Gluten-Free Items at Dunkin' Donuts

What can you order at Dunkin' Donuts if you eat gluten-free?

Dunkin' Donuts Heart-Shaped Donuts
Getty Images for Dunkin' Donuts / Getty Images

Dunkin' Donuts, with its shelves of gluten-filled doughnut treats, probably doesn't strike you as the friendliest place to visit if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. That was supposed to change several years ago when Dunkin' Donuts introduced gluten-free treats. However, following testing, the chain quietly shelved the gluten-free items. So is there anything you can enjoy at your local Dunkin' Donuts if you follow the gluten-free diet?

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 followers of a gluten-free diet to drink. But further investigation indicates that may not be so.

Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Drinks

Like its coffee competitor Starbucks (which also doesn't include a large selection of gluten-free items), 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, according to the chain's ingredients list). The frozen beverages also contain milk- and soy-based ingredients as part of that very long list.

Of course, many of us can consume milk and soy-based ingredients safely, our problem is with gluten-based ingredients that are not made from wheat (in this case, barley, often used as a sweetener, would be a major risk).

In the U.S., wheat is considered one of the eight major allergens and is required to be listed in ingredients. Unfortunately, ingredients derived from barley and rye don't need to be called out on labels or in ingredient lists at restaurants.

So, we asked Dunkin' Donuts to provide us with details on whether any or all of its beverages contained barley and/or rye.

After several back-and-forth questions and answers, we 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.'"

Can You Get Gluten-Free Coffee at Dunkin' Donuts?

Based on the company's statement, you shouldn't stray beyond plain coffee or coffee-plus-milk drinks (cappuccinos and lattes) at Dunkin' Donuts if you're gluten-free. Note that this is the same advice we 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.

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."

A Word From Verywell

Based on what we know, we wouldn't suggest that people who need to stick to a strict gluten-free lifestyle frequent a Dunkin' Donuts facility where there was active baking going on—even if you're just looking for a plain old cup of coffee.

If you're not particularly sensitive, however, you may have no problem.

Getting plain coffee at a location that doesn't do its own baking is more likely to be safe, but consider asking the worker serving you to change gloves and take other precautions against gluten cross-contamination.

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