Sources Of Gluten
Aren’t Always Obvious

Some sources of gluten are pretty easy to spot. The foods containing them are either obvious, like bread, pizza, pasta, or breaded items, or they are clearly marked on the label.

But some sources are either unexpected, disguised under unfamiliar ingredient names, or completely hidden.

The Main Sources Of Gluten

Gluten is in any food or product that contains wheat, rye, or barley, and related grains such as spelt and triticale. It is possible that oats also contain gluten, and many people do have a reaction to oats, but not everyone agrees. See Are Oats Gluten Free? for more information.

The most common foods to be avoided are anything made with “flour”. Always assume it means wheat flour. This includes breads, pastas, tortilla wraps (unless you can get corn), desserts, fried foods with crunchy coatings, soups, sauces and desserts that are thickened, and breakfast foods such as pancakes, waffles, and many cereals. Skip to full list below.

Hidden Sources Of Gluten

An understanding of the gluten free diet has to start by knowing the basic foods that contain gluten, that I listed above. 

But after that it gets complicated. Although better labeling has been proposed for products, it will be voluntary and doesn’t apply to many foreign products. Read More About Gluten Free Labeling of Products from the Celiac Sprue Association.

Since not all labels tell you if gluten is present, you have to learn to read the labels. But you won’t find some sources of gluten on labels. 

This is not meant to be a complete list of the hidden sources of gluten. But being familiar with this list will help get you on the right track. I’ve included some things to watch out for in restaurants, where it may not be convenient to read a label. 

EATING OUT:When in doubt, ask the staff if you can see the packaging. I’ve done this many times, and most restaurant staff has been more than willing to accommodate me.


  • GRAINS AND FLOURS: wheat, rye, barley, oats, atta flour, bran, bleached or unbleached flour, barley grass, bread flour, bulgar, cous cous, dinkle (spelt), durham, einkorn, emmer (durham wheat), farina, farro (called emmer wheat except in Italy), food starch, fu (a dried form of gluten), gliadin, gluten, gluten peptides, glutenin, graham, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed wheat gluten, kamut, maida (Indian wheat flour), matza (matso, matsoh), mir (a wheat and rye cross), seitan (gluten), semolina, spelt, starch, triticale, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat grass, wheat starch.

  • OTHER INGREDIENTS TO AVOID: Barley malt, breading, brewer’s yeast, coating mixes, croutons, malt, malt vinegar, panko (bread crumbs), soup bases and bouillon, syrups, thickeners, foods sold in bulk (these are often contaminated by scoops used in other bins, and possibly by flour floating around in the air), and some types of Asian rice paper.
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  • Foods that may contain soy sauce, such as in an Asian restaurant. Soy sauce contains wheat unless you purchase a wheat free version. You’re not likely to find that in a restaurant.

  • Sauces of all types, including salad dressings and condiments, marinades, gravies

  • French fries are often dusted in flour to give them more crunch. So even if they are cooked in fresh oil they are still not safe to eat.

  • Pilafs often contain rice shaped pasta, called orzo.

  • Spice mixtures may use wheat as an anti-caking agent, filler, or thickening agent.

  • Foods that come prepared may have gluten hidden in a filler or thickener, or a coating or sauce. In restaurants these foods are very common. Find out about restaurants that serve gluten free food.

  • Processed cereals often contain barley malt.

  • Ice cream may have flour as an anti-crystallizing agent.

  • Beverages such as rice or soy may have barley malt or malt enzymes may have been used in manufacture.

  • Beer, unless it’s marked gluten free.

  • Imitation fish, bacon, lunch meats, self-basting poultry

  • Stuffings

  • Communion wafers

Completely Hidden Sources of Gluten

You also have to get used to looking for gluten that is completely hidden. Unfortunately it can be present in many foods or ingredients, but doesn’t show up on labels, or on restaurant menus, either because it’s not an ingredient or a manufacturer doesn’t choose to reveal it.

Hidden gluten may be present from cross contamination in the kitchen or in manufacturing. It may also be present in medications, personal products, and other items. Read more about completely hidden gluten here.

Return from Sources of Gluten to List of Gluten Free Foods

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