Do Taco Bell hard shell tacos have gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause adverse health effects. With the rising popularity of gluten-free diets, many people are curious whether fast food menu items like Taco Bell’s crunchy tacos are gluten-free.

The Answer

The answer is that standard Taco Bell hard shell tacos do contain gluten. The hard taco shells at Taco Bell are made from wheat flour, which contains gluten. So plain hard shell tacos from Taco Bell are not gluten-free.

Ingredients in Taco Bell Hard Shell Tacos

According to Taco Bell’s website, the ingredients in their regular crunchy taco shells are:

  • Bleached wheat flour
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil shortening (contains one or more of the following: corn oil, palm oil, soybean oil)
  • Contains 2% or less of: salt, potato flour, autolyzed yeast extract, baking powder, wheat starch, and more

As you can see, the first ingredient listed is bleached wheat flour. Wheat contains the proteins glutenin and gliadin, which together form the gluten protein. This means Taco Bell’s hard taco shells are not gluten-free.

Reasons Wheat Flour is Used

Wheat flour is commonly used to make crunchy taco shells because:

  • It provides structure and crispness when fried
  • It is relatively inexpensive compared to other flours
  • It has a neutral flavor that works with tacos
  • It browns and toasts well during frying

Replacing wheat flour with a gluten-free flour blend in hard shells would significantly alter the texture and flavor. It would also drive up costs for Taco Bell.

Gluten-Free Options at Taco Bell

While the standard hard taco shells at Taco Bell contain gluten, there are some gluten-free options to customize your order:

  • Order soft corn tortillas instead of the hard shells
  • Build tacos in tortilla bowls or salad bowls instead of taco shells
  • Use lettuce wraps or rice bowls as the base instead of taco shells
  • Order only the taco filling and toppings

Taco Bell notes that their corn tortillas and chips, as well as rices and beans, are gluten-free. Salsas and toppings like lettuce, tomato, cheese, and guacamole are also gluten-free.

Best Gluten-Free Options

Some of the best gluten-free Taco Bell orders may include:

  • Soft taco supreme with corn tortillas
  • Burrito bowl with rice, beans, salsa, and favorite toppings
  • Nachos bell grande with corn chips instead of hard shells
  • Chicken, steak, or veggies in a salad bowl

Be sure to verify ingredients and preparation methods with the staff to avoid cross-contamination.

Should You Avoid Gluten Entirely at Taco Bell?

For people with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance, it’s safest to avoid Taco Bell entirely. Even though custom orders can be made with gluten-free ingredients, the risk of cross-contact with wheat flour is very high in their kitchens.

Taco Bell does not have designated gluten-free prep spaces or protocols. Tiny amounts of gluten can be enough to cause issues for those who are highly sensitive.

Risk of Cross-Contamination

Possible sources of gluten cross-contact at Taco Bell include:

  • Shared frying oil (used to fry flour tortillas)
  • Shared utensils and surfaces
  • Shared gloves between wheat and corn tortillas
  • Spreading with the same spatula or tongs
  • Flour tortillas stored above corn tortillas

For those who must be very strict with gluten, many experts recommend fully avoiding all Taco Bell menu items.

Should You Avoid Taco Bell Hard Shell Tacos?

If you have celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance, yes, Taco Bell’s hard shell tacos should be avoided completely.

For those with minor gluten sensitivities or who follow gluten-free diets by choice, Taco Bell hard shells are one menu item that is clearly not gluten-free. However, custom orders using corn tortillas, lettuce wraps, or bowls may be tolerable in moderation.

If you wish to eat hard shell tacos specifically, look for brands of gluten-free pre-made taco shells sold in grocery stores. They will be produced in facilities free of any wheat or gluten.

Finding Other Gluten-Free Fast Food Options

If you follow a strict gluten-free diet, Taco Bell may be too risky due to potential cross-contamination. Here are some other fast food chains that offer gluten-free options:


At Chipotle, you can build burrito bowls, salads, and tacos using corn tortillas or lettuce wraps. Rice, beans, meats, salsas, and most toppings are gluten-free.


Chick-fil-A offers grilled nuggets and sandwiches served in lettuce wraps. Side items like waffle fries, fruit cups, and kale salads are also gluten-free.


Wendy’s menu includes chili, baked potatoes, salads, and sandwiches customizable with gluten-free buns.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out offers “Protein Style” burgers wrapped in large lettuce leaves instead of buns. Fries and shakes can also be made gluten-free.


Subway allows you to build salad and sandwich orders on gluten-free bread or wraps. Gluten-free cookies are even available.

Being Gluten-Free at Mexican Restaurants

Mexican restaurants often use corn tortillas and rice that are naturally gluten-free. But wheat tortillas are also common. Here are some tips for eating gluten-free at Mexican restaurants:

  • Ask which items are made with corn vs. flour tortillas
  • Request corn tortillas fried in separate oil if possible
  • Avoid deep fried items that may be cross-contaminated
  • Check that rice, beans, and chips are gluten-free
  • Ask about sauces and seasonings on proteins
  • Check labels on salsas, in case of malt vinegar

With good communication, Mexican restaurants can often accommodate gluten-free diets by making minor adjustments.

Gluten-Free Dining Out Tips

If you need to avoid gluten completely, keep these general tips in mind when eating out:

  • Research the menu online in advance
  • Explain your dietary needs clearly to staff
  • Ask about how dishes are prepared and cooked
  • Request food be cooked in clean oil, pans, etc.
  • Ask lots of questions about ingredients
  • Thank helpful staff and chefs
  • Tip generously for accommodations

With good communication and some extra care, many restaurants are willing to help diners with gluten intolerance. Avoiding cross-contact just takes some additional attention.

Gluten-Free Hard Shell Taco Options

If you want to be able to enjoy hard shell tacos at home while maintaining a gluten-free diet, there are options. Here are some brands that offer gluten-free pre-made hard taco shells:

Brand Where to Buy
Siete Foods Online, natural grocers, Whole Foods
Mikey’s Online, Costco, Safeway
Calidad Online, Walmart
Tumaro’s Online, Target, Publix

There are also recipes available online to make homemade gluten-free taco shells using ingredients like corn tortillas, cassava flour, cheese, etc. With some creativity, you can find ways to satisfy that crunchy taco craving gluten-free.


In summary, standard Taco Bell hard taco shells unfortunately do contain gluten due to their wheat flour base. For those with celiac disease and major gluten intolerance, it’s safest to steer clear of Taco Bell entirely to prevent cross-contact.

However, with custom orders using gluten-free ingredients like corn tortillas, many menu items can be modified to fit gluten-free diets. And other major fast food chains may have safer options for gluten-free eaters.

At home, seek out brands that make pre-made gluten-free taco shells or get creative with recipes to satisfy your cravings. With some adjustments, hard shell taco lovers can still enjoy their favorite food gluten-free.

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