Eating Gluten-Free at Pei Wei

Thank goodness for Pei Wei Asian Diner, the “little cousin” to P.F. Chang’s. Pei Wei is one of the few gluten-free restaurants I can trust.

Before going gluten-free, our family ate out a LOT. I mean, like 6-10 times a week (some days would be breakfast, lunch AND dinner!). But since I’ve been GF for a while now, this has completely changed. We don’t even come close to that number in a MONTH. Between most restaurants A) not having anything gluten-free except salad with oil & vinegar (which gets OLD fast!!!) or B) actually having a GF menu but not understanding cross-contamination, well, it’s just not worth the 14-day gluten symptoms I get from ingesting the tiniest crumb. So now we’re very careful about where we choose to dine out.

One of my favorite gluten-free restaurants is Pei Wei. They have a dedicated Gluten Free Menu with appetizers, yummy entree salads & gluten-free protein and rice main dishes. While I was initially a little disappointed with the number of items to choose from (there are currently only six menu items), I’ve tried them all (except the shrimp dishes: if it’s from the sea, it’s not for me!). And I’m very happy to report that not only are all of Pei Wei Gluten Free dishes are super yummy, they are, when ordered properly, one of the safest bets out there! Yeay!

But before we get into the actually dishes, let me just tell you this: when ordering gluten-free at Pei Wei, take their own advice (it’s on their downloadable PDF Allergy Nutritional Guide): Ask for a Manager before ordering. Chances are, the kid working the register won’t have a clue about Celiac, gluten or what cross-contamination can do. But when you ask for the manager, they make it their responsibility to get the order right. And don’t think you’re being too demanding: on the first line of their Nutrional Guide, Pei Wei advises you to request an audience with a manager to appraise them of your food allergy/sensitivity (or in my case, disease). If it makes you feel better, print out a copy of this PDF for reference. Then it’s not you that’s asking for a manager, it’s Pei Wei corporate themselves! :) I just tell the manager that I have an allergy to wheat (it’s easier than explaining Celiac or food sensitivities – they immediately get “allergy” and know to take it seriously).

Gluten-Free Gluten Tip: Remember to check for menu changes at any restaurant EVERY time you order! One thing I’ve learned in the time I’ve been gluten-free: better to be safe than sorry! A minute up front could save you DAYS of gluten-symptom misery.

Okay. Now on to the food. I’ll run down my experience with the Pei Wei Gluten Free Menu as of Nov, 2010:

…………………Gluten-Free Appetizers:…………………

These lovely little sources of protein are not only good for you, they’re super yummy! (For those of you who may not be familiar with Edamame, it’s soy beans boiled in their pods, then drained and salted. You put the whole pod in your mouth, suck the beans and salt out and then discard the shell.) Our 6-year-old son LOVES to eat edamame, which is quite a feat because he likes very few green veggies. But I think it’s the act of sucking the beans out that he likes -probably more than the actual bean taste!
At Pei Wei, Edamame can be prepared to be gluten-free, but you must actually say “Gluten-free Edamame” when ordering. If you’re interested in why, please read my “Pei Wei Gluten Free Edamame” post here). So always be sure to say “gluten-free” before everything you order.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls
These are absolutely delicious! Fresh rice paper wraps surrounding a beautiful combination of chicken, veggies, rice noodles and mint mixed in a light lime vinaigrette. They are nice and cool and light, and with three full rolls to an order this dish can be a shared appetizer or by itself is filling and satisfying enough to be a main dish. While the wraps themselves don’t need any modification to be gluten free, you DO need to make sure that they aren’t served with Thai peanut sauce.
Gluten Free Gluten Alert: Pei Wei peanut sauce contains gluten!
Additional Allergy Alert: always contains Tree Nuts, Peanuts & Corn

…………………Gluten-Free Salads: As of this post date, all the items in the Salad section can be prepared gluten-free! Yeay! (But remember, you must say “Gluten-free” when ordering – they all have gluten unless you request gf.)

Gluten-Free Asian Chopped Chicken Salad
This delicious salad has chicken, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, basil, tomatoes, and a yummy sesame ginger vinaigrette. It normally comes topped with gluten-FULL wontons, so it’s important to remind them you need gluten-free. Also make sure when it’s delivered that no wantons are present.
Additional Allergy Relief: can be prepared without Eggs and Sesame as well as gluten-free.
Additional Allergy Alert: always contains Corn

Gluten-Free Pei Wei Spicy Salad
A salad version of the Pei Wei Spicy entree, you can order your Gluten-free Pei Wei Spicy Salad with either GF Chicken or GF Shrimp. This delicious salad is comprised of lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, scallions, cilantro, rice sticks and tomatoes tossed in a lovely lime vinaigrette and topped with warm spicy chicken or shrimp. To make this gluten free, the meat is coated in potato starch and wok seared (Pei Wei says it’s “stock velveted”) so it becomes a crispy breaded fried yumminess. You can request that they modify the red pepper flake amount to accommodate your spice preference: mild, medium or hot (I get Mild… even Medium is too hot for me!). Request “no red pepper flakes” for a very sweet sauce that’s great for kids.
Additional Allergy Relief: can be prepared without Sesame as well as gluten-free.
Additional Allergy Alert: always contains Soy, Milk, Eggs, Shellfish, Corn, Sulfites & Legumes

…………………Gluten-Free Hot Entrees:…………………
Gluten-Free Pei Wei Spicy Entree
Just like the Pei Wei Spicy Salad, this hot entree can be ordered with gluten-free chicken or gluten-free shrimp. This is Pei Wei’s version of General Chu chicken: a spicy chile vinegar sauce, scallions, garlic, snap peas and carrots accompany your chicken or shrimp. Served with a generous portion of white or brown rice (both naturally gluten free), this hearty entree is large enough to share. And as with the Salad, you can choose your spice comfort level by requesting they modify the red pepper flake content. Ordering “No red pepper flakes” changes this “Pei Wei Spicy” into “Pei Wei Sweet” – making this a great option for gluten-free kids.
Additional Allergy Relief: can be prepared without Sesame as well as gluten-free.
Additional Allergy Alert: always contains Soy, Milk, Eggs, Shellfish, Corn, Sulfites & Legumes

Gluten-Free Sweet and Sour
As with the Pei Wei Spicy, this Cantonese-inspired dish can be ordered with gluten-free chicken or gluten-free shrimp. Gluten-Free Sweet and Sour is made of with a lovely sweet and sour sauce, red ginger, onions, green bell peppers, pineapple and a generous helping of white or brown rice.
Additional Allergy Alert: always contains Eggs & Corn

…………………List of All Gluten-Free Items at Pei Wei*:…………………
…………………… *according to the Pei Wei Nutrional Guide dated Sept 30, 2010
Edamame (must request gluten free)
Asian Chopped Chicken Salad (must request gluten free)
Pei Wei Spicy Chicken Salad
Pei Wei Spicy Shrimp Salad
Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls (no peanut sauce)
White Rice
Brown Rice
Rice Noodles
Sweet & Sour Chicken (must request gluten free)
Sweet & Sour Shrimp (must request gluten free)
Pei Wei Spicy Chicken (must request gluten free)
Pei Wei Spicy Shrimp (must request gluten free)
Sweet Chile Sauce
Lime Vinaigrette
Rice Sticks
Side of Vegetables

One final Pei Wei-specific tip: When your order is delivered, make sure the server says “Gluten Free” before the name of your dish. If they don’t say GF, don’t accept the plate!
Another Gluten-Free Gluten Tip: Pei Wei never uses any MSG in any of their food! So that’s one less thing we have to worry about looking for… :)

*** UPDATE: Check out my article on Gluten-Free Edamame at Pei Wei ***
To see more tips, check out my Gluten Free Restaurant Tips page.
Also check out my Gluten Free Restaurant Guide here.

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9 Responses to “Eating Gluten-Free at Pei Wei”

  1. Meredith 02/23/2014 at 8:56 AM #

    Pei Wei is a great option for GF. Like any restaurant, they can’t guarantee cross contamination. I’ve eaten at my local Pei Wei twice since going GF and ordered the same thing both times (GF sweet and sour chicken). The first time was great, the second time it was definitely contaminated. But I like it, so it’s worth another shot….. in a few months perhaps…

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  2. Jen Mansfield 05/30/2012 at 6:28 PM #

    I just ran across your post and wanted to share a link to my site where I feature Pei Wei (one of my faves!) and several other GF restaurants in case your readers are ever looking for a guide. I’d love the referral – keep up the good work!

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