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Everybody knows which foods are no-no’s on a gluten-free diet… or do they?

Pasta, bread, cookies, cakes and pizza are obviously verboten. Many people new to the gluten-free lifestyle are confident they are eating a gluten-free diet by avoiding the most obvious foods that contain gluten.

If they’re choosing a salad instead of a slice of pizza at the Italian restaurant, and preparing grilled fish, potatoes and vegetables at home instead of chicken pot pie, it seems like they must be doing a perfectly grand job of complying with a gluten-free diet.

What they may not realize is that gluten is hiding in many surprising places that even knowledgeable gluten-free folks might be missing.

8 Common Foods that Contain Gluten

  • Meatballs and Meatloaf – If something’s not visibly breaded and fried, it’s easy to forget that it might still contain bread crumbs as an ingredient. Meatballs and meatloaf are two foods that, whether homemade or bought commercially, almost always have bread crumbs in them. Use gluten-free cornflake crumbs or gluten-free bread crumbs instead.


  • Falafel – This favorite Middle Eastern dish of deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas or fava beans is often held together with the help of bulgur wheat or wheat flour. There are several gluten-free brands of falafel mix that can be bought on the retail market, however.


  • Licorice – Oddly enough, wheat flour is frequently used in licorice production to help with moisture retention and lengthen shelf life. Look for brands marked “gluten-free.”


  • Sausages – Savvy sausage companies are moving away from using gluten, but some sausage casings and fillings still contain flour. Brands such as Applegate Farms are marked gluten-free.


  • Malt Vinegar – Vinegars are nearly always gluten-free, regardless of the source of the alcohol used to produce the vinegar. However, in the case of malt vinegar a gluten-containing barley malt flavoring is added, making this product unsafe for celiacs.


  • Boxed Soup Mixes – Appearing in everything from soup to spinach and onion soup dips, boxed soup mixes from Knorr and other brands nearly always contain gluten. Gluten-free varieties can often be found in the kosher section of grocery stores around Passover (but check the labels, because not all Passover soup mixes are gluten-free).


  • Soy Sauce – Quality soy sauces nearly always contain wheat, although more and more brands are selling gluten-free varieties now. Read labels carefully. Most importantly, look for soy sauce as a hidden ingredient in all kinds of unexpected places (including non-Asian cuisines!). This is truly one of the most ubiquitous foods that contain gluten.


  • Cold Cuts – Wheat continues to be used as a filler in some cold cuts. Cold cuts from Boars’ Head and Applegate Farms are gluten-free.

As the saying goes, “knowing is half the battle.” Once armed with information about hidden sources of gluten, you will be well-prepared to help yourself avoid accidental gluten contamination by choosing foods that are safe and free of wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives.

And one of the main lessons here is to never assume.

Read my other article on what happened when I assumed a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory knew what she was talking about…


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