If you’re following a gluten-free diet, you have to know that gluten is lurking everywhere. It’s in products you’d normally deem “gluten-free” – only to later be surprised it’s full of gluten!
Not all products list recognizable ingredients that you know to avoid, like wheat, barley, rye and oats. Gluten can be hidden in things like “natural flavors,” “malt,” or “modified food starch.” It can be difficult to spot, so you have to be a good consumer and avid label reader. When in doubt, don’t. There’s always a trusted gluten-free product options and oftentimes, you can make you own so you know it’s gluten free.
Here are 10 surprise not-gluten-free products that contain gluten. Make special note of these items when shopping g-free. Also note that some of the links to tried and true gluten-free products may contain affiliate links:
1. Soy Sauce: The name is so deceiving as you’d never suspect soy sauce contains gluten. Guess what? About 40% of a bottle of your average soy sauce is made from wheat! Avoid this stuff like the plague or feel like you got the plague after eating it. Instead, buy gluten-free soy sauce* or tamari – same taste, no wheat. Easy.
2. Imitation Crab and Bacon: Did you know that most imitation crab contains wheat? There are some brands that are gluten-free, such as Trans-Ocean, which you can get at Kroger stores, and Dyna Sea (which is Kosher too), but many imitation brands are not gluten-free at all! The imitation crab I saw the other day at Whole Foods (I already forgot the name though) had wheat in the ingredient listing. As for imitation bacon bits, some contain gluten. Durkee brand clearly lists “wheat gluten” on its packaging, while Hormel says its bacon bits has no gluten containing ingredients.
3. Salad Dressing: If you’re trying to eat healthy and enjoy salads, good for you. The bad news is some salad dressings contain gluten. About.com’s Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity expert provides a good list of the gluten-free salad dressing options. Always read labels and when in doubt, don’t. Remember, you could just make your own dressing with a little oil, vinegar, lemon squeeze, fresh minced garlic and a little S&P. Better for you and less preservatives, sugar and other crappy ingredients.
4. BBQ Sauces: I never understood how something that should contain simple, clean ingredients can contain gluten, but unfortunately some do. For BBQ sauce, check labels carefully (they change often!) and when in doubt, don’t! Few BBQ sauces are certified gluten-free by a third party gluten-free certification program. However, some I trust include Stubb’s BBQ* (says, “gluten-free ingredients,” and contains no high fructose corn syrup), Annie’s Naturals* (website says “naturally gluten-free,” meaning no gluten ingredients) and Organicville* (certified organic – nice!).
5. Licorice: Sorry GFers, Twizzlers are most certainly not a gluten-free product. The ingredient label clearly states it contains “enriched wheat flour“. Bummer, right? Gluten Free on a Shoestring has a gluten-free licorice recipe on her blog if you’re willing to experiment and spend some time shopping for the right ingredients. I also found gluten-free licorice* made by YumEarth. It is certified GF but read the label and disclosure statements carefully. YumEarth licorice says, “Contains wheat that has been processed to allow this food to meet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for gluten-free foods.” It is certified GF – but you have to be the judge!
6. Gravy: Take a look at the Heinz gravy container – it clearly states wheat flour (and a slew of other crappy ingredients) on the ingredient listing. Heinz gravy is not a gluten-free product! There are some gluten-free gravy brands, such as Simply Organic Turkey Gravy*, that are safe to eat. You could always just make your own gravy too.
7. Lip Balms: Even though you don’t technically eat lip balm, it is on your lips and obviously ingested. Therefore, you must use a lip balm that is gluten-free if you’re highly sensitive to gluten or have Celiac disease. The popular balm brands, like Burt’s Bees and Chapstick give convoluted answers about whether they’re gluten-free or not on their websites (I do use Burt’s Bees and have not gotten sick though). Lip Balm by Red Apple* is certified gluten-free (NICE!), and another trusted GF brand is Carmex. I explored this topic further in this post as I’m a lip balm addict!
Along the same lines, make sure your lipstick is gluten-free. I use certified gluten-free lipstick by Gabriel Cosmetics in Copper Glaze* and LOVE LOVE LOVE it (I’m wearing it in the photo you see to the right of this post.) Red Apple Lipsticks* are also certified gluten-free, so check them out too!
8. Flavored Coffees and Teas: Some flavored coffees may have gluten or come in contact with gluten during processing. Cross contamination can also occur if you use the store’s coffee grinder. The Internet talks about tea bags being sealed with wheat paste, but I haven’t been able to independently confirm this. Here is a list of gluten-free tea brands thanks to About.com. I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about coffee creamers too. International Delight says on its website that its creamers do not contain gluten. Coffee-Mate says on its website that its Natural Bliss brand does not contain gluten. Some creamers contain gluten, especially cheap brands and flavored creamers. Check labels carefully!
9. Matzah: Jewish people eat matzah, or unleavened bread, to commemorate their hasty exodus from Egypt. The Jews didn’t have time for their bread to rise before they left. While it might seem like unleavened bread wouldn’t have wheat, matzah clearly does contains wheat flour. That’s because at the seder, Jews must eat one of the five grains mentioned in the Torah (as discussed in my Challah recipe article) in order to complete the mitzvah of eating matzah. While you can purchase gluten-free matzah in a box, if it’s going to be eaten during Passover, make sure it contains certified GF oat flour, as that is the only one of the five mentioned grains in the Torah that Celiacs can eat and therefore complete the mitzvah of taking matzah (Jewish people will understand this). Most boxed matzah contains potato flour and no oat flour. If that happens, just abstain from performing the mitzvah. You can read more about this topic on Chabad.org. Nothing like a little Jewish GF guilt, right?
10. Rice Krispies: You’d think a product made from rice would be gluten-free, but Kellogg’s Rice Krispies are treated with “malt flavor.” Malt comes from barley. Forget those darn Rice Krispies for good and support boutique brands like Nature’s Path Crispy Rice Cereal*, Erewhon brown rice cereal*, or Enjoy Life’s Crunchy Rice cereal*. I also enjoy eating Crunchy Flax by Enjoy Life* and don’t miss Rice Krispies at all!
While you’re here, download my FREE cheat sheet titled, “100 Alternative Names for Gluten.” It also includes a list of GF alcohols that are safe for you to drink too.
I’m certain this list needs to be longer. Gluten is lurking everywhere! If you know of a non-gluten-free product with “hidden” gluten, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will update this post periodically as I know and learn more.
- Deciphering Gluten Free Certifications and Seals: This article discusses how you can become a better label reader. It explains the various gluten-free third party certification programs, the FDA requirements for gluten-free labeling and more.
- What Does “May Contain Wheat” Mean?”: This article discusses what the confusing label, “May Contain Wheat” really means.
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