In-N-Out Burger is a popular fast food chain known for its simple, made-to-order burgers, fries, and shakes. However, for customers with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, a key question is – are In-N-Out’s burger buns gluten-free?
The Short Answer
No, In-N-Out burger buns are not gluten-free. They contain wheat flour, which has gluten.
Examining In-N-Out’s Bun Ingredients
To determine if a food product contains gluten, you need to look at the ingredients list. Here are the ingredients for In-N-Out’s burger bun:
- Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Bleached Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
- Palm Oil
- Dough Conditioner ( Wheat Flour, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes)
- Vital Wheat Gluten
- Soybean Oil
- Wheat Starch
- Calcium Sulfate
- Ammonium Sulfate
- Calcium Carbonate
- Calcium Propionate
- Cellulose Gum
- Potassium Iodate
- Wheat Bran
- SO2 (Preservative)
- Natural Flavor
As you can see, the very first ingredient listed is enriched bleached wheat flour. This makes it clear that In-N-Out buns contain gluten.
Why Wheat/Gluten is Problematic
Wheat contains a protein called gluten. Gluten causes issues for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. When they consume gluten, it damages the small intestine and causes inflammation. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and more.
Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance must follow a strict gluten-free diet by avoiding foods that contain wheat, rye, barley and other gluten sources. This includes breads, pastas, baked goods, and other products made with these gluten-containing grains.
Other Menu Items Containing Gluten
In addition to the burger buns, there are other items at In-N-Out that contain gluten:
- French fries – contain wheat due to the vegetable oil used to par-fry the potatoes
- Shakes – the shake mix contains wheat flour
- Spread sauce – contains wheat flour as a thickening agent
- Hamburger patties – the meat contains wheat protein fillers
The only gluten-free menu options are:
- Hamburger patties without the bun
- Fries without spread sauce
- Packaged drinks like water, milk, soda
So those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance have very limited options when dining at In-N-Out.
Why Doesn’t In-N-Out Offer Gluten-Free Buns?
With gluten-free diets becoming more common, many fast food chains now offer gluten-free buns, including Burger King, Five Guys, Smashburger and others. So why doesn’t In-N-Out offer a gluten-free bun option?
The answer comes down to In-N-Out’s commitment to simple, fresh ingredients. They have a very limited menu and strict preparation system focused on quality. This makes it challenging to incorporate gluten-free alternatives while maintaining their standards.
In-N-Out has stated that offering gluten-free buns that meet their specifications has proven difficult. The gluten-free buns tested so far significantly altered the taste and texture compared to their signature bun. Additionally, it would require new equipment and food preparation procedures in their kitchens.
The chain is hesitant to sacrifice the customer experience simply to expand the menu. So for now, those avoiding gluten will have to get their burger wrapped in lettuce at In-N-Out.
Best Gluten-Free Fast Food Options
While In-N-Out does not accommodate gluten-free diets, many other fast food chains do offer gluten-free buns and menu items:
|Burger King||Gluten-free bun, fries, ice cream, soda, some salads|
|Chick-fil-A||Gluten-free bun, grilled nuggets, fries, salads, sauce options|
|Chipotle||Tacos, burritos, bowls with corn tortilla, rice, meat/veggie options|
|McDonald’s||Dedicated fryers for fries, burgers without buns, some dairy options|
|Panera||Salads, sandwiches on gluten-free bread, oatmeal, soups|
|Panda Express||Rice bowls with meat/veg options, chicken/beef entrees|
|Subway||Salads, sandwiches on gluten-free wraps/bread|
|Taco Bell||Tacos, burritos, bowls with corn tortillas|
|Wendy’s||Burgers without bun, chili, baked potatoes, frostys|
These restaurants have gluten-free menus and food prep procedures to minimize cross-contamination. Some locations even have designated allergen-friendly fryers. Just confirm your local restaurant has these options when ordering.
Tips for Eating at In-N-Out with Gluten Intolerance
Despite the lack of gluten-free buns, there are still ways to safely enjoy In-N-Out with celiac disease or gluten intolerance:
- Order a burger or grilled cheese wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of a bun
- Request fries without spread sauce
- Opt for milkshakes as shakes are made-to-order with real ice cream containing no gluten ingredients
- Ask for burgers without sauce to avoid cross-contamination
- Check ingredient lists online before visiting and determine your safest options
- Wipe down the dining table before eating as traces of buns could be present
- Visit during non-peak hours when the risk of cross-contamination decreases
While inconvenient, these tips help ensure a safe gluten-free meal at In-N-Out.
Should You Expect In-N-Out to Eventually Offer Gluten-Free Buns?
It seems unlikely that In-N-Out will expand their menu to include gluten-free buns anytime soon. As a small, family-owned chain, they pride themselves on keeping options consistent and preparation practices simple.
Major national chains like Burger King and McDonald’s have more resources and supply chain flexibility to incorporate gluten-free alternatives. But In-N-Out operates differently, for better or worse.
The best approach is to focus on what you can eat at In-N-Out based on your specific dietary needs. With some modifications and extra precautions, you may be able to enjoy your favorites.
Other Tips for Following a Gluten-Free Diet
Avoiding gluten requires vigilance beyond just fast food choices. Here are some other tips for living gluten-free:
- Closely read ingredients labels before purchasing packaged foods
- Know which grains/flours contain gluten: wheat, barley, rye, malt, triticale
- Learn which foods are naturally gluten-free: fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, dairy
- Choose certified gluten-free labeled products when possible
- Contact manufacturers directly if ingredient or preparation details are unclear
- Notify wait staff at restaurants about your gluten intolerance when ordering
- Research restaurant menus and preparation practices before dining out
- Inform friends/family about your diet and what you can/cannot eat
- Avoid buying bulk bins, deli slicers, and self-serve stations due to cross-contamination risks
- Buy dedicated gluten-free toasters, pans, utensils if you have celiac disease
Following these tips in addition to learning what you can safely order at various restaurants will help you thrive on a gluten-free diet.
The Takeaway on In-N-Out’s Gluten-Free Options
Unfortunately for those avoiding gluten, In-N-Out’s burger buns, along with many other menu items, are not gluten-free. The iconic chain has resisted expanding their menu to include specialty options like gluten-free buns.
But with creativity and extra care, you can still enjoy some of your In-N-Out favorites. A lettuce wrap burger, fries without sauce, and a dairy-based shake can make for a satisfying meal.
Supplement these In-N-Out trips with gluten-free orders from the growing number of fast food places that now cater to gluten-free diets. This gives you lots of delicious dining options while living a healthy gluten-free lifestyle.