How to Eat Gluten-Free at IHOP

by | June 13, 2018 | Health & Nutrition, Travel | 6 comments

On June 11, 2018, IHOP rolled out the new name, IHOb, to shine the limelight on their burgers. It’s a temporary marketing scheme, and quite frankly, a brilliant one in my opinion. Any time you get the whole internet buzzing about your product, it’s a good thing. You can read more about the change here. Meanwhile, I looked into the possible gluten-free options with the burgers that the Pancake House claims are so rave-worthy.

Of course, anything with a traditional bun is going to be off-limits for those of us who are gluten-free, but a look at the allergen information on the IHOP (IHOb) website holds some good news (if you’re up for a burger from a pancake house).

Gluten-Free Options at IHOb – Burgers

The burger patty, bacon and fries do not contain any of the top 8 allergens according to the information page. However, an IHOb representative confirmed they do not use dedicated fryers. That means fries and hashbrowns are off-limits.

That means you could order a bun-less burger or ask for a “burger salad” plate. At the time of this posting (June 2018), IHOb does not offer a gluten-free bun.

Of course, regardless of what you order from any restaurant, be sure to speak to a chef and get the details of how they will handle your gluten-free / allergen-free meal. Here are some tips on Dining Out Gluten-Free.

Reviewing the updated allergen list on the IHOP website, I saw several items that contain gluten and/or an allergen some may find unexpected, so I want to point those out. Again this is for IHOP (IHOb) and comes from their current allergen information. You can find the allergen information PDF download by going to the IHOP site, scrolling to the bottom and clicking “Allergens”. Again, this is a download, so check your download folder for the file.

Foods with Surprising Allergens / Ingredients on the IHOP Allergen Information Page:

  • Vanilla Ice Cream contains gluten/wheat. (Listed under “Top it Off” as a possible pancake topping.)
  • All syrups – gluten-free; Butter Pecan Syrup contains milk.
  • Corn Tortillas – gluten-free and allergen-free.
  • Hashbrowns – gluten-free; contain soy.
  • Fried Egg – contains soy.
  • Egg White Vegetable Omelet – gluten-free; contains soy and milk.
  • French Fries – gluten-free and allergen-free.
  • Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken – gluten-free; contains milk and eggs.
  • Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette contains gluten and milk.
  • Rustic Cheesy Tomato Soup – gluten-free; contains milk.

Several Entrées Listed Gluten-Free:

  • Bacon Crusted Chicken with Red Potato Hash (contains milk, soy, eggs and fish??)
  • Savory Pork Chops (contains milk & soy)
  • Sirloin Steak (contains milk & soy)
  • Sirloin Steak Tips (contains milk & soy)
  • Smoked Sausage (contains milk & soy)
  • T-Bone Steak (contains milk & soy)
  • Tilapia Florentine (contains milk & soy)

Baked Potatoes (plain) – gluten-free and allergen-free.

Now, back to the original article on breakfast at IHOP and how they add (gluten-filled) pancake batter to their eggs.

Original article, below, shared in 2012 and updated in 2017. 

If you’re wondering How to Eat Gluten-Free at IHOP, you definitely want to know about the omelets. On the IHOP website the chain reveals their omelets are made with “a splash of our famous buttermilk and wheat pancake batter”.

What?!?

I’m sure IHOP sees this as a bonus (fluffy omelets), but for those of us with celiac disease or another health-related reason that we must eat gluten-free, it is downright scary.

I admit, I do not frequent IHOP. If you don’t either, I encourage you to read this article anyway. This story shows you how to investigate when it comes to eating gluten-free at any restaurant. Plus, if you do know someone who eats at IHOP and needs to be gluten-free, you’d be doing them a huge favor by passing this along to them.

I leaned about IHOP omelets from a reader, Betty, who wrote:

Have you seen the new IHOP commercial? The customers are saying how light and fluffy the egg dishes are, and the waitress responds by saying it’s because they add a “splash” of pancake batter to the eggs!! Wow, that could really wreck someone’s day if they thought they were safe, ordering an egg dish [at IHOP]!!

When I overcame my initial feelings of disgust over that tactic to add cheapo filler to a great source of naturally gluten-free protein (wheat-based pancake batter is much less expensive than real eggs), I decided I should alert you, too. Of course, I can’t share this type info and send you on your way. I did a little research for you.

I looked around online, and then made some calls to get information straight from IHOP headquarters in Glendale, California.

Here’s what I discovered, and the way this ends up may not be what you expect!

The IHOP folks are a friendly bunch. I’ve never been so accommodated when asking my long list of questions about a restaurant chain’s menu offerings.

The representative at IHOP HQ I initially spoke to provided some basic answers:

  • Yes, IHOP’s omelets contain wheat– and dairy-based pancake batter. Turns out, they’ve done this for years, but are only recently promoting it as a benefit.
  • The addition of pancake batter to their omelets is noted at the top of the menu: “Made with a splash of our famous buttermilk & wheat pancake batter.”
  • The only omelet at IHOP that doesn’t contain gluten, according to IHOP’s website nutrition and allergen page is the Egg White Vegetable Omelet. However, it does contain dairy and soy ingredients. (UPDATED 2017)

I had more questions, and although the first rep was unable to answer them all she connected me with someone in management who did have the answers we need. The second representative was well-informed about special diets and gluten. He even knew about celiac disease.

Here’s what I learned about what we can expect from IHOP and how they will accommodate gluten-free diners:

  • As a gluten-free alternative to their traditional omelets, we can have our omelet prepared with any of the following: pure egg whites, pasteurized Egg Beaters®, or “shell” eggs. Shell eggs is the term IHOP uses to make clear a dish is prepared with real eggs that are cracked just for that dish.

UPDATE 2017: IHOP is using the term “Crack Eggs” on their menu for shell eggs now. They will understand either term.

  • IHOP is happy to use a clean, unused separate bowl to whip eggs in for a gluten-free omelet or other dish like scrambled eggs.
  • They are also happy to use a clean, unused pan to cook a special omelet or other egg dish.

For these, or any other special requests, the IHOP rep told me:

  • We should make our server aware and a manager will visit our table to be clear about our special dietary needs.
  • The manager is then responsible for conveying those needs to the kitchen staff and to see them through.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what I was wondering

Since 99% of IHOP restaurants are franchised, how does that work? It’s easy for a representative at HQ in sunny California to say we’ll be taken care of, but what about individual locations nationwide? I asked and he assured me IHOP restaurants nationwide will indeed take care of our special dietary needs.

To begin putting this to the test, I phoned six IHOP restaurants in the greater Atlanta area. I asked how I could expect to be accommodated if I wanted to order an omelet, but needed it to be completely gluten-free for medical reasons. I was astounded! Six out of six times, I received answers that mirrored those of the rep I spoke to on the phone. I didn’t even have to speak to a manager. Great job, IHOP! From the looks of it, IHOP, at least at the corporate level and here in metro Atlanta, can take care of our gluten-free needs when asked.

The IHOP Allergen and Nutrition Information

2018 Update: Since I first shared this article in 2012, IHOP has updated their allergen and nutrition info on their website. Be sure to scroll ALL the way down until you see Allergens in the red area at the very bottom of the page, then click for a PDF download.

Most of their offerings do contain gluten and there is the risk of cross-contamination in a facility that uses so many gluten ingredients. For these reasons, I caution you to do your due diligence before dining at IHOP. I’m not telling you not to dine there, I’m just pointing out there are quite a few reasons to have reservations.

A Note about Dairy

Oh, one more thing I learned. If you’re dairy free like me, you need to know all eggs, regardless of the type or the specific dish, are ordinarily cooked in real butter. The only alternative the six locations in greater Atlanta offer is Pam® spray.

If you have a soy allergy, be aware Pam® contains soy lecithin. For most of us with a soy allergy, that’s not a problem. You can read more about why in my article “The Facts about Soy Lecithin in a Soy Free Special Diet“.

If you’re concerned about cooking spray in general, read “Evaluating Standard Ingredients in Non-Stick Cooking Spray“.

I hope this information makes it easier for you to navigate your gluten-free life! If you’ve had an experience with IHOP, leave a comment below and share it with our community here.

6 Comments

  1. Lauren

    I was shocked…and angry…when I found out they put batter in their eggs. I thought I was doing great by just getting eggs there, but never could understand why I always felt so bad after. I finally just gave up on IHOP completely when I servers kept getting confused when I tried to explain my gluten intolerance.

    Reply


    • Gluten Free Gigi

      Hi, Lauren.

      I feel your emotion! See… now you have a much-needed answer to your IHOP problem. (Or should I say to the problem IHOP was causing YOU?!)

      I’m happy you found this useful, and I hope it will allow you to be albe to enjoy a breakfast out again if you choose. :)

      xoxo,
      Gigi ;)

      Reply


  2. Yvette

    HI Gigi!!
    I recently ordered the simply fit eggs at IHOP and finished feeling hungry and unsatisfied even with a side of fruit, turkey bacon, and hashbrowns. I really wish that gluten free-soy free pancakes could be added to their menu. Can you pursuade them? I live in Liberty, Mo.
    Thanks!!!!!!

    Reply


    • Gluten Free Gigi

      Yvette,

      I’m guessing if IHOP did add GF, soy-free pancakes to the menu, there would be such a risk of cross-contamination, those flapjacks wouldn’t be safe for any of us to eat. Sad but true.

      Having the special diets pancakes would also mean a separate and dedicated griddle, a dedicated cook for that station and dedicated bowls, utensils, the list goes on.

      Just taking a quick look at what a resto must alter to offer true GF foods to us makes it clear why there are not more doing so in the *right* way. (My idea of a GF menu is NOT telling me I can have all the salad I want, just ask for no croutons, you know?) ;)

      xoxo

      Reply


  3. Denise

    Thank you for all of your research! I’m gluten intolerant and get deathly ill from being glutened…that said, I also have severe Gastroparesis so we don’t eat out often. That said, it’s interesting to note that I could have tomato soup and an egg white veggie omelet, 2 of the few things I can actually eat.

    Reply


    • Gigi Stewart

      Denise, you are a great example of why I share this type info. A lot of people give me a hard time for sharing about gluten-free at IHOP, but I had a lot of readers email me years ago to share about IHOP and whether they could eat there or not being gluten-free. I serve the community, so of course, I wanted to share this. That’s why I keep updating this post, because it is one of the top 10 posts on my site since first shared in 2012!! I think the soup and omelet sound like a great meal option for you!! Glad this was useful! Thank you for reading! xo

      Reply


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