Is Meat Gluten-Free? (4 Buying Tips & Guidelines Explained)

Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

As someone who’s struggled with gluten intolerance, I had to do my share of research before I knew if meat was safe for me to eat.

This was one of the first questions I asked my nutritionist when I transitioned to an all-meat diet ten years ago.

I spent hours going over the available information and running it by my doctor to see if I was on the right track.

Here’s a complete guide covering everything meat and gluten.

Quick Summary

  • Fresh meats are gluten-free, but most meats, including meat substitutes, have gluten. This happens because of ingredients or cross-contamination.
  • If you have celiac disease or are following a gluten-free diet, you should know how to buy gluten-free meats.
  • Check for gluten-free certified products if you want to avoid gluten when shopping for meat.

Is Meat Gluten-Free?

A top view image of raw pork chop cuts on a top of a table

Yes, meat is gluten-free. Meat is naturally gluten-free, which means fresh meat and plain cuts, such as beef, poultry, pork, seafood, and more, are 100% free from gluten.

You should watch out for processed or packaged meats, as many of these aren’t safe on a gluten-free diet.

Deli meats are processed, which means they aren’t naturally gluten-free. However, you can find gluten-free certified meats. Make sure to check the label when shopping for gluten-free foods.

You should also watch out for breaded and floured meats. These contain wheat flour, which is a source of gluten.

Be careful with marinated meats or meats covered in sauces and broths.

For example, soy and teriyaki sauces usually have gluten, which means meats marinated in these sauces aren’t safe for people suffering from celiac disease or are gluten sensitive.

To sum up, fresh and plain meats without added ingredients are gluten-free.

Here’s a complete list of gluten-free meats with some examples:

  • Red meat — Beef, pork, lamb
  • Game meats — Elk, rabbit, bison meat
  • Poultry — Chicken and turkey
  • Seafood — Fish, selfish, scallops, crab, lobster
  • All fresh cuts

Meats That Are Not Gluten-Free

Different processed meats on top of a wooden board

These meats aren’t gluten-free:

  • Processed meats — Such as sausage, salami, bacon, hot dogs
  • Meat substitutes — Veggie and soy burgers
  • Deli meats
  • Ground meat
  • Meat with sauces and seasonings
  • Breaded meat
  • Meat mixed with wheat ingredients

Fresh meat is gluten-free. However, the majority of meat isn’t served naturally. We cook meat with oils, use spices to season meat and serve it with sauces. All of these usually contain gluten.

Also, some meats, especially processed meats, contain binders and fillers, which aren’t suitable for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

For example, bacon is naturally gluten-free. It’s made with spices, sugar, and nitrates.

However, some brands add flavorings or additives. Some bacon brands use starches and add soy sauces for flavor, which isn’t gluten-free.

“Products labeled wheat-free are not necessarily gluten-free. They may still contain spelt (a form of wheat), rye, or barley-based ingredients that are not gluten-free. To confirm if something is gluten-free, be sure to refer to the product’s ingredient list.”
- Celiac Disease Foundation

Sausage is another problematic meat. A lot of sausages have bread crumbs as filers, which means it’s not gluten-free.

Moreover, even if the sausage doesn’t necessarily contain a gluten ingredient, it could be made using equipment contaminated with gluten.

You also have to be careful what touches your meat. For example, if slices of bread are placed under the meat, the meat is in contact with food containing gluten, so it’s contaminated and isn’t safe for people with celiac disease.

Deli Meat

Deli meat is usually gluten-free. However, these meats are often cross-contaminated with foods that have gluten in the manufacturing facility or at the deli.

You should always ask the workers at the deli to use new gloves and clean the equipment used to prepare your meat.

Frozen Meat

As for frozen meat, if the meat is the only ingredient, they are considered gluten-free foods. But, if the meat is breaded in wheat starch, it’s not gluten-free.

If you have celiac disease, be careful with frozen meats such as:

  • Meatballs
  • Fish sticks
  • Crab cakes
  • Salmon cakes
  • Chicken fingers
  • Frozen meals
  • Chicken patties
  • Breaded chicken wings

Unless it specifically states this meat is gluten-free on the package, it’s better to avoid it.

Packaged Meat

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, packaged meats may contain gluten [1].

This is because packaged meats have many added ingredients and a high risk of cross-contamination.

Some examples of packaged meats to look out for are hot dogs, sausages, canned fish, and canned meat.

Tips for Buying Gluten-Free Meat

A butcher recommending gluten-free meat to a customer

Here’s how to buy naturally gluten-free meats:

  • Check the ingredients — This goes especially for processed meats, as they can have hidden ingredients dangerous for people with celiac disease. Common examples are soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, modified food starch, malt, and more.
  • Be careful with packaged meats — Once again, check the list of ingredients. Also, the danger with packaged meat is that the meat can be contaminated with gluten during the packaging process. The safest way to buy packaged meats is to get those with a certified gluten-free badge.
  • Get meat close to the source — If you can, get meat straight from the manufacturer. This means buying fresh cuts, as there’s a lower chance of meat being contaminated.
  • Buy meat with a gluten-free certificate — Some meat companies sell certified gluten-free meats. This ensures there aren’t any gluten ingredients, and the equipment used is also clean and gluten-free.

Tiffany Welsh, a gluten-free recipe developer and founder of Well Fed Baker, emphasizes the need to ask a lot of questions, especially when in doubt.

Your butcher will normally be able to respond to any concerns about the meat that is packaged and sold at his store.

For other packaged products, manufacturer websites are a good source of allergen information.


What Meats Don’t Have Gluten?

Meats that don’t have gluten are plain cuts of red meat, poultry, and seafood. All of these are suitable for a gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease.

Can I Eat Meat if I'm on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Yes, you can eat meat if you’re on a gluten-free diet. You should check the list of ingredients when buying meat to make sure it’s gluten-free.

Is Beef Considered Gluten-Free?

Yes, beef is considered gluten-free. This goes for plain, fresh beef that’s not contaminated with ingredients containing gluten.

Is Beef Jerky Gluten-Free?

No, beef jerky isn’t gluten-free. Beef jerky can have starches and gluten ingredients.


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About the author

Arianna Foster
Nutritionist/Editorial Director
Arianna is a nutrition expert with unmatched management skills and a love for steaks. The only thing she enjoys more than educating people on how to improve their diet and live a healthier life is cooking and hiking.
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