Gluten-Free Shopping List


Oh, snap. Gluten 1, villi 0.

Some of my pals have been asking for this for a while, so here goes my (not comprehensive) attempt at a gluten-free shopping list.

The great thing about going gluten-free is that you’re going to naturally gravitate toward eating fewer processed foods because (a) there’s less selection of processed gf food that doesn’t cost the equivalent  of your firstborn child, and (b) because it’s easier just to eat whole foods than it is to labor over long, complicated labels trying to figure out if any of those twenty-character-long words are gluten in disguise.

Here’s a little cheat sheet for grocery store trips, and what to look out for.

NOTE:  Your main concerns are going to be in buying processed foods (such as pre-made, pre-seasoned, pre-coated anything, spice blends – or spice coatings (like flavorings on chips, pre-seasoned meat), liquids that have been thickened (like dressings), or anything that’s made with more than five ingredients. Don’t ever buy pre-seasoned food unless you are able to see (and read) the container from which the seasoning was produced.


All fresh, unprocessed fruit, vegetables, and herbs are safe.  Tofu is also gluten-free.

Hidden gluten:  none.



All unseasoned, non-processed meat is gluten-free.

Hidden gluten: some lunchmeats and many sausages are filled with wheat, especially the cheap ones.  Some meats that are pre-seasoned have spices that “stick” due to gluten in the spice blend.  Always season your own food, especially when you’re not sure.



Vegetable and tropical oils, shortening, mayo, many salad dressings*, most mustards, ketchup.  Straight vinegars and related items, such as pickles, olives, etc. are fine.

Hidden gluten: Most soy sauce now contains wheat.  You can get the really nice, expensive soy sauce or tamari at stores like Whole Foods, or you can rock the cheap stuff like LaChoy brand (which you can find almost anywhere), and Target brand (last I checked).

Pure spices are safe across the board.

Hidden gluten: When you get into spice blends such as “taco seasoning”, be sure to check the ingredients for wheat thickeners.  Many blends include wheat thickeners so the spice will stick as the food is cooked.

*Dressings:  Newman’s Own and Annie’s are generally gluten-free, I believe, and I know all the store-brand dressings we used to get at HEB are thickened with xanthan gum, and not wheat.  Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Sprouts all have good selections of gluten-free dressings, and your local big chain will also have plenty of choices.



Unprocessed fruits and veg, Ice creams, sherbet, gelato, and any items that are specifically labeled gluten-free (usually have their own sections)


Eggs, cheese, milk, cream, cottage cheese, etc. are gluten-free. This applies to “pure” dairy items – double and triple check processed cheeses that have other stuff in or on the outside, and highly processed dairy items (like flavored creamers, puddings, etc.)  I don’t know if anyone uses wheat as a thickener in these types of items, because I never purchase them, but you should check the label if in doubt.

Almond, soy, hemp, hazelnut, and other nut and seed milks are gluten-free.



Plain canned fruits and vegetables, fruit sauces, beans and lentils, spaghetti sauces, canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), some soups*.  Miso paste is made with soy and makes an excellent soup base for homemade stuff.

Hidden gluten:  Many soups use wheat gluten as a thickener.


Rice cakes, rice crackers, soy crisps, unseasoned potato chips, plain popcorn, cheese puffs, unseasoned corn chips, jell-o, most candy, straight chocolate, dried fruits and nuts.

Hidden gluten:  seasoned chips and snacks often contain gluten.  Pringles brand uses wheat starch in their reconstituted potatoes, and some Doritos flavors have wheat in the seasoning.  Some chocolate uses barley and wheat sugars and thickeners.  Lindt brand truffles and Ferrero Rocher both contain gluten, for instance.


Quinoa, amaranth, millet, rice, buckwheat, corn, all beans (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, etc.). Flax, sunflower, chia, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, etc.  Starches:  arrowroot, tapioca, potato, pea, etc.  Corn tortillas are fine, but check to make sure they don’t have added wheat flour as a softener.

Hidden gluten:  We all know to stay away from rye, barley and wheat as the primary gluten-containing grains, but here’s a list of grains that are in those families that contain gluten and aren’t labeled as wheat, barley, or rye.  Please also refrain from eating oats unless they’re clearly labeled gluten-free. They’re often processed on shared equipment and contain significant quantities of gluten.

  • Barley malt/extract
  • Bran
  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Faro
  • Kamut
  • Malt
  • Matzo flour/meal
  • Orzo
  • Panko
  • Rye
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Udon
  • Wheat bran / germ / starch



Cocoa, gluten-free flours, sugar, salt, baking soda, some baking powder.  Make sure your baking powder is labeled gluten-free.  The added starch can be wheat, though it is usually corn.


Coffee and Tea, soft drinks, fruit juice, wine, all distilled spirits (even ones that begin as wheat), and hard cider.

Hidden gluten:  Beer, unless labeled, contains gluten, even when it’s called a “rice ale” or “fruit beer.”  The base of beer is wheat and barley mash, and since it is not distilled, a significant amount of gluten remains in the drink.

Omission is a delightful gluten-free beer, and New Belgium is also now making one (2016), but it’s pretty light and doesn’t have as much flavor as the Omission.


And, as always, if you’re looking to make your own flour blend, you can check out this post, or you can run out to your local Safeway store (or Amazon) to pick up the Gluten Free Mama blends, which are, in my opinion, the best pre-made ones on the market.  You’ll need to pick up some guar gum or xanthan gum, and you’re ready to bake at 1/2 tsp gum per 1.5c flour as a direct substitution for any recipe that’s not sandwich-style bread.

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