Is California kitchen pizza gluten free?

Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people opting to avoid gluten for medical reasons or simply as a lifestyle choice. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, dining out can be challenging, as gluten is found in many restaurant foods and cross-contamination is common. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) is a popular national pizza chain that offers gluten free crusts and pizzas, making it an appetizing option for gluten free diners. But is CPK pizza truly gluten free? Let’s take a detailed look at what gluten free options are available at California Pizza Kitchen.

Gluten Free Crust

The centerpiece of any gluten free pizza is, of course, the crust. CPK offers a thin, crispy gluten free crust made with rice flour. Unlike some other pizza chains that simply use a frozen gluten free crust, CPK makes their gluten free pizza crust from scratch in-house. They use a dedicated set of equipment and tools to prepare the gluten free pizzas, avoiding cross-contamination with gluten containing ingredients. The gluten free crust is vegan and dairy free as well. Customers can choose either a 10-inch or 14-inch gluten free crust, the same sizes offered for traditional CPK pizzas. The gluten free crust does cost an additional $2.50 compared to a traditional crust.


CPK states that the gluten free crust consists of rice flour, water, tapioca starch, high oleic safflower oil, sugar, yeast, and salt. These ingredients are all gluten free, but anyone with sensitivities or allergies to ingredients besides gluten, such as yeast, should take note.

Allergen Information

On their allergen information pages, California Pizza Kitchen states the following about their gluten free crust:

“Our Gluten-Free pizza crust does not contain any gluten or wheat. However, it is prepared in our kitchens where products containing gluten are present. California Pizza Kitchen does not recommend this product for customers with celiac disease. Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise judgement in consuming this pizza.”

So while the gluten free crust is made without gluten ingredients, there is a risk of cross-contamination with gluten in the kitchen where gluten containing items are also prepared. The decision of whether this level of risk is acceptable is an individual one that gluten free customers will have to make for themselves.

Gluten Free Pizzas

California Pizza Kitchen offers the gluten free crust as an option on almost all of their pizza varieties. Whether you want a BBQ Chicken Pizza, Thai Chicken Pizza, or Classic Pepperoni Pizza, chances are you can get it on a gluten free crust. There are over 20 different pizzas that can be ordered on the gluten free crust. Having so many diverse options makes it easy for gluten free customers to find pizzas the whole family can enjoy.

Some pizza toppings, even if placed on a gluten free crust, may contain gluten. For example, meat toppings made with breadcrumbs or fillers could be a source of gluten. Sauces and cheese made with gluten-containing ingredients are also a possibility. Customers who are highly sensitive should inquire about all ingredients and possible cross-contamination when ordering.

Create Your Own Pizza

For the greatest level of control over ingredients, CPK allows customers to build their own pizza on a gluten free crust. All ingredients and toppings are listed with allergen information online and in-store to guide gluten free customers. By choosing naturally gluten free meat, vegetable, and cheese options, a fully customized gluten free pizza can be created.

Other Gluten Free Menu Items

Beyond the pizza, there are a few other gluten free options at California Pizza Kitchen. These include:

  • Salads – Most can be ordered without croutons
  • Dressings – Most are gluten free, except Creamy Parmesan and Caesar dressings
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Request no soy sauce
  • Kids’ Menu – Grilled chicken breast, steak, or IMPOSSIBLETM burger with fresh fruit or veggies

However, many CPK menu items including pasta, sandwiches, desserts, and fried items are likely to contain gluten. Overall the options are fairly limited outside of ordering a gluten free pizza.

Allergen and Preparation Information

California Pizza Kitchen provides a decent amount of allergen and preparation information for customers online and in restaurants. Their allergen guides identify which menu items are gluten/wheat free, provide ingredient information, and call out items at high risk for cross-contamination. Customers can also speak with a manager about preparation procedures and precautions taken for gluten free orders. However, they do note that separate/dedicated kitchens are not used.

Staff Training

CPK states that their staff receives training on food allergies and gluten free preparation. Extra care is encouraged when taking and preparing orders for guests with allergies. However the degree of gluten-free training among staff may vary by individual restaurant location.

Kitchen Procedures

California Pizza Kitchen outlines their procedures for avoiding cross-contamination of gluten free orders on their website. These include:

  • Wiping down and sanitizing prep areas and equipment before gluten free preparation
  • Changing gloves before handling gluten free items
  • Using separate, sanitized pizza cutting blades and tools
  • Taking measures to avoid mixed contact with ingredients in bowls and on the make line

However, they do not have dedicated gluten free preparation areas or kitchens. Some contamination may still occur in shared environments.

Special Ordering Tips

CPK recommends that customers order gluten free items first within their order to minimize cross-contamination. Alerting the server to a gluten allergy can help ensure extra care is taken as well. Checking in with a manager on duty about preparation procedures may also bring peace of mind.

Restaurant Policies

California Pizza Kitchen has worked to adapt their restaurant policies to better accommodate guests with gluten free needs. Some of their key policies include:

  • Gluten free menu options clearly labeled
  • Online allergen and nutrition information available
  • Servers and chefs trained on gluten free prep and allergies
  • Ingredient information available for all menu items
  • Policies in place for avoiding cross-contamination
  • Gluten free crusts and pizzas prepped separately from gluten-containing items
  • Managers able to answer questions about food allergies and preparation

Adopting these types of policies shows an effort on CPK’s part to serve gluten free guests. However, unlike fully gluten free restaurants, the presence of gluten in the kitchen means there is always some risk.

Is California Pizza Kitchen Gluten Free Certified?

California Pizza Kitchen restaurants are not certified gluten free by organizations like the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). The lack of certification is mainly due to the presence of gluten in CPK kitchens and the risk of cross-contamination. For those with celiac disease, this level of risk may not meet their safety standards.

However, CPK does train its staff on gluten free procedures and takes extra steps to avoid contamination. For some with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, this approach may be adequate. But those who are highly sensitive need to use caution and check with restaurant managers about their particular location’s precautions.

Should You Trust California Pizza Kitchen for Gluten Free?

For those adhering to a strict gluten free diet for medical reasons, California Pizza Kitchen restaurants present some risk due to the potential for cross-contamination. The decision on whether to eat there requires weighing your individual sensitivity and tolerance levels against the convenience of their gluten free options.

Some tips if you do decide to eat at California Pizza Kitchen gluten free include:

  • Check online allergen info for your menu choice beforehand
  • Ask the server to note an allergy when ordering
  • Confirm your order is gluten free when served
  • Avoid croutons, dressings, soy sauce and other add-ons
  • Stick to basic pizza toppings less prone to contamination
  • Request preparation table and tools be cleaned and sanitized

At the end of the day, those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive have the most reason to exercise caution at CPK. The “gluten free” designation comes with some disclaimers. But for others with minor sensitivities or who are avoiding gluten by choice, CPK can be a delicious option when craving pizza.

The Bottom Line

California Pizza Kitchen strives to provide tasty gluten free menu choices, especially pizza. Their policies and procedures show attention to the needs of gluten free guests. However, the presence of gluten in shared kitchens means there is always some risk of cross-contact. Those with celiac disease should use extreme caution. Overall, CPK is an accommodating spot for gluten free dining, but may not meet the highest standards of safety for all.

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