Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are becoming increasingly common, with more and more people adopting gluten free diets for health reasons. For those who love fried chicken, a gluten free option at a popular fast food chain like KFC would be welcomed news.
What is gluten and why do some people need to avoid it?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping baked goods keep their shape. For most people, gluten is harmless. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it can cause serious health issues.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten triggers damage to the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, fatigue and anemia. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten free diet. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity causes similar gastrointestinal symptoms when gluten is consumed, but does not damage the intestine.
Currently, it’s estimated that 1 in 100 people worldwide have celiac disease. Many more are choosing to cut out gluten due to sensitivities or perceived health benefits. The market for gluten free foods is growing exponentially as a result.
What makes fried chicken not gluten free?
Most fried chicken contains gluten for two reasons:
- Batter – Fried chicken is usually coated in a wheat flour batter before being fried. This batter contains gluten.
- Breading – Many fried chicken recipes also use breadcrumbs, which contain gluten from wheat flour.
So standard fried chicken is off limits for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Removing the batter and breading would make fried chicken gluten free. But most fast food chains still use flour in their fried chicken recipes.
Does KFC have gluten free fried chicken options?
Currently, KFC menu does not offer any gluten free fried chicken options. Their standard fried chicken recipes contain wheat flour in the batter. The chicken is breaded with flour before frying, making it unsuitable for gluten free diets.
KFC does list allergen information for their menu items on their website. All their fried chicken options contain wheat as an allergen, indicating the presence of gluten.
So those looking for gluten free fried chicken will be disappointed with KFC’s offerings. You won’t currently find a gluten free batter or breading alternative at their restaurants. KFC has yet to come out with a gluten free version of their iconic original recipe or extra crispy chicken.
What about grilled chicken options?
KFC does offer some grilled chicken options without batter or breading. These include:
- Grilled chicken breast
- Grilled chicken wings
- Grilled chicken tenders
However, these grilled chicken menu items are still prepared in the same fryers as KFC’s breaded fried chicken. So there is a high risk of gluten cross-contamination.
KFC states on their website that none of their grilled chicken can be considered gluten free because it may come into contact with batter in the fryer. So those with celiac disease could still have issues with grilled chicken items.
Gluten free sides
While KFC’s chicken isn’t gluten free, some sides may fit into a gluten free diet. KFC lists the following sides as not containing any wheat or gluten:
- Cole Slaw
- Green Beans
- Mashed Potatoes
- Potato Wedges
However, risk of cross-contamination still exists if fried in the same oil as breaded chicken. Those with celiac disease may want to avoid these as well.
Are there any fast food places with gluten free chicken?
While most major fast food chains don’t accommodate gluten free diets, there are a few exceptions. Here are some places where you can get fried chicken without gluten:
Chick Fil A
Chick Fil A offers breaded and grilled chicken options that are prepared without wheat or gluten. Their grilled chicken and grilled nuggets are cooked on a separate grill. So those avoiding gluten for medical reasons can feel safe eating here.
Burger King launched gluten free chicken fries and nuggets in 2022. They use a gluten free breading made from corn and rice flour. Their fryers also undergo regular allergen cleaning to reduce cross-contamination.
Select Wendy’s locations offer gluten free nuggets and sandwiches upon request. The chicken is coated in gluten free breading and cooked in a separate fryer only used for allergen friendly foods.
This international chicken chain uses gluten free breading for its chicken upon request. The gluten free chicken is cooked in separate fryers at Nando’s restaurants.
The verdict: is KFC gluten free?
Based on all available information, standard KFC fried chicken is not gluten free. Their breaded chicken contains wheat flour, making it unsuitable for gluten free diets.
Grilled chicken options may be lower risk but still pose some danger of cross-contamination. Only some sides can be safely eaten on a gluten free diet at KFC.
KFC currently has no specific gluten free menu options or procedures in place. Those avoiding gluten for medical reasons will want to steer clear of KFC fried chicken for now.
Some competitors like Chick Fil A and Burger King now offer gluten free chicken alternatives. But KFC has yet to jump on board this growing trend in the fast food industry.
The lack of gluten free choices makes KFC a challenging dining option for millions of consumers. Perhaps mounting demand will lead KFC to develop a gluten free battered and breaded fried chicken recipe in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does KFC have any gluten free options?
No, KFC does not currently offer any gluten free menu items. Their fried chicken contains wheat flour. Even their grilled chicken is at high risk for cross-contamination with gluten.
What sides can I eat at KFC that are gluten free?
Some of the gluten free sides at KFC may include coleslaw, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes and potato wedges. But there is still a chance of cross-contamination during preparation.
Is KFC fried chicken gluten free if I remove the breading?
No, KFC fried chicken is still not gluten free even if you remove the breading. KFC uses wheat flour in the batter that the chicken is soaked in before breading.
Does KFC fry their chicken in the same oil as gluten free items?
Yes, KFC uses shared fryers for all of their menu items. So the same oil is used to fry breaded chicken and theoretically gluten free grilled chicken. This leads to a very high chance of cross-contact for people with celiac disease.
Can you request gluten free chicken at KFC?
No, KFC restaurants cannot accommodate requests for gluten free chicken at this time. All their chicken contains gluten from wheat flour. They do not have procedures in place to prepare gluten free chicken separately.
Which fast food restaurants have gluten free fried chicken?
Some fast food chains like Chick Fil A, Burger King, Wendy’s and Nando’s offer gluten free breaded chicken options. Their gluten free chicken is cooked separately from regular breaded chicken to prevent contamination.
Does KFC have plans to offer gluten free chicken in the future?
As of now, KFC has not announced any plans to add gluten free chicken options to their menu. The growing demand for gluten free foods may lead them to develop a gluten free recipe. But KFC has yet to acknowledge requests for gluten free chicken.
The Bottom Line
KFC’s popular fried chicken dishes are currently off limits for anyone with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or who avoids wheat for other reasons. The breaded chicken and shared fryers contain gluten and pose a significant cross-contamination risk.
While competitor fast food chains have launched gluten free chicken, KFC has yet to follow suit. The lack of gluten free options at KFC makes dining there extremely challenging and unsafe for millions of consumers on special diets.
Hopefully KFC will modernize their menu and recipes in the future to accommodate gluten free fried chicken fans. But for now, those avoiding gluten should steer clear of KFC.