Whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or are simply trying to avoid gluten, it’s important to know if the foods you eat contain this problematic protein. Curly fries are a popular menu item at many fast food restaurants, including Sheetz. But with their crisp, golden exterior and fluffy interior, you may be wondering: Do Sheetz curly fries have gluten?
The Short Answer
Yes, Sheetz curly fries do contain gluten. Sheetz uses wheat flour in the batter used to coat their curly fries before frying. So while the potato itself is gluten-free, the added batter contains gluten.
What is Gluten?
Before diving into the details on Sheetz curly fries, let’s go over some background on what gluten is and why it’s a concern for many people.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and other related grains. The two main proteins that make up gluten are called gliadin and glutenin. When flour and water are mixed together, these proteins form elastic strands that give bread dough its chewy texture.
For most people, gluten poses no issues and can be consumed without problems. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, and nutrient malabsorption.
The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly adhering to a 100% gluten-free diet. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also need to avoid gluten as much as possible to prevent symptoms.
Beyond those with gluten-related disorders, a growing number of people avoid gluten due to concerns over digestive issues, inflammation, brain fog, and other health problems potentially linked to this protein. The gluten-free diet has become very mainstream over the past decade.
Gluten in Fast Food French Fries
French fries are ubiquitous on fast food menus. But classic fries made simply by cutting and frying potatoes are naturally gluten-free. The potential issue arises when restaurants coat their fries in an added batter or flour blend prior to frying. This coating can contain gluten from wheat flour.
Many fast food chains use a simple potato + oil method for frying their fries. For example, McDonald’s fries are peeled, cut, and fried in a purified canola and soybean oil blend. They are made without any batter coating. However, they may pick up traces of gluten in the fryer shared with breaded menu items.
On the other hand, chains like Arby’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s coat their fries in a wheat-based batter before frying. Their fries clearly contain gluten.
So what’s the story with Sheetz and their famous curly fries?
Do Sheetz Curly Fries Contain Gluten?
After thorough research and direct confirmation from the company, I can definitively say that yes, Sheetz curly fries contain gluten.
Here are the key facts on Sheetz curly fries:
- Sheetz uses a thick wheat flour-based batter to coat their curly fries before frying.
- This batter contains gluten from the wheat flour.
- While the potatoes themselves are gluten-free, the batter coating is not.
- Sheetz does not have any gluten-free fry options and their curly fries contain gluten.
I reached out directly to Sheetz customer service who provided this statement:
“Our curly fries do contain wheat flour, so I would not recommend them for those with celiac disease or a wheat allergy. We do not have a gluten-free fry option at this time. I will pass along your interest to our Food Team for consideration.”
So for anyone following a gluten-free diet, unfortunately Sheetz curly fries are off the menu. The wheat-based batter slathered on before frying means they contain gluten.
Cross-Contamination at Sheetz
Beyond the intentional addition of gluten via the batter, there is also risk of cross-contamination at Sheetz locations. Their fryers are used for multiple menu items, including breaded foods containing gluten.
So while the fries have gluten due to their intentional recipe, they may also pick up traces of gluten from shared fryer oil. People with celiac disease or wheat allergy should be aware of this potential cross-contamination risk.
Gluten-Free Fast Food Fries
If you need to avoid gluten, all is not lost when it comes to indulging in fast food french fries. Here are some restaurant chains that offer gluten-free fry options:
- In-N-Out – Their fries contain potato, sunflower oil, and salt only. Fryers are dedicated.
- Five Guys – Uses peanut oil and dedicates fryers to avoid cross-contact.
- Smashburger – Offers gluten-free fry option cooked in dedicated oil.
- Wienerschnitzel – Fries are gluten-free but cooked in shared fryer.
- Chick-fil-A – Waffle fries are gluten-free but there is shared fryer cross-contact.
Some regional fast food chains like Cook Out, Culver’s, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, and Rally’s also have gluten-free fry options. Just be sure to confirm preparation details at your specific location.
When dining at most fast food spots, I recommend ordering a “protein style” burger or sandwich on a lettuce wrap instead of a bun to avoid gluten exposure from the bread.
Is Sheetz Entire Menu Off Limits with Gluten Allergy?
For the reasons outlined above, I would not consider Sheetz to be an entirely gluten-free friendly option if you need to avoid any cross-contact. However, there are some menu items and customization options to work around the gluten issue.
Here are some ideas for ordering low-gluten or gluten-free menu options when dining at Sheetz:
- Made-to-order sandwiches, subs, or wraps using gluten-free bread or lettuce wrap
- Salads with gluten-free dressing
- Yogurts and fruit parfaits
- Milkshakes made with gluten-free cookies or other ingredients
- Meats like chicken strips, wings, or breakfast meats
- Any gluten-free snacks, candy, chips, etc.
With customization, you may be able to enjoy menu items like burgers, melts, quesadillas, and breakfast sandwiches wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. Just confirm specifics with your location.
In general, raw fruits and vegetables along with packaged gluten-free foods are relatively safe bets at Sheetz. But use caution with pre-made or fried menu items due to batter and cross-contact concerns.
Sheetz Allergy Information
If you need to avoid gluten, your best bet is to speak directly with staff at your local Sheetz about ingredient sourcing, preparation, and potential cross-contamination issues. They should be able to help you identify menu items that will meet your dietary needs.
You can also review Sheetz allergen information online:
This will provide details on which menu items contain potential allergens like wheat, soy, dairy, and shellfish. Items with wheat listed, like curly fries, contain gluten.
Should Sheetz Offer Gluten-Free Fry Options?
In my opinion, yes! Sheetz has an amazing variety of made-to-order sandwiches, wraps, and bowls that can easily be customized to be gluten-free. Offering at least one gluten-free french fry choice would complement these options nicely.
Most major fast food chains now have gluten-free fries, from McDonald’s to Burger King, Arby’s, and more. Sheetz has a loyal following and I think customers would appreciate a fry choice that gluten-free eaters could also enjoy.
The demand and awareness around gluten-free eating will likely only grow going forward. I hope Sheetz considers adding a celiac-safe fry alternative, whether baked, with a corn flour batter, or simply potato + oil.
Sheetz has been responsive to consumer requests in the past, evolving their menu over decades. Fingers crossed a gluten-free fry appears soon!
Coping With a Gluten Allergy
Living gluten-free can be challenging, especially with the temptation of fast food options that may contain gluten. Here are some tips for thriving on a gluten-free diet:
- Get comfortable asking detailed questions at restaurants.
- Always have safe gluten-free snacks on hand for when hunger hits.
- Search for local GF bakeries offering fresh bread and treats.
- Join online celiac and gluten-free communities for support.
- Find cuisines that naturally avoid gluten, like Mexican.
- Experiment with gluten-free flours and baking at home.
Be kind to yourself and remember that it will take time to adapt your lifestyle and find new favorite foods. But with some creativity and planning, you can follow a gluten-free diet without feeling restricted.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, Sheetz curly fries do contain gluten due to the wheat-based batter coating used prior to frying. The potatoes themselves are gluten-free, but the added batter is not.
Sheetz also has risk of cross-contamination from shared fryers used for multiple menu items. For those with celiac disease or wheat allergy, their fries would not be considered safe to eat.
If you need to avoid gluten, check out In-N-Out, Five Guys, Smashburger, and other chains offering dedicated gluten-free fry options. You may also be able to customize sandwiches, burgers, and other Sheetz menu items to be gluten-free.
Hopefully Sheetz will expand their menu to include at least one celiac-friendly fry choice in the future. In the meantime, French fry lovers needing to avoid gluten can find alternatives, but will have to sadly skip the famous Sheetz curly fries.