Meat is a staple food in many people’s diets and is full of protein. Protein is a building block of muscles, bones, cartilage, and skin and is essential for overall health and well-being. If you’re avoiding gluten, you’re probably wondering if you can eat meat and whether processed meats are gluten-free.
So, what is gluten-free meat? Meat is naturally gluten-free. Fresh, plain cuts of meat, including poultry (chicken, turkey), beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, venison, game meat, fish, and seafood, are all gluten-free. Breaded and floured fried meats contain gluten, as well as meats marinated or covered in sauces, broths, and braises.
Keep reading to learn what types of meat are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet. We’ll also talk about processed meats and whether they are gluten-free or not.
Does Gluten-Free Mean No Meat?
Following a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you have to give up meat. A gluten-free diet excludes any foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and several other grains.
Meat, on the other hand, is naturally gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This applies to all fresh meat, including pork, beef, poultry, lamb, venison, fish, and game meat.
However, people following a gluten-free diet must be careful when purchasing processed meats, like hot dogs, pork rolls, sausages, packaged deli meats, canned chicken, canned fish, and spam.
Furthermore, many marinades used to add flavor to the meat contain soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, which typically contain gluten.
When purchasing processed meats, check the ingredient label to see if the product contains gluten. Or you can look for a gluten-free badge that denotes certified gluten-free products.
What Meats Are Gluten-Free?
All fresh, unprocessed meat is safe to consume on a gluten-free diet. Plain cuts of chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb, venison, game meat, rabbit, fish, and seafood are all naturally gluten-free.
However, some meats may have added gluten for flavor or binding, which makes them unsafe for people following a gluten-free diet. Furthermore, meats can also become cross-contaminated from coming into contact with gluten.
There are plenty of options available if you’re looking for gluten-free meat. To ensure the meat remains free of gluten, stick close to the source. This means you should purchase real, fresh meat that hasn’t been fried, marinated, or processed in any way.
The meat bought from a butcher or the meat counter at the grocery store is typically safe as long as it doesn’t contain any other ingredients. Avoid all meats that have been seasoned or marinated if you aren’t 100% sure about the ingredients.
Some meat preparations contain added ingredients, including wheat flour or wheat-based starches. Fried meats are often breaded or floured using a mixture that contains gluten. Furthermore, many marinades, sauces (soy and teriyaki sauce), soups, and braises also contain gluten.
Although fresh meat is generally safe, you’ll have to be careful when purchasing frozen meats like meatballs, burger patties, and chicken nuggets. Luckily, frozen products should contain a list of ingredients and an allergen warning on the label.
Many manufacturers blend their meats with what-based starches or flour, and the seemingly basic cut of meat might not be safe. Don’t assume that a frozen product is gluten-free – check the label to be sure.
Don’t forget to be careful and check for hidden gluten ingredients when purchasing lunch meat. Plain ham, turkey, chicken, and roast beef are gluten-free, but deli meat might not be safe.
Are Processed Meats Gluten-Free?
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, processed meats may contain gluten. Processed meat products usually contain a bunch of added ingredients and are at a high risk of cross-contamination.
Processed meat products include sausages, hot dogs, pork rolls, spam, packaged deli meats, canned fish, and canned chicken.
To ensure you’re buying gluten-free processed meat, purchase it from a certified gluten-free company. This also ensures that the company uses gluten-free preparation methods, meaning they aren’t using the same knife to cut breaded meat and your gluten-free lunch meat.
When buying processed meat from non-certified brands, always check the ingredient list for wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and other gluten-containing grains. Other ingredients you should look for include malt, maltodextrin, and modified food starch.
What Processed Meats Are Gluten-Free?
Plain chicken, turkey, ham, and roast beef don’t contain gluten and are safe for people following a gluten-free diet. However, deli meat, pre-packaged or bought at the deli counter, can contain gluten.
Most brands and flavors of deli meat may become cross-contaminated at the deli or in the manufacturing facility. To avoid cross-contamination, ask the workers at the deli to use new gloves and clean slicers to prepare your meat.
If you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you must choose deli meat that is certified gluten-free. Here are several brands of gluten-free lunch meat you can use when making a sandwich:
- Boar’s Head
- Applegate Natural & Organic Meats
- Budding Original
- Land O’Frost
- Gallo Salame
- Butterball (most varieties are gluten-free)
- Dietz & Watson (everything except scrapple and bockwurst Is gluten-free)
There’s no need to stop eating meat if you can’t stomach gluten. Meat is an excellent source of protein that supports overall health and well-being.
While all fresh meat is gluten-free, added ingredients such as breading, seasoning, sauces, soups, and marinades may contain gluten. Stick close to the source and choose plain versions of meat that don’t contain additives like flour, breading, or other wheat-based starches.
Since most processed meats may contain gluten, look for certified gluten-free brands you can trust. Plain ham, turkey, chicken, and beef roast don’t contain gluten, but you should be extra careful with lunch meats. Most deli meats contain added ingredients that may contain gluten and are at risk of cross-contamination in the manufacturing facility or the deli.