Nutrition / Food

10 Surprising Foods That Contain Gluten

Some of the gluten-rich foods in your pantry may surprise you.

It’s no secret that carb-y favorites such as pizza, pasta, and bread contain gluten. But gluten can also pop up in unlikely places—much to the dismay of those actively trying to avoid the blend of proteins. Whether through factory mixing, enhanced flavor additives, or even subtle grain ingredients, gluten surprisingly makes its way into a wide variety of seemingly healthy and perceived gluten-free foods. Below, Aaptiv outlines ten different foods (and drinks) that may appear gluten-free, but actually, contain grain-based ingredients that have elements of gluten in them. Read on to avoid adding gluten into your cabinets, and learn what replacement foods to purchase instead.

Soy Sauce

The use of rice and rice-based noodles have many thinking that they’re safe when it comes to enjoying some Asian dishes (primarily Japanese food). Unfortunately, soy sauce, which is used as a dipping sauce for sushi and rice, as well as a base for many Asian sauces, such as teriyaki, contains gluten. Soy sauce is made of four ingredients: water, soybeans, wheat, and salt. During fermentation, the wheat proteins break down in a process called hydrolysis. What’s scary about soy sauce is that a gluten antibodies test (like the Nima test) can’t detect the traces of gluten due to the small size of the particles.

Even though the traces are small, soy sauce can still irritate damage to those with celiac disease. Instead, try using tamari, which is also made with soybeans but wheat-free. While the flavor isn’t as salty as soy sauce, you’re getting a much richer taste.

Salad Dressings

Unless making salad dressings from scratch or buying from specialty stores, there’s a good chance that you’re dressing your vegetables with a product that contains gluten. Gluten is commonly added to the flavor seasoning to enrich the taste. To check to see if the dressing you’re using has gluten, look at the ingredients list. Most notably, manufacturers should put “contains wheat” on the bottle to let their customers know. If not, look through the list. If there’s any mention of wheat, rye, or barley at all on the list, then it contains gluten. So, be sure to always check those labels closely.

To definitely guarantee that you’re not consuming gluten, try making your own dressing at home. Some examples include olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or spicy garlic, which contains gluten-free mayonnaise, garlic powder (or fresh minced garlic), olive oil, and a touch of sugar.


Depending on what type you’re consuming, the filling lunch staple may contain gluten. Soups that are generally thicker and creamier usually have gluten in them, as they use wheat or flour to thicken up the sauce. Of course, soups that contain pasta like chicken noodle or chicken orzo have gluten as a result of their ingredients. Check to see if your favorite soups name any grain by-product on the list of ingredients. Most soups without gluten will label themselves as gluten-free to help out their customers.

Instead of relying on packaged canned soups, you can always try making soups at home. Simply start with a broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, or shrimp) base or tomato base soup. Add in fresh proteins and veggies to give your dish more nutrition and flavor.

Processed Lunch Meats

It’s easy to assume that the gluten-heavy part of a sandwich is the bread. It turns out, though, that certain deli and processed meats might contain the stuff, too. Deli meat often contains seasoning and binders to give the meat taste or texture. Some of these contain rye, barley, or wheat products. Always ask your butcher whether the meat your purchasing contains gluten or be sure to read the label.

Instead of buying deli meat, try baking or roasting a turkey, chicken, pot roast, etc., and using this for sandwich meat or cold cuts. Look around your grocery store for unseasoned rotisserie chickens that you can slice on your own, too.

Imitation ‘Meat’

Speaking of meat, pay attention to the ingredients in meat substitutes, too. Seitan, a popular vegetarian food, is actually made from wheat. In fact, seitan is made from the combination of flour and water worked until all that’s left if the sticky dough that is full of gluten. Instead of buying imitation meat for your protein sources, try eating vegetables high in plant protein to fulfill your needs. These include peas, spinach, kale, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Potato Chips

Potatoes in their original form don’t contain gluten, but there may be a few of our favorite chip flavors that do. As mentioned earlier, seasonings can contain additives that include wheat, barley, or rye for flavoring. Typically plain potato chips should be fine. But always check the label. For both a healthier and 100 percent gluten-free version of potato chips, try making them at home with Yukon, blue, or sweet potatoes. Try different seasoning combinations like sea salt and pepper, rosemary and parmesan, or cayenne for a kick.

Malt Milkshakes

Malt, the delicious sweetener that makes its way into milkshakes and whoppers (amongst other food products) contains gluten. Because malt is made from barley (one of the three grains that contain gluten) it earns a spot on our list. Fortunately, while traditional malt has gluten in it, there are seeds called pseudo-grains. These create similar malt flavors by converting the seed’s starch properties into sugars.


This culprit speaks more to eggs served at restaurants versus eggs cooked in our very own kitchens. This may sound strange since eggs are pure animal protein and gluten is made from plant-based protein. But, the reason some eggs have gluten has to do with the ingredients added to a certain style of eggs. Some places are known to put pancake batter in their omelettes or egg scramble to give it fuller texture, as well as amplified flavor. When ordering eggs at a restaurant, pick a style like poached or sunny-side up to guarantee that your meal is gluten-free.

Cheesecake Filling

Often times, a wheat filling is added to many cheesecake recipes for thickening and texture purposes. Along with the filling, cheesecake crust will usually contain gluten. While cheesecake may feel like the safe dessert for gluten-free sweet tooth lovers to indulge in (versus cakes and brownies), it’s not a guarantee. To make sure that you’re not eating cheesecake containing gluten, try making the filling from scratch. Or, purchase gluten-free filling, in addition to buying a gluten-free crust.


The quenching beverage that’s best enjoyed amongst friends and loved ones, unfortunately, does contain gluten. Just like our beloved milkshakes, beer also contains malt barley. However, now that we’re venturing into the craft beer scene, more and more beers are venturing away from barley to wheat and rye. Plus, hard cider is a great alternative to beer if you’re trying to follow a gluten-free diet.

Take the guesswork out of going gluten-free by paying close attention to the labels of all the foods you eat. Your tummy will thank you!

And don’t forget the nutrition is only half of living a healthy lifestyle—the other half is fitness, and Aaptiv can help.

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