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Dining without Gluten

Going out to eat? Before you do, prepare yourself by knowing where to find the gluten in a typical restaurant and what to order instead.


Beer is not gluten-free, so have a glass of wine, champagne, sake (Japanese rice wine) or a cocktail (distilled alcohol is thought to be OK even if it comes from grain, but some people opt to stay away from it anyway). You may also be able to find hard cider, which is sort of like having a beer, but much sweeter (be sure there is no malt in any beverage you choose).


Soups made from a roux contain wheat. Many broths, especially if they are purchased in bulk by the restaurant, contain gluten. This can also be an issue with rice cooked in broth. If you find a soup that does not contain wheat, make sure that they don’t top it with croutons or crostini. If it is an Asian soup, beware of soy sauce or miso (most miso is made with barley).


Make sure the dressing is not thickened with flour. In chain restaurants, always ask to check the ingredients of the dressing. Most of the time, it comes in a big jug with many ingredients, and often contains wheat starch or soy sauce, even in a dressing you wouldn’t suspect. You can ask for straight oil and vinegar (all vinegars are gluten-free except malt vinegar). In higher-end restaurants, vinaigrette dressing is usually a safe option because they make it in house. Don’t forget to say “No croutons or bread.”


Anything battered and fried, like onion rings, fried zucchini, and fried calamari contain wheat. You also need to be careful of non-gluten foods being fried in the same oil with gluten-containing foods. Check if the french fries are fried in the same oil as the onion rings. Also check if the corn tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant are fried with flour tortilla chips or the big flour tortilla bowl used to serve salads. If you can’t have the chips, then ask for some corn tortillas to dip in the salsa instead (but make sure the corn tortillas do not contain wheat as some companies are adding wheat to their “corn” tortillas recently).

Asian-style appetizers:

Soy sauce is a common ingredient in Asian-style appetizers – see if the sauce can go on the side. Beware of the wrappers that the appetizers are made with. If it looks crunchy, chances are it contains gluten. Some are made with rice paper which is gluten-free, but most contain wheat.

Meat and Fish:

Ask if the meat or fish is marinated in soy sauce or if it is floured. Even some Mexican restaurants buy pre-marinated meats that have soy sauce in it. Sometimes (but rarely) meat is marinated in beer.


If there is a sauce or gravy on anything, make sure there is no soy sauce or flour in it. Flour is often used as a thickener. Cornstarch, sometimes used as a thickener, is gluten-free.

Fried Main Courses:

Many things that are fried are battered or floured first, like fried fish or fried chicken. See Appetizers above regarding other fried foods.

Side Dishes:

Pasta, orzo pasta, and cous-cous contain gluten. Potatoes, rice, corn and beans are usually safe (but always ask). Polenta is usually safe as it is made from cornmeal.


Most desserts in a restaurant contain gluten. Anything resembling a pie, cake or pastry are made with wheat. A flourless chocolate cake contains no flour, so should be gluten-free (cross-contamination may be an issue). Other gluten-free options are: chocolate mousse, creme brulee and flan — these desserts are made mainly of cream or milk, sugar and eggs. Sorbet and ice cream are usually gluten-free (make sure they don’t put a little cookie on it), or ask for fresh berries.