Gluten Free Menu Options
At Chain & Fast Food Restaurants
In the past, finding gluten free food while eating out was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
These days, whether you choose to avoid gluten because of an intolerance, for the health benefits or due to coeliac disease, you’ll be happy to hear that times have changed.
Many of our best-loved chain and fast food restaurants now offer a whole host of different gluten free menu options and resources like DietMenus exist to make that information easily available to you.
We know how annoying it is to be faced with a menu where most dishes are unsuitable for your gluten free diet and could even make you ill.
So we’ve done hours of research to analyze your favorite restaurant menus and bring you the latest and most up to date information about how to eat out on a gluten free diet at any chain or fast food restaurant.
In this article we give you a run down of which dishes to watch out for and which dishes to try, at 10 different types of restaurants. Below each section you can find links to restaurant menu pages where you can see exactly what menu items are safe for you to eat, without having to skim through a bunch of dishes that aren’t.
Click on any restaurant logo and DietMenus shows you the full selection of gluten free dishes at that restaurant. It’s as simple as that.
Having to follow a gluten free diet should never limit your menu options to boring old salads and drab single gluten free option on restaurant menus. We’re here to show you how to find top quality, totally delicious gluten free dishes, no matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for.
Here are our top tips for finding incredible gluten free food while dining out at popular fast food and chain restaurants.
Most American-style restaurants have evolved and now offer gluten free substitutes on their breads, pastas and more
The beauty of American restaurants is the fact that they combine many dishes from the world’s top cuisines on their menus. Some of the classic gluten free choices at American restaurants are grilled meats and fish, succulent juicy steaks and fresh salads.
At American restaurants you’ll be able to tuck into dishes such as BBQ ribs with fries, Mexican chilli served with rice, nachos, loaded potato skins, fajitas and hearty salads topped with egg, cheese, bacon, chicken and the gluten free dressing of your choice.
The dishes you’ll definitely want to steer clear of at American restaurants are most Italian options, particularly pizza and pasta, and anything which comes in breadcrumbs or is deep-fried. Burgers are usually best avoided too, unless the restaurant can confirm that no breadcrumbs are used in the patty mixture.
Not all Asian restaurants are created equal when it comes to gluten free food. For instance, Chinese cuisine is a tricky one for those who need to avoid gluten. This is all down to one ingredient which makes its way into the vast majority of Chinese dishes: soy sauce.
The prevalence of soy sauce in Chinese cookery makes it a risky choice when it comes to gluten free food. If you are opting for Chinese, ask whether gluten-free tamari is available instead.
You’ll also want to steer clear of any dishes which use fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce, as these all have soy sauce as their base. Unfortunately, you’ll also need to avoid most dim sum, unless you’re specifically told that it’s gluten free, as these are usually made with wheat.
Safe choices in Chinese restaurants include rice noodles, any dishes made without soy sauce (if you’re worried it’s best to ask for no sauce at all and bring your own), and simple dishes such as steamed vegetables.
Other Asian cuisines such as Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese could prove much easier to navigate. For example, the vermicelli bowls, salads and rice bowls you’ll find on the menu at Vietnamese restaurants are naturally gluten free, just be sure to check that soy sauce hasn’t been used.
With Japanese cuisine, soy sauce is usually added to dishes such as sushi and sashimi after preparation, so you’ll find it much easier to avoid gluten in this case. Likewise, soy sauce isn’t quite as prevalent in Thai cuisine, so you’ll find plenty more options here.
Burger restaurants might not seem an obvious choice for those avoiding gluten, but they can be brilliant if the burger patty itself is gluten free. And at top burger restaurants, it should be.
As burger restaurants tend to have a relatively simple menu, you may find that a specific gluten free menu is on offer, complete with gluten free buns for the burgers. If gluten free buns aren’t available, you can order a ‘naked’ grilled burger, served with a side salad and fries, or you can even ask for your burger to be served in a lettuce wrap. Grilled chicken burgers, or vegetarian options such as halloumi are usually a safe bet too.
Burger restaurants tend to offer plenty of side dishes which are naturally gluten free, such as fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and house salads (make sure you check that no flour is used on the fries). So, feel free to make up your own meal with a ‘naked’ burger or a burger in a gluten free bun, with plenty of freshly-cooked fries or sweet potato fries!
Most major fast food chains offer a gluten free menu now, with options including gluten-free breaded chicken, buffalo wings, fries, salads and lots more. Popular sides like fries are almost always gluten free, too.
Many burgers and sandwich fillings are gluten free, and you can forgo the bun by having your burger served on its own with a side salad, or wrapped in a lettuce leaf. This is a delicious way to avoid gluten, and save calories too.
Other popular treats served at fast food restaurants such as milkshakes, fruit parfaits, yoghurts, salads and potato cakes are almost always gluten free. Simply check with your server when you arrive and enquire about a gluten free menu; you’ll soon learn which dishes are suitable for a gluten free diet.
Most good Italian restaurants offer a gluten free menu, and gluten free pasta is quite often on the menu.
If the restaurant does offer gluten free pasta you’ll have plenty of dishes to choose from, because almost all Italian pasta sauces are naturally gluten free. Options include carbonara, bolognese, chicken arrabiata, spaghetti al pomodoro and spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Gluten free pizza is quite often available too, although sometimes you will be asked to pay a premium to have your pizza made with a gluten free base. If the restaurant doesn’t offer gluten free pizza, they will sometimes be happy to create a pizza for you if you bring in your own gluten free base.
Naturally gluten free Italian dishes include mushroom risotto, traditional soups (but not Minestrone!), Tuscan fish stew and Italian salads, all of which make for a delicious and filling meal. There are several Italian desserts which are gluten free too, for example poached pears, Italian gelato and sorbet, and cakes made with almond flour.
Mexican restaurants are a great choice for those avoiding gluten, as gluten-containing ingredients aren’t used much in Mexican cookery.
Safe choices include beans, which are a staple in Mexican cuisine, as well as corn tortillas, rice, salsa, guacamole, fresh salads and grilled meats such as beef, pork and chicken. So, you’ll be able to tuck into crispy tacos with shredded chicken, or deep-fried tostadas with a range of scrumptious fillings.
Pork pibil is one of our favorites, and you can find a gluten free version of this at many top Mexican restaurants. Often Mexican restaurants also serve a great salad bowl, combining ingredients like avocado, lettuce, tortilla chips, corn, beans and a protein of your choice.
Chicken, pork or veggie fajitas are another delicious gluten free Mexican dish. These are 100% safe as long as there is no wheat in the wraps used. Of course toppings such as guacamole, salsa, cheese and sour cream are all naturally gluten free so be sure to include plenty of that too!
Things to look out for include wheat-based tortillas, which are commonly used for burritos, and any spice rubs and sauces which might contain gluten. Sadly, you’ll likely have to give the churros a miss as these almost always contain gluten.
If you’re headed to a pizza restaurant and gluten free pizza isn’t on the menu, don’t worry. Often, you’ll find that pizza restaurants will be able to make a special pizza for gluten free customers, usually using a pre-made gluten-free base.
Most pizza restaurants also offer delicious fresh salads which are suitable for gluten free diners, like Insalata Tricolore or Insalata di Pomodoro, made with mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes. Just be sure to ask about the ingredients of any dressings used.
Gluten free pizza toppings include cheddar, mozzarella, cured meats, mushrooms, corn, tomato, goat’s cheese, spinach, ricotta, olives, anchovies, pineapple and plenty more. You’ll need to check the ingredients on toppings such as Tuscan sausage and meatballs, to ensure no gluten has been used making these.
Many sandwich bars now offer gluten free bread. However, even if your chosen sandwich bar doesn’t, you’ll still be able to enjoy a great meal. You just might have to get a little creative.
Almost all sandwich fillings are gluten free – it’s really only the bread that you’ll need to avoid. You might want to order your favorite sandwich fillings on a bed of salad, or opt for a lettuce wrap stuffed with delicious gluten free ingredients.
Gluten free fillings include cured meats, cheeses, chicken, hummus, veggies, pesto, guacamole, quinoa, salsa, mayo and much more.
Fillings to avoid include falafel and meatballs, which are often bulked out with breadcrumbs. Deep-fried fillings like shrimp and buttermilk chicken are usually off limits too. You’ll also want to check the ingredients on any roux-based dressings and sauces, for instance caesar, nacho cheese and ranch sauces.
Sandwich bars offer more than just sandwiches, too. There are also often options such as jacket potatoes, fresh homemade soups, a selection of homemade salads with gluten free grains like quinoa, chips, gluten free brownies and other treats.
Seafood is one of the best cuisine choices for gluten free foodies. That’s because seafood restaurants tend to showcase the quality of their ingredients, first and foremost. Top seafood restaurants shy away from complex sauces and potentially dangerous deep-fried dishes, making grilled or raw fresh seafood the star of the show.
Seafood is, in itself, naturally gluten free, so if you see a fruit de mer platter or dishes of oysters, crab, smoked salmon or other smoked fish, crayfish and prawns, you can relax in the knowledge that gluten is very unlikely to have come anywhere near your food.
Tempting gluten free seafood dishes include mussels in a cream, white wine and garlic sauce, smoked haddock with mashed potato, herring salad and squid ink risotto.
You’ll want to double check side dishes such as fries to make sure they haven’t been cooked in the same fryer as gluten-containing food and no flour coatings have been used on them prior to cooking. Of course the fresh bread basket will definitely be off limits too, but you may be surprised to find that gluten free bread is on offer if you ask for it.
Steak is, of course, gluten free – as long as no spice rubs or sauces containing gluten are added to it. As well as the steak itself, gluten free options might include boneless beef rib, barbeque glazed chicken, ribs and grilled fish dishes such as salmon or sea bass.
On the whole, steakhouses tend to offer plentiful side dishes which are naturally gluten free. Choose from fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, salads, baked mushrooms, iceberg wedges, jacket potatoes and plenty more.
Not many people tend to make it to dessert at steakhouses, but if you find yourself craving something sweet after your steak you will likely find plenty of choices on the gluten free dessert menu. Typical options might include creme brulee, sorbets, ice cream or chocolate pots. Order up something decadent and a freshly brewed cup of coffee to round off your indulgent meal