Is Taco Bell original refried beans gluten-free?

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for medical reasons or simply as a lifestyle choice. For those who follow a strict gluten-free diet, dining out can present challenges, as many menu items at fast food and casual dining restaurants contain gluten. Taco Bell is a popular fast food chain, but is it possible to eat gluten-free at Taco Bell? Specifically, are Taco Bell’s original refried beans gluten-free?

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a glue that holds food together and often gives it a chewy texture. For most people, consuming gluten is not a problem. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause serious health issues. When someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity consumes gluten, it causes an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headache, and more. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Why Taco Bell?

Taco Bell is an incredibly popular fast food chain, serving tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and more. There are currently over 7,000 Taco Bell locations across the United States. With its affordability and convenience, it’s easy to see why Taco Bell is so popular, especially among young adults and college students. However, for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, Taco Bell may seem off limits. Many of the staple Taco Bell menu items like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas use flour tortillas that contain gluten. But don’t lose hope just yet! While the choices may be more limited, there are still gluten-free options at Taco Bell. When customized properly, items like the Power Bowl, salads without tortilla chips, corn tortilla tacos, and bean burritos can all be made gluten-free. But what about one of Taco Bell’s most iconic menu items, the refried beans? Keep reading to find out!

What Are Refried Beans?

Refried beans are a traditional Mexican side dish made from pinto beans or other varieties. To make refried beans, the beans are boiled, drained, and then mashed and fried in oil. Traditional refried beans also contain lard or bacon fat. The term “refried” refers to the process of frying the mashed beans in oil, not to the beans being fried twice. Refried beans have a smooth, spreadable texture and an earthy, savory flavor. They are often served as a side dish, scooped onto entrees like burritos and nachos, or used as a dip. Refried beans are a staple menu item at many Mexican restaurants and fast food chains like Taco Bell. Taco Bell’s refried beans have a distinctive flavor and creamy texture that is an integral component of many menu items. But what exactly goes into Taco Bell’s refried bean recipe? Read on to find out.

Taco Bell’s Refried Bean Ingredients

According to the Taco Bell website, the fast food chain’s refried beans contain the following ingredients:


The primary ingredient is beans, likely pinto beans. Pinto beans are a variety of Phaseolus vulgaris, an edible legume pod. Beans are naturally gluten-free.


The second ingredient listed is water, which helps hydrate the beans during cooking. Water does not contain gluten.

Vegetable Oil

Taco Bell uses vegetable oil to fry the mashed beans. Vegetable oil is commonly made from soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, or canola oil. None of these oils contain gluten.


Salt is added for flavor. Salt is gluten-free.


The exact spices used are not listed, but common spices added to refried beans include garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and chili powder. Spices are gluten-free foods.

Garlic Powder

Garlic powder provides a savory, garlic flavor. Garlic powder does not contain gluten.

Onion Powder

Onion powder adds onion flavor. Onion powder is gluten-free.


Maltodextrin is used as a thickener and preservative. Though derived from corn, wheat, or potato starch, highly purified maltodextrin contains such minimal protein that it is considered gluten-free.

Cellulose Gum

Cellulose gum acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer. It is extracted from plant cell walls and does not contain gluten.

Disodium Phosphate

Disodium phosphate is used to help retain moisture and maintain texture. It does not contain gluten.

Artificial Flavor

The artificial flavor provides additional flavoring. Flavorings are typically gluten-free.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid helps provide tanginess. It is produced through fermentation and is gluten-free.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride functions as a flavor enhancer. It does not contain gluten.

Calcium Lactate

Calcium lactate, derived from lactic acid, is added for flavor. It does not contain gluten.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride helps maintain texture. It is gluten-free.

Based on the ingredients list, Taco Bell’s original refried beans do not contain any ingredients derived from wheat, barley, rye, or malt. Therefore, they can be considered gluten-free.

Are Taco Bell’s Refried Beans Processed in a Facility with Wheat?

While the refried bean ingredients themselves are gluten-free, people with celiac disease also need to consider the possibility of cross-contamination. Even tiny amounts of gluten from shared equipment or manufacturing facilities can make someone with celiac disease sick.

I contacted Taco Bell customer service to find out if their refried beans are processed in a facility that also handles wheat-based foods. The customer service agent I spoke with was unable to confirm whether the refried beans are processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility. She explained that because Taco Bell restaurants receive food items pre-prepared from distribution centers, the manufacturing process is not visible. She recommended individuals with food allergies or sensitivities consult and search the allergen information.

Unfortunately, after thoroughly searching the Taco Bell website, I could not find any definitive information about what other foods are processed in the refried bean manufacturing facility. The website states that customers should “check ingredient labels for allergens as recipes can change” and instructs anyone with food allergies to visit for the most current allergen and nutrition data. However, this page does not actually contain any information about allergens. It simply redirects you back to the main Taco Bell homepage.


Based on the available information, Taco Bell’s original refried beans appear to be gluten-free based on the ingredients. However, without transparency from Taco Bell about the manufacturing process, there is no way to guarantee the refried beans are not cross-contaminated. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use their best judgment on whether potentially cross-contaminated foods could make them ill. People who are extremely sensitive may want to avoid Taco Bell’s refried beans, while those who can tolerate small amounts of cross-contact may feel comfortable consuming them. Some reduced risk options for avoiding cross-contamination include ordering refried beans as part of a salad without tortilla chips or trying black beans instead. Ultimately, each person with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity needs to make the decision that feels right for his or her own health and comfort level.

Other Taco Bell Menu Items and Ingredients to Avoid

While Taco Bell’s refried beans may be okay for less sensitive individuals, there are many ingredients and menu items at Taco Bell that are definitively not gluten-free and should be avoided by anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity:

Flour Tortillas

Taco Bell’s standard tortillas and flatbreads for burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and more are made with wheat flour and are not gluten-free.

Breads and baked goods

Items like cinnamon twists, chips, and desserts are made with non-gluten-free grains and should be avoided.

Breading and coating mixes

The seasoned rice, potato bites, and empanadas are all dusted with or contain wheat-based breading.

Sauces and seasonings

Many Taco Bell sauces contain wheat flour or malt barley extract. These include nacho cheese sauce, Baja sauce, avocado ranch dressing, and more. Seasoning blends may also contain gluten.


Even corn tortillas could be cross-contaminated when heated on shared equipment or grill surfaces.

How to Order Gluten-Free at Taco Bell

While the choices are more limited, you can customize a gluten-free Taco Bell meal. Some suggestions:

Start with corn tortillas

Substitute corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas in tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. Request new, uncontaminated utensils and fresh gloves to prevent cross-contact.

Load up on beans

Black beans or (potentially) refried beans make great gluten-free additions to any order.

Choose grilled proteins

Grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp are gluten-free filling options.

Ask for sides and toppings

Rice, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, salsa and guacamole make gluten-free customizations easy.

Avoid tortilla chips and taco shells

Chips, taco salad shells, and other crispy shell menu items contain gluten.

Skip the sauces

Many Taco Bell sauces and dressing contain gluten. Ask for fresh pico de gallo instead.

Check drink ingredients

Soft drink mixes may contain malt or barley extract. Enjoy bottled drinks instead.

Mind your prep area

Kindly request that employees change gloves, use fresh utensils, and prepare your food away from possible cross-contact areas.

Taco Bell Gluten-Free Menu Options

While individual customization will be required, the following Taco Bell menu items are most likely to be gluten-free as-is or modified:

Power Bowl

Rice, beans, grilled chicken, pico, and guac make this a gluten-free go-to. Sub lettuce for tortilla strips.

Ground Beef Soft Tacos

Corn tortillas filled with ground beef, lettuce, and cheese. Request clean prep.

Bean Burrito

Refried or black beans in a corn tortilla can easily be gluten-free. Sub rice for red strips.

Chicken Salad

Grilled chicken on a bed of lettuce with pico and guacamole.

Shrimp Salad

Swap rice for tortilla strips for another fresh, gluten-free option.

Fresco Menu Items

The Fresco veggie swap is an easy gluten-free customization on many entrees.

Cinnamon Twists

Okay, you can’t have the classic cinnamon twists. But a diet soda or bottled water still satisfies!

Gluten-Free Taco Bell Items to Avoid

To stay strictly gluten-free at Taco Bell, exclude anything with:

Tortilla chips

Nachos, taco salad shells, chips and dip

Flour tortillas

Burritos, quesadillas, flatbreads, wraps

Fried coating mixes

Potato bites, crispy chicken, empanadas

Baked goods

Churros, cinnamon twists, cookies, cakes

Seasoned rice

Mexican Rice, Rattlesnake Fries

Thickened sauces

Nacho cheese, baja sauce, avocado ranch

Flavored drink mixes

Lemonade, limeade, mixed soda fountain drinks

Gluten-Free Dining at Other Mexican Chains

Taco Bell isn’t your only option for gluten-free fast-food Tex-Mex cuisine. Most major Mexican chains have gluten-free menus or information available to help guide your choices.


Chipotle offers gluten-free tortillas and carefully avoids cross-contamination with allergen protocols. Their online allergen guide makes gluten-free dining easy.


Qdoba also provides an online tool guiding gluten-free choices. Build your meal with corn tortillas, toppings and gluten-free salsas.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Moe’s has a dedicated allergen menu including gluten-free FAQs. Enjoy corn tortilla bowls and soft tacos.

Baja Fresh

Baja Fresh offers helpful guidance for customizing gluten-free meals. Fill corn tortillas with grilled, gluten-free ingredients.

El Pollo Loco

Choose corn tortillas and avoid breaded items at El Pollo Loco. Check out their gluten-free guide online.


Pancheros prepares corn tortillas and fillings separately to prevent cross-contact. Their online menu identifies gluten-free choices.

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity

Following a strict gluten-free diet is essential for managing celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, but dining out poses challenges. With proper customizations, some menu items at Taco Bell may suit your needs. But always use your best judgement to keep yourself safe and healthy. When in doubt, start simple with whole fresh ingredients like grilled chicken, steak, or fish. Top salads, rice bowls or plain baked potatoes to enjoy flavorful gluten-free meals anywhere you go.

The Takeaway on Taco Bell Refried Beans

After closely analyzing the ingredients, Taco Bell’s refried beans appear to be gluten-free. However, due to the uncertainty around possible cross-contamination in manufacturing, individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use caution and their best judgement. While not the most gluten-free friendly fast food chain, with customization and careful choices, Taco Bell can offer tasty Tex-Mex options for gluten-free fast food lovers. Just stay clear of the flour tortillas and breaded items to keep your Taco Bell meal gluten-free.

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