What fast food can I eat with celiac?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, their immune system mounts an attack against the small intestine, damaging the villi – small fingerlike projections that line the intestine and absorb nutrients. This damage makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients which can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, fatigue and malnutrition. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. This means avoiding any foods that contain wheat, barley or rye.

For those with celiac disease, maintaining a gluten-free diet can be challenging, especially when dining out. Most fast food and chain restaurants offer very limited gluten-free options. However, with some research and planning, there are some fast food meals that can be modified to be gluten-free. Here is an overview of some of the fast food options that may be suitable for a gluten-free diet.

Burger Places

Most burger fast food chains offer beef hamburgers without a bun as a lower carb option. Getting a plain hamburger or cheeseburger without the bun is a good gluten-free choice. Be sure to specify no bun when ordering. Also check that any condiments or toppings used are gluten-free. Mustard, mayo, ketchup, pickles, tomatoes, onions and lettuce are generally safe, but some places may use condiments containing gluten as flavorings. Some burger places also offer lettuce wraps or gluten-free buns, but be sure to check the ingredients. Watch out for cross-contamination from cooking surface and utensils. Overall burgers without buns are a good gluten-free fast food option.

Some gluten-free options at popular burger chains include:


– Hamburger or cheeseburger without bun
– Salad without croutons
– Fruit & yogurt parfait

Burger King:

– Hamburger or cheeseburger without bun
– French fries


– Baconator without bun
– Chili
– Baked potato without sour cream

Five Guys:

– Burger wrapped in lettuce or in foil
– French fries


– Protein style burger (wrapped in lettuce)

Mexican Fast Food

Mexican fast food chains like Taco Bell and Chipotle offer some gluten-free options. However, with Mexican food, cross-contamination with flour tortillas can occur. Here are some items that can be gluten-free if carefully prepared:


– Salad without tortilla strips
– Tacos with corn tortillas
– Burrito bowls without tortilla
– Meat, rice, beans, fajita veggies

Taco Bell:

– Hard taco shells or bowls
– Meat, lettuce, cheese
– Crunchwrap without tortilla
– Fresco options without tortilla

Be cautious of corn tortillas being contaminated by cooking alongside flour tortillas on same surface. Specify gluten allergy when ordering. Avoid flour tortillas, taco shells, burritos, sauces andseasonings.

Moe’s, Baja Fresh, Qdoba

Similar options to Chipotle – burrito bowls, corn tortillas, meat, veggies. Avoid flour tortillas and sauces. Check ingredients.

Fried Chicken Places

Fried chicken restaurants like KFC and Popeye’s offer gluten-free options like grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. For those with celiac, there is risk of gluten cross-contamination with breaded menu items cooked in same fryers. Some considerations when ordering include:


– Grilled chicken
– Mashed potatoes and gravy
– Cole slaw
– Green beans


– Blackened tenders
– Mashed potatoes
– Red beans and rice
– Coleslaw


– Grilled nuggets and chicken sandwiches
– Waffle fries
– Fruit cups

Avoid breaded chicken and biscuits cooked in shared fryer. Always good to specify gluten allergy/celiac when ordering.

Pizza Places

Most pizza places offer gluten-free crust, but it tends to be more expensive. There is also risk of cross-contamination fromkitchen surfaces and utensils. Some gluten-free options at pizza chains include:


– Gluten-free crust
– Chicken wings or pasta bowls

Papa John’s:

– Gluten-free crust
– Garden fresh salads

Pizza Hut:

– Gluten-free pizzas
– Bone-in wings

The gluten-free pizzas at major chains are safe options if carefully prepared to avoid cross-contamination. Specify celiac/gluten allergy when ordering.

Sandwich Shops

Getting gluten-free sandwiches at Subway, Jimmy John’s or other sandwich chains is possible by omitting bread and getting as salad or wrap. Some options include:


– Salads or veggie bowls
– Lettuce wrap sandwiches
– Avoid breads, cookies, meatball sauce

Jimmy John’s:

– Unwich – lettuce wrap sandwich
– JJ’s Little John wrap

Jersey Mike’s

– Sub in a tub – salad without bread

Firehouse Subs

– Lettuce wrapped subs
– Meat and veggie only

Get sandwiches without bread or wraps in lettuce to make gluten-free. Watch out for cross-contamination.

Asian Fast Food

Asian fast food chains like Panda Express offer some naturally gluten-free dishes. Look for stir-fries, rice and veggie dishes without sauce. Options include:

Panda Express:

– Mixed veggies
– Broccoli beef without sauce
– Chicken and veggies without sauce
– Chow mein without crispy noodles
– White or brown steamed rice

Pei Wei:

– Spicy cashew chicken without sauce
– Ginger broccoli
– Brown rice
– Avoid fried items

Specify gluten allergy. Sauces thickened with wheat starch common. Stay away from fried menu items cooked in shared oil.

Smoothie and Juice Places

Getting smoothies and fresh juices at places like Jamba Juice, Smoothie King or Tropical Smoothie Cafe is a safe gluten-free option. Some things to consider:

– Get fruit smoothies without added yogurt or other mix-ins that may contain gluten.
– Ask about ingredients in juice or smoothie boosters/supplements which may contain gluten.
– Smoothies containing veggies and greens are also gluten-free.
– Avoid baked goods, wheatgrass shots and oat-based smoothies.
– Check labels for protein powders – some contain gluten.

Overall smoothies and juices without added gluten ingredients are a goodfast food choice when gluten-free.

Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt Places

Ice cream and frozen yogurt shops offer gluten-free dessert options. Some things to look for:

Cold Stone Creamery

– Ice cream, gelato, sorbet
– Avoid brownies, cake, candy mix-ins


– Original, pomegranate or mango yogurt
– Fresh cut fruit
– Avoid cookies, graham crackers, candy


– Original frozen yogurt
– Fresh fruit toppings
– No cookie crumbles, candy or brownie chunks

Plain soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt are safe bets. Avoid gluten-containing toppings and mix-ins. Spoon-dispensed shops have lower risk than soft serve machines.

Salad Places

Salad focused chains like Sweetgreen, Snap Kitchen, Freshii offer gluten-free options. Some things to look for:


– Salad bowls without croutons, tortillas or bread
– Dressings and toppings minus high-risk ingredients

Snap Kitchen

– Signature salads hold croutons
– Build your own salad and bowl options


– Salads and bowls without croutons or breadcrumbs
– Burritos or wraps in lettuce instead of tortilla

Salads with lots of veggies and protein are healthy gluten-free choices. Avoid salad toppings that may contain gluten.


Steakhouses like Outback, Texas Roadhouse offer some gluten-free options:

Outback Steakhouse

– Steaks, salmon, lobster tails
– Baked potato
– Steamed veggies

Texas Roadhouse

– Grilled steaks
– Sweet potato
– House salad without croutons

Longhorn Steakhouse

– Grilled or broiled meats
– Baked sweet potato
– Watermelon, strawberries

Steakhouses offer simple gluten-free protein and side dishes. Specify celiac/gluten allergy up front. Avoid bread, sauces, seasonings with gluten ingredients.

Miscellaneous Chains

Some other fast food places with gluten-free potential include:

Panera Bread

– Broth bowls
– Salads without croutons
– Avoid bread, bagels, cookies

Noodles & Company

– Zucchini noodles
– Salad without croutons
– Avoid pasta

Five Below

– Gluten-free candy section
– Pure ice pops
– V8 energy drinks

Look at individual menu items at each restaurant. Many fast food places have allergen guides listing gluten-containing menu items. Do research ahead when possible.

Tips for Eating Gluten-Free Fast Food

Here are some tips for safely navigating fast food with celiac disease:

– Review ingredients and nutrition info online before ordering when possible
– Ask for any sauces, batter, breading to be left off
– Request food prep area, surfaces and utensils be cleaned before prep
– Look for dedicated fryers in restaurants for french fries away from breaded foods
– Ask for lettuce wrap or foil instead of buns for burgers and sandwiches
– Avoid fast food during busy, crowded times as likelihood of cross-contamination rises
– Speak up about allergy when ordering – say “gluten-free for celiac”
– Bring your own snacks or backup meal in case very limited options

While challenging, there are possibilities for eating gluten-free fast food. With awareness and planning, people with celiac disease can navigate fast food safely. It simply takes extra care and caution to find gluten-free menu items that won’t make you sick.


Having celiac disease requires diligence and strict avoidance of gluten when dining out, especially at fast food restaurants. While options are limited, there are some simple menu items that can be modified at popular chains. Burgers without buns, grilled chicken, salads, steak and sides like fruit are often go-to choices. There is always risk of cross-contamination, so emphasize the allergy and inspect food carefully. With extra care when ordering, planning ahead and asking questions, people with celiac disease can enjoy an occasional fast food meal safely. Following a gluten-free diet is essential for health, and with flexibility and preparation, fast food establishments can occasionally fit into this lifestyle.

Leave a Comment