What Foods Have Gluten? A Guide for Those on a Gluten-Free Diet

what foods have gluten, foods with gluten

Understanding what foods have gluten is more than a dietary choice for many; it’s a necessity. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is often hidden in numerous everyday foods, catching those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance off guard. Recognizing these hidden sources is the first step in maintaining a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle.

As someone who has lived with celiac disease and adhered to a strict gluten-free diet for years, I understand the challenges firsthand. From scrutinizing food labels to avoiding cross-contamination, the task can seem overwhelming. However, armed with the right knowledge and practical tips, it becomes manageable. This post draws from my direct experiences and aims to guide you through these challenges, offering reassurance that a gluten-free life can be both healthy and fulfilling.

Understanding the impact of gluten on your health is vital. For those with celiac or gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten is not just beneficial; it’s essential for maintaining overall well-being. By the end of this post, you will have a clearer understanding of gluten-containing foods, practical ways to avoid them, and how to lead a healthier lifestyle despite dietary restrictions. Let’s move forward, equipped with knowledge and ready to tackle the gluten-free life confidently.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein composite made up of two proteins called gliadin and glutenin. When mixed with water, these proteins form a network of strands that give structure to many types of bread and baked goods. Gluten provides elasticity and helps dough rise by trapping air bubbles during the baking process. It gives bread its chewy texture and allows it to hold its shape.

Why is gluten problematic for some people?

For individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, consuming foods containing gluten can trigger an immune response. This immune response damages the villi in the small intestine, which are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food.

Symptoms and complications of celiac disease and gluten intolerance

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can cause a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, skin rashes, headaches, joint pain, infertility, osteoporosis, and more.

Accidentally get gluten in your body, and curious how long the symptoms last? Check out my article: How Long Does Gluten Stay in Your System?

Diagnosis and treatment options

Doctors may use blood tests to check for specific antibodies related to these conditions to diagnose celiac disease or gluten intolerance. An endoscopy or biopsy may also be performed to examine the small intestine for damage. The only effective treatment for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is adopting a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all foods containing wheat, barley, rye, and any products derived from them, such as pasta or bread. It’s important to read food labels carefully, as even small amounts of hidden sources of gluten can cause harm.

Grains that have gluten

Gluten is a protein commonly found in certain grains, and it can cause issues for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Let’s take a closer look at the main grains that contain gluten.

Main grains with gluten

The primary grains known to have gluten include:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Triticale
  • Farro
  • Einkorn

Wheat, rye, and barely are the three most common sources of gluten, so be sure to be on the lookout for those.

Benefits and drawbacks of these grains

While these grains offer nutritional benefits like carbohydrates, fiber, protein, iron, zinc, and magnesium, they can also pose challenges for individuals sensitive to gluten. Some potential drawbacks include inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune diseases, and other adverse reactions.

Remember that not all individuals need to avoid these grains unless they have specific dietary restrictions or medical conditions that require a gluten-free diet.

What Foods Have Gluten? The Common Sources

what foods have gluten, foods with gluten

Gluten can be found in various types of food, and it’s important to know which ones contain this protein. Let’s take a closer look at some common categories of foods that have gluten.

  • Bread
    • All types. This ranges from white bread, to bagels, to flour tortillas. 
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Cookies and Cakes
  • Pastries and Pies

These foods have gluten because they are made with ingredients like flour that contain this protein. For individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, consuming these foods can trigger symptoms and damage the intestine over time. It’s essential for them to be mindful of their diet and opt for gluten-free alternatives.

Foods that may contain gluten

If you’re wondering what foods have gluten, it’s important to be aware of the various categories where gluten can hide. Let’s look at some common food categories that may contain gluten and examples of specific foods within each category.

Sauces, dressings, soups, gravies, marinades, etc.

  • Soy sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Salad dressing
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ranch dressing
  • Canned soup
  • Beef broth
  • Gravy

Processed meats, cheese, dairy products, etc.

  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Hot dogs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream

Snacks, candy, chocolate, etc.

  • Potato chips
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Gummy bears
  • Licorice

Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, etc.

  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds


  • Oatmeal
  • Cereals
  • Protein Bars

While many of these products (like ketchup, bacon, popcorn, etc.) naturally don’t contain gluten, you still need to be careful. These foods may contain gluten as an ingredient or due to additives like thickeners or stabilizers. Gluten can be used as a filler or binder in processed foods. It might also be present in coatings or flavorings.

To identify and avoid these foods with gluten content:

  1. Read labels carefully for any mention of gluten-containing ingredients.
  2. Look for products with a certified “gluten-free” label.
  3. Be cautious of cross-contamination when dining out or preparing meals at home.
  4. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about restaurant ingredients or when purchasing food.

By being vigilant and informed about the potential sources of gluten in our diet, we can make healthier choices and ensure our well-being.


what foods have gluten, foods with gluten

Cross-contamination occurs when gluten is transferred from one food or surface to another. It can happen in various ways and poses risks for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Shared Utensils, Cookware, Cutting Boards, Toasters, etc.

Using the same utensils, cookware, cutting boards, or toasters for gluten-containing and gluten-free foods can lead to cross-contamination. Even a small amount of gluten left on these surfaces can cause symptoms and harm.

Bulk Bins, Salad Bars, Buffets, etc.

Bulk bins at grocery stores and self-serve stations like salad bars and buffets are potential sources of cross-contamination. If scoops or serving utensils are shared between different food items, there is a risk of gluten contamination.

Frying Oil, Grill, Oven, etc.

Cross-contamination can occur when cooking foods that contain gluten alongside gluten-free options in shared frying oil, on grills, or in ovens without proper separation or cleaning measures in place. This can transfer traces of gluten onto otherwise safe foods.

Handling, Packaging, Storage

Improper handling practices during the packaging and storage of food products can also contribute to cross-contamination. Contamination may result if precautions aren’t taken to prevent contact between gluten-containing items and their gluten-free counterparts during production or storage.

To avoid cross-contamination:

  • Use separate utensils, cookware, cutting boards, and toasters for gluten-free foods.
  • Opt for pre-packaged products labeled as “gluten-free” whenever possible.
  • Avoid bulk bins and self-serve stations at grocery stores.
  • Ensure dedicated frying oil is used for exclusively preparing gluten-free dishes.
  • Store gluten-free foods separately from those containing gluten.

By following these steps and being mindful of potential sources of cross-contamination in your kitchen or when dining out, you can help protect yourself or others with gluten sensitivities from the harmful effects of gluten exposure.

Drinks that have gluten

It’s not just food that you need to be wary of. Many drinks also contain gluten, which can be a problem for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Let’s look at the different categories of drinks that may contain gluten and why they pose a risk.

Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic beverages are one category where you’ll find gluten lurking. Beers, ales, lagers, and stouts are typically made from barley or other grains that contain gluten. Whiskey, bourbon, scotch, and other distilled spirits can also have traces of gluten if made from grains like wheat or rye.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Even non-alcoholic drinks can be a source of hidden gluten. Coffee and tea are generally safe unless flavored with additives that include gluten. Soda and juice should also be checked for any potential sources of gluten.

To enjoy drinks without worrying about hidden sources of gluten:

  1. Read labels carefully: Look for explicit statements indicating “gluten-free” or “made in a dedicated facility.”
  2. Seek out certified options: Look for products with third-party certifications like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) label.
  3. Avoid cross-contamination: Opt for single-use cups or bottles when drinking at bars or parties to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
  4. Ask questions: If you’re unsure about a particular drink’s gluten content, don’t hesitate to ask the bartender, server, or manufacturer for clarification.

By being vigilant and making informed choices, you can still enjoy a wide range of gluten-free drinks without compromising your health.

Non-food items that have gluten

what foods have gluten, foods with gluten

Non-food items can also contain gluten, which can be a concern for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Let’s look at some of the main categories of non-food items that may contain gluten and explore why they pose a risk.

Cosmetics, Personal Care Products, and Household Products

Gluten can be found in cosmetics, personal care products, and household items. Here are some examples:

  • Cosmetics: Lipstick, lip balm, lip gloss
  • Face products: Foundation, concealer, powder
  • Eye makeup: Mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow
  • Haircare: Shampoo, conditioner, hair gel
  • Skincare: Soap, lotion, sunscreen
  • Oral care: Toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss
  • Craft supplies: Glue, play dough, stamps

Why Do These Items Contain Gluten?

Non-food items may include gluten as an ingredient or as a moisturizer, thickener, binder, or preservative. This presence of gluten can pose risks to those who need to avoid it due to their dietary restrictions.

Effects and Risks for People with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance

Using non-food items containing gluten can lead to skin irritation or allergic reactions in individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Accidental ingestion or inhalation of these products may occur during daily activities.

Identifying and Avoiding Non-Food Items with Gluten

To steer clear of non-food items that contain gluten:

  1. Read labels carefully: Look for ingredients like wheat (including modified food starch), barley extract/flour/malt/seed extract.
  2. Seek out gluten-free certification symbols on product packaging.
  3. Ask questions when unsure about the presence of gluten in a product.

By being vigilant and informed, individuals can reduce the risk of exposure to gluten through non-food items.

The Bottom Line

As we wrap up our discussion on what foods have gluten, it’s clear that knowledge is power. Knowing which foods to avoid and how to spot hidden gluten sources can make a world of difference in managing a gluten-free diet. Remember, items like sauces, dressings, and some drinks might contain gluten, so always check labels.

To keep thriving on your gluten-free path, stay vigilant about cross-contamination and continue educating yourself about gluten in foods. Your health and well-being are worth that extra bit of attention. And hey, if you ever feel stuck or need more tips on living gluten-free, remember, there’s a wealth of resources and support out there. Happy gluten-free living!


Which foods are high in gluten?

Foods high in gluten predominantly include wheat-based products such as bread, pasta, and baked goods. Other gluten-rich grains are barley, rye, and triticale. Cereals, beer, and certain sauces also contain significant gluten levels, often due to wheat or barley ingredients. Always check labels for gluten content when purchasing processed foods.

What are gluten foods to avoid?

To avoid gluten, steer clear of wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Common gluten-containing foods include bread, pasta, cereals, baked goods, beer, and certain sauces. Look out for hidden gluten in processed foods, soups, and salad dressings. Opt for labeled gluten-free products for safer alternatives.

Do potatoes have gluten?

Potatoes are naturally gluten-free, being a root vegetable. They are safe for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. However, caution is needed with processed potato products like fries or chips, as they may be contaminated with gluten during manufacturing or cooking in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods.

Does rice have gluten?

Rice is naturally gluten-free, making it a safe choice for those with gluten intolerances or celiac disease. This includes all varieties, such as white, brown, and wild rice. However, rice-based products might have gluten due to cross-contamination or added ingredients. It’s important to check labels, especially on processed rice products.

Photo of author


Brandon Melillo is the founder and chief editor of the Gluten-Free Army. He's passionate about helping people with gluten-free diets, drawing from his own experience with celiac disease. His goal is to provide guidance and support through valuable insights, recipes, and practical advice, making gluten-free living easier for everyone.