I get a lot of questions about which mainstream cereal brands are gluten free, and today I’m putting each cereal to the test to see which are gluten free, and which contain hidden gluten – ick! Read this article to get the full scoop on all your favorite brands – from Lucky Charms and Cheerios to Kix and Fruity Pebbles. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
Have you ever wondered which of your favorite cereal brands are still safe to eat now that you’re on a gluten-free diet?
Is Raisin Bran gluten free? And what about Special K, Crispix and Cocoa Pebbles?
In this article, I share which mainstream brands of cereal are gluten free, and many of them I put to the test too. We’ll find out which cereals are gluten free, and which are full of gluten.
People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities cannot eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. Gluten destroys the lining of the small intestine in people with celiac disease, causing nutritional deficiencies and a slew of disorders. It also creates inflammation and leaky gut in the 18 million people suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Did you know that gluten creates inflammation in all humans? It’s true and you can read more about it in this article, Does Gluten Cause Inflammation in Everyone?
While gluten is clearly found in many cereals you love like Frosted Mini Wheat (duh, wheat is in the title), it’s not so clear if it’s found in products that do not include wheat, barley or rye.
I decided to investigate all the questionable cereals to see if they are gluten free or full of gluten. My results are detailed below.
How I Determined if a Cereal is Gluten Free
To determine if a cereal is gluten free, I looked at the following criteria:
- Packaging: I first looked at the product packaging. Does it have any “gluten-free” claims on the packaging?
- Ingredient List: Next, I looked at the ingredient list. Does the ingredient list contain wheat, barley, rye, oats or derivatives of these ingredients such as malt (barley).
- Research: If I still questioned if a cereal was gluten free, I researched the brand online, carefully inspecting the company’s website.
- Nima Sensor Test: Finally, I used my Nima Sensor to test each cereal.
What’s a Nima Sensor?
A Nima Sensor is a portable gluten-detecting device that allows you to test a small portion of your food for hidden gluten.
If the device displays a smiley face, it means the portion tested does not contain gluten. If you see a wheat symbol and “Gluten Found” message, it means it contains gluten. You can learn more about the Nima Sensor in my article, 13 Things You Need to Know About the Nima Sensor.
Before investing in a Nima Sensor, please note that a new gluten-detecting device, the ALLIS Sensor, is about to make its way into the marketplace. It may be worth waiting to see how ALLIS compares to Nima before you buy one over the other. The ALLIS Sensor is set to come out in late 2021 or early 2022.
Also note that I only tested cereals that appeared to be gluten free and did not contain any gluten or disclaimers that hinted it may contain gluten.
For example, Cocoa Puffs does not appear to contain any gluten ingredients, however, the bottom of the ingredient list says, “May Contain Wheat Ingredients.” Therefore, I would not eat nor test this cereal.
You can click on any of the links below to automatically redirect to the cereal in question, or simply scroll down to see how each cereal performed:
- Are Cheerios Gluten Free?
- Are Chex Gluten Free?
- Is Crispix Gluten Free?
- Is Kix Gluten Free?
- Are Fruity Pebbles Gluten Free?
- Are Lucky Charms Gluten Free?
- Is Trix Gluten Free?
- Are Reese’s Puffs Gluten Free?
- Cereals to Avoid
Are Cheerios Gluten Free?
I’m often asked if Cheerios are gluten free because there is a lot of confusion about the brand. A lot of people with celiac disease refuse to eat it.
Cheerios are not only labeled gluten free, but also each packaging also displays, “Proud sponsor of the Celiac Disease Foundation.” As you know, when the Celiac Disease Foundation accepts money from Cheerios, it is clearly endorsing the product as safe for people with celiac disease.
On top of the gluten-free label and the endorsement from the Celiac Disease Foundation, I independently tested Cheerios for hidden gluten. The Nima Sensor did not detect any gluten (a smiley face means no gluten found).
Still, some people in the celiac disease community are wary of Cheerios. I have been skeptical myself, although I think that feeling is waning. To be honest with you, I believe everyone should be able to make their own decision about the safety of Cheerios without being judged or shamed.
The reason many people in the celiac disease community are skeptical of Cheerios is because General Mills uses commodity oats to make its cereal. Oats, while naturally gluten free, are often cross contaminated with gluten throughout the harvesting and manufacturing processes. You can read more about it in this article, Are Oats Gluten Free?“
General Mills, like other companies, optically or mechanically sorts its commodity oats to remove the oat grain from any potential gluten grains that might have contaminated the crop.
While using commodity oats is commonplace, many people in the celiac disease community say that General Mills does not properly test each batch of Cheerios to ensure each batch meets the FDA’s threshold of containing less than 20 ppm of gluten.
On top of that, after Cheerios announced to the world in 2015 that it was now a gluten-free cereal, it experienced a devastating “human error” that led to the contamination and recall of nearly 2 million boxes of Cheerios. These boxes where contaminated with wheat. The distrust in the company ensued, and many people with celiac disease swore off the brand.
Please note that not all Cheerios are labeled gluten free. If you decide Cheerios are right for you, you must look for the “gluten free” label on the packaging. The current flavors listed as gluten free include:
- Apple Cinnamon Cheerios
- Banana Nut Cheerios (limited edition)
- Blueberry Cheerios
- Chocolate Cheerios
- Chocolate Strawberry Cheerios (limited edition)
- Cinnamon Cheerios
- Honey Nut Cheerios
- Frosted Cheerios
- Fruity Cheerios
- Maple Cheerios
- Multi-Grain Cheerios
- Peach Cheerios (limited edition)
- Pumpkin Spice Cheerios (limited edition)
- Toasted Coconut Cheerios
- Very Berry Cheerios
Please note that Cheerios found in Canada are not labeled gluten free whereas in the U.S., they are clearly marked.
Is Chex Gluten Free?
One cereal brand that is proud to be gluten free is Chex. You can clearly see the “Gluten Free” label written in large print across most Chex cereal boxes.
You can enjoy all Chex cereals except for the Wheat Chex. Looked for boxes labeled “gluten free” to be extra certain you’re buying one of the gluten-free varieties.
Gluten-free Chex varieties include:
- Apple Cinnamon Chex
- Blueberry Chex
- Chocolate Chex
- Cinnamon Chex Cereal
- Corn Chex
- Honey Nut Chex
- Rice Chex
- Vanilla Chex
I did not test Chex for hidden gluten because it is clearly labeled “gluten free.”
Is Crispix Gluten Free?
Crispix cereal is made of crunchy corn on one side and crispy rice on the other. It’s not labeled gluten free.
Crispix ingredients include rice, milled corn, sugar, salt, molasses, brown rice syrup, baking soda, and turmeric extract. None of the ingredients noted seem to contain gluten, however, brown rice syrup may contain gluten despite its innocuous name.
Learn more about why brown rice syrup may contain gluten in my article, Is Yeast Extract Gluten Free and 20+ Other Confusing Ingredients.
Sure enough, Crispix tested positive for gluten when put to the Nima Sensor test. See that wheat symbol and “Gluten Found” message? That means Nima found gluten.
Here’s an upclose picture of the Nima Sensor’s “Gluten Found” message.
Is Kix Gluten Free?
Kix cereal is basically a slightly sweetened crispy corn puff. While Kix is not labeled gluten free, nor could I find any gluten-free information about Kix on the Kix website, it doesn’t look like Kix contains any gluten-y ingredients.
Kix is made from whole grain corn, corn meal, sugar, salt, brown sugar syrup, and baking soda. As you can see, Nima is all smiles, which means the device did not find any hidden gluten.
Are Fruity Pebbles Gluten Free?
Yes, Fruity Pebbles are gluten free and labeled as such too. The “Gluten Free” label is seen on the side panel of the cereal box and under the ingredient list.
Fruity Pebbles are made from rice, sugar, oil and a whole bunch of food dye. No gluten in sight, and Nima is all smiles, assuring me that it’s gluten free.
Please note that Cocoa Pebbles are also labeled gluten free and safe to consume on a gluten-free diet.
Are Lucky Charms Gluten Free?
Yes, according to the Lucky Charms website, the Original Lucky Charms cereal is gluten free even though the cereal contains commodity oats. Again, while oats are naturally gluten free, they are highly cross contaminated with wheat during the harvesting and manufacturing processes.
Lucky Charms says, “First, we check the oats after sifting to make sure they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Then, we check it again after the oats are milled into flour. We always ship the flour to our plants in our fleet of dedicated gluten-free trucks and rail cars. Lastly, after the flour is baked into Original Lucky Charms cereal, we check one last time to ensure [it’s] gluten-free.”
I put Lucky Charms to the Nima Sensor test, and Nima was all smiles, again, telling me it didn’t find any hidden gluten.
Please note that Chocolate Lucky Charms and Fruity Lucky Charms are NOT gluten free. General Mills only guarantees that its Original Lucky Charms will contain less than 20 ppm of gluten. Look for the “gluten-free” claim on individual packages of Original Lucky Charms.
Is Trix Gluten Free?
While not labeled gluten free, Trix cereal does not contain any gluten ingredients. In fact, it’s made from whole grain corn, sugar, rice flour, corn syrup, oil and food coloring.
I tested Trix with my Nima Sensor to see if it contained any hidden gluten. Nima came back with a smile (no gluten found).
Are Reese’s Puffs Gluten Free?
Reese’s Puffs cereal is made of sweet and crunchy corn puffs coated with peanut butter. Obviously if you have a peanut allergy, you should avoid this cereal.
The cereal box isn’t marked gluten free, however, the ingredient list, which includes whole grain corn, sugar, Reese’s peanut butter, dextrose, corn meal, corn syrup, oil and artificial flavors, does not include any gluten-y ingredients. (Note, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are gluten free – you can read more about it in my Gluten-Free Candy Guide.)
I tested Reese’s Puffs for hidden gluten with my Nima Sensor, and Nima came back with a smile (no gluten found).
Avoid these Cereals that Contain Gluten
Cereals that state they contain gluten, and should be avoided, include:
- Apple Jacks (contains wheat flour – avoid)
- Cap’N Crunch or Captain Crunch (contains non-GF oat flour – avoid)
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch (contains wheat – avoid)
- Cocoa Puffs (at the bottom of the ingredient list, you’ll notice that it says, “May contain wheat ingredients.”)
- Corn Flakes (contains barley malt extract – avoid)
- Corn Pops (contains wheat – avoid)
- Cream of Wheat (contains wheat – avoid)
- Frosted Flakes (contains malt flavor (barley) – avoid)
- Frosted Mini Wheats (contains wheat – avoid)
- Fruit Loops (contains wheat – avoid)
- Honey Bunches of Oats (contains malt extract (barley) and non-GF oats)
- Kashi (contains wheat – avoid)
- Life (contains wheat – avoid)
- Lucky Charms – (while the Original Lucky Charms are gluten free, the Chocolate and Fruity varieties are NOT)
- Raisin Bran (contains wheat – avoid)
- Rice Krispies (contains barley malt – avoid) – please note that you can find gluten-free Rice Krispies in Canada. Look for “gluten-free” labeled boxes.
- Shredded Wheat (contains wheat – avoid)
- Special K (contains wheat – avoid)
Gluten-Free Cereal Swaps
If you miss your favorite cereal from your pre-GF days, here are a few gluten-free cereals to try instead.
Be sure to always look for the “gluten-free” label on individual packaging. Not all cereals from these brands are gluten free.
Crispy Rice Cereal (Kroger): Kroger brand of Crispy Rice cereal is the perfect Rice Krispies swap as it’s gluten free and works well when making rice crispy treats.
Love Grown Foods: Love Grown cereals are made with beans and come in a variety of kid-friendly shapes and flavors. These are great for picky kids and discerning parents looking for a less sugary alternative to Fruity Pebbles. It’s also the perfect Fruit Loops alternative.
Magic Spoon: Magic Spoon is a kid-friendly cereal that says it’s high in protein and low in carbs. It’s grain free and made with a blend of milk protein, tapioca starch and peanut flour. It makes for a good Fruit Loops swap too.
Nature’s Path: Try Nature’s Path Mega Sunrise Flakes. It’s certified gluten free and make a great substitute for Special K or Corn Flakes lovers.
One Degree Organics: One Degree makes sprouted rice cereals and sprout O-shaped cereals. It makes for a good Rice Krispies and Cheerios alternatives.
Three Wishes Cereal: Three Wishes makes a grain-free cereal with chickpeas as the main ingredient. It comes in Honey, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Unsweetened and Fruity varieties. If you’re worried about Cheerios, Three Wishes is a great alternative.
Am I missing any cereals you love? Please leave a comment to share. I will update this article with new information as I have it.
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