Chipotle is a Celiac’s best friend in the fast food business. Mexican food has a high potential for gluten-free options (it is a largely corn-based cuisine), but Chipotle is especially helpful in that they have few ingredients, they are prepared simply, and they are very open about their food.

Chipotley publishes an allergen information card which can be seen on their web site in their Special Diet Information page.

Of course, things are always changing, so it’s always advisable to check with them for the latest information. When I last asked them, I was told I just needed to stay away from the flour tortillas (of course) and probably the hot salsa, as they allow each store to source the vinegar used individually, and while they tend to use distilled vinegar, which is not a problem, it’s beyond the chain’s control so they can’t guarantee its GF status.

Not listed on the card are the relatively new corn tortillas, which are gluten-free, or the very new vegan faux meat (not available in every store yet), which contains soy and wheat gluten, so that’s off limits.

The biggest problem with Chipotle is the risk of cross-contamination.  The servers sometimes get sloppy, and do stupid things.  I’ve seen extreme cases where servers put rice back into the bin after serving it on a flour tortilla without being asked. I suspect this is health code violation in many places, but it should be considered just plain wrong everywhere. Once the food is served, it should never be put back.

The more common source of cross-contamination comes from the layout of their hot table – the sour cream is placed in front of the salsas, so when the servers scoop salsa, it often drips into the cream. This can get disguised as the servers tend stir up the cream when they scoop it. So it’s not always obvious when there’s salsa (including the potentially problematic hot salsa) in the cream. Unfortunately, when they swap out the cream, they pour the leftovers into the new bin, contaminating the clean batch.

Fortunately, the risk is low. Still, I won’t have the cream unless it appears to be absolutely pristine. Which is for the best, really – the cream is the worst source of fat at Chipotle, and it tends to mask the other flavors, especially the cheese (a mix of Monterey Jack and white Cheddar, which has a nice subtle flavor). Mexican sour cream is actually called Crema, which is traditionally closer to Creme Fraiche, so it’s thinner and less flavorful than sour cream Americans are familiar with. Crema is common in Mexican food to moderate the heat of the chile peppers used, so if you don’t use hot salsas, the creme is less necessary.

Chipotle is one of my main-stays for eating out, and for good reason.

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