Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for health or dietary reasons. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating gluten-free is a necessity. When dining out, it can be tricky to find gluten-free options, especially at fast food restaurants. Chick-fil-A is a popular fast food chain, known for their fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. But can you eat their grilled chicken nuggets on a gluten-free diet? Here is a comprehensive look at whether Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken nuggets are gluten-free.
What is Gluten?
Before diving into whether Chick-fil-A nuggets are gluten-free, it helps to understand what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Some examples of foods that contain gluten include:
For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or negative health effects. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can trigger an autoimmune response and cause damage to the small intestine. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain. The only treatment for gluten intolerance is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
Are Chicken Nuggets Typically Gluten-Free?
Chicken nuggets are generally made by taking pieces of chicken breast meat, coating them with batter, and frying them until crispy. The batter used on most chicken nuggets contains flour, which of course contains gluten. So, traditional fried chicken nuggets are not safe to eat on a gluten-free diet due to the flour-based batter.
However, there are some chicken nuggets that are gluten-free. Nuggets made without any batter coating are simply pieces of chicken breast meat and do not contain any gluten ingredients. Grilled or baked plain chicken nuggets are usually safe, as long as no marinades or seasonings with gluten are added. When prepared properly without batter, chicken nuggets can be a gluten-free option.
How Chick-fil-A Makes Their Grilled Chicken Nuggets
According to Chick-fil-A, their grilled chicken nuggets start with 100% whole breast meat chicken. The chicken is then marinated in special seasonings. Next, the seasoned chicken pieces are grilled until fully cooked. Finally, the grilled nuggets are placed in a warming tray until an order is placed.
Unlike their fried chicken options, Chick-fil-A’s grilled nuggets are not coated in batter before being cooked. The nuggets contain only chicken breast meat and seasonings. This cooking process means the grilled nuggets do not contain any gluten ingredients.
Are the Seasonings Gluten-Free?
Since the grilled nuggets contain seasonings, it is important to know if the seasonings themselves are gluten-free. According to Chick-fil-A, the exact blend of seasonings used for the grilled nuggets is proprietary information that they do not share. However, Chick-fil-A does state that their grilled nuggets do not contain any wheat, barley, rye, or gluten ingredients.
Chick-fil-A also has detailed allergen information in their restaurant kitchens and online that identifies allergens in their menu items. They mark items that contain wheat/gluten so guests with allergies can make informed choices. The grilled nuggets are not labeled as containing wheat or gluten.
Based on this information from the company and the lack of allergen warnings, it seems the seasonings used on the grilled nuggets are gluten-free.
What About Cross-Contact?
While the grilled nuggets themselves do not contain gluten, there is still a possibility of cross-contact occurring with gluten-containing items in the restaurant kitchen. Cross-contact happens when an allergen gets accidentally transferred from one food to another during storage, preparation, or cooking.
Chick-fil-A kitchens handle breaded chicken and biscuits containing gluten. So, there is a small chance of gluten grains coming in contact with the grilled nuggets during the marinating, grilling, or serving process. The risk varies based on the individual restaurant’s kitchen procedures.
For highly sensitive individuals, even small amounts of cross-contact can trigger a reaction. The grilled nuggets may not be safe for those with celiac disease or who react to tiny traces of gluten. People with milder gluten sensitivities or intolerances can likely eat the nuggets without issue.
What Chick-fil-A Says About Gluten-Free
According to Chick-fil-A’s allergen and nutrition information, their grilled chicken nuggets do not contain any gluten-containing ingredients. However, they do not claim the nuggets are 100% gluten-free.
On their “Gluten-Free” information page, Chick-fil-A states: “Most of our gluten-free menu offerings do not have gluten-containing ingredients. However, because our restaurant kitchens are not gluten-free environments, we cannot claim that any menu item is 100% gluten-free.”
They recommend guests with gluten intolerance or celiac consult their doctor to determine which menu options are appropriate to their individual dietary needs.
Tips for Ordering
If you need to avoid gluten, here are some tips for ordering grilled nuggets safely at Chick-fil-A:
- Inform cashier you need gluten-free option due to allergy
- Request grilled nuggets are prepared separately from breaded chicken
- Ask for change of gloves before preparing nuggets
- Check labels and avoid dipping sauces with gluten ingredients
- Use dedicated utensils and sanitize prep area if possible
- Opt for fresh fruit or packaged salad instead of side with gluten
Being upfront with the workers and calling out allergy needs helps minimize risk of cross-contact. Chick-fil-A staff are usually very accommodating to allergy requests.
Based on information directly from Chick-fil-A, the grilled chicken nuggets do not contain any gluten-based ingredients. The nuggets are simply chicken breast meat and seasonings, without batter or breading. However, due to shared cooking and prep areas in restaurants, Chick-fil-A cannot guarantee zero cross-contact with gluten. The grilled nuggets are reasonably safe for many gluten-sensitive people, but higher risk for those extremely sensitive.
Overall, as long as you clearly ask for gluten-free preparation, the Chick-fil-A grilled chicken nuggets can likely be enjoyed on a gluten-free diet. But it is best to check with your own doctor to determine if they are an appropriate menu item based on your individual level of gluten sensitivity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries gluten-free?
No, Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries are not gluten-free. They are coated in a wheat-based batter before being fried. The batter contains gluten.
What dipping sauces can I have with grilled nuggets?
Chick-fil-A’s Barbeque, Honey Mustard, Garden Herb Ranch, Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette and Polynesian sauces are gluten-free. Their Chick-fil-A Sauce, Buttermilk Ranch and Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce contain gluten. Check labels to confirm gluten-free status.
Are the grilled nuggets dairy/nut free?
Chick-fil-A states their grilled nuggets do not contain any dairy or nut ingredients. However, they warn menu items may come into contact with these allergens during food prep. So those with dairy/nut allergies should still exercise caution.
Can you request grilled nuggets to be prepared gluten-free?
Yes, you can ask workers to change gloves, use dedicated tools, and take extra precautions to reduce cross-contact when preparing your order. Chick-fil-A staff are usually happy to accommodate allergy-related requests.
Are kids meal options with grilled nuggets gluten-free?
The grilled nuggets in Chick-fil-A’s kids meals are gluten-free. However, some of the sides like cookies or waffle fries contain gluten. Opt for fruit, yogurt or gluten-free sides.
|Grilled Chicken Nuggets||Generally safe, not guaranteed|
|Waffle Fries||No – contain wheat|
|Fried Chicken Sandwich||No – breaded with flour|
|Chocolate Chunk Cookie||No – contains wheat flour|
|Garden Herb Ranch||Yes|
|Chick-fil-A Sauce||No – contains wheat/barley|
Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken nuggets are a good option for those avoiding gluten, especially less sensitive individuals. While Chick-fil-A cannot guarantee 100% gluten-free, the nuggets do not contain gluten ingredients. With some extra care taken to prevent cross-contact, most people on a gluten-free diet can likely eat grilled nuggets without issue. Just stay away from the waffle fries and cookies!