Risky Restaurant Foods that May Contain Gluten

By Cindy Rice

It’s happened to all of us–you go to a restaurant, order something from the menu that seems like it couldn’t possibly contain gluten, and the next thing you know, you’re feeling funky and know you’ve been “glutened.” Becoming an expert at safely dining out gluten-free isn’t easy. Challenging variables include staff (are they knowledgable?), prepackaged ingredients (readymade salad dressings often contain gluten as a thickener), and plain old cross contamination. It’s hard enough to figure out what foods contain gluten when dining out that we’ve dedicated a separate article to outlining the best ways to play it safe when you order. But one of the best places to start is here, with this list of restaurant foods and ingredients that often unexpectedly contain gluten. If you see any of these dishes or dishes containing suspect ingredients, beware and either ask enough questions that you are reassured you’re safe to eat the item or order something else.

Restaurant Dishes, Ingredients, or Embellishments that May Contain Gluten

  • Anything containing oats, if not certified GF, because oats and gluten-containing grains are often processed at the same facility.
  • Anything deep-fried. If the fryer is also used to fry flour-dusted items (like fish or chicken fingers), the oil is contaminated.
  • Anything with soy sauce. That means most Japanese and Chinese food is off the table.
  • Barbecue sauce; it may contain malt vinegar.
  • Béchamel sauce and other dishes made with roux, a thickener made from flour and butter
  • Corn tortillas and tortilla chips. Some are made with 100% corn, but others are 50/50 corn/wheat flour, and GF chips may be fried in a contaminated fryer.
  • French fries. Some frozen brands are coated with flour to help them fry up extra crispy.
  • Herbal teas. Check the ingredients; some contain gluten.
  • Imitation crab, which almost always contains gluten.
  • Meatballs and meatloaf, which almost always contain breadcrumbs.
  • Miso soup and anything containing miso; some miso is GF, and some is not.
  • Premade spice mixes, which often contain wheat. Use caution in restaurants that don’t craft their own mixes.
  • Romesco sauce (a dip/sauce in Spanish restaurants), which usually includes breadcrumbs.
  • Salad dressings. Some store-bought brands use gluten as a thickener.
  • Sautéed chicken or fish, which may have been dusted lightly with flour before cooking.
  • Soba noodles; not all brands are 100% buckwheat.
  • Some soups, if made with bouillon that contains gluten or thickened with wheat flour.
  • Sushi. Never mind the soy sauce— some sushi joints use a cheap gluten-containing, grain-based vinegar in their sushi rice.
  • Vegetable burgers; many are made with wheat.

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