What does “gluten-free” mean?
Gluten is the protein in wheat, barley and rye. But even if a product doesn’t have the words wheat, barley or rye in the ingredient list, it might still not be gluten-free. It might have gluten hidden in “natural flavors.” Or the product might be contaminated with gluten from being produced on the same equipment or in the same facility as gluten-containing foods. Until the government defines the term “gluten-free,” we have to read ingredients and ask questions. Here’s how I know when a product is gluten-free.
Is beer gluten-free?
No! Traditionally, beer is made from malted barley, hops, water and yeast. There are many gluten-free beers on the market today, though. They are usually made from sorghum, a gluten-free grain, instead of barley.
Is chocolate gluten-free?
Usually! Most chocolates are gluten-free. Cacao, the most basic ingredient in chocolate, is naturally gluten-free. But chocolates all have other ingredients added to them which may contain gluten, such as wheat. If you’re thinking about making your own gluten-free chocolate, try my recipe for dairy-free gluten-free white chocolate. It’s way better than anything you could buy ready-made!
Is rice gluten-free?
Yes! Rice is always gluten-free, unless it has been contaminated with gluten in growing or in manufacturing. I really like Lundberg Family Farms rice products, as the safe ones are labeled “gluten-free.”
Is corn gluten-free?
Yes! Corn is always gluten-free, unless it has been contaminated with gluten in growing or in manufacturing. Be especially careful when you buy corn products like masa harina, used to make corn tortillas and pupusas, as the most common brands are usually contaminated. I like Bob’s Red Mill’s certified gluten-free masa harina and stone-ground cornmeal, and De la Estancia brand quick-cooking corn polenta.
Is pasta gluten-free?
Be careful! Regular pasta is made from wheat flour, so it isn’t gluten-free. But there are plenty of pastas made from other grains, like rice, quinoa and corn, that are certified gluten-free products. I really like Sam Mills gluten free corn pasta.
Is butter gluten-free?
Yes! Pure butter is always gluten free. Butter spreads and other butter substitutes are often gluten-free, but read carefully and use my tips for determining whether or not the product is gluten-free.
Is spelt gluten-free?
No! Spelt is an ancient form of wheat. It is absolutely not gluten-free. Some people who are gluten-free because they have a wheat allergy can tolerate spelt even though they cannot tolerate wheat, but if you are gluten-free, you cannot have spelt ever. There are companies that make gluten-free products, like Rudis, who also make products with spelt. Be careful you don’t buy the wrong product!
Are meat & chicken gluten-free?
Yes! Pure beef, pure chicken, turkey, fish and every type of animal protein, in all its various forms, are gluten-free. But be careful! Sausages that contain meat mixed with fillers may contain gluten, as may already-prepared meatballs, stuffed chicken, and hamburgers.