Are People with Celiac Disease Allowed to Eat at McDonald’s?

As over three million Americans now avoid gluten, fast food giant McDonald’s has emerged as a surprisingly viable dining option for those managing medical diets including celiacs.

But with all those buns and breaded items on the menu, is it possible to safely enjoy a meal there while gluten-free? Or will you end up facing painful symptoms and regret after indulging in a “safe” looking hamburger?

Let’s explore the untreated facts so you can feel confident stating your needs to the cashier instead of reluctantly opting for a pitiful iceberg lettuce salad.

What Items Contain Gluten?

With a little discernment to navigate the menu, nearly anyone can discover plenty of filling fast food fare to love gluten-free at Mickey D’s. As always though, those with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance do need to beware of certain no-no’s:

Breaded Chicken, Fish & More: McNuggets, Filet-O-Fish, chicken sandwiches, etc. The breading/batter contains gluten even if the meat inside may not.

Burgers or Sandwiches on Buns: Baked Apple Pie isn’t gluten-free and neither are burger or breakfast sandwiches sandwiched between buns.

French Fries & Hash Browns: Contrary to popular belief, the fries themselves are NOT gluten-free at Mickey D’s. More on this soon!

Gravy, Sauces & Dressings: Many accompany menu items or get added onto burgers and sandwiches, making them unsafe. Always verify ingredients.

Desserts & Baked Goods: Cookies, pie crusts, donut glazes—enough said. These should be considered unsafe due to glutenous ingredients, cross-contamination risks, and shared fryer use.

The French Fry Factor

Back to those iconic golden fries that seem innocently gluten-free…but are NOT on McDonald’s menus. As their website confirms, the chain does add wheat flour to the par-frying vegetable oil for fries and hash browns as part of a “secret recipe.”

So while quite a few fast food joints do serve certified gluten-free fries, McDonald’s chooses not to accommodate GF diners here. Those with celiac disease or wheat allergies cannot safely consume McDonald’s french fries or hash browns because of the wheat flour cross-contact.

Gluten-Free Certified Menu Options

Luckily all is not lost thanks to an array of gluten-free certified menu options available upon request. Currently, you can safely order the following McDonald’s meals modified to meet gluten-free needs:

Hamburgers or Sandwiches Without Buns

Did you know you can order McDonald’s hamburgers wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of on a bun? Simply request any sandwich/burger lettuce wrapped to instantly make it gluten-friendly.


MacDonald’s offers an array of salad options able to be prepared gluten-free upon request by omitting any croutons, doughy toppings, or dressings misted in shared airspace where wheat flour is used.

Apple Slices and Cuties

You can still satisfy that sweet tooth! McDonald’s sells certified gluten-free Apple Slices and Cuties mini oranges that make quick, grab-and-go GF snacks.

Dairy or Sundaes

While McDonald’s does not offer certified gluten-free cones, their sundaes, yogurt parfaits, and ice cream cones prepared in disposable dishes offer dessert options depending on one’s additional allergy restrictions. Those sensitive to cross-contact should exercise caution.

Bottled Drinks

Beverages like soda, juice, milk, and bottled water available at McDonald’s remain gluten-free and safe options for all guests avoiding gluten.

Are People with Celiac Disease Allowed to Eat at McDonald's?

Tips for Eating Gluten-Free at McDonald’s

Sure, their fries may be off the table, but those hungry for fast food can still follow these tips to create filling, safe McDonald’s meals:

  • Check allergen guides for the latest ingredient info on menu items
  • Build entrees using lettuce wraps or gluten-free salad bowls
  • Verify dressings, toppings, and sauces used are gluten-free
  • Stick to bottled drinks and packaged GF fruits or desserts
  • Monitor for cross-contamination depending on sensitivity level

Although those with celiac illness must carefully read the menu to prevent hidden gluten, McDonald’s has taken proactive measures by providing certified gluten-free options and training personnel. Many menu dishes can now be served both securely and delightfully with a little preparation knowledge and by substituting items like lettuce wraps or certain toppings. So, rest easy knowing that gluten-free diners can still enjoy hot, substantial fast cuisine. For individuals who used to feel constrained, savoring McDonald’s now-accommodating cuisine is an exciting option with a little planning using available allergen information. They may now welcome consumers who are avoiding gluten for medical reasons more fully by arming them with information and better options.