This post will detail a controversial topic in the gluten-free community, and that is whether or not spices can be trusted to be gluten free and safe for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities cannot eat gluten. In many cases, even a crumb of gluten makes these individuals extremely sick.
This has lead many people in the gluten-free community to wonder if their seemingly innocent-looking jars of spices contain only the spice in question, or bits of gluten as well.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the gluten-free community’s worst fears when it put spices to the gluten test.
The agency tested 268 ground single ingredient spices and found that 63 samples (24 percent) contained “detectable levels” of gluten ranging from 5 ppm to 20,000 ppm.
Mind you, however, the agency goes on to say that 62 of the samples contained a level of gluten that “would not pose a risk to a sensitive individual.”
Regardless, this study is a cautionary tale that even innocent, single-ingredient spices may contain “detectable” levels of gluten, levels which may be set off an inflammatory cascade in someone with celiac disease, or fuel the inflammatory fire in someone with gluten sensitivity.
In this article, I will discuss the following:
- What it takes for a spice to be considered – or labeled – gluten free.
- A complete list of spice brands and their claims when it comes to gluten.
- A list of gluten-free taco seasoning mixes (I’m asked about taco seasoning mixes a lot).
What Does It Take for a Spice to Be Considered Gluten Free?
For a manufacturer to label a store-bought spice as “gluten free,” it cannot contain any gluten-containing ingredients, and it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten per the FDA’s gluten-free labeling guidelines.
For a store-bought spice to be labeled “certified gluten-free,” it must be third-party verified to contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, and some certifying agencies even require stricter protocols, calling for a product to contain less than 10 ppm.
When you look at a spice jar and see only a single ingredient (i.e. basil), but don’t see a “gluten-free” disclosure, you may wonder if the spice is safe to consume.
Related Reading: What Does “May Contain Wheat” Mean?
What Spice Brands Are Gluten Free?
Below is a list of the leading spice manufacturers and each one’s stance on gluten.
I inquired about Durkee spices to B&G Foods, Inc., its parent company (and the parent company for Spice Island, and Tone’s products too). B&G said:
“We do not maintain a list of gluten-free spices nor are we currently testing for gluten. However, single ingredient spices (those that contain only spices and do not have any additional ingredients) are inherently gluten free.
“We have a strong allergen clean out policy that has been validated to ensure that there is no allergen cross contamination at the plant. Since ingredients and facilities may change from time to time, always check the label on a specific product for current ingredient and allergen information.”
The company says that while its spices are naturally gluten free, the company does not test for gluten in all products.
“We don’t make gluten-free claims for any other products because even tiny amounts of gluten can be a problem, and these may be present in our facility or the facilities of our suppliers.”
Great Value (Walmart)
Walmart has increasingly elevated its gluten-free offerings over the years, and even its store brand, Great Value, offers many GF-labeled products.
I was unable to find out which Great Value spices, specifically, are gluten free, however, if the product is labeled “gluten free,” Walmart says the product has been validated.
Verdict: Maybe, and only if labeled
McCormick says gluten and gluten products, when present, will always be declared on the product label by the common name of the gluten source such as barley, wheat, rye, oats or triticale.
The company adds that if any product has a gluten-free claim on the label, the product and the manufacturing line has been “validated” gluten free.
McCormick recommends customers read the ingredient statement on each individual product to ensure the most accurate, up-to-date information as product formulas may change.
McCormick adds, “Our McCormick facilities have allergen, sanitation, and hygiene programs in place. Our employees follow good manufacturing practices and are trained in the importance of correct labeling and the necessity of performing thorough equipment clean-up and change over procedures to minimize cross-contact of ingredients.
Verdict: Yes, look for the gluten-free claim on individual spices.
Morton & Bassett Spices
Pioneer does not made jarred spices, per se, but it does make a handful of seasoning mixes that are certified gluten free, including its taco seasoning mix, brown gravy mix, and chili seasoning mix.
Simply Organic spices are manufactured by Frontier Co-Op, and some – not all – of the spices are certified gluten free by the GFCO.
As mentioned prior, Frontier Co-Op spices, while naturally gluten free, are not tested nor guaranteed to be gluten free. See “Frontier Co-Op” for additional information.
Verdict: Yes, if labeled gluten free
See statement under “Durkee”.
Spicely says all its spices are produced in a dedicated, gluten-free facility and are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group.
Spicely spices do not contain gluten, nor come in contact with any ingredients that do.
This is the ONLY full-line of certified gluten-free spices I’m aware of, and you can purchase them in some grocery stores and on Amazon.
The Spice Hunter
The Spice Hunter says on its website, “Our spices and spice blends do not contain gluten. Our Organic Dip & Seasoning Mixes, Turkey Brines, and Global Fusion Rubs are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group.”
The Spice Hunter also lists the following spices on its website as certified gluten free:
Verdict: Yes, if labeled gluten free
See statement under “Durkee”.
Trader Joe’s says on its website that if any of its products claim to be “gluten free,” that the product has been validated to contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.
The grocery chain also provides a comprehensive list of gluten-free products on its website, and no spice is included on that list.
When I inspected the spice labels at Trader Joe’s, I did not see any gluten listed. As a result, I decided to test four random spices with my Nima Sensor for hidden gluten. A Nima Sensor is a portable gluten detecting device that enables you to test a small portion of your food for hidden gluten.
Related Reading: 13 Things You Need to Know about the Nima Sensor
To accurately test each spice, I added a few drops of water to the test capsule to dilute the spices as instructed by the Nima Sensor user manual. Here is what I found:
Please note I tested the cumin twice, just to make sure it indeed contained gluten, which it does based on both tests.
Gluten-Free Taco Seasonings
I get a lot of question about which taco seasoning mixes are gluten free. While I like to make my own (it’s simply a mix of chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic and salt), I understand the convenience and ease of using a taco seasoning mix for taco night.
The following brands make gluten-free taco seasoning mixes:
- Durkee Taco Mex Seasoning, as pictured here
- Pioneer Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning – certified GF
- McCormick Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning
- Spice Island Premium Taco Seasoning
Lawry’s taco seasoning mix contains wheat flour and is not gluten free. Mrs. Dash Taco Seasoning mix contains ingredients that may or may not be gluten free and should be avoided.
I know so many of you have wondered if your spices are gluten free. It’s definitely hard to know what brands you can trust these days.
However, the gluten-free community can take solace in the following:
One, there are many gluten-free labeled spices, and many are even certified gluten-free like those from Spicely. When you cook at home, you know you can at least cook with safe spices.
Two, the vast majority of spices on the market do not contain gluten, and if they do, they typically contain a trace amount of it. That trace amount of gluten inside a large meal may mean you’re consuming less than 20 ppm of gluten in one sitting.
Always read labels, contact the manufacturer when uncertain, and use fresh spices whenever possible.
I hope this helps to ease your mind about what spices are – and aren’t – safe for you to enjoy.
Before You Go
Wait, before you go, please take a moment to take a look at my gluten-free meal planning service.
I provide a complete meal plan, with recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, for you, pulling upon my database of 1,700+ recipes! You could say I take the guesswork out of eating gluten free at home.
- I tested a handful of Kirkland brand products from Costco – see the results here.
- I tested 13 products from Trader Joe’s for hidden gluten – see the results here.
- I tested more than a dozen gluten-free frozen pizzas for hidden gluten – see the results here.
- I tested over a dozen spices for hidden gluten – see the results here. (Please note I published this article on the Nima Sensor blog.)