When I had to go gluten-free four years ago, I was immediately sad about not eating bread, pasta, and the like anymore. I couldn't eat the flowery birthday cakes at a friend's party or my dad's epic meat lasagna or participate in some kinds of social eating (no more sharing food without having to wonder if it was something that I was allergic to, that's for sure). I had to read labels and be careful and always ask questions.
Over time, it got easier, and now it's barely a second thought. Many people go gluten-free for health reasons or they choose to eat this way because they feel better and have more energy. Those avoiding gluten have a general idea of what foods have the stretchy protein. Bread is an obvious one along with anything that clearly has wheat, like cake and muffins and cookies and pastries. But there is a whole world of food out there, and there are some nuances that are not quite so obvious.
Whether we're gluten-free ourselves or have a friend or family member who has to avoid the stuff, we might not actually be sure about what does and what doesn't have gluten. Read on to find out 12 foods that are surprisingly gluten-free, along with 12 foods that actually aren't.
24 Gluten-Free: Potatoes
Potatoes are a surprisingly gluten-free food. Funny story: the first time my now fiance made dinner for me, he Googled whether potatoes have gluten. People who are gluten-free know that they're totally safe to eat, but it might not be so obvious at first.
According to Women's Health, people assume that going gluten-free is like going low-carb or they just think that all carbs have gluten or wheat. Potatoes are actually fine, though, and that's good news because they're such a perfect side dish. It's hard to imagine enjoying some roast chicken or beef without a hearty side of salty roasted potatoes or creamy mashed ones.
23 Not Gluten-Free: Blue Cheese
This Is Insider says that not all blue cheese is gluten-free because some have wheat.
This is definitely surprising because we think of cheese (and dairy in general) as being gluten-free and safe to eat if someone has to avoid the stuff. If you have to remove gluten from your diet but you can still eat cheese, that's great news and makes the transition a bit easier. While blue cheese isn't for everyone, many people enjoy the strong flavor (make that super strong) and it's a nice addition to cheese plates or boards along with salami, nuts, and fruit for a party (or just you).
22 Gluten-Free: Other Grains (Besides Wheat, Of Course)
Those who go gluten-free absolutely have to stop eating wheat since, of course, it has gluten. But there are many other grains that don't have gluten at all. It might be surprising to learn this since we might think that all grains are off limits, but that's not the case at all.
Quinoa, oats, millet, sorghum, corn, and teff (among many others) are gluten-free grains.
So many foods are still on the table when we look at how many grains don't have gluten. We can enjoy a side of quinoa with dinner, oatmeal for breakfast, corn tortillas (which opens up the wonderful world of tacos) and anything else that strikes our fancy.
21 Not Gluten-Free: Salad Dressing
Does salad dressing have gluten in it? If you make it at home, then chances are you're just adding olive oil (or another type of oil), an acid like balsamic vinegar, some maple syrup or another sweetener, and lemon, along with salt and pepper. If you buy salad dressing at the grocery store, however, it's possible that there is some gluten in that bottle.
As Glutenfree Society says, "Also be aware that many gravies and salad dressings are thickened with gluten containing flours and grains."
This is why it's such a good idea to read labels when you have to go gluten-free (or if you're cooking for a friend or family member who avoids gluten).
20 Gluten-Free: Potato Chips
Potato chips need no introduction. We're all big on these salty and crispy circles of perfection.
According to Forkly, potato chips are a gluten-free food, which might surprise us. We might assume that most packaged snacks have gluten since we think that they would have additives or fillers. For the most part, potato chips that are plain and don't have any crazy flavors are gluten-free, along with corn or tortilla chips. Thankfully, it'll say gluten-free on the label. This is good news for those of us who have to avoid gluten but don't want to avoid one of the best foods that ever existed.
19 Not Gluten-Free: Canned/Packaged Soup
As Celiac.org advises, buying packaged or canned soup can mean buying a product that has gluten in it. This is especially true if it's a cream soup.
While it might be sad at first to realize that there are so many foods that you have to be careful about, it does make you a better cook since you have to make a lot of things yourself. And since soup is such a warming, delicious food in the middle of winter, you're just going to have to become an expert soup maker. It's good to turn a negative into a positive, right?
18 Gluten-Free: Candy
Candy is a nostalgic food for many of us. We remember running around our neighborhood on chilly Halloween nights, trying to get as many of our favorite chocolate bars as we could. Sometimes, when we're having a bad day, we can't help but reach for sour worms or some caramel-filled chocolate. What can we say? Candy is a sweet treat that is tough to resist.
We might assume that all candy is a no-go when we're gluten-free, but Very Well Fit mentions some brands of candy which are gluten-free. Many types of M&Ms and Hersey's chocolates don't have gluten, although reading the package is the best bet because some flavors might have the stuff. There is still a long list to choose from though. Tootsie Pops and Junior Mints (for all those Seinfeld fans) are also gluten-free.
17 Not Gluten-Free: Hot Dogs
It's not super surprising that a hot dog bun has gluten in it since, of course, that's a wheat product. We know to stay away from anything that has bread in it, including any type of roll, pastry, muffin, cake, and so on.
According to Everyday Health, even the hot dog itself could have gluten in it.
The best thing to do is read the package of every brand of hot dog in the store, and you should be able to locate at least one brand that doesn't have gluten, if not more. But it's good to know that this can be in some brands of these popular summertime barbeque staples.
16 Gluten-Free: Buckwheat
I hadn't even heard of buckwheat before I changed my diet and went down the rabbit hole of healthy food, like chia and hemp seeds and oatmeal bowls with all the toppings (peanut butter always being the best one). Buckwheat might have "wheat in the name" but, as Celiac.org says, it's actually gluten-free.
Buckwheat can be used for pancakes, waffles, or any baked good. Although it seems like it's a grain, it's a seed: as The Huffington Post says, "The edible portion is a seed from a plant related to greens like rhubarb and sorrel." It's really good for you and has lots of B vitamins.
15 Not Gluten-Free: Imitation Crab Meat
Fish doesn't have gluten in it, along with any other kind of animal protein, so it would seem like crab is gluten-free as well. What about imitation crab meat? Does that have gluten?
As it turns out, as Reader's Digest points out, imitation crab meat has gluten in it because wheat or gluten binds it. This is definitely something that is good for gluten-free eaters to remember. Gluten/wheat is often used as a binder in many products and that's why you will see it on the label, even if it seems like it's a product that shouldn't have any gluten at all.
14 Gluten-Free: Many Brands Of Gum
Gum seems like it could go either way when it comes to whether it's gluten-free or full of the stuff. On the one hand, we might think that it has gluten since it's a packaged product and many products have this listed as an ingredient. On the other hand, if many types of candy are gluten-free, it seems like gum would be as well.
According to Urban Tastebud, there are lots of gluten-free gums to choose from, including Juicy Fruit and Hubba Bubba. That's great news for anyone who loves to chew gum during the day or in between meals.
13 Not Gluten-Free: Ice Cream
Ice cream: it's the greatest food ever after a break-up, a bad day, or just when that craving comes on and there's nothing to do but grab a cone (or a pint) of mint chocolate chip (or chocolate or vanilla if that's more your thing).
Ice cream has to be gluten-free, right? Most dairy is, and it doesn't seem like there would be gluten or wheat in this frozen treat. According to Healthline, some ice cream isn't gluten-free because it could have chemicals added that have gluten.
Cookie dough ice cream is delicious... and also full of gluten since it's got cookie dough in it, so that's something to keep in mind, too.
12 Gluten-Free: Most Mayo And Mustard
What's a hot dog or hamburger without ketchup and mustard? What's egg salad, deviled eggs, or chicken salad without mayo? What's any sandwich without these two condiments, really?
It's basically a rhetorical question, but we'll answer it anyway and say that we definitely need these things in our lives.
Mayo and mustard are two surprisingly gluten-free condiments, according to Eating Well. It's always smart to look at the label because, of course, there could be some gluten if it's a certain flavor (particularly in the case of mustard), but for the most part, these condiments don't have gluten. Phew, right?!
11 Not Gluten-Free: Soy Sauce
I remember being pretty surprised that soy sauce has gluten/wheat when I first started avoiding gluten. Now, it's like second nature and I'm used to it, but back then, it wasn't something that I had assumed.
This Is Insider explains that when soy sauce is brewed, that is done with wheat, so that's why there is gluten in the stuff.
Not all hope is lost, however: you can buy tamari, which is a sauce that has soy and can be used the same way. You can find gluten-free brands and be a happy camper and you don't have to say goodbye to too many of your favorite dishes.
10 Gluten-Free: Chocolate
Who doesn't love chocolate?! Whether we have a favorite bar or enjoy some high-quality dark chocolate, we all love this sweet stuff and probably spend a lot of time dreaming about it. It's impossible not to adore chocolate. Many people are such big fans that they can't even think about dessert that isn't chocolate-based.
Eating Well puts chocolate into the gluten-free category, as long as gluten hasn't been put into the product. Again, looking at labels is the smartest idea, but for the most part, many chocolate is free of gluten. We can also easily find chocolate that is vegan or free of dairy if that's a consideration as well.
9 Not Gluten-Free: Sausages
Ground beef, steak, chicken, salmon and other fish: these animal proteins are gluten-free. What about sausages? We would probably think that they are gluten-free as well since it's just meat.
Well, it's actually not just meat: as SF Gate says, some sausages have fillers, and those have gluten.
Thankfully, there are brands that don't have gluten, and we can find them (or order them from the meat counter at a grocery store and just ask about whether these are gluten-free). We can still enjoy a sausage on a (gluten-free) bun in the summertime or cook up some sausage and peppers and onions in the winter.
8 Gluten-Free: Spices And Herbs
It's hard to imagine a hot, steaming bowl of beef chili on a cold winter or fall day without all of those spices that make it so delicious, or a plate of pasta with pesto on it without the herbs that make it so bright green and amazing.
Healthline says that spices and herbs are gluten-free. That makes our gluten-free lives easier since those things are integral to making food taste good and getting creative when making dinner.
This might seem surprising since spices and dried herbs come packaged and we tend to think of many packaged foods as having gluten.
7 Not Gluten-Free: Veggie Burgers
Meat eaters don't exactly dream of a veggie burger on a nice summer day and are more likely to think that a juicy beef burger (with some cheese or bacon on top, possibly, along with the classic burger toppings like lettuce, tomato, and onion) is worth swooning over. But for vegans, vegetarians, or those just looking for a healthier option, veggie burgers are a fun food.
Are veggie burgers gluten-free? Actually, no.
Healthline also points out that veggie burgers could have gluten, which is good to know and not necessarily what we would think of off the top of our heads. Like everything else, we have to read the label or box.
6 Gluten-Free: Soya Beans
We might not be eating soy beans on a regular basis, if at all, but we might buy soy milk as a cow's milk alternative if we're allergic to dairy. We could assume that soy beans are full of gluten since soy sauce is. It can be confusing to figure out what is gluten-free and what isn't gluten-free.
Soy sauce may not be gluten-free, but soy beans are, as Ibs Diets says. Surprising? Yes, for sure.
Other beans are gluten-free too, such as black beans and navy beans and chickpeas, which means that any vegetarian chili recipe or bean salad is possible.
5 Not Gluten-Free: Fries
Burgers and fries, hot dogs and fries, chicken fingers and fries, steak frites: there are so many meals that come with this salty, crispy, and sometimes crunchy side dish. Many of us love to go out and get a whole pile of fries, just for us (although sometimes we try to share... emphasis on the try).
It might be surprising but fries aren't actually gluten-free. As Everyday Health explains, the problem is cross-contamination. Fries could be cooked in the same fryer as foods that are breaded and have wheat/gluten. Yes, that's definitely sad news (for me, too, as fries are my weakness).
4 Gluten-Free: Cornmeal
Livestrong points out that cornmeal is gluten-free, which is really surprising. After all, flour has gluten, so it would only seem logical that cornmeal would as well. We tend to think that something that has a flour-like consistency would be full of wheat and gluten. Not cornmeal, though.
Since any sweet treat that has cornmeal could also be made with flour, like corn muffins or cornbread, it's best to buy some cornmeal and whip those up at home. See? Going gluten-free can turn you into a really strong and confident cook and baker... even if at first it seems annoying to not be able to buy certain products.
3 Not Gluten-Free: Worcestershire Sauce
Hard to pronounce and even trickier to say, Worcestershire Sauce is full of gluten. Glutenfree Society counts it among what not to eat when you're gluten-free: "The following foods should be eliminated from the diet unless they plainly state on the label that they are gluten-free: Worcestershire sauce, MSG, modified food starch, malt products, bouillon, barley malt, and soy sauce."
While at first it's tempting to go to our local pub and use any of the condiments that are on the table for our burger and fries, after a while we simply get used to not being able to use certain things if we're not eating gluten.
2 Surprising Gluten-Free: Macarons
Forkly points out that macarons are totally gluten-free: they are made with cream, almond flour, and egg whites. Are we surprised to learn that these sweets are made with almond flour instead of white flour? Yes, and it's a happy surprise.
It's hard to think of a treat that is prettier than the macaron. Those colors are amazing and make these Instagram-worthy. It's nice to know that when we visit a bakery, there is at least one thing that we can order (as long as said bakery has these, of course). It also means that a trip to Paris is probably in order...
1 Not Gluten-Free: Some Deli Meat
Yes, this one is a surprise, too: according to SF Gate, some kinds of deli meat have gluten in them.
We would think that meat, including deli meat, would all be gluten-free and no problem to purchase and eat. This just goes to show that reading labels is a huge part of your routine when you go gluten-free for health reasons or just because you want to (or if you buy groceries for you and your partner and they avoid gluten).
Enjoying a towering deli meat sandwich isn't out of the question if you're gluten-free. Just buy gluten-free bread, check your condiments carefully, and check that the deli meat is free of gluten and you'll be good to go.