It’s difficult to find a chicken wing restaurant that caters to the gluten-free community. But not all hope is lost. In this article, I’ll share what popular chicken wing restaurants say about gluten, and how you can safely enjoy chicken wings again. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. It’s hidden in many foods such as sauces, dressings and processed foods. (Read: 10 Surprise Foods that Contain Gluten)
While chicken, for all intents and purposes, is naturally gluten free, the way chicken wings are typically prepared renders them unsafe for anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
That’s because most chicken wings are deep fried in a shared fryer. This means the same fryer used to cook gluten-free chicken wings is almost always used to also cook other foods like breaded chicken tenders or mozzarella sticks, both which typically contain gluten.
When gluten-free foods are cooked in a shared fryer, all the ingredients commingle and the naturally gluten free foods, such as chicken and French fries, become coated in bits of gluten contaminants and are no longer rendered gluten free.
In the article, I’ll discuss how each of the popular wing restaurants cook their chicken wings and what they have to say about gluten. Unfortunately, as you’ll read, neither Wingstop nor Buffalo Wild Wings are celiac safe.
Not all hope is lost because I will tell you how you can still enjoy gluten-free chicken wings that are celiac safe.
Are Wingstop Wings Gluten Free?
A Wingstop just opened near me and someone told me they have gluten-free wings. Several reviews on the Find Me Gluten Free app reported that Wingstop had gluten-free wings and a dedicated fryer. However, after doing my own research, I found all of this information to be DEAD WRONG and dangerous. (You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet!)
Before heading into the restaurant, I checked the Wingstop website, where it clearly states, “All of our fried foods are cooked in the same oil, though we filter the oil to minimize cross-contamination from wheat. Nevertheless, we do not claim that our products are gluten free.”
I sent the restaurant an email to better understand what “filtering the oil” means; I’ll update this article when I know more.
I then called the Wingstop near me in Denver and spoke with the manager. He told me that the wings are not breaded, but they are cooked in the same exact fryer as the chicken tenders and fries. This means the wings – and fries – are highly cross contaminated with bits of gluten even though they don’t contain gluten ingredients themselves.
Wingstop also says on its website that all of its sauces are gluten free, except for its Hawaiian sauce and blue cheese dip. But this information is moot if there’s nothing of substance to eat at the restaurant anyway.
Bottom Line: Wingstop does not offer gluten-free wings nor is it celiac safe. Avoid.
What’s Gluten Free at Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings is another popular chicken wing restaurant that boasts more than 1,200 locations throughout the U.S. and around the world. Unfortunately, the chicken wings at Buffalo Wild Wings are off limits. Like Wingstop, the wings are cooked in the same fryer as breaded chicken tenders, meaning they are cross contaminated with foods that contain gluten.
After consulting the Buffalo Wild Wings allergen guide, you’ll see that the traditional wings “may contain” wheat and gluten due to the way they’re prepared (i.e. the shared fryer).
If you must eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, according to the allergen guide, you can enjoy the following items:
- Carrots and celery sticks with blue cheese dressing or ranch
- Chips with salsa and queso (verify how the chips are prepared, although the allergen guide says they’re safe)
- Nachos with chili, beef brisket or grilled chicken
- Hamburger patty (no bun)
- Grilled chicken breast (no bun)
- Naked chicken tenders (with any sauce except for Asian Zing, Orange Chicken, Teriyaki and Thai Curry, all which contain gluten)
- French fries and tots (inquire within to make sure they’re cooked in a dedicated fryer)
Ironically, according to the allergen guide, the avocado “may contain” gluten or wheat. This makes me wonder if the allergen guide is reliable.
Bottom Line: Buffalo Wild Wings does not offer gluten-free wings nor is it celiac safe. Eat at Buffalo Wild Wings at your own risk.
What’s Gluten-Free at WingWok?
If you’re lucky enough to live in Denver, Colorado, there is a wonderful restaurant called WingWok that makes gluten-free chicken wings in a dedicated gluten-free fryer. In fact, the only thing that contains gluten on the entire menu are the buns.
One of the founders of the restaurant told me his daughter has celiac disease, so he wanted to create a menu that his family could safely enjoy.
There are only two WingWok locations in the Denver metro area: one in Centennial and one in Greenwood Village (coming soon). WingWok is a take-out restaurant.
All wings are twice fried and can be seasoned with any of the sauces or dry rubs including:
- Soy Garlic
- Tangy Citrus
- Korean Dry-Rub “Buffalo”
You can order your meal with french fries and a few Korean-themed sides like kimchee and pickled radishes as well.
I must admit, the crinkle fries need some work and taste only okay. They need to be more crispy and seasoned. Furthermore, the other sides are not very exciting and I wish there were better options.
However, the chicken wings are outstanding and that makes the visit worth it when you’re craving chicken wings made without gluten or risk of gluten cross contact.
Bottom Line: If you want wings, you’ll have to find a restaurant like WingWok near you. Contact the owners to tell them you want a WingWok in your hometown.
Are the Wings Gluten Free at Hooters?
After looking over the Hooters’ allergen menu, the only conclusion I come to is DON’T EAT HERE if you can’t eat gluten. It looks like pretty much anything of substance contains gluten or is cross contaminated with gluten, particularly foods prepared in the deep fryer.
If you must eat at Hooters, some good choices might be a salad with shrimp, naked wings and fries (check if French fries are cooked in dedicated French fry fryer, which they are at some locations), grilled chicken, or bunless burger.
If you came to Hooters for the wings, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But as I understand it, no one goes to Hooters for the food anyway. (Editor’s Note: I’ve never been to Hooters.)
Bottom Line: Hooters does not carry gluten-free wings nor is it celiac safe. Avoid eating at Hooters.
It’s a Sad State for Wing Lovers
If you’re craving gluten-free wings, you’re going to be sorely disappointed because none of the popular chicken wing chain restaurants currently cater to the gluten-free community, at least yet.
If you’re on a mission to find safe, gluten-free chicken wings, I suggest doing the following:
Research Restaurants in Your Hometown: Type into Google “gluten-free chicken wings + YOUR CITY). You might be surprised to find a restaurant making gluten-free wings. I already knew about WingWok near me, but I also found another restaurant, the Angry Chicken (Aurora, CO), that says it only makes gluten-free wings. I’m planning to go there soon.
Make Your Own: You can always make your own gluten-free chicken wings at home. I like to bake my wings on high heat for 1+ hours to make them crispy. You can also air-fry your wings to make them crispy without all the grease. Or even better, you can deep fry your own chicken wings on your stovetop or with a deep fryer appliance like this one.
If all else fails, simply enjoy grilled chicken and way less calories and grease. Chick-fil-a, for example, makes grilled chicken nuggets that are gluten free and safe. And Chick-fil-a has a dedicated French fry fryer too (inquire within).
Know of a gluten-free wing restaurant near you? Please leave a comment to share so I can add the restaurant to my list.
Rebecca Ritts says
Glory Days restaurants have gluten free wings that are cooked in a dedicated GF fryer. French fries too!
Good For You Gluten Free says
I have not independently verified it.
Have you verified that the sauce that Chick-fil-A marinated the grilled chicken in is gluten free? At my local franchise it comes in a packet of marinade that is not gf.
Bru’s Room in FL has gluten free wings and fries (at least 2 years ago, they did). We went there often. They used a dedicated frier.
Kayla King says
I’m pretty sure Mellow Mushroom has gluten free wings that are safe for Celiacs. As always though, double check because it depends on the location!