Wondering which candy among all those red and pink wrappers is gluten-free? Here's the list of gluten-free Valentine's candy, as of February 2014.
Unless I've noted otherwise, this list applies to the United States only — manufacturing (and consequently, gluten-free lists) differ from country to country. In addition (again, unless I've noted otherwise), all of these candies are gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million, the current accepted standard in the U.S.
If you're looking for a type of candy that's not on this list, check out my comprehensive main gluten-free candy list, which includes most widely-available candies. Otherwise, enjoy, and Happy Valentine's Day!
Gluten-Free Valentine's Candy (Plus Some Candy That's Not Safe!)
- Betty Crocker Fruit By The Foot and Valentine Heart Shapes. These were available in 2013 but it's not clear if stores are carrying them again — I haven't seen them, even though they're still listed online. They're not technically candy (they're more like fruit roll-ups), but they're worth mentioning, since General Mills is selling them in boxes of small packages designed to be children's Valentines (you can write names directly on them) ... and they're specifically marked "gluten-free."
- Dove chocolate. Dove chocolate, manufactured by Mars Chocolate (which also makes M&Ms), is almost always gluten-free — the obvious exceptions include milk chocolate cinnamon graham and cookies 'n cream flavor. Therefore, you can feel reasonably confident buying Dove chocolate products for Valentine's Day, provided you check the label. Mars will call out any wheat, barley or rye sources on the label. However, Mars' seasonal items may be problematic — last year, I found a decorative tin containing Dove Milk Chocolate Truffle Hearts with the warning "may contain wheat," indicating the company used a shared facility or shared equipment to produce those Valentine-specific candies.
- Gimbal's Fine Candies. These aren't found as commonly in stores, but they're worth mentioning because they're free of many common allergens (including gluten). Gimbal's makes jelly beans, sour jelly beans, sour heart-shaped gum drop-style candies, heart-shaped cherry candies, heart-shaped and round cinnamon-flavored candies, and gluten-free licorice shaped like a Scottie dog. All are peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and egg-free, and are made in a gluten-free facility.
- Hershey's Kisses. Hershey's reports that plain milk chocolate Kisses are safe on the gluten-free diet, as are all filled Kisses (as of January 2014, there were only two filled varieties: caramel and cherry cordial crème). Milk chocolate Kisses are considered gluten-free regardless of what color foil is used to wrap them, so those pink and red foil Valentine's packages are safe. However, other Hershey's Kisses products are not safe, including the Hugs variety, which is commonly seen around Valentine's Day. If you're buying Kisses in a heart-shaped tin, make sure they're all milk chocolate (some tins are and some aren't). I include more detail on different types of Kisses here: Are Hershey's Kisses Gluten-Free?
- Junior Mints (Heart-Shaped). These are produced by Tootsie Roll Industries, which states that all its products are considered gluten-free.
- Lifesavers Candy 'n Stickers. Lifesavers, made by Wrigley, are considered gluten-free, as are these Valentines candy-and-stickers packets, which are aimed squarely at people who need a box of treats that will cover the entire elementary school class.
- M&Ms. There are plenty of Valentine M&M products from which to choose, including specially colored pink and red M&Ms and M&M "Sweet Sayings" (like conversation hearts). M&Ms, like Dove Chocolates, are made by Mars Chocolate, which will call out any gluten grain ingredients on the label. Obviously, pretzel M&Ms aren't safe, but other types of M&Ms that might tend to sound safe can suffer from the risk of gluten cross-contamination. This will be called out on the label in a "may contain wheat" warning. The bottom line: always read the ingredients list — Mars will disclose these cross-contamination risks.
- Peeps. It's easy to find Valentine's Day heart-shaped Peeps, and manufacturer Just Born labels packages "gluten-free" (look for the designation in the same area as the nutritional information) if those Peeps have been produced in a way that's safe for us. However, you shouldn't just assume all Peeps are gluten-free; a few are made in facilities with the opportunity for gluten cross-contamination. Always check the label.
- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. These peanut-y treats appear on Hershey's current gluten-free list and come in a variety of Valentine's Day-specific wrappers. However, the heart shaped ones are NOT considered gluten-free. When purchasing Reese's candy, make sure the peanut butter cups you're buying are manufactured by Hershey's itself; the candy giant licenses the treat to other companies for special holiday versions, and those candies are not considered safe. For example, I recently examined a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures in a heart-shaped tin that was produced by a different company. The label will state clearly whether the manufacturer is Hershey's or someone else, so just make sure to buy only Hershey's-made Reese's (Hershey's also is marketing a heart-shaped box of regular peanut butter cups this year that the company manufactured itself). Bottom line: be careful, as it's easy to make a mistake with these.
- Starburst Candy 'n Stickers and Jelly Beans. Like the Lifesavers (which come in a nearly identical package), these treats are gluten-free.
- Sweethearts Conversation Hearts. These tiny confections with the cute sayings on them (like "Be Mine," "New Love" and "Dream") are made by Necco, and are considered gluten-free. When buying conversation hearts, make sure to steer clear of Brach's or Mayfair's versions of the same candy, as those are not considered gluten-free.
- Tootsie Rolls with Conversation Messages. According to the company, all Tootsie Roll products are gluten-free with the exception of Andes cookies, so these Valentine products should be safe.
Valentine's Candy That's Definitely Not Gluten-Free
- Balmer Cuddly Cuties chocolate teddy bears and dogs (made on shared equipment)
- Brach's candies, including the conversation hearts (as I noted above)
- Elmer Chocolate boxed Valentine's candy (made on shared equipment)
- Ghirardelli boxed chocolates (contain wheat and barley ingredients)
- Lindt Lindor truffles (they contain barley)
- Mrs. Field's assorted chocolates in a heart-shaped tin (contains wheat flour)
- Russell Stover boxed candy (for the limited list of gift-boxed candy that is safe, see my article Gluten-Free Candy Boxes)
Remember, you can refer to my overall Gluten-Free Candy article (the link is above) if you find a Valentine's Day candy that's not on this list. Enjoy!