Strawberry, grape, blueberry, or raspberry – we all have a favorite jelly flavor! If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or are eliminating gluten for other health reasons, you know finding gluten-free bread is enough of a struggle. But now you wonder “is jelly gluten-free” and can you continue to start your day with a fruit jelly on your toast?
The good news is that all fruit is naturally gluten-free and the main ingredients in most jellies are gluten-free (fruit, sugar, and pectin). Pectin is a starch that occurs naturally in fruit and is used as the setting agent that gives jellies and jams their texture. It, like the other ingredients in jams and jellies, is totally gluten-free. Note I wrote “most jellies are gluten-free” — see There’s Always an Exception to the Rule below. And if your jelly is indeed gluten-free, you still need to be careful of gluten when using them.
Cross-contamination issues can happen with any product, but especially any product that is generally placed on bread. To successfully maintain your gluten-free diet, you’ll need to beware of jars of jelly in restaurants that could have had gluten introduced to them by previous customers. Sometimes a diner will stick a contaminated knife or spoon inside a jam or jelly jar to get the condiment out. In light of this, it’s always a good idea to look for visual contaminants around the rim of the jar and inside the jelly before helping yourself. You can also ask if the restaurant has single serve jelly packets available. These will guarantee your gluten-free safety by being free from cross-contamination. Single serve jelly packets are common at diners and will be likely available at most restaurants that do any sort of takeout business.
At home, if other members of your household continue to eat gluten, you’ll also need to be careful of cross-contamination. Squeeze bottles are somewhat common in jelly packaging and are one of the safest ways to avoid gluten cross-contamination. However, you will need to be sure no one has touched the tip of the squeeze bottle directly to their bread. If, for some reason, your favorite jam or jelly doesn’t come in a squeeze bottle, it’s easy to purchase your own empty bottles and transfer it over for your gluten-free peace of mind. That said, remember that smoother jellies will work best for this. A chunkier jam containing pieces of fruit is delicious but can be difficult to dispense from a squeeze bottle.
There’s Always an Exception to the Rule…
As I was researching “is jelly gluten-free”, I fell down the rabbit hole of gluten in fruit spreads. I was blown away to find a brand of fruit jam with wheat syrup in its ingredients.
So no matter what you’re eating and if you’ve previously checked the brand, always double check. It’s oddities like wheat starch in Hero Fruit Jams and Spreads and Twizzlers that can sneakily gluten us. Wheat starch is a food binder and stabilizer that can make its way into foods that logically would be naturally-gluten-free.
Ways to make sure your jelly is free from gluten cross-contamination:
- Use single-use packets
- Make sure no one double-dips their knife
- Read the ingredients (no matter what!)
- Visually inspect the jar and jelly for signs of cross-contamination
- Use squeeze bottles
- Label products that are for gluten-free use only
- Always remember that if you maintain separate gluten-contaminated and gluten-free versions of the same product in your home, be sure to label them!
Reasons Why Jelly is Gluten-Free
- Made from fruit, which is always naturally gluten-free.
- Pectin, which gives jelly its texture, also comes from fruit and is gluten-free.
- The other main ingredients – sugar and water – are also naturally gluten-free.
What’s the Difference Between Jelly, Jam, Marmalade, and Lemon Curd?
- Jelly is made using only the juice of the fruit and sugar.
- Jam is made using the pulp of the fruit (seeds and skins), sugar and pectin.
- Marmalade is like jam but includes the peel of citrus fruits as well.
- Lemon Curd is made with lemons, eggs, and butter.
Living gluten-free can certainly be frustrating. However, I try to find a glimmer of positive since I’ll have this autoimmune disorder for life. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005 and have learned that “instant food gratification” is a thing of the past. I’ve learned (most of the time) to slow down, read every label carefully, ask questions, and do my research.
There’s nothing like enjoying a meal that you know for certain is free from gluten and free from any impending doom from being glutened!
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