This article will list the basic foods you can buy that are gluten free by nature.
If you are newly diagnosed or want to find out more for a friend or loved one or are just curious, this is your place to start.
Quick caveat, for some products we list below, you will have to carefully read the food labels because of the dangers of cross contamination (we will mention it a lot). We will highlight them as you read along and of course, also give you our tips!
The list is broken down into major categories for your convenience: Fruits, Vegetables, Fats, Proteins, Pulses, Seeds, Sauces and Seasonings. This list of gluten free foods should give you plenty to consider but by no means is the list exhaustive. It will help you identify foods that are gluten free and give you the confidence when shopping for ingredients.
DISCLAIMER (yes, we have to mention it!): Some items listed below may have risk of gluten contamination mainly due to processing in the manufacturing phase, additives or ingredients that are not gluten free, or human reasons like purchasing in bulk from open bin containers.
Let’s get started!
Free List of Foods that are Gluten Free –Basics and Tips
Vegetables and Fruits
All non-processed i.e. whole fruits and vegetables are gluten free. Why did we mention non-processed? That’s because if you purchase e.g. candied fruits or canned vegetables, you have to read the labels carefully in case they have been processed in a factory that also processes gluten-containing foods. Since we promised a list, here are some basic vegetables:
- Whole Salad Head/Leaf
- Cauliflower, Broccoli, Asparagus
- Kale, Spinach, Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Leafy Greens
- Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Leek, Bell Peppers
- Mushrooms, Artichokes
- Sprouts* (read the labels carefully – we’ve come across sprouts that also process e.g. wheat grass),
- Beans – green, long, peas,
- Celery, Radishes, Carrots,
- Potatoes and Tomatoes
- And so on…
Fruits: All whole fruits are naturally gluten free.
Wherever possible (availability and affordability-wise that is), purchase organic fruits and vegetables and always wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption/preparation. Have you ever bought fruits and vegetables from open markets where some stalls also sell bread or pies/homemade cakes etc. It should be obvious, but we are never too careful!
Oils and Fats
Generally, cooking oils like olive oil, coconut, sunflower sesame oil, coconut oil, butter, lard etc are gluten free.
BGFTIP: For butter, we have use separate butter dishes 2 in our family as we usually spread butter directly onto normal bread. So, when it comes to cooking, we know to use the right butter when making a common (gluten free) dish for all.
As an important side note, we specifically like to comment on wheat germ oil (Triticum Vulgare) This oil is not used in cooking per se, but it is used in cosmetics and in supplements (Vitamin E). Wheat germ oil can be problematic for celiacs and gluten intolerant persons and should be carefully assessed for each individual. It may cause a reaction in certain persons so be cautious and look out for this ingredient. You can find more info on this online of course but here is a discussion post from Celiac.com for more insight.
Meat, Poultry, Fish and Plant Based Proteins
Like the above if you obtain natural and unprocessed meat, poultry, fish, etc, it should be gluten free. Now, in our experience we would purchase any such items pre-packaged in a supermarket or local store.
If you purchase from a butcher/fishmonger, you should ensure that they use separate tongs or fresh gloves when handling the product. Well some butchers sell pre-marinated or even breaded meats which are not separated adequately from other products. In this case, we’d be reluctant to buy from them as the risk is high for cross contamination. You may have seen such cases such as Italian delis selling fresh pasta and meat from the same counter.
BGFTIP: One way to mitigate this if start a dialogue with your regular butcher/fishmonger. Over time and through understanding, the butcher may start to guarantee that there is no risk of contamination, then you may want to go ahead with your purchases. It’s not difficult to keep some products contamination free away from other products. That way, the butcher/monger gets a regular customer and may even increase business by advertising the availability of gluten free produce.
Plant-based proteins. With Veganism a big draw for many people, the plant-based protein consumed comes from beans, soy/tofu and seitan (wheat protein), usually in some combination of all. Thus, most plant-based proteins in convenience forms (think fake meat/hot dogs/burgers), usually contain some gluten.
BGFTIP: If you are new to the disease, be extra vigilant of things like tofu or lentil burgers or similar produce. They may sound gluten free, but you have to read the labels carefully as most of these products typically contain some gluten for structural/texture and as a binding agent.
We mainly follow a plant-based diet and for us it means sticking to products like fresh tofu (soy bean curd), which should be gluten free. Again, study the list of ingredients carefully to see whether there is anything prohibited on the list beyond soy, water and minimal preservatives.
We understand the appeal of convenience foods so, if you live in the US, have a look at Glutenfreemall and search under the Quick Find bar to find some convenience options .
Dairy and Cheese
Milk, cream and derivative products, including most cheeses are gluten free. Hard cheeses are also naturally (almost) lactose free (if you have severe lactose problems, then hard cheeses may be problematic too). However, there has always been a debate and issues with blue cheeses for celiacs. From our research, most French blue cheese should not be consumed by celiacs and gluten-intolerant persons. Bread mould is used to culture the milk in the early production phase and therefore makes it unsafe for celiacs to consume. Italian blue cheese, like Gorganzola, ought to be gluten free (we have consumed it without any problems so far).
BGFTIP: If you are unsure about any products in your local store, you can check directly as most larger manufacturers have informative websites and contact details which may be easier to sometimes ask directly. Get in touch to clarify with the added benefit that it will also raise awareness about the needs of going and being gluten-free!
Seeds & Nuts
Again, the raw form of all seeds and nuts are gluten free. The biggest problem for seeds and nuts is gluten cross-contamination or the inability of many manufacturers to guarantee the products are gluten free. This is typical during the processing phase that the machinery and packaging may have processed gluten/what substances and have thus been contaminated.
For example, in some cases, e.g. an almond manufacture will process the raw almonds and pack natural almonds. However, the same processing plants might also process products flavoured with almonds using the same processing lines. Unless the manufacturers know and can control the contamination risks of the other ingredients, it would put the non-flavoured almonds at risk. This is because the flavourings and other ingredients will likely come from external parties and without any certification or testing; the almond manufacturer would not know and hence cannot guarantee the natural whole almonds as gluten free.
BGFTIP: Unless there is a guarantee like GF symbol, it would be safest to avoid some products when you have celiac disease, especially if the labelling rules in your country are not stringent about allergens.
Alternatively, there are specialty producers and also shops who sell natural almonds. Since being ‘gluten free’ is also a heath buzz, this helps celiacs and gluten-intolerant people too in terms of greater availability and accessibility of products. With the proliferation of gluten free products, you should hopefully find them easily, though most likely at a premium price ☹. Depending on where you live, you may have noticed your usual supermarkets starting to carry a greater range of certified gluten free products too.
Sauces, Herbs & Spices
Let’s start with Herbs & Spices. We typically use our store branded dried herbs and spices (in Switzerland) where the labelling is reliable i.e. they may state that it contains other allergens such as celery, lactose but not wheat or gluten. So, depending on where you live and the labelling rules there, you need to judge for yourself. Check with the manufacturers or if there are local or national celiac associations or groups you could check/ join to confer with others who may have already done some leg-work, then that would be advantageous.
Sauces are definitely trickier, since they may contain added flavourings and spices. Here, you definitely need to check with the manufacturer or conduct your own research as mentioned above.
A note of caution on sauces – example Ketchup which has no formal GF designation. You run a search on the internet and find a well-written and informative article saying “Brand X” Ketchup is gluten free. Great news indeed, but you need to check the time stamp of that article as the info may be outdated by the time you decide to act upon it. Manufacturing process, location, ingredients and recipe changes may occur periodically, especially in larger manufacturing plants for a variety of reasons, such as cost and taste considerations. Any changes to the manufacturing process may introduce new risk of gluten cross contamination.
BGFTIP: For any sauces you use without a GF label, conduct a review at least once a year that the product is still the same.
We have seen that mustard is gluten free in some countries, while not in others. Some brands of mustard contain wheat and are so-labelled as containing wheat/gluten. Thus, apply the same caveat as before and check with manufacturers locally if not specifically labelled.
For the Asian gourmet, there are certified gluten-free soy sauces, oyster and fish sauces available. Look out for the ‘Megachef’ (from Thailand) and ‘Lee Kum Kee’ brands in your locales. Most other Chinese sauces like black bean, hoisin, plum sauce etc. are not easily available in GF form that we know. If you know of any, please tell us in the comments below! To obtain these other sauces, we usually MacGyver it by finding a recipe on the wonderful Internet for these sauces and making a small batch ahead of time.
Pulses Rice and Other Grains
Lentils, chick peas are generally known as pulses and their associated flours are naturally gluten free. We’ve already stated (ad nauseum) about the cross-contamination risks. In case of pulses grains and rice, the contamination risk manifests itself especially when they are milled into flours for baking/cooking – so be cautious; or mill/grind the pulses yourself.
Rice, whether Asian Jasmin, South Asian Basmati, Italian Risotto or any other varieties are naturally gluten free. Of course, we wash rice thoroughly in two changes of water before use, which helps eliminate other potentially harmful substances too.
Other Grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, teff and millet are naturally gluten free. You still need to be careful about cross contamination, as mentioned previously. Check with the manufacturer to see whether they are gluten-free or buy the certified GF products.
Many celiacs do not eat Oats. There is the usual reason of cross contamination, but additionally. Oats – even certified GF oats – may still elicit negative reaction in celiacs because oats and wheat are biologically similar and belong to the same family. The recommendation we received at the time of the initial confirmed diagnosis was to avoid all oats, even the certified GF versions for the first year. We only started introducing oats into our son’s diet after the first full year of gluten free meals. Our son tolerated oats well once they were re-introduced into his diet and it is beneficial for him to consume oats occasionally because of the added fibre content. Thus, to be sure what is best for you, check with your physician or dietician and hopefully you can also reintroduce oats into your diet, enriching it with much needed fibre and protein sources.
That rounds off our free list of gluten free foods! We hope you have found the information above useful. As usual, if you have any queries or comments, please leave us your comments below and we will gladly get back to you!