That was supposed to change when Dunkin' Donuts introduced its gluten-free treats, which it announced in mid-2013. However, following testing, the chain quietly shelved the gluten-free items, which were to have included a cinnamon sugar donut and a blueberry muffin, both individually wrapped and certified gluten-free.
- Related: Starbucks Gluten-Free List
So is there anything you can enjoy at your local Dunkin' Donuts if you follow the gluten-free diet?
Well, for years the buzz around the Internet has been that the chain's many coffee beverages — ranging from hot lattes to chilled Coolatas in a huge variety of flavors — are safe for us to drink. But further investigation indicates that may not be so.
Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Drinks: Lots of Ingredients
Like its competitor Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts offers a huge variety of hot and cold beverages.
You can purchase plain hot coffee, but you also can ask for a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, which contains more than 20 ingredients, including some derived from milk and soy (but not wheat). The frozen beverages also contain milk- and soy-based ingredients as part of a long list.
Of course, many of us can consume milk- and soy-based ingredients safely — our problem is with gluten-based ingredients. Unfortunately, these don't need to be called out on labels or in ingredient lists (for more on this, see: Do Food Labeling Laws Require Manufacturers To Disclose Gluten Ingredients?)
Unlike some companies (Kraft Foods Group Inc. is one and Mars Inc. is another), Dunkin' Donuts does not have a policy of calling out all gluten sources (wheat plus barley and rye) in its ingredient lists. Therefore, I asked Dunkin' Donuts to provide me with details on whether any or all of its beverages contained barley and/or rye (in the U.S., wheat is considered one of the eight major allergens, and therefore is required to be listed).
After several back-and-forth questions and answers, I received the following response from the company spokesperson:
"I have confirmed that the ingredients you listed are not present in Dunkin' Donuts beverages. However, because not all restaurants and production facilities are dedicated gluten-free, the brand cannot guarantee that there is no cross-contamination. For that reason, the brand stands by the ... original statement: 'While many of our beverages do not contain gluten as an ingredient, not all restaurants and production facilities are dedicated gluten-free facilities.'"
So Can You Get Coffee at Dunkin' Donuts?
Based on the company's statement, I wouldn't stray beyond plain coffee or coffee-plus-milk drinks (cappuccinos and lattes) at Dunkin' Donuts. Note that this is the same advice I give for people who like to get coffee at Starbucks (which, sadly, hasn't done any better than Dunkin' Donuts at providing us with either gluten-free baked treats or safe flavored coffee drinks).
However, there's another issue you need to consider at Dunkin' Donuts: airborne gluten.
It's no secret that Dunkin' Donuts sells massive amounts of gluten-containing doughnuts — those doughnuts are basically the raison d'être for the company. Making those doughnuts involves using large quantities of wheat flour, which can become airborne.
Some of us (especially those of us who are more sensitive to trace gluten) react to airborne gluten (for more information, see: Can I Get Symptoms from Inhaling Airborne Gluten?)
Not all Dunkin' Donuts stores make their own doughnuts on site. According to the company spokesperson, "some restaurants do have on-site baking facilities, [while] other locations receive product fresh daily from a dedicated baking facility."
Given that, I wouldn't even get plain coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts facility where there was active baking going on (I'm quite sensitive, so your mileage may vary). I'd probably feel safe getting plain coffee at a location that didn't do its own baking, but I would ask the worker serving me to change gloves and take other precautions against gluten cross-contamination.