Finding out you have celiac disease and learning to stay gluten-free can be overwhelming at first. Most, if not all, of the breads, pastas, cereal, crackers, cookies, cakes, flour and baking mixes in your pantry will have gluten in them, but what other foods should you replace in order to have a well-stocked, gluten-free pantry? Here’s a list of 10 pantry items that will most likely have gluten in them. Replace these with gluten-free products, and you’ll be ready to get your gluten-free kitchen up and running.
Soy SauceRegular soy sauce is 40% to 60% wheat. Manufacturers of gluten-free soy sauce include LaChoy and Kari-Out. My favorite soy sauce substitute is San-J Organic Wheat-Free Tamari, which is made with 100% soybeans and no wheat and is available at Whole Foods, health food stores and many supermarkets. San-J also sells a lower-sodium, wheat-free tamari. (San-J also makes tamari that does contain wheat, so be careful.)
Salad DressingsAs with so many other products, many salad dressings use some form of gluten as a thickener. Among the more common U.S. brands with many gluten-free flavors are Maple Grove (with more than 25 gluten-free dressings that include lite and sugar free), Annie’s Naturals (31 products suitable for gluten-free diets) and Newman’s Own. Since manufacturing processes differ from country to country, some brands of salad dressing that are off limits in the United States may be gluten-free elsewhere.
Gravies, Sauces and MarinadesMany gravies, sauces and marinades contain gluten. If you can’t find gluten-free alternatives in stores near you, many delicious gluten-free substitutes are available by mail order. (If you need low-sodium gluten-free sauces and marinades, try the salt-free ones from Mr. Spice.)
SoupsCanned soups often contain gluten, as do some soup mixes. As a substitute for traditional ready-made noodle soup, consider trying one of the Thai Kitchen-brand rice-noodle soup bowls, which only require the addition of hot water. Many gluten-free soups, soup mixes and bouillon cubes are available by mail order if you can’t find any in your local stores.
Bread CrumbsSome companies sell gluten-free bread crumbs. You can also make your own or (my favorite method) use crushed gluten-free corn flakes.
Puddings and Pie FillingsFind brands that use a safe starch (for example, potato, corn or tapioca) as a thickener instead of wheat-based thickeners.
Reduced-Fat ProductsIn reduced-fat foods (such as meats and dairy products), starches are used to make the product gel better. You need to be sure the starch is from a safe source, such as the ones named above.
Processed MeatsModified starches are used to bind water in processed meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, sausages, etc.). Be sure there’s no gluten-based starch in any processed meat product to be eaten by someone with celiac disease.
Ready-Made Meals and Fast FoodsAlmost all of these contain gluten. Among other reasons, the binding properties of starch help batters and coatings adhere to food and also keep the foods from getting soggy.
Ice CreamBelieve it or not, you can actually get gluten-free cookie dough ice cream if you’re craving it, but regular ice creams with cookies or other crunchy ingredients are off-limits. Also check to be sure your reduced-fat ice creams don't contain gluten. (I know, I know ... ice cream is technically not a “pantry item”... but in some homes -- mine included -- it’s always in stock.)
Remember: You must be absolutely certain that a food has no gluten hidden in its ingredients or contaminating it from other sources. If you’re not sure whether a food is safe, call the manufacturer and ask. Usually, there’s a toll-free consumer information number on the package. Since manufacturers often adjust ingredients or switch suppliers, you'll need to recheck the gluten-free status of your favorite products periodically.