Foods That Contain Gluten – Label Reading and Grocery Shopping Tips

Foods with gluten might seem obvious because most of us know about bread, pasta, and baked goods that contain wheat, barley, or rye. But gluten-containing ingredients might have some sneaky names or your food could contain hidden sources of gluten. Use this list of tips for what to look for the next time you are grocery shopping or reading labels on products in your pantry.

Foods that Contain Gluten with Label Reading and Grocery Shopping Tips

If you or a friend or family member has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten allergy or intolerance, or another medical condition where you have to start a gluten free diet, you might feel overwhelmed. But just take things one step at a time!

Before stressing out, remember there is still a lot of food you CAN eat on a gluten free diet! Focus on foods that are naturally gluten free that you already love, like fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, and gluten free grains like quinoa. You’ll notice that many of these things are not processed, and that is always a good place to start so you don’t have to stress about reading labels and finding hidden sources of gluten.

Then begin to familiarize yourself with the words and phrases that may signal hidden gluten. Go through this list, clear out your pantry, and get a better idea of what NOT to buy when you go to the grocery store. Then you’ll be well on the way towards transitioning to a gluten free lifestyle or making yummy food for someone else who is.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to buy everything you need for…

My Favorite Gluten Free Recipes:

Gluten-Free Mom’s Ingredient and Label Guide

Note: this is NOT a complete list, and is meant to serve as a guide. If you are not completely sure, it is best to contact the company directly and consult with your healthcare provider.

Before getting to the ingredients, sometimes the product container will make it clear that you can or cannot have it without even needing to read the ingredient list just by the labels or allergy warnings.

Food labels and allergy warnings:

Typically you CAN have any items with the following words on the label:

  • “Certified Gluten Free” – to have this label, the FDA requires that manufacturers use an independent, third-party certification to prove that the food contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is a top certification program and tests that foods contain less than 10 ppm of gluten. Other programs are the BRCGS Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP) and NSF International
  • “Gluten Free” – note that this is not regulated, so foods that are naturally gluten free, do not have any gluten-containing ingredients can carry this label, or have less than 20 ppm of gluten, but this does not have to be verified by testing. Some companies can use this for marketing by putting it on naturally gluten free foods like produce or water.

AVOID anything with the following words on the label:

  • “Contains wheat”
  • “May contain traces of wheat”
  • “Made on shared equipment with wheat ingredients”

USE CAUTION and consult with your healthcare provider to understand your level of sensitivity when the label contains:

  • “Manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat ingredients”
  • “Wheat free” – these may contain other forms of wheat, like spelt, or gluten-containing grains like barley and rye.

Gluten-containing ingredients:

Do NOT eat any foods that have any of these words on the ingredient list. They all contain gluten. Some are other names for wheat, some are other forms of wheat, some are other gluten-containing grains like barley and rye, and some are derived from the gluten-containing grains.

  • Wheat (bran, starch, germ, berries)
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Wheat starch/modified wheat starch
  • Rye
  • Barley (malt, extract)
  • Bulgur
  • Orzo
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Malt (syrup, vinegar, extract) or maltodextrin
  • Farro
  • Einkorn
  • Panko
  • Seitan
  • Graham
  • Bran
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Matzo (meal)
  • Beer/ale/lager

Possible hidden sources of gluten:

Use caution. Many of these items, like the catch-all phrases “Natural flavoring” and “Modified food starch” may be made with a gluten ingredient, but when listed on a label, they do not break down the components.

Some, like soy sauce, are made with wheat in the preparation process. Others, like oats, have a high risk of cross-contamination. 

If you do not have to worry about cross-contamination or trace amounts of gluten, then these items may be just fine for you to consume. However, if you have celiac disease or a severe intolerance, then only consume if the label indicates that they are certified gluten-free (as discussed above) and again, only after consultation with your doctor.

  • Caramel color/flavor – often made from barley
  • Dextrins
  • Enzymes
  • Glycerides, diglycerides
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Modified food starch
  • Natural flavoring, fillers, juices
  • Oats/oatmeal/oat bran
  • Rice syrup
  • Soy sauce

Food items that may contain gluten:

  • Cakes, cookies, bread, pasta – these are the obvious sources of gluten unless they are specifically made with gluten-free ingredients.

BRIANNE’S GLUTEN FREE MOM TIP: Are you missing sandwiches and French toast? We did a taste test of seven brands to find the BEST Gluten Free Bread. See if you agree with our choice!

Some of these are sneaky. You wouldn’t expect that meats and coffee would contain gluten. So when buying items like these, check for allergy labels or warnings, then read the ingredient list. I’m going to repeat this – if you are not completely sure, it is best to contact the company directly and consult with your healthcare provider.

  • Canned soups, broths, and soup bases – can contain wheat-based thickeners.
  • Cereal – even those that are corn-, oat-, or rice-based may have hidden gluten ingredients.
  • Candy, chocolate, and chocolate bars
  • Extracts – most are fine but do check for any additives or the types of alcohol used to make the extract if you are sensitive.
  • Flavored coffee and tea
  • Granola bars and energy bars – even those without wheat often use non-gluten-free oats.
  • Meat substitutes – many of these contain wheat.
  • Processed meats – check your deli meats, hot dogs, sausages, prepackaged hamburgers, prepared meatballs, pre-seasoned or pre-marinated meat for fillers and other additives.
  • Salad dressings, sauces, marinades, gravy – may contain soy sauce, thickeners, etc.
  • Seasoning mixes – individual dried herbs and spices are typically fine, but blends or seasoning mixes or packets may have gluten-containing ingredients added.
  • Tortilla chips – corn chips are fine but do check those that are labeled as “multi-grain”.
Gluten Free Made Easy course material shown on an ipad

And remember, there is still so much you CAN enjoy. Like…

Gluten Free Food for All Occasions: