French fries are surprisingly tricky on the gluten-free diet. You'd think they'd be gluten-free after all, they're made of naturally gluten-free potatoes, right? but many times, they're not safe for those of us with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
The problem can be the ingredients themselves (beer batter french fries are obviously out, as are most seasoned varieties). Alternatively, the problem can be the fries' preparation: when you cook otherwise gluten-free fries in a fryer that also is used for breaded items such as chicken fingers and onion rings, that oil will contaminate your fries.
Fortunately, you do have multiple gluten-free french fry options, both to enjoy at home and to order when you're dining out. Here's a rundown of what's available.
Frozen Gluten-Free French Fries
The following companies make french fries that may be safe, depending on your level of sensitivity to trace gluten:
- Alexia Foods used to make gluten-free-labeled french fries. However, a recent expansion of the company's manufacturing facility now means that Alexia's fries are produced in a shared facility, although still on dedicated lines, according to a customer service representative. Therefore, Alexia is removing the "gluten-free" label from fries produced in that newly expanded facility, and urges gluten-free consumers to use them with caution. None of Alexia's many regular and sweet potato products (with the exception of Potato Bites) actually contains gluten, the representative says.
- Cascadian Farms makes frozen crinkle cut, shoe string, straight cut and wedge cut fries, all with organic potatoes. The fries have no gluten ingredients, but are not specifically labeled gluten-free. Cascadian Farms does not test for gluten cross-contamination and also makes gluten-containing products.
- McCain Foods, a top supplier to the restaurant industry, boasts that it makes one out of every three french fries consumed in the world. The company makes two different lines of fries that are sold in grocery stores in the U.S. plain and seasoned. The plain, which include classic cut, crinkle cut, smiles and steak cut fries, contain no gluten ingredients. The seasoned, meanwhile, all contain wheat flour as a top ingredient, and the beer batter fries also use barley. McCain does not label its products "gluten-free" and does not test for gluten, but states in its frequently asked questions that it will openly label any gluten-containing ingredients on the products' labels.
- Ore-Ida is a Heinz subsidiary, and more than 20 Ore-Ida french fries and other potato-based products appear on Heinz' U.S. gluten-free product list. However, the company warns that products still may be subject to cross-contamination in processing.
Fast Food Outlets with Gluten-Free French Fries
The following fast food restaurants feature french fries made in a dedicated gluten-free fryer. However, to be safe, always check with the individual outlet to be certain workers there are using a separate fryer.
- Burger King (not all locations have a separate fryer)
- Five Guys Burgers & Fries
- In N Out Burger
- McDonalds (note that McDonalds' fries contain a wheat-based ingredient, but have tested well below the accepted less than 20 parts per million level of gluten content, so they're considered legally "gluten-free." Use your own judgement on whether to eat them or not some people eat lots of them with no problem, while others report reactions.)
- Wendy's (only some locations)
For more on eating out at counter service outlets, see my guide: Gluten-Free Fast Food
Safe French Fries in Restaurants
Gluten-free options in casual chain restaurants are increasing rapidly, but the chains have been slow to move to dedicated fryers for their fries.
Right now, I'm only aware of two restaurant chains that offer gluten-free french fries at most or all of their locations: Cheeseburger in Paradise and Red Robin. Others may offer safe fries (it varies depending on location, demand, and the gluten-free awareness level of managers), but you'll need to ask.
When it comes to independent eateries, most will not serve safe fries, but you'll find a few here and there that do fry them in a dedicated fryer. For example, Bloom's Deli in New York City serves gluten-free fries (and gluten-free cheese fries) I make it a point to stop there whenever I'm in town, in part for just that reason.
Here's some more information on dining out:
- Gluten-Free Restaurant Directories
- Gluten-Free Restaurant Menus
- How To Keep Restaurants Safely Gluten-Free ... and Fun
Oh, and if you like ketchup on your fries, check out my guide to gluten-free ketchup.