Gluten Free Tip Sheet

Recently, I was asked to create a Tip Sheet for a cookbook that is going to be published here in Washington for the eWomenNetwork (which I am a proud member of). They are a really great organization and always have gluten free options available for me at luncheons!

Anyway, I think the Tip Sheet turned out pretty good and thought I would pass it along:

Cooking for someone that is Gluten Free isn’t as easy as many people would like to think. Gluten is much more than just “bread” – it is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. And, many people, like those with celiac disease have an intolerance so severe that they can’t eat food that has even touched something with gluten in it (including the spatula, your hand, etc). It is important to know who you are cooking for and what their needs are before you buy/start cooking. Here are some tips to help if you are cooking Gluten Free (in alphabetical order):

  • Alcohol – beer is pretty much off the table, but there are GF options available. Wine is ok, along with most hard liquors. However, any of the “malt beverages” (Mike’s, Smirnoff, etc) in the bottle are not Gluten Free.
  • Anything powdered – powdered items can be tricky across the board – seasonings, gravy mix, and other items often have wheat flour in them even when you don’t think they would. You can’t trust any brand specifically, or assume that just because you have bought powdered gravy before that all gravy mix is Gluten Free – sadly, it isn’t that simple. Read your labels!
  • Bisquick and Betty Crocker – these brands now offer Gluten Free options – Betty Crocker also has four mixes (chocolate cake, yellow cake, chocolate chip cookies and brownies). These, and the Gluten Free Bisquick can be found at most supermarkets. Note, they will have different instructions than non-GF items.
  • Bread Crumbs – there are many GF breads out there – some much better than others. You can make your own bread crumbs easily using GF bread. Udi’s and Rudi’s are two brands that are similar to many “regular” breads.
  • Broth – some broths you buy in the store have wheat in them – read labels!
  • Cross-Contamination – make sure to use a clean working area when making GF food. Wash everything to avoid having something you were cooking earlier get on the food you are making now – ¼ tsp is enough to cause a serious problem for people with celiac disease. 
  • Cheese – there are a couple of things to watch for: blue cheese isn’t GF, because it comes from a bread starter. For those that are less sensitive, this could be ok. Also, beware of pre-shredded/sliced cheese as flour can be used to keep it from sticking together. It is best to shred/slice yourself when possible since this isn’t listed in ingredients.
  • Dressing and Ketchup – many dressings are thickened with flour – and some condiments are too – some ketchup is GF and others aren’t. Read those labels!
  • Flour and Cornstarch – for items like crisping chicken, crumbled desserts, or other things that call for a small amount of flour – cornstarch can be substituted. Use about ½ the amount of cornstarch as you would flour.
  • GF Pasta – there are many kinds of pasta that are GF, including those made from rice, quinoa, corn and potatoes. Note: spelt is not GF and “egg noodles” still have flour in them.
  • Marshmallows – you know the light powder on the outside of a marshmallow? This is often flour to keep it from sticking while cooking. There are GF marshmallows if you keep your eyes open and read labels. 
  • Oatmeal – oats are controversial in the GF community. Some people who are Gluten Free can eat oats and others can’t. If you do buy oats, be sure to get them where they specifically say “Gluten Free” on the label – like Bob’s Red Mill. If they aren’t they are often processed with wheat flour and covered with cross-contaminates.
  • Oil – if you cook with oil – make sure you change it before cooking GF items. The residue of items that were breaded (even in a deep fryer) can cross-contaminate any GF items for the very sensitive.
  • Other Grains – There are many other grains that don’t contain gluten. Rice, corn, potatoes and quinoa are all GF. Spelt, couscous, egg noodles, and many others are not.
  • Read Labels – even if it seems like it should be GF (no matter what it is) you never really know until you read EVERY ingredient on the label. Some things will even say “Gluten Free” across the front of the box and say “may contain wheat” in the ingredients. Also, beware of anything with a malt coating – malt coatings come from gluten.
  • Sausage and Ground Meat – many ground meats (including sausage) have a filler of flour or breadcrumbs. Labels will tell you if this is the case or not.
  • Soy Sauce – regular soy sauce is not Gluten Free, but there are options for GF soy sauce which taste almost identical. Some buy “GF Tamari” and now, many well-known brands (including Kikkoman) have a GF option.
  • Tortillas – while flour tortillas are a big no-no for the GF people out there – corn tortillas are an easy alternative (they are better for you, too!). Just make sure to read the label to make sure it doesn’t have a wheat filler.
  • Tortilla Chips – most corn tortilla chips are GF. What to look for? Corn or flour. Also, some chips are cooked in the same oil as other things that are breaded, which means they can’t be eaten by GF people. Other chips are hit or miss as well – read the labels to be sure, and be especially wary of things with a seasoning on them. BBQ chips often are not Gluten Free, but Frito’s are.

Do you have any other tips? Did I miss anything important?


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Filed under Cooking, Daily Life, Friends and Family, What is Celiac Disease?

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