Are Hamburgers Always Gluten Free?

Homemade, Restaurant, and Fast Food Gluten-Free Hamburger Choices

raw hamburger patties

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You can have confidence that homemade hamburgers you prepare from scratch with plain ground beef are gluten-free. Pure beef that you buy in a package from the store is safe for you to consume if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Burgers that you make out of that 100% ground beef also will be gluten free, assuming you don't add other gluten-containing ingredients or subject them to gluten cross-contamination when you're cooking them.

You should be able to find a gluten-free hamburger bun to put that homemade burger on, too. There are plenty of gluten-free manufacturers now that make them.

Gluten in Hamburgers

Preformed hamburger patties that you buy in the store may contain gluten. Some, though not all, of these patties contain grains as fillers, including wheat. As with all packaged food products, it is important to read the label carefully when you're looking to avoid gluten.

Food manufacturers are not able to claim that burgers are "100% beef" if fillers are added to the product. They are also required to disclose any fillers in the ingredients list, so the gluten should be fairly obvious. When in doubt, you can call the manufacturer's toll-free number and ask.

Also, keep in mind that burgers prepared by a friend or relative may not be safe. It is especially hard to know what's really in them when someone else has prepared the meal. Even if your friend or family member prepared burgers with 100% beef, there still remains the risk of cross-contamination.

Gluten-Free Restaurant Hamburgers

Restaurants are not required to disclose ingredients in their meals. This is where you can run into the most trouble with gluten in hamburger meat.

Many restaurants serve preformed burger patties that include filler ingredients like wheat. Others make their own burgers in-house, but use bread crumbs to stretch the meat and improve the texture of the burger.

It is also possible that sauces are added to the meat for additional flavor. Sauces can be especially tricky. For example, not all soy sauce brands are gluten-free.

You won't know exactly what is in your restaurant hamburger unless you ask. When you ask, you need to question someone who actually knows how this works at that particular restaurant. Generally, that's either the chef or the manager, not your server.

Gluten-Free Fast Food Hamburgers

Many fast food restaurants serve hamburgers that don't include gluten grains as an ingredient. In fact, some people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity say they have good luck ordering bun-less burgers at chains like Wendy's, In-N-Out Burger, and Sonic Drive-In.

Your best options for gluten-free fast food include:

  • Arby's
  • Boston Market
  • Chick-fil-A (offers gluten-free buns and gluten-free french fries)
  • Five Guys (offers gluten-free fries)
  • In-N-Out Burger (offers gluten-free fries)
  • Shake Shack (offers gluten-free buns)
  • Sonic Drive-In (offers gluten-free fries)
  • Wendy's

Popular burger chains Burger King and McDonald's are among the worst choices for gluten-free fast food, as they have extremely limited options and the risks for gluten cross-contamination are high.

Of course, when ordering fast food, you need to beware of the potential for cross-contamination—make sure the workers change gloves before serving you and that your hamburger never goes near the gluten-y buns.

A Word From Verywell

You shouldn't have too much trouble finding a gluten-free hamburger, especially if you're careful to read labels on pre-made patties and to talk to the chef at any restaurants. Oh, and make sure the ketchup you use is gluten-free, as well.

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