About 1 in 100 people worldwide have a gluten-sensitivity or intolerance, known as Celiac Disease. The only cure for Celiac Disease is a gluten-free diet, and this can be a big challenge when eating at restaurants.
Gluten (from the Latin word “gluten” meaning “glue”) is a protein in certain cereal grains that functions as a glue to hold foods together. The problem with gluten is that it also binds to the walls of the small intestine where it can cause digestive and immune system disorders.
How Has IHOP Responded to Their Customers’ Needs?
So what is a restaurant to do when the majority of their recipes include gluten? IHOP, famous for its thick fluffy pancakes, has created a menu, especially for its gluten-sensitive customers.
To be clear, the gluten-friendly menu at IHOP is not 100% gluten-free. Because of the multiple sources of gluten in the shared cooking and prep areas, including common fryer oil, IHOP cannot guarantee that any menu item is completely free of gluten or allergens. So if you have a serious gluten-intolerance, be sure to keep this in mind.
IHOP is making strides to accommodate all of its customers, and creating a gluten-friendly menu is a big step in the right direction. So what is their gluten-friendly menu like? Let’s check it out.
Pancakes and Waffles
IHOP’s gluten-friendly pancakes and waffles are made with a batter that blends rice flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and other gluten-friendly ingredients. They are topped with whipped butter and can be served as a combo meal with gluten-friendly sides such as eggs, bacon, sausage, or hash browns.
How do they taste?
While the batter is the same for both pancakes and waffles, the main differences between the two are in the preparation. The gluten-friendly pancakes are like small fluffy cakes prepared on a griddle, and one order includes a stack of four. Gluten-friendly waffles are cooked inside a hot-oil-covered waffle maker, and one order only includes one waffle.
Both options are delicious. Made with the same batter, they don’t taste very different from each other. While a lot of gluten-friendly flour-based food options are a bit dense, IHOP’s pancakes and waffles are surprisingly fluffy and sweet. The texture is soft, not grainy, and easy to cut through.
Are there any variations?
IHOP offers gluten-free syrup options, so customers can create their favorite taste by pouring one (or two!) syrups over the top. These syrup options include sugar-free syrup, blueberry syrup, boysenberry syrup, butter pecan syrup, old fashioned maple syrup, and strawberry syrup.
There are six gluten-friendly ultimate steakburger options. The main difference between IHOP’s normal steakburger and the gluten-friendly option is in the buns, made with a blend of rice flour, milk, egg whites, a touch of honey and other gluten-friendly ingredients.
The six burgers available on the gluten-friendly menu include the following:
- The Classic,
- The Classic with Bacon
- The Mega Monster
- The Loaded Philly
- The Jalapeno Kick
- The Cali Garlic Butter
All gluten-friendly ultimate steakburgers include a choice of gluten-friendly sides, such as french fries, fresh fruit, hash browns, or two original gluten-friendly pancakes.
How do they taste?
IHOP’s six gluten-friendly steakburgers taste almost the same as their regular versions, as the meat, veggies, toppings, and cheese do not change. The meat is juicy and well-seasoned, but keep in mind that the meat could be prepared on a griddle with oils that are also used to prepare food containing gluten.
Usually, someone looking for a gluten-friendly burger option will simply order their meal without the bun, but IHOP has created a gluten-friendly bun, made with rice flour, milk, egg whites, and honey. The buns are a bit sweet, which I enjoyed, but they are harder than regular steakburger buns. It is a challenge to bite through the whole burger due to the size and the hardness of the bun, so I would recommend cutting it in half or taking off one side of the bun. Who says you can’t eat a steakburger like a pizza?
Are there any variations?
You are welcome to customize your steakburger by adding or omitting certain ingredients. You may also add gluten-friendly condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise. My favorite steakburger is the Cali Garlic Butter with ketchup and mustard. I ask for my bun to be slightly warmed which makes it soft enough to eat, but it does not seem to soften well if it’s reheated later.
While many of IHOP’s entrees are not advertised specifically as gluten-friendly, it offers a variety of entrees that are gluten-friendly without having to change a thing. I like simplicity, so I like that I can order a range of delicious entrees, breakfasts, and combo meals without any additional instruction or alterations.
Gluten-friendly entrees include the following:
- Bacon Crusted Chicken with Red Potato Hash
- Savory Pork Chops
- Sirloin Steak
- Smoked Sausage
- T-Bone Steak
- Tilapia Florentine
- Egg Combo Plate
- Regular Combo Plate (with bacon or sausage)
- Sausage & Eggs Combo Plate
- Bacon & Eggs Combo Plate
- Ham & Eggs Combo Plate
- Ultimate Bacon & Sausage Combo Plate
- Simple & Fit Vegetable Omelette
- Californian Scramble
Are there any variations?
While the entre options mentioned above don’t have to be changed to make them gluten-friendly, IHOP also offers a few entrees, salads, and a soup that can be slightly altered to make them gluten-friendly.
These include the following:
- Original Chicken Sandwich (on a gluten-friendly bun)
- Chicken Cobb Salad (without croutons)
- Rustic Cheesy Tomato Soup (without crackers)
- Mixed Greens House Salad (with gluten-friendly dressing)
IHOP offers a variety of gluten-friendly side items that can be ordered on their own or as part of a combo meal with your favorite entre, soup, salad, breakfast, or steakburger. Keep in mind that some of these items are prepared on a griddle using oils that have also been used for food containing gluten.
Gluten-friendly side items include the following:
- Bacon Strips
- Baked Potato
- Corn Tortillas
- Cottage Cheese
- Hash Browns
- Pork Sausage Link
- Pork Sausage Patty
- Red Potato Hash
- Seasonal Mixed Fruit
- Seasoned Fries
- Smoked Pork Sausage Links
- Turkey Bacon
- Turkey Sausage Link
- Turkey Sausage Patty
- Whole Kernel Buttered Corn
To be sure a side item doesn’t include remnants of gluten, I would recommend ordering fresh sides, such as avocado, mixed fruit, or a side of fresh veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.
Choosing a gluten-free dressing can be a little tricky because a lot of dressings contain gluten in their additives. While some dressings might contain a small amount of gluten, the following dressings served at IHOP are considered gluten-friendly because they have less than 20 parts per million, which means it’s safe for anyone with gluten sensitivities to consume.
- Blue Cheese Dressing
- Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
- Creamy Caesar Dressing
- Creamy Italian Dressing
- Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette
- French or Catalina Dressing
- Honey Mustard Dressing
- Light Done Right Reduced Fat Italian Dressing
- Orange Vinaigrette
- Raspberry Vinaigrette
- Thousand Island Dressing
My favorite dressings are the Honey Mustard Dressing and the Raspberry Vinaigrette. I prefer the former on a Cobb Salad, and I prefer the latter on side veggies with a dash of salt and pepper.
Is it Worth it?
I appreciate it when any restaurant recognizes the needs of its customers enough to alter the way the food is prepared and served. Celiac Disease and gluten-sensitivity is a growing concern around the world, so for the International House of Pancakes, offering a gluten-friendly menu was a smart move.
However, because IHOP’s menu is gluten-friendly and not gluten-free, customers with serious sensitivities still have to be careful. I’m hoping the chain will take their gluten-friendly options a step further and begin to learn how to prepare their food more carefully, perhaps on clean griddles or with fresh oils. This would require extensive staff training and understanding of Celiac Disease, so let’s hope this a direction IHOP will move.
Overall, IHOP’s gluten-friendly options are healthy and tasty, but it’s still up to the customer to determine how safe each item is to consume.
What do you think?
Have you tried any of IHOP’s signature gluten-friendly menu items? If you have gluten sensitivities, what is your go-to IHOP meal? Let us know in the comments below.