Is Kneaders Thai chicken salad gluten-free?

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people eliminating gluten for health or personal reasons. For those avoiding gluten, dining out can be tricky as many menu items contain gluten ingredients. Kneaders Bakery and Cafe offers a variety of bakery items and sandwiches, but does their popular Thai chicken salad contain gluten?

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms including bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, and more. Following a strict gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease.

Common Sources of Gluten

Many foods contain gluten including breads, baked goods, cereals, pasta, beer, etc. Gluten can also be found in less obvious products like soy sauce, salad dressings, seasonings, and broths. Dining out with celiac disease or gluten intolerance requires diligence to avoid cross-contamination from kitchen tools and surfaces. Waitstaff knowledge of gluten-free menu options is also key.

What is in the Thai Chicken Salad?

Kneaders’ Thai chicken salad contains mixed greens, carrots, red peppers, cucumbers, wonton strips, and grilled chicken breast tossed in a spicy peanut dressing. The standard salad does not include any obvious gluten ingredients like croutons or pasta. However, gluten can sometimes lurk in unexpected places like salad dressings, chicken marinades or seasonings, and fried wonton strips.

Dressing and Chicken

Kneaders prepares their spicy peanut dressing in-house using a blend of peanut butter, lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and Thai seasonings. According to Kneaders, both regular and gluten-free soy sauce options are available. The grilled chicken breast is simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Neither ingredient should contain any gluten. However, gluten cross-contamination could occur if the chicken is grilled on the same surface as gluten-containing items like sandwiches or if tongs are shared.

Wonton Strips

The wonton strips may be a cause for concern. Wontons are traditionally made from wheat flour wrappers. Unless gluten-free wonton wrappers are used, the fried strips are likely a source of gluten. Even if gluten-free wrappers are available, there is risk of cross-contamination during frying.

Kneaders’ Gluten-Free Offerings

Kneaders understands the importance of accommodating gluten-free diets. Their website states they offer gluten-free bread, pizza crust, focaccia, cinnamon rolls, and more for an additional $1.50. Kneaders also lists a gluten-free menu featuring sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and breakfast items made with gluten-free ingredients. The Thai chicken salad is included on this gluten-free menu, which would indicate it can be prepared gluten-free upon request. However, the menu does warn that while they take steps to avoid cross-contamination, exposure could occur.

Making Special Requests

Those avoiding gluten should inform their server of their dietary needs. Ensure the kitchen takes extra care to prepare your meal on clean surfaces with gluten-free soy sauce. Request the Thai salad be prepared without wonton strips and ask that gluten-free chicken and dressings are used. You may also want to verify the chicken has not been marinated or seasoned with gluten ingredients. Taking these precautions will help minimize the chance of gluten exposure.

Component Analysis

Let’s take a detailed look at each component of Kneaders’ Thai chicken salad and analyze the potential for gluten:

Mixed Greens

No gluten risk here. Leafy greens like romaine, spinach, and lettuce are naturally gluten-free.


Fresh carrots are a gluten-free vegetable.

Red Peppers

No gluten concerns with fresh bell peppers.


Cucumbers are gluten-free.

Wonton Strips

High risk of gluten due to wheat-based wrappers and cross-contamination during frying, unless certified gluten-free wontons are used. Best to omit.

Grilled Chicken Breast

Typically gluten-free, but marinades or seasonings may contain gluten. Request plain grilled chicken or verify gluten-free status.

Spicy Peanut Dressing

Housemade dressing could contain gluten from soy sauce or seasoning blends. Request gluten-free soy sauce and verify no gluten ingredients.

Cross-Contamination Risks

Even if all individual salad ingredients are gluten-free, there is still a chance of cross-contamination during preparation and serving:

  • Cutting boards, knives, tongs, and surfaces used for gluten items could contact salad
  • Dressing ladles may be shared between gluten and gluten-free dressings
  • Salad tossed in same bowl previously used for croutons or wheat-based ingredient
  • Gluten hands of kitchen staff may touch salad during plating

Be sure to emphasize the importance of avoiding cross-contamination when ordering. Many kitchens now prepare gluten-free orders using designated color-coded tools and surfaces.

Ingredient Storage

Ingredients like croutons, wontons, and wheat-based dressings stored above gluten-free items could allow gluten particles to rain down on gluten-free ingredients below. Proper storage and handling processes reduce this risk.

Kneaders Dine-In Experience

If you are dining inside a Kneaders location, take a look around before ordering. Do they seem aware of gluten-free needs? Notice if they have a separate gluten-free menu available. Scan for gluten-free labels on bakery items. If unsure, speak directly to a manager about precautions they take to avoid gluten cross-contact. They should be able to walk you through their procedures. Also consider time of day. Avoid peak periods when kitchen staff is rushed and more likely to make a mistake.

Manager Discussions

Have an open conversation with the manager on duty to understand their comfort level preparing gluten-free orders. Inquire about employee training specific to food allergies and preparation processes. Ask whether separate surfaces, tools, and fryers are used. If you don’t feel confident in their answers, it may be safest to dine elsewhere.

Take-Out and Delivery Considerations

Getting take-out or delivery? Use similar precautions:

  • Verify food handling procedures with manager
  • Ensure kitchen staff understands gluten-free request
  • Request preparation during slower period
  • Pick up order ASAP to minimize warming time where cross-contact could occur
  • Use dedicated clean containers provided by restaurant rather than delivery service containers

Upon receiving your order, inspect carefully for signs of cross-contamination like croutons or stray bread crumbs. Never assume take-out or delivery is safe without verifying processes.

At Home Precautions

Even if you take all on-site precautions, be careful when reheating take-out meals at home. Use clean pans and utensils to avoid introducing gluten from your kitchen. Wash hands thoroughly before handling gluten-free food.

Key Takeaways

Here are the key points to remember when considering Kneaders’ Thai chicken salad:

  • Ask for gluten-free soy sauce in the dressing
  • Omit wonton strips due to high gluten risk
  • Request plain grilled chicken breast instead of seasoned
  • Emphasize importance of avoiding cross-contact to staff
  • Inspect take-out order carefully for signs of contamination
  • Consider dining during less busy periods
  • Verify staff training and preparation procedures

When in Doubt, Ask Questions

If you explain your gluten-free needs clearly to staff and ask questions to understand their processes, you can enjoy Kneaders’ Thai chicken salad with confidence. Always speak up about food allergies when dining out. Being gluten-free shouldn’t mean missing out on delicious eats!


While Kneaders offers many gluten-free options and seeks to accommodate gluten-free diners, their Thai chicken salad requires some modifications and special requests in order to be gluten-free. By omitting wonton strips, requesting plain chicken breast and gluten-free soy sauce, emphasizing cross-contamination risks, and confirming preparation procedures, those avoiding gluten can feel comfortable eating this tasty salad. As always, individuals with celiac disease or serious gluten intolerances may want to exercise extra caution when dining out. Carefully assess your own level of risk tolerance and needs when deciding whether a menu item can be safely consumed.

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