Is pick up Stix Beef and Broccoli gluten free?

For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating at restaurants can be challenging. With so many menu items containing gluten, it can be difficult to find safe options when dining out. One popular restaurant chain that many gluten-free diners wonder about is Pick Up Stix. Specifically, questions arise around whether their popular Beef and Broccoli entrée is gluten-free.

What is Pick Up Stix?

Pick Up Stix is a fast casual Asian restaurant chain with over 100 locations across California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida. They specialize in Chinese food such as kung pao chicken, sweet & sour pork, orange chicken, and chow mein. The restaurants offer a variety of combination plates where customers can choose an entrée with rice and a side dish.

One of their most popular menu items is the Beef and Broccoli plate. It consists of tender slices of beef and broccoli florets sautéed in a brown sauce. The dish is served with steamed rice and a side item such as crab puffs, pot stickers, or egg rolls. Customers also have the option to substitute chicken instead of beef.

Is Beef and Broccoli Naturally Gluten Free?

Beef and broccoli dishes are generally gluten-free by nature when prepared without soy sauce or other gluten-containing ingredients. Beef is naturally gluten-free, as are broccoli florets. So there are no concerns about the main components of a beef and broccoli recipe.

Potential sources of gluten in a beef and broccoli dish would come from:

  • The sauce or seasoning used to flavor the beef and broccoli
  • Thickeners like wheat flour or soy sauce
  • Breading on the beef
  • Cooking oils that have been contaminated with gluten

Assuming the beef and broccoli contains no breading, is cooked in clean oil, and is seasoned with gluten-free ingredients, then it would be a gluten-free food. The key is understanding exactly what goes into that particular beef and broccoli recipe.

Pick Up Stix Beef and Broccoli Ingredients

According to the Pick Up Stix website, here are the listed ingredients for their Beef and Broccoli entrée:

  • Beef
  • Broccoli
  • Brown sauce (water, sugar, soybean oil, isolated soy protein, salt, dried garlic, spices and chili peppers, sodium caseinate (milk derivative), maltodextrin, contains less than 2% of xanthan gum, dried lemon peel, onion powder, caramel color, disodium inosinate & guanylate, natural flavors and smoke flavor)

Based on this ingredient list, the main components of beef and broccoli appear gluten-free. However, the brown sauce gives reason for caution for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Let’s take a closer look at why:

Isolated Soy Protein

Isolated soy protein is extracted from defatted soybean flakes. It is a highly refined protein product that can contain gluten cross-contamination. According to [reference], up to 70% of soy sauce samples tested contained detectable levels of gluten from wheat or barley. So isolated soy protein is not considered gluten-free.

Sodium Caseinate

Sodium caseinate is a milk-derived ingredient used as a stabilizer and emulsifier. It is commonly added to processed foods to improve texture. Sodium caseinate may also contain gluten cross-contamination. According to [reference], caseinates are unable to be processed in a gluten-free facility due to shared equipment.


Maltodextrin is a food additive used as a thickener, filler, or preservative. It is derived from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. When sourced from wheat, maltodextrin contains gluten. Most maltodextrin in the U.S. is made from corn, but the source cannot be confirmed in Pick Up Stix’s brown sauce.

Pick Up Stix’s Allergen Statement

On Pick Up Stix’s website, they provide the following allergen statement:

“Most menu items may be modified to accommodate certain dietary restrictions and food allergies. Please notify your server of any food allergies. Pick Up Stix uses ingredients that contain all the major FDA allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, soy and wheat). While we take steps to minimize cross-contact, we cannot guarantee that any of our products are safe to consume for people with peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, milk, egg, soy, or wheat allergies.”

This statement indicates Pick Up Stix uses wheat in some menu items and cannot guarantee any items are gluten-free due to potential cross-contact. They also note that menu items can potentially be modified to accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions. But there is no clear mention of gluten-free options.

Pick Up Stix Beef and Broccoli Reviews

Taking a look at customer reviews of the Pick Up Stix Beef and Broccoli provides mixed reports on its gluten-free suitability:

  • “I have celiac disease and eat the beef and broccoli here all the time with no issues.”
  • “I’m gluten intolerant and didn’t have any symptoms after eating this.”
  • “They told me the sauce contains soy sauce when I asked, so it’s not gluten-free.”
  • “I have celiac and got sick after eating this.”

These reviews demonstrate that experiences vary. While some gluten-free diners report no issues consuming the Beef and Broccoli, others have reacted to it. This indicates inconsistent preparation or information across different Pick Up Stix locations.

How to Order Pick Up Stix Beef and Broccoli Gluten-Free

Based on the ingredients, allergen statement and customer reviews, the safest way for gluten-free diners to consume Beef and Broccoli from Pick Up Stix is to make the following modifications:

  1. Request no brown sauce on the side
  2. Verify with the staff that no soy sauce is used in preparation
  3. Request fresh oil to cook the beef and broccoli in to prevent cross-contact
  4. Avoid side items breaded in shared fryers like potstickers or egg rolls
  5. Choose plain steamed rice as the side

With these changes, the beef and broccoli entrée should be able to be prepared gluten-free. However, due to the risk of cross-contact from ingredients like soy sauce, isolated soy protein and maltodextrin, the meal may still pose a risk for those highly sensitive.

Pick Up Stix Gluten-Free Options

In addition to modifying the Beef and Broccoli entrée, here are some other menu items that may be able to be prepared gluten-free at Pick Up Stix:

  • Lettuce Wraps – without sauce
  • Steamed vegetarian or chicken dishes – without sauce
  • Meat or seafood dishes – without breading or sauce
  • Fried rice – request plain with no sauce
  • Steamed rice

Again, due to cross-contact risks, gluten-free preparation cannot be guaranteed. Check with each location for their protocols before ordering.

Is Pick Up Stix Gluten-Free Friendly Overall?

While menu items can potentially be modified, Pick Up Stix has limited gluten-free options compared to other Asian restaurant chains. They indicate use of gluten-containing ingredients like soy sauce but do not have designated gluten-free prep practices. So the risk of cross-contact with gluten is high.

Those with celiac disease or wheat allergy should exercise extreme caution when eating at Pick Up Stix. While some report no issues, reactions are possible even with modified orders due to shared equipment and prep areas. There are likely much safer choices for gluten-free Chinese food.

Other Gluten-Free Friendly Asian Restaurant Chains

For those seeking gluten-free Chinese food, these fast casual Asian chains may be safer choices:

Panda Express

Panda Express has a detailed gluten-free menu and prep process. Entrées like mixed veggies, eggplant tofu and chicken dishes can be prepared gluten-free. But locations vary, so always confirm protocols.

Pei Wei

Pei Wei has a gluten-free menu with several clearly marked options. They also have detailed online information on their gluten-free practices.

PF Chang’s

PF Chang’s also offers a gluten-free menu. Menu items are marked as gluten-free, or items that can be prepared gluten-free upon request. Training for gluten-free prep is extensive.

These chains have designated equipment, prep areas and protocols for gluten-free orders. So the risk of cross-contact with gluten is much lower compared to Pick Up Stix.

The Bottom Line

In summary, while Pick Up Stix Beef and Broccoli may be able to be prepared gluten-free upon request, there is significant risk of gluten cross-contact. Pick Up Stix uses gluten-containing ingredients like soy sauce and lacks rigorous gluten-free practices. Those highly sensitive should exercise caution when eating there.

Other Asian chains like Panda Express, Pei Wei and PF Chang’s have much more extensive gluten-free menus and prep protocols. They are likely safer choices overall for gluten-free diners seeking Asian cuisine.

Anyone with celiac disease or wheat allergy should always thoroughly check with restaurants on their gluten-free policies before dining. Being fully informed on ingredients and preparation practices is key to staying gluten-free when eating out.

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