Is there gluten in Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Kentucky Fried Chicken, often abbreviated as KFC, is one of the world’s largest fast food restaurant chains. Founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1930, KFC specializes in fried chicken and is known for its secret blend of 11 herbs and spices used to flavor its chicken. With over 25,000 locations worldwide, KFC is ubiquitous and popular for its fried chicken buckets and crispy chicken sandwiches.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or negative health effects. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can trigger an autoimmune response or unpleasant symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity need to follow a strict gluten-free diet, avoiding any foods that contain gluten. This includes many breads, pastas, cereals, baked goods, and processed foods made with wheat, barley or rye. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease currently.

Does Kentucky Fried Chicken Use Gluten Ingredients?

The main gluten-containing ingredient that Kentucky Fried Chicken uses is wheat flour. Wheat flour is used as a dredging flour to coat the chicken pieces before frying. This gives the chicken it’s signature crispy coating.

In addition to wheat flour, a few other Kentucky Fried Chicken menu items contain gluten:

  • Biscuits – Made with wheat flour
  • Pot Pies – Contain wheat flour in the crust
  • Popcorn Chicken – Dredged in wheat flour before frying
  • Chicken Tenders – Dipped in wheat flour batter
  • Green Beans – Seasoned with wheat flour

So while fried chicken may seem like it would be naturally gluten-free, the preparation process at Kentucky Fried Chicken adds gluten through the use of wheat flour coatings, batter and seasoning.

Does Kentucky Fried Chicken Offer Any Gluten-Free Options?

Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken does offer some gluten-free options for customers avoiding gluten:

Gluten-Free Grilled Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s grilled chicken is not breaded or coated with wheat flour before cooking. The grilled chicken, available in breast or thigh pieces, is gluten-free.

Wedges and Mashed Potatoes

Sides like Kentucky Fried Chicken’s wedges and mashed potatoes do not contain any gluten ingredients or wheat flour. They are safe gluten-free options.

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is naturally gluten-free. Be sure to avoid any butter sauce toppings as they may contain soy sauce or wheat flour.

Green Beans

When ordering green beans, be sure to specify that you need gluten-free green beans without the wheat flour seasoning the regular beans contain.

Cole Slaw

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s cole slaw does not contain gluten or wheat ingredients. But as with the green beans, double check that your location has not added any wheat flour to the slaw.

Macaroni and Cheese

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s macaroni and cheese may be gluten-free depending on the restaurant location. Some locations make it with a wheat flour-based cheese sauce, while others use a gluten-free recipe. Check with your local KFC.

Soft Drinks

Fountain sodas like Coke, Sprite and Fanta are gluten-free. Kentucky Fried Chicken also offers bottled water, which is also always gluten-free.

What Steps Does Kentucky Fried Chicken Take for Gluten-Free Customers?

According to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s website, they train their cooks and staff on gluten-free preparation and have procedures in place to avoid cross-contact for gluten-free orders. When a gluten-free order is placed, Kentucky Fried Chicken takes the following steps:

  • Cooks change gloves, wash hands, and sanitize work area
  • Fryers are cleaned and oil is filtered before cooking
  • Gluten-free items are cooked in separate fryers from gluten-containing foods
  • Gluten-free items are cooked first before other items
  • Gluten-free orders are packaged and sealed separately

Kentucky Fried Chicken recommends that customers with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity identify themselves when ordering so that the cooks can follow the proper gluten-free handling procedures. While they make an effort to accommodate gluten-free orders, they also note that their restaurant operations involve shared cooking and preparation areas so they cannot guarantee 100% gluten-free environments.

Should You Trust Kentucky Fried Chicken for Gluten-Free Food?

While Kentucky Fried Chicken does offer some gluten-free menu options and takes steps to reduce cross-contact, most celiac disease and gluten intolerance experts still consider their fried chicken risky for highly sensitive individuals.

There are a few main factors that limit Kentucky Fried Chicken as a truly gluten-free-friendly option:

  • Heavy use of wheat flour throughout the kitchen increases contamination risk
  • Shared fryers may still allow gluten cross-contact even if cleaned
  • Potential errors by staff rushing through shifts with many orders

Some individuals who are only mildly gluten-sensitive may be able to tolerate Kentucky Fried Chicken in a single small serving. But for those with celiac disease, it is not considered worth the risk.

Gluten-Free Fast Food Chicken Alternatives

While not fully gluten-free, Kentucky Fried Chicken does offer some gluten-free menu options. But individuals with celiac disease looking for fast food fried chicken or tenders have some other restaurant options as well:


Chick-fil-A offers breaded and grilled chicken sandwiches and nuggets that can be prepared gluten-free. Their grilled and fried chicken is not marinated or seasoned with gluten ingredients. Chick-fil-A kitchens take steps to avoid cross-contact and have separate fryers for gluten-free prep.

El Pollo Loco

At El Pollo Loco, you can get fire-grilled chicken seasoned only with gluten-free ingredients. Their chicken is not breaded or coated in wheat flour. Just avoid flour tortillas and other sides with gluten.


Chipotle Mexican Grill offers gluten-free tacos, burritos and bowls made with corn tortillas or lettuce wraps. You can get grilled adobo chicken or steak. The thigh and carnitas may be riskier depending on marinades. Ask about their gluten-free prep.


Wendy’s offers plain grilled chicken sandwiches and salads without breaded coatings or wheat ingredients. Their chili and baked potatoes are also gluten-free options. Just avoid buns and croutons.


This Filipino fried chicken chain offers breaded and marinated Chickenjoy fried chicken that contains gluten. But they also have grilled chicken options without breading and prepare them separately to avoid cross-contact.


While Popeyes chicken is heavily breaded with wheat flour, you may be able to request they dust the chicken in rice flour or cornstarch batter instead. This modification may depend on your location’s policies.

Church’s Chicken

Similar to Popeyes, Church’s Chicken breads its fried chicken in wheat flour by default. Some locations may accommodate requests for a gluten-free breading option, but call ahead to check availability.

Being Gluten-Free at Kentucky Fried Chicken: Is It Possible?

Kentucky Fried Chicken does use gluten-containing ingredients like wheat flour rather prominently in its kitchens. However, by being an informed customer, communicating with the staff, and sticking to naturally gluten-free menu options, some gluten-sensitive patrons may be able to enjoy KFC safely in moderation.

Individuals with celiac disease or severe wheat allergies are likely better off choosing a more gluten-free-focused restaurant. But those with minor sensitivities or intolerances may find Kentucky Fried Chicken an acceptable option for an occasional gluten-free meal.

Some tips for ordering gluten-free at KFC include:

  • Ask for grilled chicken without sauces
  • Request fresh oil for frying
  • Stick to basic sides like plain potatoes, corn, beans, coleslaw
  • Avoid biscuits, pot pies, nuggets and other breaded items
  • Double check ingredients with staff to be safe

While Kentucky Fried Chicken is not a strictly gluten-free establishment, they do offer some alternatives and try to accommodate gluten-free guests. With smart ordering and clear communication, those avoiding gluten can hopefully enjoy some finger lickin’ good chicken!

Table of Gluten Status of KFC’s Menu Items

Menu Item Contains Gluten Gluten-Free
Original Recipe Chicken, Extra Crispy Chicken (breaded) Yes No
Grilled Chicken (not breaded) No Yes
Popcorn Chicken (breaded) Yes No
Chicken Littles Sandwiches (breaded) Yes No
Chicken Tenders (breaded) Yes No
Chicken Pot Pie Yes (wheat flour in crust) No
Biscuits Yes No
Mashed Potatoes No Yes
Gravy Yes (wheat flour-based) No
Macaroni and Cheese Sometimes (ask about wheat-free recipe) Sometimes
Corn on the Cob No Yes
Green Beans Ask for gluten-free version without wheat flour seasoning Yes, with modifications
Cole Slaw No Yes
Fried Desserts (fried pies, twists, cookies) Yes (contain wheat flour) No


Kentucky Fried Chicken uses wheat flour extensively in its fried chicken breading and other menu items. However, by sticking to grilled chicken options and requesting gluten-free preparation procedures, some gluten-sensitive guests may be able to enjoy KFC in moderation. Individuals with celiac disease need to exercise greater caution and may want to choose a restaurant with dedicated gluten-free cooking instead. Careful ordering and clear communication allow KFC to be a possible occasional option for a gluten-free treat, but not a regular go-to eatery for strict gluten avoidance.

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