15 best gluten-free foods
Following a gluten-free diet can seem quite daunting because gluten can be hidden in all sorts of products. We take a look at some common foods to include and those to exclude from a gluten-free diet.
What is gluten?
Gluten is the term given to a group of proteins that are found in some grains, including wheat, rye, barley and spelt. In baking, gluten gives dough its elasticity and creates that lovely crumb-like texture in bread and cakes. There are many foods, such as unprocessed meat, fruit and vegetables, that are naturally gluten-free – and there are other free-from foods that have been processed to remove the gluten, or are specifically manufactured to be gluten-free.
If you follow a gluten-free diet and you're looking for the best breads, check out our list of top picks to add to your shop.
If you are concerned about any symptoms, speak to your GP or healthcare practitioner before making any changes to your diet.
Best gluten-free foods to try
Actually the seed of a flowering plant, buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, however, be aware that some buckwheat products may be manufactured in a plant that also handles wheat, rye or barley – so check labels. Discover our how to cook buckwheat guide. We love it in our poppy seed and buckwheat porridge.
A versatile grain and free from gluten, rice has multiple uses – our egg fried rice is better than any take-away!
Like buckwheat, quinoa is actually a seed and is related to spinach and chard. That said, we tend to use it like a grain because it substitutes well in a pilaf, tabbouleh or adds substance to a soup or stew. Try our easy quinoa salad.
Made from corn, polenta is naturally free of gluten and helps bring balance to your plate – try our delicious caponata with cheesy polenta.
5. Fresh meat
Fresh, unprocessed meat is free from gluten, but you’ll need to avoid battered or breadcrumbed products as well as faggots, haggis and some meatballs. For a fresh tasting chicken, try our paillard of chicken with lemon and herbs.
6. Fresh fish
All fresh, dried and smoked fish and shellfish are gluten-free – this simple trout en papillote is full of flavour.
Nutritional powerhouses and offering good value for money, eggs are a kitchen staple – try our healthy egg and chips.
8. Milk, cream, crème fraîche and natural yogurt
Dairy foods are naturally gluten-free and work well in so many recipes – try crème fraîche in our pollock, beetroot and potato traybake with lemony crème fraîche.
9. Butter and vegetable oils
Butter and cooking oils including ghee and lard are gluten-free – we’ve used butter in our roast aubergines with yogurt and harissa.
10. Plain potatoes
Naturally gluten-free baked, boiled and mashed potatoes may all form part of a gluten-free diet – for a clever twist why not try mashed potato in our gluten-free lemon drizzle cake.
11. Plain nuts and seeds
All vinegars, including barley malt vinegar, are gluten-free. We’ve used raspberry vinegar in our tomato, goat's curd and basil salad.
13. Worcestershire sauce
A useful flavour addition, we’ve used Worcestershire sauce in our cumin and onion marinated beef.
14. Tomato passata and purée
Increase the contribution to your five-a-day with tomato purée or passata, the latter of which we used in our easy moussaka.
15. Jam, honey and marmalade
Preserves such as jam, as well as syrups such as honey and golden syrup, are naturally free of gluten. We love honey partnered with mustard in these chicken thighs with spring vegetables.
See our top tips for a gluten-free diet.
Foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet
- Battered and breaded foods
- Bread, biscuits, pizza, pastries and cakes
- Bulgur wheat
- English mustard
- Muesli and granola
- Wheat pasta and noodles
- Soy sauce
Top questions when going gluten-free
Are oats gluten-free?
Yes, but you should check the label. Although oats contain a protein called avenin, that is similar to gluten, most people with coeliac disease can safely eat oats.
The issue is that many of the oat products available in the supermarket are manufactured in factories that also handle grains such as wheat, rye and barley. This means that the oats may be cross-contaminated with gluten.
When shopping for oats, oat milks and oat-based snacks always check that the label specifies that the product is gluten-free.
Is porridge gluten-free?
Sometimes, but you should check the label. It depends which cereal the porridge is made from – traditional porridge made from oats is not gluten-free, unless the oats were milled in a gluten-free manufacturing plant. Porridge made from millet, buckwheat or quinoa (with no added gluten-containing ingredients) should be free from gluten.
Is rice gluten-free?
Yes – although it is a grain crop, rice is gluten-free and safe to eat.
Is cornflour gluten-free?
Yes, as its name suggests, cornflour is made from corn (maize) and is gluten-free.
Is semolina gluten-free?
No, semolina is made from wheat, so it contains gluten.
Is barley gluten-free?
No, barley is a gluten-containing grain.
Is couscous gluten-free?
No, couscous is made from wheat, which is a gluten-containing grain.
Is baking powder gluten-free?
Sometimes, but you should check the label. Wheat starch may be added to baking powder to prevent it clumping. Thankfully, there are plenty of gluten-free products available that contain corn or potato starch instead – look for gluten-free on the label.
Is popcorn gluten-free?
Sometimes, but you should check the label. Homemade popcorn with no added extras will be gluten-free, but you should double check the labels of store-bought brands because flavourings may include gluten.
More like this
Is spelt gluten-free?
No, spelt is a form of wheat and as such contains gluten.
Are potatoes gluten-free?
Yes, potatoes are gluten-free, but if you are buying a potato product such as crisps you will need to check the label to ensure no gluten-containing ingredients have been added.
Is cheese gluten-free?
Yes, most cheese is gluten-free, but some soft, spreadable cheeses may contain added ingredients to help make them spreadable. You should check the label to be sure.
Is gin gluten-free?
Yes, as are other spirits and liqueurs. Even spirits made from gluten-containing cereals are suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. This is because the distillation process removes any traces of gluten.
Is maize gluten-free?
Yes, maize is another name for corn, which is gluten-free.
Is cider gluten-free?
Yes, cider – as well as wine, sherry, port, spirits and liqueurs – is gluten-free. However, ales, beers, lagers and stouts are not.
Is rye bread gluten-free?
No, rye is a gluten-containing grain and is not gluten-free.
Are corn flakes gluten-free?
Sometimes, but you should check the label. Some manufacturers use barley malt extract as a flavouring, which makes the product unsafe for those with coeliac disease. However, gluten-free options are available.
Are lentils gluten-free?
Yes, lentils are gluten-free, but ready-made lentil products should be checked as they could contain additives that are not gluten-free.
Is sourdough bread gluten-free?
No, unless made with a gluten-free starter and flour. Sourdough made from a gluten-containing grain, such as wheat or rye, is not gluten-free.
Is soy gluten-free?
Sometimes, but you should check the label. There is a huge variety of soy products, some of which are gluten-free and some aren't. Chinese soy sauce is not gluten-free because it is traditionally made with wheat. Soya milk and plain soy yogurt are likely to be gluten-free. Tofu and soya-based textured vegetable protein may be gluten-free, but you should always check the label to make sure.
Like this? Now try:
Have we missed an ingredient that you're not sure about? Leave a comment below...
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Find her on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.