Ice cream is a quintessential summer treat, and one you don't need to give up if you follow the gluten-free diet. You can find plenty of gluten-free options in store-bought ice cream.
However, some cautions and caveats are in order: many flavors of ice cream do contain gluten, including some that might surprise you. Here's what you need to know to enjoy store-bought ice cream when you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Choosing A Safe Ice Cream
You may have read that many brands of ice cream contain wheat as a filler or thickener. As it turns out, this is more or less a gluten urban legend — I've checked numerous brands of ice cream in several different stores, and I've only found one brand (Blue Bell) that uses wheat as an ingredient in flavors such as chocolate that you'd think would be naturally gluten-free.
That being said, there are plenty of ice cream brands that list obvious gluten ingredients on their labels for some of their flavors. You'll find everything from Cookies & Cream to Brownie Sundae and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough on your grocery store shelves, and in most cases (but not all) they'll be off-limits.
However, there are plenty of cool-sounding flavors that don't have gluten in them, at least to the generally accepted level of 20 parts per million.
Keep in mind that some of these may be produced on lines shared with gluten-containing foods, therefore and be subject to gluten cross-contamination — you may want to stick with more popular flavors like vanilla and chocolate, which are produced in greater volume and may be subject to less potential cross-contamination risk (that's what I do). Regardless, I seem to have the best luck with premium ice cream brands, especially those that don't produce many gluten-containing flavors.
Gluten-Free Ice Cream Brands
Here's a list of major ice cream manufacturers, their gluten disclosure policies, links to their sites, and a sampling of their gluten-free flavors:
- Ben & Jerry's. This iconic Vermont chain does not provide a gluten-free list of flavors. Instead, according to this company statement, Ben & Jerry's will call out any ingredients containing wheat, flour, barley, oats, rye, or malt on the product label. The company also works with its suppliers — including its packaging suppliers — to verify all ingredients. "We understand that there are tricky ways that gluten can be missed. We assure you that we have researched our ingredients carefully, and we know exactly what is going into our ice cream," the company says in its statement. Since ingredients and formulations can change at any time, you should check the label every single time you buy Ben & Jerry's, the company adds.
- Breyer's Ice Cream. Breyer's announced in May 2014 that it would begin labeling 36 of its flavors "gluten-free." This includes many popular Breyers flavors, including Natural Vanilla, Chocolate, Cherry Vanilla and Butter Pecan. Breyers tests its gluten-free-labeled products to make certain they contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten, the gluten-free standard set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Dove Ice Cream. Almost every Dove ice cream flavor is gluten-free — Vanilla with Fudge Brownies is the sole exception. As I've said before, you'll usually find Dove ice cream miniatures in my freezer. Dove is a subsidiary of Mars Chocolate (read more about Mars in my gluten-free candy article).
- Dreyer's/Edy's Ice Cream. The two brands, which sell the same products, list gluten-free under the nutritional information on their websites for those products they consider to be safe on the gluten-free diet. To search, you'll have to go product by product and view the nutritional information for each.
- Häagen-Dazs. According to the company's Frequently Asked Questions page: "As a general rule, the gluten in our frozen dessert products is present only in added bakery products such as cookies, cake, or brownies." Flavors considered safe by the company (to 20 parts per million) include Crème Brulée, Pineapple Coconut, Pistachio and White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, among more conventional possibilities such as Chocolate and Vanilla.
- So Delicious. Turtle Mountain's So Delicious brand makes coconut- and soy-based ice creams. Since they're dairy-free, they might make a good option for you if you're also avoiding dairy products. Many (but not all) of So Delicious brand ice cream products are gluten-free (you can find the complete list here), and those that are considered safe are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, which means they contain fewer than 10 parts per million of gluten.
- Talenti. This gourmet gelato and sorbet brand, which features such flavors as Mediterranean Mint, Alphonso Mango, and Blood Orange, considers many of its flavors to be gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million. Be aware that not all flavors are gluten-free; always check the label and the ingredients. According to the manufacturer: "All of our products are produced on the same equipment, however we go through an extensive cleaning process between flavors, and schedule production in a particular order to avoid cross contamination. We are up to all heath safety codes, and our equipment and samples are periodically tested."
- Turkey Hill Dairy. Turkey Hill places a "gluten-free" label on flavors that contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Possibilities include Choco Mint Chip, Columbian Coffee, Peaches 'N Cream and Rum Raisin, along with Dutch Chocolate and French Vanilla.
Scoop up a big bowl of your favorite flavor of gluten-free ice cream — or even buy some gluten-free ice cream cones — and enjoy!