Gluten-free hot dog. Check. The perfect gluten-free hot dog bun. Check. But now you’re wondering…is there gluten in mustard?
Mustard comes from the crushed seeds of several plants related to the cabbage family. The plants and their seeds are naturally gluten-free. However, as with other food products, something that is naturally gluten-free can be ruined by gluten-containing ingredients, so it’s essential that you know what’s in your mustard container.
Vinegar is an extremely common ingredient in most store-bought mustards, and only some types of vinegar are safe for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The vinegar most commonly used to make mustard is white vinegar. White vinegars that are explicitly made from grains that don’t contain gluten (such as rice, corn, or sorghum) are safe. In the United States, most white vinegar is derived from corn.
However, did you know that vinegar can be made from grains that contain gluten, such as wheat, rye, or barley? That's where the vital distillation process comes into action.
Why is distilled vinegar so important? Simply put, when the original sourced material includes gluten containing grains, distillation is the key to gluten-free. The distillation process filters out and removes any gluten from the original sourced material in vinegar. This is why distilled alcohol is also gluten-free.
Distilled vinegars (including vinegars in foods and condiments) are gluten-free because the distillation process filters out the large gluten proteins so they do not pass through to the end product making the finished liquid gluten free. Patients with celiac disease should not be concerned about distilled white vinegar or foods such as pickles, which may contain it.
Any non-distilled vinegar derived from wheat, barley, or rye as a starting material is NOT gluten free. This includes malt vinegar (malt can originate from barley or other glutenous grains).
How to Check to See if a Mustard is Gluten-Free
- Look to see if the bottle says “gluten-free” or has a seal from an organization that certifies gluten-free food. Sometimes a mustard will be gluten-free, but this information won’t be immediately visible. If you can’t find this information, the mustard still might be celiac-safe. You'll need to do some detective work to find out.
- Check the ingredients list. If the mustard contains “distilled white vinegar” and no other gluten-containing ingredients, the mustard is gluten-free.
- If the mustard contains “apple cider vinegar” or “red wine vinegar” and no other gluten-containing ingredients, the mustard is gluten-free.
- If the mustard contains “white vinegar” and distillation is NOT noted, it may not be gluten-free.
- If the mustard contains “malt vinegar” it is NOT gluten-free.
- If you are dining out and do not have access to the mustard’s ingredients, it may not be gluten-free. Ask your waiter and use caution!
Cross-Contamination Hazards When Dining Out & At Home
Unfortunately, the ingredients in mustard aren’t your only concern. Cross-contamination issues also come into play with mustard. Beware of pots of mustard in restaurants that could have had gluten introduced to them by previous customers. Squeeze bottles can also become contaminated if previous diners touched the hot dog or hamburger bun with the mustard bottle. When dining out, if you have access to individual mustard packets, they are your safest bet.
Do you have gluten eaters in your home? Sometimes it’s impossible for the entire household to go gluten-free and you’ll need to be extra careful that no one uses their knife to double-dip. Just like other condiments and butter, mustard can easily be cross-contaminated, so keep things as simple as possible. Designate your own gluten-free condiments and label with a big ol’ GF written in permanent pen.
Squeeze bottles, which are increasingly common for mustard packaging, are one of the safest ways to avoid gluten cross-contamination. If your favorite gluten-free mustard doesn’t come in a squeeze bottle, it’s easy to purchase your own empty bottles and transfer the jarred mustard over for gluten-free safety.
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