Last month, Chick-fil-A began offering gluten-free buns at all of its U.S. locations, following a successful test run in three cities last year. Consumers reacted positively to the buns made from quinoa and amaranth, but there’s a small catch: Because Chick-fil-A’s kitchens aren’t gluten-free, the buns are individually packaged, meaning consumers must assemble their own sandwiches. (Plus they have to pay an extra $1.15).
Though Chick-fil-A’s buns are the latest gluten-free offering in fast food, it’s hardly the first. I’ve assembled this list of some gluten-free offerings from several major chains:
If you’re gluten-free, it’s possible to dine at Arby’s on most of the meats (without a bun, of course), and on the Farmhouse salad with roast turkey. The chocolate, Jamocha swirl, and vanilla shakes also are listed as gluten-free.
Burger King unveiled its new gluten-sensitive list several years ago as part of its “BK Positive Steps” campaign to provide more nutrition information on its menu items. It also changed the recipe for its French fries to make them gluten-free, although the chain notes they may be fried with gluten-containing items.
The Burger King gluten-free list includes both menu items and ingredients in menu items, and it can be difficult to decipher what on the menu actually will turn out gluten-free — for example, it states that “salad mix” and “lettuce” are gluten-free, but doesn’t say whether a prepared salad would be safe. However, the Garden Fresh Salad with Apple and Cranberry and Tendergrill chicken is explicitly listed as gluten-free.
Besides the new buns, Chick-fil-A’s gluten-free options include breakfast hash browns (cooked in a dedicated gluten-free fryer), grilled chicken nuggets, Grilled Market Salad, Spicy Southwest Salad, waffle fries (cooked in a dedicated gluten-free fryer), fruit cup, and frosted lemonade.
Chipotle offers a variety of options for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. In fact, everything on Chipotle’s menu except for the flour tortillas is listed as gluten-free on the company’s allergens list.
There are no gluten-free entrees at KFC, only sides: cole slaw, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, and sweet kernel corn. The Caesar side salad and house side salad are also listed as gluten-free, though you’ll have to ask for it without croutons and remember that only some of the salad dressings don’t contain gluten.
Shake Shack became famous for its (gluten-containing) potato buns, but every store offers burgers on gluten-free buns. The only exceptions are locations in stadiums and ballparks.
You can order any burger without a bun at Sonic, and its fries and tater tots are gluten-free, too. However, the fried foods may be exposed to gluten-containing items in shared fryers.
For gluten sensitivity, your best option at Taco Bell is a Cantina Power Bowl. The bowls contain rice, meat, beans, and vegetables, and they’re all marked as gluten-free. Hash browns are also considered gluten-free, although they may be fried in a shared fryer, so ask and avoid if the answer is yes. Several sides are safe as well, including black beans, chips and guacamole, chips and nacho cheese sauce, chips and salsa, nacho cheese Doritos chips, and premium Latin rice.
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.