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Gluten Free on the Go: Jack In The Box

Updated on March 2, 2013
Just about the only gluten free items on the menu ...
Just about the only gluten free items on the menu ...

I never used to live near any Jack In The Box restaurants, but when I came to Hawaii I noticed that they were everywhere. There's a couple of Burger Kings, one Wendy's tucked away somewhere where I can't access it, and eight thousand-majillion-billion Jack In The Boxes.

But I've never eaten at one.

I've never even set foot inside one.


Basically, when I first came here and was trying to see what places had things I could eat, this one came with a warning (on just about every GF/celiac site) that almost NOTHING was gluten free.

Well, it's two years later. Things change. Let's see if that's still true and if it's worth setting foot inside.

The Website

When I write one of these reviews, the first thing I do is go to the official website and look for a list of ingredients or allergens. Usually this is kind of easy.

The Jack In The Box Website is very, very busy.

Depending on what kind of promotion is going on I imagine it's different, but because I wasn't sure where to look for all the ingredients information I had to wait for a lot of promotional stuff featuring the Jack character to load before I could proceed.

You have to go to the menu first and scroll to the bottom to find the allergen statement and ingredients list. I went through the entire website once before I found it hiding there at the bottom of the menu. I'm not sure what the thinking is with placing it here--if I have allergy issues I'm not really going to bother looking through the whole menu, after all. It would be nicer if it were in an easy-to-reach area or somewhere near the top of the menu page, at the very least.

Preferably accessible via the home page rather than the menu page. Just a suggestion. Even KFC, who is probably THE most gluten-unfriendly restaurant ever--has their allergen/nutrition pages accessible from the main page. Generally we look somewhere on the top or the bottom of the main page for something related to nutrition/allergens. HINT HINT, JACK. (MOVE YOUR LINKS.)


What's GF and Edible?

Interestingly enough, Jack In The Box has grilled chicken strips. I'm not sure if these come in contact with any surfaces that would touch gluten, but the menu also says that these come with a teriyaki dipping sauce. The strips don't contain wheat, but naturally, teriyaki does. Which makes it the only dipping sauce that is not safe. I believe that's the definition of irony.

Any kind of salad with grilled chicken should be about as safe as you can get in a place like this, and the only thing other than crispy chicken in the salad category that you want to avoid is the croutons. I'm not sure what "spicy corn sticks" are, but they don't contain wheat. (Apparently they're a topping for the southwest salad. You learn something every day.) The side salad is another good option if you don't like chicken.

Apple bites with caramel are so gluten free you wouldn't even imagine. They're pre-packaged, so they won't even touch the dreaded wheat-filled dust of the curly fries. But as side items go, the only other menu item without wheat are the fries. And these are most likely fried in the same oil that fries up the potato wedges, curly fries, egg rolls, mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets. Which all contain wheat.

A beef patty or grilled chicken patty is another option if you want a sandwich sans bun. The only forbidden sauce is the teriyaki, so your sandwich should be safe with any sauce except teriyaki, any cheese, and the usual veggies. Just double check that the server doesn't put your patty on a bun and then remove the bun later.

For Breakfast there aren't a lot of choices. The allergen chart shows a thing called a "hearty breakfast bowl" that has no wheat in it, but this does not appear in the ingredients list or on the menu page online. The hash browns contain wheat as well as just about all of the breakfast items, but you could always order a sandwich without the sandwich part, I suppose. The breakfast platter, unfortunately, contains pancakes and hash browns, so if you remove the gluten you're removing a lot.

Drinks are pretty much okay. Drink away! (But remember that sugar is bad for you, mmkay?)

Speaking of sugar, the desserts are more or less unsafe. There are a few shakes that would be more or less GF, but because there are a few that contain cookie (Oreo, malted crunch bits) and I'm not sure if these drinks share equipment, you might ask. If it's a case where the same equipment is used to blend all the shakes, you might want to avoid it or ask if they can at least wipe it down (if you're not too concerned). Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cinnamon, eggnog and pumpkin pie are all otherwise safe flavors. The smoothies are also fine, but once again you might want to double check regarding equipment.

If you're a kid then you can actually construct a kids meal. I'm not sure it's the healthiest thing ever, but you can actually put together a main course, side and drink. Grilled chicken strips, apple with caramel, and a drink. Assuming these are all available at your location, that is. Just make sure to pick any sauce but the teriyaki sauce.

Who thought to pair the wheat-free chicken strip with the only NOT-wheat-free sauce?   I assume you can make substitutions, but seriously.  This is just ... so dumb.
Who thought to pair the wheat-free chicken strip with the only NOT-wheat-free sauce? I assume you can make substitutions, but seriously. This is just ... so dumb.

The Verdict

After reading that "nothing" on the menu was gluten free, it's nice to see that a few items are. But it's more or less the same selection of items that you can get at McDonald's or Burger King. So really, I think it's going to come down to price, and which store you like better. Also, if there are other people with you, their opinions (especially if they prefer one or the other) will probably factor into your decision.

Really ... they're all the same. Definitely better than KFC (hey, all three of these restaurants have figured out how to leave the wheat out of grilled chicken, even if Jack still can't figure out how to get it out of the tacos), but not nearly as good as Wendy's.

Give them a piece of your mind!

If you're unhappy with the lack of selection at Jack In The Box or want to ask any questions about sharing equipment, you can use their contact page to get in touch.

Helpfully, they also provide you with a phone number in case you want to talk to a human being. This is a little more unusual, as I've had to dig around for numbers for other restaurants.

Call: 1-800-955-5225 between 7am and 5pm, Monday through Friday (PST)


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