How to Eat Gluten-Free at IHOP

How to Eat Gluten-Free at IHOP
Breaking Breakfast News Alert: Hop on Over for Some Gluten!


Here’s a timely (and useful!) topic for that weekend breakfast or brunch out. IHOP (International House of Pancakes) omelets contain “a splash of our famous buttermilk and wheat pancake batter for extra fluffiness”.


This may not be big news to some of you, but it was to me. If you dine at IHOP or watch TV with any regularity at all (there are commercials touting this as a benefit!), you’re probably way ahead of the curve on this one. BUT… even if you already know, keep reading because I have the inside scoop on how IHOP handles people like you and me when it comes to these gluten contaminated omelets… and what they’re cooked in!

Even if you don’t eat at IHOP, this story shows you how to investigate when it comes to eating gluten-free at a restaurant.

I discovered this gluten-filled morsel about IHOP omeles from a reader, Betty.

She 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 for legit back-up info 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. (Gasp!)
  • The addition of pancake batter to their omelets is noted at the top of the “Hearty Omelets” section of the IHOP menu (online and in-restaurant versions). It reads: “Made with a splash of our famous buttermilk and wheat pancake batter for extra fluffiness and served with three buttermilk pancakes or fresh fruit.
  • In addition to the traditional omelets offered at IHOP (the ones that contain pancake batter), there’s also a “Simple and Fit” omelet. It does not contain pancake batter and is listed at the bottom of the omelet section of the menu. However, “Simple and Fit” omelets (aimed at those wanting a lower calorie dish) are made with egg substitute (the pasteurized egg product from a carton, typically made from egg whites with quite a few additives and colorings to made it look like real egg… just say no.)

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 incredibly 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.
  • 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 only need to make our server aware and a manager will visit our table to be clear about our special dietary needs. It is then the manager’s responsibility to convey those needs to the kitchen staff and see them through.

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

Since ninety-nine per cent 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 (oh, you knew this was coming!), 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.

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“.

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 let me know!

You can check out IHOP’s restaurant allergen information for their egg combo breakfasts here.

Gluten Free Gigi

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As someone with celiac disease and multiple food allergies, Gigi understands how food can harm or heal. Fully restoring her own health with diet alone after a 25-year health struggle, Gigi now uses her own experiences and the skills she gained as a former neuroscience researcher to share practical, easy-to-understand strategies, science-backed nutrition information, immediately useful tips and recipes to make gluten-free living liberating and positive for everyone!
  • 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.

    • 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. :)

      Gigi ;)

  • 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.

    • Gluten Free Gigi


      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?) ;)