Is Wingstop safe for celiacs?

As a celiac myself, I know the struggle of finding safe gluten-free options when eating out. With so many hidden sources of gluten in restaurant kitchens, it can be downright scary trying new places. That’s why I did some investigating on whether Wingstop, the popular chicken wing chain, is actually safe for celiacs or not. Keep reading to find out what I discovered!

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is eaten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For celiacs, even small traces of gluten can trigger symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, headaches, and more. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Around 1% of Americans have celiac disease, but many are undiagnosed. Some studies estimate that 83% of those with the condition don’t even know they have it yet. Increased awareness and screening have led to more people being diagnosed in recent years.

What is the gluten-free diet?

The gluten-free diet eliminates all sources of gluten from wheat, barley, and rye. That means no bread, baked goods, pasta, cereal, beer, etc. It also means avoiding cross-contamination, which is when gluten is unintentionally introduced into a food. Even 20 parts per million can be dangerous for celiacs.

Some other key things to know about the gluten-free diet:

  • It’s important to read labels since gluten can hide in unexpected places like soy sauce and salad dressing.
  • Look for labels that say “gluten-free” or have the certified GF logo.
  • Be aware of how foods are prepared, as gluten can be transferred from utensils, surfaces, fryers, etc.
  • Avoid fried foods which are more likely to be cross-contaminated.
  • Stick to naturally gluten-free whole foods like produce, meat, dairy, beans, nuts, etc.

Is Wingstop gluten-free?

The basics – Wingstop does not currently offer any certified gluten-free menu options. Their chicken wings and bone-in chicken are breaded, which contains gluten. The fries are also fried in shared fryers, putting them at risk for cross-contact.

However, after speaking with Wingstop, it seems they may be working on improving their gluten-free accommodations due to increasing demand. But as of now, those with celiac disease should use extreme caution when eating at Wingstop.

Menu ingredients

I reviewed the ingredients of popular Wingstop menu items to determine which ones appear gluten-free based on the published info:

Menu Item Gluten-Free?
Bone-in wings No – contain wheat flour
Boneless wings No – contain wheat flour
Chicken tenders No – contain wheat flour
French fries High risk – fried in shared oil
Fried corn High risk – fried in shared oil
Coleslaw Yes* – based on ingredients
Dips and sauces Yes* – based on ingredients

*These menu items appear gluten-free based on published ingredients but are still high risk due to potential cross-contact issues behind the scenes.

Prep and cross-contact

Even if some Wingstop menu items look gluten-free based on the ingredients list, the big question is how they are prepared in Wingstop’s kitchens. Here are some concerns about cross-contamination:

  • All chicken is breaded with wheat flour so it likely spreads gluten throughout the prep area.
  • Shared frying oil is likely contaminated with gluten from breaded items.
  • Utensils, surfaces, and cookware may not be adequately cleaned between gluten and gluten-free prep.
  • Employees may not be well-trained on gluten cross-contact risks.

I contacted Wingstop directly about their prep procedures and employee training for avoiding cross-contact. They acknowledged the challenges of trying to be gluten-free in their kitchens. While they aim to prevent cross-contact as much as possible, they could not guarantee any menu items to be 100% gluten-free for celiacs.

What if you have an allergy?

Those with celiac disease or gluten allergies need to be especially cautious when trusting any restaurant to accommodate their needs. According to Wingstop:

  • They do not recommend their restaurant for those with celiac disease or gluten allergies.
  • They cannot guarantee any menu items are 100% gluten-free.
  • While they try to avoid cross-contact, it is still a high risk.

Your safest bet is avoiding Wingstop altogether if you are highly sensitive. Consuming gluten there could make you very sick.

Advice for ordering at Wingstop

Based on their candid feedback, those with celiac disease or gluten allergy should avoid Wingstop. But if you do take the risk, keep these tips in mind:

  • Confirm which dipping sauces are GF based on ingredients.
  • Ask if they can make fresh, unbreaded wings in a dedicated fryer.
  • Request new, unopened packaged sauces and utensils.
  • Use extreme caution and know there’s still a risk of reaction.

Again, your safest choice is to avoid Wingstop altogether though if you are highly sensitive. For newly diagnosed celiacs, eating out anywhere can be nerve-wracking. But over time, you learn how to navigate restaurants and advocate for yourself when needed.

Should you trust gluten-free restaurant claims?

In general, claims about gluten-free menu options should be taken with a grain of salt. Here are some tips on evaluating a restaurant’s gluten-free promises:

  • Look for GF certification – This means they’ve been audited for proper training and procedures.
  • Ask detailed questions – Don’t be afraid to ask about their prep process and training.
  • Know your personal risk level – Those with celiac disease need to be extra cautious.
  • Start small – Try something basic before indulging in pasta or fried foods.
  • Consider cross-contact risks – Even gluten-free dishes can get contaminated.

Every celiac needs to determine their own comfort level with restaurant dining based on the severity of their condition. Personally, I stick to restaurants that are certified gluten-free or have a specifically designed gluten-free menu.

Other fast food options for celiacs

So what should you eat when you’re on the go and need something quick? Here are some good gluten-free fast food options:


Salad bars at chains like Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Subway, and Panera are a relatively safe bet. Some points to keep in mind:

  • Avoid croutons, fried toppings, and breaded meats.
  • Opt for grilled chicken instead of breaded.
  • Request fresh, unopened ingredients and utensils.
  • Ask staff to change gloves before handling your salad.
  • Look out for cross-contaminated toppings like chopped ham.
  • Beware of dressings that may contain gluten.

Burgers and sandwiches

Burgers and sandwiches can also be a good option if made with a GF bun. Some tips:

  • Bring your own certified GF bun if the restaurant doesn’t offer one.
  • Order your burger or sandwich in a bowl or lettuce wrap if no GF bun.
  • Avoid buns, breaded meats, sauces, and other toppings with gluten.
  • Watch out for cross-contact with normal buns.

Gluten-free chains

Dedicated gluten-free chains are expanding nationwide. Here are some safe picks:

  • Glutino’s – Gluten-free pizzas, sandwiches, desserts
  • MOD Pizza – Build your own GF pizza
  • Blaze Pizza – GF crust available
  • Pieology – Personal GF pizzas
  • Etai’s – GF wraps, bowls

Hopefully more gluten-free options will keep popping up to make safe fast food easier for celiacs!

Being gluten-free on the road

Traveling with celiac disease can be extra tricky. Here are some tips to stay gluten-free on the road:

  • Pack snacks like nuts, fruits, veggies, cheese, and GF crackers.
  • Bring a small cooler for storing GF bread and lunch meat.
  • Research restaurant options at your destination in advance.
  • Verify which hotel rooms have kitchens or fridges for storing food.
  • Travel with some basic kitchen tools like a knife, cutting board, and skillet.
  • Look up the closest grocery store to stock up on arrival.

Planning ahead helps ensure you’ll have safe meal options while away from home. Don’t be afraid to reach out to hotels and restaurants in advance to explain your needs as a celiac.

Wingstop – The verdict

So is Wingstop safe for celiacs? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no based on information directly from the company. Eating at Wingstop with celiac disease or a wheat allergy comes with a high risk of cross-contact and gluten exposure. Those who are highly sensitive are better off avoiding Wingstop.

On the bright side, Wingstop mentioned they are considering improving their gluten-free options due to increasing demand. With some modifications to their training, prep, and menu, it’s possible Wingstop could be celiac-friendly someday. But for now, they do not recommend their food for customers with celiac disease or gluten allergies.

The good news is the gluten-free landscape is expanding. More restaurant chains are developing gluten-free menus and procedures to accommodate guests safely. With proper precautions, dining out can still be possible. With planning and smart choices, celiacs can find safe, delicious fast food options when needed.

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