Is Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole gluten free?

Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many people adopting them due to medical reasons or personal preferences. For those who enjoy the homestyle cooking at Cracker Barrel, a common question is whether one of their most iconic dishes, the hashbrown casserole, is safe to eat on a gluten free diet.

What is gluten and why do people need to avoid it?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, consuming gluten is not an issue. However, for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause serious health problems and damage to the small intestine. When someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity consumes gluten, it triggers an autoimmune response that attacks the small intestine and prevents proper absorption of nutrients from food.

To manage their condition, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity must adhere to a strict lifelong gluten free diet, avoiding any foods and ingredients that contain gluten. This includes many breads, pastas, baked goods, and processed foods that use wheat, barley, rye and malt as ingredients.

What ingredients are in Cracker Barrel’s hashbrown casserole?

Cracker Barrel’s famous hashbrown casserole consists of the following main ingredients:

  • Hashbrowns
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cream of chicken soup
  • Sour cream
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

The hashbrowns form the base of the casserole. Shredded cheddar cheese is mixed throughout, along with a creamy sauce made from cream of chicken soup, sour cream, butter, and seasonings.

Are the ingredients in Cracker Barrel’s hashbrown casserole gluten free?

Fortunately for those looking to enjoy this popular casserole while maintaining a gluten free diet, most of the main ingredients in Cracker Barrel’s recipe appear to be gluten free:

  • Hashbrowns – Plain hashbrown potatoes are naturally gluten free.
  • Cheddar cheese – Most major brands of cheddar cheese do not contain gluten or wheat-derived ingredients.
  • Cream of chicken soup – Many leading brands of canned cream soups are gluten free, but always check labels to confirm.
  • Sour cream – Plain dairy sour cream does not contain gluten.
  • Butter – Pure dairy butter is gluten free.
  • Salt and pepper – Plain table salt and ground black pepper do not contain gluten.

What about cross-contamination risks?

While the individual ingredients may be gluten free, there is still a risk of cross-contamination occurring during food preparation and handling:

  • The hashbrowns may come into contact with gluten-containing foods when fried.
  • Tools, surfaces, and equipment used to make the casserole may not be completely gluten free.
  • Restaurant employees preparing the dish may introduce traces of gluten from other foods if hands are not washed and kitchen tools are shared.

Those who are highly sensitive should inquire with the restaurant directly about their gluten free preparation policies and procedures to see if cross-contamination risks can be reduced.

Does Cracker Barrel offer any gluten free menu options?

Cracker Barrel understands that many of their customers follow specialty diets and they try to accommodate some gluten free menu options:

  • Their gluten free menu includes choices like grilled chicken tenderloin, trout, and biscuits made with a gluten free mix.
  • They offer gluten free substitutions for sides like mashed potatoes, green beans, and applesauce.
  • Their gluten free dessert menu includes options like gluten free fudge brownies.
  • All fried menu items are cooked in devoted fryers separate from gluten-containing foods.

While they make an effort, Cracker Barrel does caution that the kitchen is not completely gluten free, so there is always some risk of cross-contamination. Guests should discuss their needs with restaurant staff to determine if the available options are appropriate for their level of sensitivity.

What do major celiac groups say about eating at Cracker Barrel?

Two leading celiac groups, the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Celiac Support Association, have both issued guidance on eating gluten free at Cracker Barrel:

  • They consider Cracker Barrel to be “celiac friendly” but advise that it is not an entirely gluten free environment.
  • They recommend that highly sensitive individuals exercise caution and ask detailed questions to assess preparation procedures.
  • Those who are less sensitive or willing to accept some low risk of cross-contamination may be comfortable with menu modifications.
  • Overall the groups view Cracker Barrel as making a solid effort to accommodate gluten free diners given the challenges of a shared kitchen.

Is Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole gluten free: The verdict

Based on an analysis of the ingredients, preparation methods, and guidance from celiac groups, the verdict on Cracker Barrel’s hashbrown casserole is:

While the individual ingredients appear to be gluten free, cross-contamination during preparation poses some degree of risk.

Cracker Barrel makes positive efforts to offer gluten free menu choices, but their kitchen is not fully gluten free. Each individual must make their own judgment based on their level of sensitivity and comfort with potential cross-contact exposure.

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should ask detailed questions and work with restaurant staff to determine if menu items can be prepared safely. While the hashbrown casserole may be off limits for highly sensitive diners, other Cracker Barrel menu items may still be possible with modifications.


When dining at Cracker Barrel, those adhering to a gluten free diet should proceed with caution. While the hashbrown casserole contains gluten free ingredients, risk of cross-contamination makes it questionable for celiac diners. By working with staff on proper preparation and sticking to modified menu choices, some people who are less sensitive may still be able to enjoy Cracker Barrel’s homestyle fare in a gluten free way. But for those highly sensitive, the hashbrown casserole and many other menu items may be too risky due to shared kitchen preparation challenges.

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