Is McDonald’s chicken gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue. Because of this, following a strict gluten-free diet is essential for managing these conditions.

With gluten lurking everywhere from bread to soy sauce, eating at restaurants like McDonald’s can be tricky for those avoiding gluten. But with some modifications and special requests, you can enjoy McDonald’s chicken gluten-free.

Is McDonald’s Chicken Gluten-Free?

The short answer is: Yes, plain McDonald’s chicken without breading is gluten-free. However, the breading and seasoning used on much of McDonald’s chicken is not gluten-free.

Here’s a breakdown of the gluten status of McDonald’s chicken options:

Gluten-Free McDonald’s Chicken Choices:

  • Grilled chicken – Plain grilled chicken fillets and grilled chicken used in salads and wraps are gluten-free.
  • Fried chicken – Fried chicken fillets from the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich and Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich are gluten-free when ordered without breading.
  • McNuggets – McDonald’s states their McNuggets contain gluten-free white meat chicken.

Not Gluten-Free:

  • Chicken McNuggets – The tempura batter used to coat McNuggets contains wheat.
  • Crispy chicken – The breading and batter used on McDonald’s crispy chicken fillets and sandwiches contains gluten.
  • Chicken Selects – The breading used for these fried chicken strips and nuggets contains wheat.

So in summary, grilled chicken and plain fried chicken fillets from McDonald’s are gluten-free, but the battered and breaded chicken items contain gluten.

What Ingredients Make McDonald’s Chicken Not Gluten-Free?

These are the ingredients used in McDonald’s breaded and battered chicken menu items that contain gluten:

Breading Mix – The breading used to coat Crispy Chicken sandwiches, Chicken Selects and some McNuggets contains wheat flour, which contains gluten.

Tempura Batter – The tempura batter used to coat Chicken McNuggets contains wheat flour, which contains gluten.

Seasoning – Some chicken items are seasoned with mixes containing wheat flour or other gluten sources like soy sauce.

So in essence, it’s the added breading and batter that make most of McDonald’s chicken offerings not gluten-free. The chicken meat itself is just chicken without gluten.

Cross-Contamination Risks

Even if you order grilled or plain fried chicken fillets from McDonald’s, there’s still a risk of cross-contamination with gluten. Here are some ways it could happen:

– Fried chicken is cooked in the same fryer oil as breaded, glutenous menu items like chicken nuggets and fillets.

– Grilled chicken may come into contact with buns containing gluten.

– Preparation surfaces and utensils may not be thoroughly cleaned between cooking gluten-free and gluten-containing foods.

– Employees may accidentally add breading or unwanted sauces that contain gluten.

So if you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive, consuming McDonald’s grilled or fried chicken still carries some level of risk due to cross-contact. The level of risk can vary across locations based on the diligence of gluten-free preparation procedures.

How to Order Gluten-Free Chicken at McDonald’s

Here are some tips for ordering gluten-free chicken dishes at McDonald’s:

– Opt for grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps without the bun or chicken salads without croutons or dressings that may contain gluten.

– Request fried chicken fillets from the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken or Southern Style Chicken sandwiches without breading.

– Verify ingredients of dipping sauces and avoid those listing wheat, soy sauce, barley, malt vinegar and other gluten sources.

– Ask for fries or a side salad instead of cross-contaminated hash browns or breaded sides.

– Check labeling and avoid muffins, desserts and shakes that may contain gluten.

– Inform staff you need to avoid gluten due to an allergy. While they may not guarantee 100% gluten-free preparation, most McDonald’s locations have allergen protocols in place.

– Know the menu ahead of time by checking online so you know what to look out for.

– Visit at off-peak times to reduce risk of cross-contact from shared surfaces and equipment.

Being aware of ingredients, carefully customizing your order and communicating with staff about avoiding gluten cross-contact are key to eating McDonald’s chicken safely.

Chicken Entree Options at McDonald’s

Here’s a run-down of the chicken entrees available at McDonald’s and their gluten status:

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches & Wraps

  • Classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich – Gluten-free without the bun
  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich – Gluten-free without the bun
  • Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich – Grilled chicken version can be gluten-free without bun
  • Southern Style Chicken Sandwich – Grilled chicken version can be gluten-free without bun
  • Premium McWrap Chicken & Bacon (Grilled) – Gluten-free without the tortilla
  • Premium McWrap Chicken & Ranch (Grilled) – Gluten-free without the tortilla
  • Premium McWrap Sweet Chili Chicken (Grilled) – Gluten-free without the tortilla

Fried Chicken Sandwiches & Nuggets

  • Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich – Gluten-free if ordered without breading
  • Southern Style Chicken Sandwich – Gluten-free if ordered without breading
  • Chicken McNuggets – Contain gluten due to tempura batter
  • Chicken Selects – Contain gluten due to breading

Salads & Sides

  • Southwest Salad – Grilled chicken is gluten-free, but croutons and dressings may contain gluten
  • Bacon Ranch Salad – Grilled chicken is gluten-free, but croutons and dressings may contain gluten
  • Side Salad – Plain greens are gluten-free, but croutons and dressings may contain gluten
  • Fruit & Maple Oatmeal – May contain gluten from cross-contact
  • Hash Browns – Risk of gluten cross-contact from frying oil

Overall the grilled chicken and customizing fried chicken sandwiches without breading are your safest gluten-free options. Salads can also be gluten-free by omitting croutons and double checking dressings.

Nutrition Information for Popular Gluten-Free Chicken Items

Here is the nutrition data for some of the most popular gluten-free chicken dishes at McDonald’s:

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Calories Fat Carbs Protein
250 5g 6g 37g

Fried Chicken Fillet (without breading)

Calories Fat Carbs Protein
180 8g 0g 28g

Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken

Calories Fat Carbs Protein
240 8g 14g 27g

The grilled chicken and salads make a lighter option, while the fried chicken fillet gives you the crunch you crave without the gluten of the breading.

McDonald’s Chicken for Special Diets

Here’s a quick rundown of how McDonald’s chicken dishes work for special diets beyond gluten-free:


Keto dieters need to stick to under 50g net carbs daily. Plain grilled chicken and fried chicken fillets work well for keto since they are very low carb. Salads are ok minus high carb toppings and dressings. Battered chicken should be avoided on keto.


The Paleo diet eliminates processed foods and grains. Grilled chicken and salads hold up well on paleo since they stick to whole, unprocessed foods. However, the oil used for frying chicken may be off limits for some paleo followers trying to avoid heavily processed vegetable oils.


On Whole30 you avoid sugar, grains, dairy, legumes and some additives. Grilled chicken is generally Whole30 approved. Fried chicken and salads can work as long as you skip dressings like ranch. Honey mustard sauce is also off limits due to added sugar.

Low Carb

When limiting carbs, both grilled chicken and fried chicken fillets are great choices. The sandwiches and salads work too as long as you skip the bun and high carb toppings like croutons. Watch out for sugary sauces and dressings too.

Low Fat

If your focus is low fat, opt for grilled chicken, which provides plenty of lean protein without all the added fat and calories from frying. Be mindful of toppings like cheese and fatty dressings too.

So in summary, grilled chicken tends to be the most diet-friendly pick, but breaded-free fried chicken and salads can work for most regimens too with a few modifications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is McDonald’s grilled chicken processed?

No, McDonald’s grilled chicken is not processed. It’s simply seasoned with salt and pepper then grilled. It contains just chicken breast meat without additives or artificial ingredients.

What oil does McDonald’s fry their chicken in?

McDonald’s fries their breaded chicken items like Chicken Selects and McNuggets in a blend of canola oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil and TBHQ for preservation. Fries are cooked in a separate fryer just using canola oil and hydrogenated soybean oil.

Does McDonald’s marinate their grilled chicken?

No, McDonald’s grilled chicken is not marinated. It’s just lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Any flavors come from spices added to the mayo or sauce used on the sandwich or wrap.

Is McDonald’s grilled chicken real white meat chicken?

Yes, the grilled chicken used for McDonald’s sandwiches and salads is made from real boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets. No fillers or artificial ingredients are added.

Can you get McDonald’s chicken nuggets without breading?

No, McDonald’s doesn’t offer the option to order chicken McNuggets without the signature tempura batter. Since the batter contains gluten, nuggets are not safe for those with celiac disease. Your best bet is to stick to their grilled chicken.

The Bottom Line

Most McDonald’s chicken does contain gluten due to added batter or breading. However, plain grilled chicken and fried chicken fillets without breading are safe gluten-free picks. With some modifications like skipping the bun and checking sauces, chicken items from McDonald’s can be an option for those avoiding gluten. Just be aware that risk of cross-contamination still exists when preparing food in a shared kitchen despite precautions. Overall grilled chicken sandwiches and salads are your best bet for gluten-free chicken meals from McDonald’s.

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