Is Potbelly chicken salad salad gluten free?

Gluten free diets are becoming increasingly popular, even for those who don’t have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. When dining out, it can be tricky to find gluten free options, especially at sandwich shops like Potbelly. Many people wonder – is Potbelly’s chicken salad actually gluten free?

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headache and more. The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict lifelong gluten free diet. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also find symptom relief from eliminating gluten.

What Makes a Food Gluten Free?

For a food to be considered gluten free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Foods that naturally don’t contain gluten, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, beans, nuts and seeds are all gluten free. Processed foods and grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats (unless certified gluten free) contain gluten and are not safe for a gluten free diet.

Many restaurants offer gluten free menu options now, but cross-contamination is still a concern. Even a tiny amount of gluten can cause issues for those who are highly sensitive. That’s why it’s important to ask questions to ensure proper precautions are taken to avoid cross-contact when preparing gluten free orders.

What Ingredients are in Potbelly Chicken Salad?

According to Potbelly’s website, the chicken salad is made with the following ingredients:

  • Chicken
  • Celery
  • Red onion
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Based on this ingredients list, the chicken salad appears to be gluten free as none of these ingredients inherently contain gluten. However, an important question is what may come into contact with the chicken salad during preparation and service.

Is Potbelly’s Chicken Salad Prepared Safely for Gluten Free Diets?

To confirm whether the chicken salad is truly gluten free, you must reach out to Potbelly and communicate with management to ensure proper protocols are in place to prevent cross-contact. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Are employees aware of gluten and risk of cross-contact?
  • Is there designated space/equipment for preparing gluten free items?
  • What steps are taken to clean surfaces, utensils before prepping gluten free orders?

While the chicken salad ingredients may not contain gluten, there is risk of cross-contact during prep and service if safety protocols are not properly followed. Some possible risks could include:

  • Using same utensils and surfaces to prepare wheat-based sandwiches then chicken salad without thorough cleaning in between
  • Scooping chicken salad with same utensils used for other non GF ingredients
  • Preparing on same surfaces as bread/rolls that shed crumbs and particles
  • Employee hands not washed/changed gloves between gluten and gluten free handling

Even tiny crumbs or traces of gluten can trigger a reaction. So any exposure during prep would mean the final product is not gluten free for those highly sensitive. This demonstrates the importance of reaching out to the restaurant directly to understand their processes before making assumptions about menu items.

Best Practices for Dining Out Gluten Free

Here are some tips for safely finding gluten free meals when eating out:

  • Research restaurant’s allergen/gluten free info online – Many restaurants post allergen guides or gluten free menus on their websites which are helpful starting points
  • Call ahead – Speak to a manager directly about gluten free prep procedures and options. Explain your sensitivity level and dietary needs.
  • Speak to staff – Confirm with your server that proper precautions will be taken to avoid cross-contact. Inquire about ingredients, prep and cooking methods.
  • Know your safe menu options – Stick to naturally gluten free whole foods like grilled/ roasted meats, fish, salads, fruits and veggies. Avoid breaded, fried items.
  • Request food prep/cooking alterations if needed – Ask that gluten free order is prepared first using clean utensils, fresh gloves, clean surfaces etc.
  • Check labels – If any sauces, dressings or packaged items are served, check ingredients for gluten sources.
  • Take precautions eating out – Avoid sandwich shops with lots of crumbs and shared surfaces/tools. Opt for dedicated gluten free establishments when possible.

Is Potbelly Chicken Salad Gluten Free: The Verdict

Based on the listed ingredients alone, Potbelly’s chicken salad appears to be free of gluten containing ingredients. However, the only way to determine if the chicken salad is truly gluten free is by contacting Potbelly directly and inquiring about their preparation procedures. Cross-contamination is highly likely if employees are not properly trained on gluten free handling and safety processes are not in place. If you need to avoid even small amounts of gluten, be sure to call your local Potbelly location and speak to a manager before ordering the chicken salad. With proper precautions taken during prep and service, Potbelly’s chicken salad may be able to be enjoyed gluten free.

Other Gluten Free Options at Potbelly

In addition to potentially customizing the chicken salad to be gluten free, here are some other menu items that Potbelly labels as gluten free:

Menu Category Gluten Free Options
Sandwiches Sandwiches made on gluten free bread or in a lettuce wrap
Salads Garden salad, simple salad, chicken salad
Pick-Your-Pair Broth bowl, garden salad, simple salad, caesar salad no croutons, fresh fruit cup
Sides Apple slices, chips, coleslaw
Soups Chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar, tomato basil bisque, chili
Milkshakes Most flavors made with ice cream are gluten free, but Oreo needs modification

Again, when ordering any menu items, be sure to confirm with staff that prep and service procedures are gluten free. Cross-contact is a frequent issue so vigilance is key. With some modifications and special handling, gluten free meals can be found at Potbelly.

Gluten Free Fast Food Options Beyond Potbelly

For those looking for additional gluten free fast casual dining choices, here are some other restaurants to consider:

  • Chipotle – Tacos, burrito bowls, salads can all be made gluten free by avoiding flour tortillas and requesting gloves changes. But risk of cross-contact with flour tortillas.
  • Blaze Pizza – Build your own gluten free pizza on a dedicated gluten free crust. Low risk of cross-contamination.
  • Five Guys – Burgers and fries can be modified gluten free by avoiding buns and requesting clean frying oil. Some risk of cross-contact remains.
  • Jersey Mike’s – Subs can be made on gluten free bread and most shops have separate knives, gloves and surfaces for GF subs. Verify practices with staff.
  • MOD Pizza – Pizza assemblers change gloves and use new utensils for gluten free crust pizzas. Low gluten risk.
  • Noodles & Company – Dedicated gluten free pasta cooked in separate water. Many sauces and dishes can be prepared gluten free.

Always confirm the latest gluten free options and protocols with any restaurant directly before dining. Typically gluten free menus and procedures will be posted online. Calling ahead or speaking with a manager is best to determine real gluten risks based on how each location operates.

Gluten Free Dining Tips

Here are some key tips to keep in mind when eating gluten free at restaurants:

  • Research online menu and allergen info
  • Call ahead to ask questions
  • Explain your sensitivity level
  • Confirm ingredients and preparation methods
  • Request changes to avoid cross-contact
  • Ask about dedicated kitchen tools/appliances
  • Ensure staff changes gloves and washes hands
  • Check labels on packaged foods
  • Thank and tip staff for accommodating your needs

Gluten Free Living Beyond Dining Out

Maintaining a gluten free lifestyle involves much more than just modifying your meals at restaurants. Here is a brief overview of other key aspects of living gluten free:

Gluten Free Shopping

Stick to naturally gluten free whole foods like produce, meats, dairy, rice, quinoa, corn, beans, nuts and seeds when shopping. Check labels carefully on any packaged, canned and frozen foods. Look for a gluten free certification symbol or check the allergen statement for wheat. Shop at specialty health food stores for guaranteed gluten free products.

Gluten Free Cooking & Baking

Choose gluten free grains like rice, quinoa, corn and nut flours for cooking and baking. Experiment with flavorful seasonings and spices. Invest in new cookware if needed. Thoroughly clean cooking surfaces and equipment to avoid cross-contact. Refer to gluten free blogs and cookbooks for recipe ideas and substitutes.

Cross-Contact at Home

Avoid cross-contamination at home by having separate gluten free cooking/prep areas. Use designated gluten free appliances like toasters and condiments. Always wash hands and sterilize utensils between gluten and gluten free handling. Clean counters and surfaces thoroughly after any gluten exposure.

Travel and Social Events

Travel with gluten free snacks and meals. Scout grocery stores to shop for gluten free groceries. Explain your dietary needs to relatives or friends hosting dinners. Ask lots of questions when eating at unfamiliar restaurants. Politely decline food offers that seem unsafe. Focus on all the delicious gluten free foods you can eat.

Emotional Health

Get support from other gluten free people. Find a knowledgeable doctor to oversee your health. Join gluten free recipe groups. Meal prep to always have safe foods on hand. Let go of feeling deprived and embrace all the foods you can eat. Be kind to yourself throughout the adjustment period. Stay positive knowing you are nourishing your body now.


While many restaurants now offer gluten free options, dining out with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity requires extra care and caution. Cross-contamination poses a frequent risk. Inquiring about ingredients and prep procedures is crucial when ordering. Potbelly sandwich shop may be able to prepare their chicken salad gluten free with proper protocols. But direct communication is needed to confirm safety. Follow these gluten free dining out tips and know your safe food choices to find meal options anywhere.

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