Lettuce Wraps
The Mexican chicken lettuce wraps seemed pretty safe (although you can never assume). Inside each lettuce cup is some lightly seasoned chicken and fresh veggies. I tested the wraps anyway and it tested just fine with the Nima Sensor.
I thought the Mexican lettuce wraps were tasty and healthy and I definitely recommend them, particularly if you’re eating on the lighter side.
(2) Chicken Soft Tacos
These tacos looked nearly identical to the lettuce wraps (same chicken, I think) plus included a few more veggies and diced avocado as well. I decided not to test these because they were too similar to the lettuce wraps.
Duly noted to not order both items due to the similarities between the two, although both were truly delicious.
Related Reading: Tips to Avoiding Gluten at Mexican Restaurants
(3) Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta
This dish looked so beautiful when it arrived at my table. It’s gluten-free pasta and vegetables in an oil and broth sauce. Before eating, I tested the pasta and guess what? The Nima Sensor found gluten.
The server was so kind and courteous and noticed that there may be an angel hair noodle in my bowl, which you can see it in the above picture. See that angel hair noodle in between the two pieces of broccoli?
Seeing that prompted me to ask my server, again, if the gluten-free pasta was cooked in dedicated and clean pasta water. My server said he “thought” it was but said he would check what went wrong.
Of course, they tried to make me a new pasta and, unfortunately, the second pasta dish tested positive for gluten too. No thanks!
Apparently, according to the Nima Sensor app, no pasta dish at the Cheesecake Factory has ever passed the Nima Sensor test. Nor has the sweet corn tamale cakes or any salad dressing – beware!
I decided to nix pasta altogether and my server instead brought me a second soft chicken taco dish (my husband and I were sharing the tacos and pasta – but we ended up only eating two orders of tacos).
UPDATE: Many people in my Instagram community told me that they, too, have found a stray gluten noodle in their gluten-free pasta. Several people have reported being extremely sick after eating pasta at the Cheesecake Factory. I cannot, in good conscious, recommend you eat the gluten-free pasta at this restaurant. The process to cook gluten-free pasta at the Cheesecake Factory is majorly flawed! Do not order pasta no matter how tempting it sounds.
(4) Godiva(R) Chocolate Cheesecake
The fourth and last item I tested for hidden gluten was the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake.
I must admit, I was very hesitant to order this cake. It’s displayed in the same display case as all the other cheesecakes. The gluten-free cheesecakes are on the top shelf (so no other cake crumbs drip on them) but they are still exposed to cross contact.
I asked my server a few more questions before ordering it, including:
- Does your staff change gloves? (My server said yes)
- Does the staff use clean utensils? (My server said yes)
I heard all the right answers, but I was still uncomfortable with the risk of cross contamination inside the display case.
I then asked if it was possible if he could get me a slice that wasn’t in the display case, this way I would know it would be safe. My server didn’t think he could do it, but in the end, the manager went and got a slice of the cake for me herself and told me it came from a clean, untouched cheesecake in their back fridge/freezer (not the cheesecake from the display case).
I suggested that going forward, they consider offering to get their “true allergy” customers a slice from a fresh cheesecake (one not in the display case) upon request. Wouldn’t that be great if it was standard procedure?
I used my Nima Sensor to test the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake and confirmed that it’s gluten free (contains no gluten ingredients). The Nima Sensor is all smiles!
You can watch me do test live on Facebook in this video:
After I did the Facebook Live test, someone on my Facebook page commented that Godiva Chocolate may not be gluten free, and the Godiva website, at the time, said its products were not free from gluten.
However, as of December 2019, Godiva updated its allergen statement online to say that the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake is certified gluten free. Here is a screenshot of the exact statement:
As noted in my Facebook Live test, the Nima Sensor did not find gluten in the cheesecake (and now we understand why), and I felt fine after eating it (my personal experience only).
Recommendations for Eating Gluten Free at the Cheesecake Factory
I personally do not recommend eating at the Cheesecake Factory if you’re on a strict gluten-free diet. There are too many unknowns and confusing things going on, especially the pasta confusion and inconsistencies.
However, if you still want to eat at the Cheesecake Factory despite this warning, consider these tips to doing so as safely as possible:
- Order the least risky menu items. It appears that too much can go wrong with the pasta, so I highly recommend avoiding it altogether. They might use the same water to cook the gluteny pasta, or they might strain it in a shared or unclean strainer. Order, instead, foods that are as naturally gluten free as possible and require the least handling and processing.
- Convey the seriousness of your “allergy.” If you cannot eat gluten, convey the seriousness of your diet to your server. As you know, many people are simply avoiding gluten, but many of you are on medically-necessary gluten-free diets and your server needs to know the difference.
- Don’t assume. Remember, the dishes are “gluten-free upon request.” This doesn’t mean the dish is gluten free; it means it can be made gluten free. There is a difference.
- Ask for a slice of cheesecake from the back. My server didn’t think he could get me a cheesecake from the back (not in the display case) but the manager did just that. So ask both your server and/or manager to see if you can get a safe slice. It’s worth it if you can make it happen because the cheesecake was the best part of the meal.
- Always test your food. I’m not sure I feel comfortable eating at the Cheesecake Factory without testing my meal for gluten first. Refer to #1 by ordering the least risky foods if you must eat here. You can always eat pasta at home, don’t risk it when you know it’s questionable.
- Don’t go during busy hours. If you want extra care in taking and preparing your order, avoid going to the Cheesecake Factory during peak hours. This restaurant is crazy busy at peak hours.