“Focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else.” That is the mission statement of Papa John’s. Plain and simple. So let’s ask an equally plain and simple question: What’s on Papa John’s gluten-free menu?
There are currently around 3,000 Papa John’s outlets in the US, and all of them offer a gluten-free pizza crust and numerous gluten-free toppings. However, I have conducted thorough research and discovered cross-contamination could take place.
If you have celiacs or severe sensitivity, it may be best to steer clear of Papa John’s.
Read on to find out if you can fit Papa John’s into your gluten-free lifestyle.
Why Do We Love Papa John’s?
Papa John’s began in 1984 when its founding members made a simple observation. They noticed that big pizza chains made bad pizza with ingredients that were not fresh—but they offered home delivery. Meanwhile, family-run Italian restaurants made great pizza with the best ingredients—but they did not offer home delivery.
They formed a business plan from this simple notion, made great pizza, and delivered. One of the world’s favorite pizza delivery outlets was born.
“Better ingredients. Better pizza.” That’s still the motto of PJ’s, which you can see on its promotional material. Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of whole foods and fresh veggies—even on pizza! Let’s rephrase that, especially on pizza.
PJ’s make some other significant pledges to their customers:
- No artificial flavors
- No synthetic colors
- No high fructose corn syrup
- No MSG
- No cellulose and partially hydrogenated oils
- Cage-free eggs only
Now that’s how to do fast food! PJ’s ethos is reflected in its menu—there are very few extras. Most of the items are toppings and sauces that enable you to customize your pie.
This makes ordering from PJ’s simple, whether you’re gluten-free or not. The combinations are endless, but there’s just one outcome—pizza, just the way you want it!
Papa John’s Gluten-Free Menu Options
The doorbell rings, and you know exactly what’s waiting. The delivery guy hands you an oven-warm box, and you can feel the weight of the feast that lies within. There’s just enough time to say ‘Thanks!’ before you shut the door, skip back to the sofa and dig in!
Just me? Well, I love a PJ’s delivery! It usually means I’m turning off my cellphone, having a gluten-free beer, and catching up with my favorite TV shows. I choose different toppings every time; it depends on how I feel. So let’s take a look at the options!
This might seem like a simple one, but sadly it’s not! I’m sourcing my information direct from PJ’s allergen advice chart, where this option is listed as Gluten-Free Crust. In stores, it is marketed as The Ancient Grains Gluten-Free Crust. It was launched in 2017, and the accompanying press release contained a warning.
It advised that although the gluten-free dough is manufactured in separate allergen-free facilities, it might not be safe for people with celiac or severe gluten intolerance due to the risk of cross-contamination.
Flour is incredibly fine, and the particles are as small as dust. In a PJ’s kitchen, there may be airborne particles of flour. Some vendors have a separate dedicated gluten-free preparation area, but PJ’s don’t.
I think they are playing it safe here and putting their customers first. It’s good advice, too—if you have a strong allergy, cross-contamination is a major concern, so play it safe.
Watch this clip to see two vloggers testing two PJ’s gluten-free pizzas using home test kits. SPOILER ALERT! They both fail! It’s worth mentioning that the home test kits they use don’t reveal how much gluten is in the sample, it could be below the FDA’s 20 parts-per-million definitions of gluten-free.
The other two options on the menu for your pizza base are Original Hand Tossed Crust and Thin Crust, but they both contain gluten. I like best about PJ’s crusts because they are always fresh—never frozen or rehydrated.
- Pizza Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- Ranch Sauce
- Alfredo Sauce
- Pizza Cheese
- Parmesan/Romano Cheese
- Asiago/Fontina/Provolone Cheese
There are three combinations of cheese and, once again—all gluten-free.
- Italian Sausage
- Canadian Bacon
- Grilled Chicken
- Philly Steak
- Fresh Mushrooms
- Green Peppers
- Black Olives
- Green Olives
- Sliced Jalapenos
- Banana Peppers
- Fresh Spinach **
As well as classic favorites like Super Hawaiian and Garden Fresh, PJ’s allow you to choose your toppings. Whether you order direct from the menu or create your own, every gluten-free topping available is listed above.
The only topping that contains gluten is Meatball, but there is also a warning that Fresh Spinach is stored in a facility that contains other allergens. Luckily, the risk of me ordering fresh spinach on a pizza is zero!
This gives me confidence. PJ’s warn us that there’s a danger, which means they take cross-contamination issues seriously. It also suggests that their other toppings and sauces are prepared in allergen-free facilities.
- Roasted Wings
- Honey Chipotle Wings
- Buffalo Wings
- BBQ Wings
The choice of sides is minimal, and these are the only ones that are gluten-free. PJ’s do a range of Breadsticks and Cheesesticks and Garlic Knots, but they all contain gluten, as do their Chicken Poppers and Garlic Parmesan Wings.
- Garlic Dipping Sauce
- Pizza Dipping Sauce
- Cheese Dipping Sauce
- Ranch Dipping Sauce
- Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
- BBQ Dipping Sauce
- Buffalo Dipping Sauce
- Crushed Red Pepper Packet
Until 1986, pizza crusts were best enjoyed by your dog or the garbage can. But then PJ’s invented the world’s first dedicated pizza dipping sauce, turning crusts into a delicacy!
As you can see, there are eight delicious flavors, and they’re all gluten-free! I love the Garlic and BBQ sauces, and I double-dip my crusts while my dog stares on with jealous eyes!
The only extra that contains gluten is the Special Seasoning Packet.
What’s In Papa John’s Gluten-Free Crust?
PJ’s are eager to point out that better ingredients make better pizza. So I took a closer look at the ingredients for their gluten-free crust—here’s what I found:
- Sorghum Flour
- Modified Rice Starch
- Tapioca Starch
- Teff Flour
- Cage-Free Egg Whites
- Whey Powder
- Shortening Flakes (Palm Oil, Natural Butter Flavor, Soy Lecithin)
- Quinoa Flour
- Amaranth Flour,
- Canola/Olive Oil Blend
- Brown Flax Seed
- Cultured Brown Rice
- Xanthan Gum
- Natural Flavors
The base itself is less crispy and more bready than a typical pizza crust. It is soft and brown and as you would expect from PJ’s, it tastes fresh and authentic. It’s not chewy or brittle like some gluten-free bread, and it even reminds me of what real bread used to taste like—but without the horrible consequences!
Sadly it’s only available in a 10″ size. But hey! If I can’t eat your pizza, then you can’t have mine! Hands off!
Other Pizza Delivery Chains
Like PJ’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s offer a gluten-free crust, and like PJ’s, they can’t guarantee against cross-contamination. There are currently no major nationwide chains that offer celiac-friendly pizza. But there are smaller chains and independent outlets across the country that do.
For example, zpizza currently has 21 locations in and around California. They offer delivery and pickup, and all of their pizzas are available in a gluten-free large size.
Papa John’s offers a gluten-free crust, and it’s a delicious and convenient treat for those of us who are on a gluten-free diet. But if you’re celiac or have a severe allergy, then steer clear. PJ’s advise that themselves, and they are thorough and upfront with their allergen guidance.
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