Are Hamburgers Always Gluten Free?

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


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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 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 gluten-containing ingredients or subject patties to gluten cross-contamination.

Gluten in Supermarket Burgers

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

Food manufacturers may not 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 hamburgers 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 Burgers

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 pre-formed 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 for sauces to be added to the meat for additional flavor, and these can be especially tricky. For example, not all soy sauce brands are gluten-free (and Worcestershire sauce may contain soy sauce).

You won't know exactly what is in your restaurant hamburger unless you ask. Be sure to question someone knowledgeable about the recipes at that particular restaurant. Generally, that's either the chef or the manager, not the server.

Gluten-Free Fast Food Burgers

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 fast-food chains. The best options for gluten-free burgers include:

  • Arby's
  • Boston Market
  • Chick-fil-A (also 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

Burger King and McDonald's may be popular, but they are among the worst choices for gluten-free fast food. They have extremely limited options and the risks for gluten cross-contamination are high.

When ordering fast food, beware of the potential for cross-contamination. Make sure 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. Always be careful about reading labels on pre-made patties and talking to the chef at any restaurant.

By Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.