Find out what menu items from McDonald’s do not contain gluten and what to know about gluten-free options from fast food restaurants.
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If you’re like most North Americans, you will see a McDonald’s in just about every town and city you find yourself in. You can even find McDonald’s all over the world and if you’re looking for something familiar, the big golden arches can seem like a place that feels like home if you’re traveling.
But if you follow a gluten-free diet or are just getting started with one, you may be wondering what options you can actually eat from this fast food restaurant. Just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean there are going to be a number of choices for folks who are gluten intolerant or are Celiac.
That’s why I thought I’d do a full rundown of the McDonald’s menu and find out exactly what menu items are safe for a gluten-free diet and what to be aware of when it comes to ordering from restaurants when avoiding gluten.
Before we get into it, let’s be sure we’re on the same page as it relates to the basics of gluten and where you can find it in different foods, as well as what you’ll want to know about McDonald’s view on allergens in their restaurants.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Where can you find gluten in food?
Gluten can be found in the form of wheat and grain products, like bread of flour in the more obvious places. You can also find gluten as a binding ingredient, an ingredient added for texture like to make a food more crispy, or as a thickening agent.
Where can you find gluten in many fast food restaurants?
Depending on the fast food restaurant you’re visiting, you may find gluten in a variety of places. Hamburger buns, the breading of crispy chicken sandwiches or chicken nuggets, some French fries, salad dressings, croutons on salad, and chili or soup options.
Where gluten is found in the menu items will vary from restaurant to restaurant. That’s why it’s always a good idea to review menus from home, and see if you can find any allergen information before you get to the restaurant itself.
Being able to review nutritional information and allergen statements before visiting a fast food restaurant can be the difference between ordering something that you think is safe for your gluten-free diet and getting sick, and being knowledgeable about what specific menu items you’ll be able to eat without any worries of later reactions.
McDonald’s allergen statement
While reviewing the menu on the McDonalds.com website, I was able to find this note at the bottom of the page. It’s not necessarily their allergen statement but as close to an official one that I was able to find.
“At McDonald’s, we take great care to serve quality, great-tasting menu items to our customers each and every time they visit our restaurants. We understand that each of our customers has individual needs and considerations when choosing a place to eat or drink outside their home, especially those customers with food allergies.
As part of our commitment to you, we provide the most current ingredient information available from our food suppliers for the eight most common allergens as identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish), so that our guests with food allergies can make informed food selections.
However, we also want you to know that despite taking precautions, normal kitchen operations may involve some shared cooking and preparation areas, equipment and utensils, and the possibility exists for your food items to come in contact with other food products, including allergens.
We encourage our customers with food allergies or special dietary needs to visit www.mcdonalds.com for ingredient information, and to consult their doctor for questions regarding their diet.”
Because of this, I’d be very careful about cross contamination at McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s are run by franchises, meaning each one you visit can be different from the next. If there is gluten in their kitchen, it is highly likely that there is a potential for cross contact with other ingredients being made there.
Use your best judgment about your body and what you know about your level of sensitivity to gluten to decide whether or not you eat food from McDonald’s.
What to know about cross contamination at fast food restaurants
Most fast food restaurants are not considered gluten free establishments so it’s useful to keep this in mind when making decisions about where to go and what to order.
It’s important to know that even if a fast food restaurant claims that their menu items do not contain gluten, that the possibility and probability of gluten in their products is going to be high if there is even one menu item with gluten available.
Depending on your level of sensitivity to gluten, this can be make or break information for you. If you are Celiac and are allergic to trace amounts of gluten, you’ll likely want to avoid most fast food restaurants that offer any bread products or French fries that are cooked in a shared fryer with other gluten-containing ingredients.
If you are not sensitive to gluten at the trace level and have adverse reactions to gluten due to a food intolerance, you may decide that these trace amounts of gluten from cross contamination are worth risking for a quick, easy, and convenient food option.
Being aware of how you have reacted to gluten in your diet in the past and how much gluten it takes for your body to react is useful knowledge when it comes to situations like these. Use your best judgment about what you know about your body, how you react to gluten, and what the risks are for you specifically.
Gluten-free Menu Items from McDonald’s
Since many items from the McDonald’s menu are made with gluten ingredients and have proximity to shared fryers within the restaurant, it doesn’t make sense to claim that any of their menu items are truly gluten-free. The probability of cross contamination is high in these restaurants.
That said, after reviewing the menu, these are the different options that you may consider from the McDonald’s menu as not containing any obvious wheat ingredients. Again, use your best judgment based on what you know about your level of sensitivity to gluten to help you decide what to eat.
Since I also follow a dairy-free diet and you might too, I’ve noted those without milk ingredients in this list as well. These items are marked with an asterisk (*) and are both without wheat or milk ingredients.
All information in this list is based on the US version of the McDonald’s website.
All of McDonald’s beverage options contain no wheat ingredients, including:
- Dr Pepper*
- Fanta Orange*
- Diet Coke*
- Hi-C Orange Lavaburst*
- Sweet Tea*
- Unsweetened Iced Tea*
- Dasani Water*
- Minute Maid Premium Orange Juice*
- Honest Kids Appley Ever After Organic Juice Drink*
- 1% Low Fat Milk Jug
- Reduced Sugar Low Fat CHocolate Milk Jug
- Strawberry Banana Smoothie
- Mango Pineapple Smoothie
- Hot Chocolate
- Hot Tea*
Read on: Is soda gluten-free?
All the breakfast sandwiches, hash browns, hotcakes, and burritos contain gluten. Their fruit & maple oatmeal does not contain wheat ingredients, however oats are a common ingredient that has cross contamination with gluten.
Read more about that here: Is oatmeal gluten-free?
All Burgers from McDonald’s contain gluten as they all come with a bun.
Chicken & Sandwiches
All Chicken & Sandwiches from McDonald’s contain gluten, as they all come with a bun or are breaded with gluten to make the chicken crispy.
Desserts & Shakes
- McFlurry with M&M’s candies
- Chocolate Shake
- Vanilla Shake
- Strawberry Shake
- Hot Fudge Sundae
- Hot Caramel Sundae
All Happy Meals from McDonald’s contain gluten from the buns used on the hamburgers or crispy breading on the chicken nuggets.
All McCafe drinks do not have any wheat ingredients.
- Caramel Macchiato
- Iced Caramel Macchiato
- Caramel Cappuccino
- French Vanilla Cappuccino
- Iced Mocha
- Iced Latte
- Caramel Latte
- Iced Caramel Latte
- French Vanilla Latte
- Iced French Vanilla Latte
- Premium Roast Coffee*
- Iced Coffee
- Iced Caramel Coffee
- Iced French Vanilla Coffee
- Caramel Frappe
- Mocha Frappe
- Hot Chocolate
- Strawberry Banana Smoothie
- Mango Pineapple Smoothie
All items from the McCafe Bakery contain wheat and gluten ingredients and should be avoided on a gluten-free diet.
Snacks & Sides
McDonald’s French Fries contain gluten. The apple slices contain no gluten and will likely be safe for a gluten-free diet as they are individually wrapped so they have a lower chance of cross contamination.
$1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu
Only the beverages on the McDonald’s Dollar Menu contain no wheat ingredients. All the rest of the burgers, nuggets, and fries contain wheat and gluten.
If you’ve been wondering if you can order anything from the menu at McDonald’s on a gluten-free diet, I hope a rundown of their menu has helped you get the information you’ve been looking for.
While even the items listed in this post may not contain wheat ingredients, they’re also not considered “gluten-free” by the company themselves. There is a very clear chance for cross contamination, so keep this in mind when ordering anything from McDonald’s and trying to stay away from gluten.
More Gluten-free Restaurant Menu Items
If you’re looking at other popular restaurants and wondering what gluten-free menu items they offer, be sure to check out some of these posts. I’ve outlined all the gluten-free options from each of the following places, plus tips on cross contamination.
- Gluten and Dairy-free Diet: 4 Restaurant Tips
- Burger King Gluten-free Menu Items
- Cheesecake Factory Gluten-free Menu Items
- Chick-Fil-A Gluten-free Menu Items
- Dunkin Donuts Gluten-free Menu Items
- Einstein Bros Bagels Gluten-free Menu Items
- Little Caesar’s Gluten-free Menu Items
- McDonald’s Gluten-free Menu Items
- Taco Bell Gluten-free Menu Items
- Wendy’s Gluten-free Menu Items