Gluten-Free Brunch: Friendly Foods, Questions to Ask
In a perfect world, brunch would be served every day, not just on weekends. Since it’s the ultimate leisure meal, you don’t want finding gluten-free brunch options to be stressful. With a menu combining breakfast and lunch items that often also has specialty offerings not available on a day-to-day basis in some kitchens, best practices for creating a gluten-free brunch might be more difficult. In addition to testing your meal with Nima, it’s important to ask a host of questions to help you identify likely gluten-free food choices, and determine where gluten might be lurking. Here are some specialized questions that you can ask about all your favorite gluten-free brunch offerings.
Pancakes and Waffles
Brunch wouldn’t be the same without delicious doughy delivery vehicles for maple syrup, right? Yet while pure maple syrup is safe, pancakes and waffles that are listed as gluten-free can lead to challenges. Think about some of these questions when ordering:
- Can you tell me about the ingredients in the gluten-free waffles or pancakes? What types of alternative flours are you using?
- Is the batter pre-made, and is it prepped in the same area as non-gluten-free batter? Do you use the same utensils to mix and prepare the batters?
- Do you have a separate waffle iron for gluten-free? Do you have a separate griddle and spatula for gluten-free pancakes?
- Are gluten-free waffles or pancakes with (bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, bacon) prepped or mixed in the same area as non gluten-free versions? Are the added ingredients stored in the same areas as flour? Are all the toppings and mix-ins gluten-free?
- Do you serve 100% pure maple syrup? Is it grade A?
Nima pro tip: Remember that when testing pancakes and waffles with your Nima, it can be important to test both sides of the pancake, to check for the presence of gluten on the griddle or in the waffle iron!
Many restaurants might easily defer to eggs as a gluten-free brunch option, as the likelihood of gluten is low. But prep is very important when it comes to egg dishes. With fried eggs, prep often involves cracking fresh eggs by hand onto a grill top, but with scrambled eggs the eggs are often cracked and prepped with milk in advance, and both can lead to cross contamination possibilities. Did you know that IHOP adds pancake batter to their omelettes to make them fluffier?! Always be cautious with additives, and here are some other questions to ask about eggs.
- Are prep areas shared when making egg dishes? Are things like pancake batter and waffle mix prepped in these areas?
- Are the eggs fried or scrambled on a shared cook surface like a flat top grill that might also have foods with gluten cooked on it?
- If I order fried eggs, will the cooks use new gloves to handle the fresh eggs when cracking and frying them?
- Do you add anything to the scrambled eggs/omelettes besides eggs?
Traditional baked goods like scones and croissants are also a time-honored addition to any brunch menu, but can be tricky when it comes to gluten-free choices. These items in some restaurants are often sourced from suppliers as pre-made items or from local bakeries, adding a layer of complexity to the process. Again, here are some questions to consider:
- Are your gluten-free baked goods made in house, or come from an outside bakery? (This might not always be listed on a menu.)
- Can you tell me what the prep is like for your house baked pastries?
- Can you tell me the name of the out-of-house bakery that makes your gluten-free offerings? (You can check test results for local bakeries via the Nima app!)
- For gluten-free toast, do you use a shared toaster, or shared tongs to remove toast from the toaster?
- Are gluten-free baked goods stored below or alongside regular baked goods?
Also, look out for shared condiments that are already on the table. Jars of jam, honey and other condiments can have gluten contamination from previous diners.
Many hearty breakfasts and brunches include meats like sausage, bacon or ham. While pure meat products are easily gluten-free, some processed meats are not. Think about these questions when ordering:
- Is your gluten-free sausage house made? What can you tell me about the ingredients?
- Is your bacon certified gluten-free?
- Are meats grilled or cooked near breaded items?
- Do you marinate or prep any meats with soy sauce?
Loads of brunch menus include breakfast potato options like hash browns, home fries or tater tots. While potatoes themselves are naturally gluten-free, it’s helpful to let a server know that you want to avoid gluten, as that might change how a restaurant might prep these items. Here are some questions to think about when ordering potatoes:
- Are the potatoes chopped or prepped in the same area as flour, or other foods with gluten?
- Are homefries or hash browns fried or cooked in/on a designated gluten-free cooking surface?
- Does prep involve shared utensils like spatulas or tongs, or are there specially dedicated tools for making gluten-free potato options?
- Do you add flour or soy sauce in the prep of your potatoes?
Southwestern or Asian Cuisine
Mexican or Southwestern offerings at brunch are hugely popular (Wow, do I love breakfast tacos!), and Asian choices like dim sum are also big brunch hits. When ordering these kinds of gluten-free brunch items, there are specialized questions to ask as well.
- Are the tortillas in the breakfast tacos or burritos corn or some alternative flour? Do you make them in house? Do your corn tortillas have any flour in them?
- Are things like gluten-free tortilla chips stored in the same place, or in the same bins that are used for non-gluten-free options? Do you fry chips with other gluten-containing items?
- Do you have a specific menu or list of gluten-free dim sum offerings?
- Are dumplings or other foods made with any soy sauce? Do you have gluten-free tamari?
Passing the Brunch Test
If your Nima does detect gluten in your brunch offerings, here are some ways you can speak to staff and management about what you found. You can always start with some of the following phrases to inform them a little bit about why you were testing.
- I’m so sensitive I have this device to help me test
- I really have to feel confident my food is gluten-free so I test it before I eat
- I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but this device found…
- Thank you for trying to accommodate my needs, but this device found…
It can also be helpful to tailor some questions regarding trouble spots specifically for gluten-free brunch items. Questions to consider might be:
- My Nima shows there is some gluten in the muffin I tested. It says “low” which likely means cross-contact. Are outside baked goods stored in areas with other kinds of bread or flour?
- There are things that can happen in different parts of the kitchen, can you walk me through the areas where this was prepared?
Hopefully having your Nima with you and thinking about these types of questions will help you enjoy gluten-free brunches to their fullest. Now go forth, and brunch HARD!