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”.
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 omeles 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 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.
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
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, I’m just pointing out there are quite a few reasons to have reservations about it.
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 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.