Does Friendly’s ice cream have gluten in it?

Friendly’s is an American restaurant chain that is known for its ice cream treats. Many people enjoy Friendly’s delicious sundaes, milkshakes, and ice cream cakes. However, for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues. This leads to an important question – does Friendly’s ice cream contain gluten?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, consuming gluten is not a problem. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten can cause issues for those who are gluten-intolerant.

Why is gluten an issue in ice cream?

While ice cream itself does not naturally contain gluten, many ice cream brands add ingredients that do contain gluten. These ingredients include cookie pieces, cake pieces, brownies, candies, toppings, malt powders, flour-based stabilizers, and flavorings. If gluten-containing ingredients come into contact with ice cream, the finished product may not be safe for those avoiding gluten.

Evaluating Friendly’s Ice Cream

To determine if Friendly’s ice cream contains gluten, we need to look at their ingredients lists and preparation procedures. Here are some key points:

1. Certain flavors contain gluten ingredients

While Friendly’s has some ice cream flavors that are gluten-free, other flavors do contain sources of gluten. For example, flavors with cookies/brownies, cake pieces, or malt powder would not be gluten-free. Their ingredients would list sources of gluten like wheat flour or malt barley.

2. Risk of cross-contact

Even if an ice cream flavor itself is gluten-free, there is a risk of gluten cross-contact at Friendly’s restaurants. Ice cream and toppings are stored and prepared using shared equipment. So gluten could accidentally be introduced from other ingredients.

3. Use of wheat flour in plain ice cream

According to Friendly’s, their standard vanilla and chocolate ice cream recipes do contain wheat flour. So plain soft serve and hard pack ice cream are not gluten-free at Friendly’s.

Ice Cream Type Contains Gluten?
Vanilla soft serve Yes
Chocolate hard pack Yes
Cookie sundae Yes
Strawberry sorbet No

4. Designation of gluten-free flavors

Friendly’s does not have a gluten-free menu or specially designate certain ice cream flavors as gluten-free. So it’s hard to know for sure without contacting the restaurant directly.

Are There Any Safe Options?

While Friendly’s standard ice cream contains gluten, there may be some safer options in limited situations:

Gluten-free toppings

Opting for gluten-free toppings and no ice cream gives the lowest risk. Toppings like sprinkles, hot fudge, and caramel are less likely to have gluten. But cross-contact is still possible.

Sorbets and non-dairy options

Friendly’s sorbets, gelatos, and non-dairy options may not contain gluten ingredients. But they are still at risk for cross-contact without special preparation.

Neapolitan flavors

Friendly’s states that their Neapolitan ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry side-by-side) is produced without wheat flour. But it still carries a risk of gluten exposure during preparation and serving.

Designated gluten-free scoops

Asking for a fresh, unused scoop and tub of ice cream could minimize cross-contact. But there is no guarantee the request will be properly accommodated.

How to Order Gluten-Free at Friendly’s

Those needing to avoid gluten should take precautions when ordering ice cream from Friendly’s:

Check the menu carefully

Examine ingredient lists online or ask to see a menu in-store. Avoid flavors with gluten-containing ingredients like cookies and malt powder.

Ask about preparation

Inquire about the steps taken to prevent cross-contact with gluten. Such as use of clean tubs, fresh unused scoops, and isolation of toppings.

Request a gluten-free dish

Ask for a fresh container of sorbet or Neapolitan ice cream to reduce cross-contact risks. Emphasize your need for gluten-free.

Consider non-dairy options

Dairy-free choices like sorbet likely do not contain gluten, providing another possible alternative.

Skip sauces and toppings

Opting out of toppings, cookies, brownies and sauces reduces gluten risk. Stick with plain ice cream in a dish or cone.

Check labels before eating

Carefully inspect any packaged ice cream products before consuming, watching for wheat-based ingredients.

Is Friendly’s Ice Cream Gluten-Free? The Verdict

Based on the available information, most Friendly’s ice cream flavors are likely to contain traces of gluten or risk cross-contact with gluten. Their soft serve and standard hard ice cream recipes do include wheat flour as an ingredient. Many sundaes and specialties also contain gluten sources.

However, some menu options like sorbets, Neapolitan, and dairy-free choices may be lower risk. Those who need to be gluten-free can ask about preparation and try to customize an order to reduce cross-contact. But there are no guarantees at Friendly’s.

The safest option is to choose plain ice cream in a fresh tub or new cone after confirming with staff about precautions. Even then, extreme caution should be used. In general, Friendly’s is not an ideal choice for those with celiac disease or avoiding gluten. Being vigilant about ingredients and preparation is key for any customer with gluten concerns.

Gluten-Free Dining Tips for Friendly’s

Here are some other tips for those avoiding gluten when dining at Friendly’s:

Check gluten-free lists online

Consult updated online guides on gluten-free restaurant choices before deciding to visit. Friendly’s is not highly recommended.

Call ahead

Phone the restaurant to ask about their gluten-free menu, policies and preparation processes before arriving.

Explain your needs clearly

Tell staff about your gluten restriction when ordering. Emphasize the importance of avoiding cross-contact.

Ask questions

Inquire about shared equipment, fryers, prep areas and ingredient sources to assess your risk.

Prioritize safety

When in doubt, don’t eat it. Safety first if you see any red flags or feel unsure about potential gluten exposure.

Finding Safe Gluten-Free Ice Cream Options

Those avoiding gluten have much safer options for enjoying ice cream. Here are some ideas:

Check specialty brands

Many brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Talenti, So Delicious, and Enlightened offer gluten-free labeled flavors. These are widely available in stores.

Visit dedicated shops

Ice cream parlors that specialize in gluten-free and allergy-friendly options are a great bet. Or ones that use equipment solely for gluten-free preparation.

Make it yourself

Getting an ice cream maker lets you control all the ingredients yourself, avoiding any gluten. Customize with fresh fruit, chocolate, peanut butter or other gluten-free mix-ins.

Do dairy-free

Coconut, almond or cashew based ice creams give you gluten-free options without the dairy. Many are also plant-based.

Compare brands

Do your homework reading labels and ingredients lists when evaluating brands. Look for those that explicitly state gluten-free.

Understanding Gluten and Finding Alternatives

Those with celiac disease know that maintaining a gluten-free diet is critical. Here are some other tips around living gluten-free:

Learn how to identify gluten

Know that wheat, rye, barley and malt are sources of gluten and read labels carefully. Oats may also be cross-contaminated.

Recognize hidden sources

Gluten can be found in unexpected places like soy sauce, dressings, seasonings, baked goods and beer.

Find substitutes

Rice, corn, potatoes, quinoa and gluten-free oats offer alternatives as grain choices. There are many gluten-free swaps for wheat flour too.

Discuss needs with loved ones

Make family and friends aware so they can support your gluten-free needs including safe food prep and labels reading.

Use certified gluten-free brands

Looking for certification from GFCO, Gluten Intolerance Group or Celiac Support Association ensures safety.


In summary, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity face challenges when selecting safe menu options at restaurants like Friendly’s. Their standard ice cream contains gluten and cross-contact risks are high. With caution, some dairy-free or specially prepared choices may be tolerable. But in general, Friendly’s is not the most gluten-free friendly option out there. Following a truly gluten-free diet requires diligence, educating staff, asking questions, and investigating ingredient sourcing. Dedicated gluten-free brands, homemade options, and specialty ice cream shops are all safer alternatives for those avoiding gluten. Careful label reading, thorough questioning, and open communication with staff and loved ones helps maintain your health and safety while living gluten-free.

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