It's no surprise nuts are as popular as they are. They're rich in calories and nutrients, have a long shelf life, offer enough variety to not get boring, and are perfect for snacking.
If you or someone you know recently discovered a gluten intolerance or have been advised to reduce gluten for any other reason, you may be wondering if nuts and seeds have gluten in them.
It's worth being careful, too — eating gluten with a wheat allergy or celiac disease can cause headaches, bloating, exacerbate EoE, among other symptoms[*].
With that in mind, we're going to cover everything you need to know about whether nuts are gluten-free or not.
Are nuts gluten-free?
Yes. Natural nuts do not contain gluten and will not affect anyone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Flavored nuts and certain nut processing plants may contain gluten, however, so the best choice is to eat plain nuts and double-check with the manufacturer when unsure.
Again, if you have any nut in their unaltered form, you won't find gluten. Gluten is the protein mix that gives bread its characteristic elastic texture, and it doesn't exist naturally in nuts. Gluten is specific to cereal grains and wheat species such as rye, oats, barley, etc.[*].
Nuts, in a general sense, are dried seeds that we cultivate and eat at scale. Because gluten is specific to wheat and other cereal grains, all of what we typically consider nuts or seeds are fair game.
So anytime you're wondering if plain peanuts are gluten-free… or if raw almonds are gluten-free, etc., you have nothing to worry about!
Here are a few other nuts that fall under the gluten-free umbrella:
- Brazilian nuts
- Pine nuts
- Macadamia nuts
In sum, nuts in their natural state are gluten-free, so as long as you're eating raw or pure nuts without any added flavorings, preservatives, etc., then you're fine.
But… not all nut products are gluten-free
Many flavored types of nuts, combination products, and nut processing plants do have or work around gluten, so you need to pay attention to what brands and what flavored nuts you choose. For example, if you're eating Raw Almonds from Nuts.com, then you're fine, but if you're eating Flavor Bomb Wasabi Flavored Peanuts with Extra Spicy kick, then you should look closely at their ingredients or just avoid them altogether.
For those times when you are craving some type of specialized nut, here's what to look out for in terms of additives, preservatives, and flavorings. It's really easy for wheat to hide in plain sight.
Here are some ingredients that typically contain wheat/gluten.
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Wheat protein
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
These types of protein additives are popular in frozen vegetarian meals, so if you're buying a frozen meal with nuts and vegetables, make sure you take a close look.
- Food starch
- Modified food starch
- Vegetable gum
Snack foods often include texture additives to capture a certain "mouthfeel". The more snacky the food, the more present these tend to be.
- Artificial flavor
- Natural flavor
- Smoke flavor
- Vegetable broth
Many flavored nuts use soy sauce and other wheat-containing flavor enhancers. Pay close attention to Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian-flavored snack foods. You should also avoid nuts when they're part of a mix of gluten-containing ingredients like trail mixes or pretzel mixes.
Wow, this seems like a lot to watch out for!
When in doubt, stick to the source. It's much easier to find a brand that you know doesn't contaminate their natural nuts with any gluten and stick with them. We include a list of brands that you can trust below, so make sure you check it out!
Fortunately, there are also gluten-free certifications and helpful laws you can rely on to make smarter decisions.
How to make sure you're eating gluten-free nuts
If you're particularly gluten sensitive, then it's best to skip the flavorings and go for raw, organic, and natural nuts. The fewer the ingredients on the back, the better. Ideally, it will just name the nut itself!
Manufacturers are required by law to indicate whether wheat exists in their products, so look for the CONTAINS: WHEAT or MAY CONTAIN: WHEAT, marker on any package you buy. Many brands will also put "gluten-free" on their packages as well. This is legal via the FDA as long as the product doesn't contain over a certain threshold of gluten.
While this is a useful starting point, it's better to trust third-party certifications since they are more reliable. One of the most popular third-party certifications is the GFCO. They are widely respected and have twice as stringent standards as the FDA definition of "gluten-free".
You can also ask the company directly. They will be able to give you exact specifics on how they think about and produce their nuts. If they are vague in any way about cross-contamination, don't bother and try another brand.
The best gluten-free nut brands
Some brands are more careful than others, and the best gluten-free brands take pride in their sustainability and thorough approach. Brands that don't cross-contaminate and receive independent certifications are ideal, and we've picked out a few for you to choose from:
Nuts.com is not cheap — especially after you factor in shipping costs, but they are super reliable and have a fantastic selection of gluten-free nuts, nut flours, nut mixes, and more. If you'd like to stop thinking about what types of nuts are safe etc., just order any of their products from their gluten-free nuts page.
Blue Diamond's gluten-free certified products are reliable and can be found in many supermarkets. While they do have flavored nuts that wouldn't be considered gluten-free, they seem thorough and careful with their cross-contamination practices.
International Harvest prioritizes natural products and every one of their 250 items are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, and plant-based.
In general, if a company's focus is on sustainability, then they're a better bet when deciding to trust their gluten-free certifications because their certifications are what give them a competitive advantage.
Tierra Farm is another organic and sustainability-focused brand, with the GFCO independent certification across all of their nut products. They do process them in a facility that handles tree nuts, soy, and milk, but assuming you don't have any other allergies or intolerances to worry about, then this team does great work.
Avoid these nut brands
Not all nut brands are created equal, unfortunately. Some companies aren't as careful and use the same processing lines for gluten-filled items as they do for products without gluten. Here are a few major companies to avoid if you're looking to be extra careful.
Planter's Nuts is a Kraft brand, and they aren't nearly as careful with their labeling of gluten-free and production facilities as the other brands listed above. Even if a product doesn't have any gluten-containing ingredients, they don't distinguish whether or not it may have been cross-contaminated.
While many people with light sensitivities will be fine with gluten-free labeled options from Planter's, there are just better and more thorough options available.
I know, Costco lovers, I'm treading on dangerous territory here, but Kirkland nuts have an official warning that the lines the nuts are processed on may contain wheat. If you want to be extra careful, then you'll have to choose a different brand.
Diamond of California
Diamond of California has a similar story. While the products themselves may not directly contain gluten, their processing lines are blended and aren't guaranteed to be free from wheat.
Become a label-reading ninja and know your risk
In general, you need to get in the habit of reading every label you come across. Always look for the "may contain wheat" line and any of the other problem ingredients listed above.
As the days go by, you'll get better at it and have more brands you trust. This will take some of the thinking and mental burden out of it. And if you're ever unsure, let's say at a party or other event, then just play it safe depending on how sensitive you are.
If you aren't that sensitive, then plain nuts will almost always be fine, even if they are subject to light cross-contamination. If you are super sensitive, then be more cautious and adjust accordingly!
The bottom line on gluten-free nuts
If you're eating natural, unaltered nuts you have nothing to worry about. They don't contain natural gluten and are fine for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerances to eat.
It gets trickier when you bring in flavorings and production lines into the mix. If you have a mild intolerance, then you should be fine eating anything labeled gluten-free by the FDA. If you are particularly sensitive, then you should seek out third-party gluten-free labels like the GFCO and/or message the producers themselves to be absolutely sure.
Good luck with your gluten-free eating, and happy snacking!