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Gluten Free On the Go: Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

MSG stands for "Mighty Super Green beans."

MSG stands for "Mighty Super Green beans."

The Colonel Hates You

KFC is run by Yum! Brands, the same company that runs Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. In another GFOTG I looked at the relative dearth of menu options available at Taco Bell, a chain that should--by virtue of being a Mexican restaurant--have a plethora of options for those with a gluten sensitivity. I think it's pretty obvious that Pizza Hut is going to have gluten issues (namely the issue that pizza is a bread-based dish), but what about KFC? Don't they have grilled chicken or something? Well, surely there will be some menu items the reluctant celiac can nom on while everyone else digs into their deliciously greasy bucket of fried chicken! Right?

... right??

KFC is, unfortunately, another one of those chains where you really need to be careful with what you're eating. Of course there's always that pesky cross contamination to worry about, but just like its sister Taco Bell, KFC also carries a lot of foods that don't "look" gluteny but which will, in fact, make you ill.


  • Grilled chicken
  • Mashed potatoes (not even without the gravy)
  • Potato wedges
  • Roasted chicken salad
  • Baked beans
  • or just about anything else.

If you do happen to find yourself stuck at a KFC ... I'm sorry. I really am. And I hope you like sauces and corn.

The Safe List

  • Corn on the cob
  • Green beans
  • Cole slaw
  • Potato salad
  • Sweet corn
  • Side/Caesar salad (no croutons, but the dressing is okay)

Most of the condiments, the sandwich fixins, and the string cheese are safe. I assume beverages would also be safe.

But let's be honest here. This list should be longer. There is NO REASON for baked beans to contain gluten. Many mainstream brands of baked beans are gluten free. I might understand the gravy containing gluten, but the mashed potatoes? THE MASHED POTATOES?? A quick search of the ingredients shows that the baked beans actually contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein (wheat, among other things) and the mashed potatoes contain wheat depending on the supplier. I assume it's hidden in the "natural flavors," but the ingredient statement doesn't actually specify where the wheat is. The potato wedges and gravy both contain "enriched wheat flour," and the grilled chicken contains "bleached wheat flour" and soy sauce (wheat).

And, just for the record, the green beans contain MSG. Which does not contain gluten, but which some people react to all the same.

I realize that we're all probably better off not eating at KFC. But at the same time, more effort could be made to accommodate the ever-growing gluten free crowd. I'm not saying we want a GF fried chicken (though I do miss it dearly) or biscuits. I'm just saying that making things like mashed potatoes or grilled chicken GF does more than add back a few customers. I find that usually when you make something gluten free it means you have to take a lot of fillers and crap out of it. (See: Hydrolyzed protein in the baked beans.) The food gets a little healthier. And if the food is a little healthier, then everyone benefits. Everywhere.

And seriously, take the MSG out of the green beans. What the heck?

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Theresa Adkins from Pahoa, Hawaii on February 12, 2015:

Hiya. To be honest I worked at KFC just before I was diagnosed with celiac, nothing there is gluten free! Between the chance of cross contamination and the ingredients. Working behind the scenes of a restaurant where no one understands what it means to be gluten free the risk for cross contamination is too great!

I first started working there and I was curious about if my sister could eat anything at all (she has celiac too), I was wondering if the grilled chicken was gluten free so I asked a manager and she said "Oh yeah you just got to pull the skin off, I know what you're talking about and its fine." I mentally checked off the NOPE list in my head and went back to work. I got laid off a year later was diagnosed with celiac and couldn't work there again even if I wanted to.

Eat safe and live well!


Shiney79 on October 30, 2014:

Thanks. My wife is GF (allergy) and it's always a challenge to find somewhere to eat out that won't kill her. I'm surprised at the very little in the way of options at KFC - not that it's worth eating these days anyway. Potato with gluten? What!?

One problem though, as an academic, there has been no studies, or documented evidence of any kind, that shows MSG having adverse effects on people. The whole idea of 'chinese restaurant syndrome' was borne of the worst possible kind of pseudo-science and factless theories that were never even published in peer reviewed journals.

Simply put, MSG won't harm you, go nuts. No, really, it won't. In fact, many (MANY!) studies have shown that under placebo conditions, people who claim to have sensitivity to MSG report no ill effects after consuming it. I would link to these studies, but there's no point - they're everywhere, just go look for yourself.

It is but a humble salt, and I hate to break it to you, found naturally in fruits and veg. I'm making it my life's mission to re-educate people on MSG.

BlissfulWriter on August 10, 2013:

Thanks for doing the comprehensive research. I wouldn't have known that their green beans contain MSG and mash potatoes contain gluten.

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