Grits is a popular type of porridge made from ground corn. Unlike other grains, corn does not contain gluten, so grits are often gluten-free. However, this is not always the case. Different manufacturers and different grits products may have gluten added in, or the cornmeal may have been exposed to gluten during processing.
This means that it’s important to always check the label. Let’s talk about which brands are gluten-free, and which are best to avoid.
Are All Grits Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a protein found in grains including rye, wheat, and barley. Celiac disease is a serious digestive disorder that affects around 1% of the US population and is triggered by eating gluten. Other digestive problems may lead people to avoid gluten in their diets. To this day it is estimated that 30% of the US population are trying to reduce their gluten intake.
Grits are made from cornmeal, which naturally doesn’t contain any gluten. This makes grits an excellent and affordable choice for people wanting to avoid gluten in their diets. But you need to be careful, sometimes grits may be made from grains other than corn, and they may include additives or flavorings that are not gluten-free.
Companies may use the same machinery or factory space to process gluten-free and gluten-containing products. This explains why sometimes you may see an ingredient list that doesn’t include gluten, but the product itself is not gluten-free. When cross-contamination is a possibility then manufacturers can’t use gluten-free labels on their product.
Why Are Some Grits Not Gluten-Free?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all pre-packaged foods have a list of ingredients on their label. In 2004, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) has required that all foods specify if they contain common food allergens.
This has made life easier for people with gluten sensitivities, as wheat (a common source of gluten) is included as a major allergen. Where it gets complicated, is that the FDA and FALCPA do not require brands to declare if an ingredient may accidentally be in a food, for example following cross-contamination.
A gluten-free brand is tested before it can be officially certified as gluten-free by the FDA or other food standards organization. These products must be shown to contain less than 20 Parts Per Million (PPM) of gluten. This means that factories making grits in the same facility that produces gluten-containing products can’t call their products gluten-free due to the risk of cross-contamination.
Different people have different levels of sensitivity to gluten: some can never eat gluten, and some people just choose to avoid it. If you can’t eat gluten at all, then it is best to stick with brands that have a gluten-free certification.
If you are someone who chooses not to eat gluten, then you might be comfortable eating grits without a gluten-free label, but don’t actually contain any gluten ingredients.
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What Grits Are Gluten-Free?
Because the FDA and FALCPA have such strict guidelines on the maximum amount of gluten a product can contain, only a few well-known brands have gluten-free grits. Here’s a list of the top gluten-free brands of grits you can buy at the stores:
- FDA approved gluten-free yellow corn grits from Arrowhead Mills.
- Yellow corn polenta from Bob’s Red Mill, it’s colorful and certified gluten-free.
- Julia’s Pantry have a huge variety of gluten-free yellow and white corn grits.
- Palmetto Farms has yellow, white, and mixed varieties of gluten-free grits.
- Check out Old School’s creamy stone-ground and gluten-free white grits.
- Head over to Dixie Lily for yellow or white grits which are all gluten-free.
Are Quaker Grits Gluten-Free?
Quaker is one of the leading forces in grains, porridge, and oatmeal. They have an extensive range of grits, but none of them are marketed as gluten-free.
Since Quaker doesn’t have separate processing facilities for gluten-containing and gluten-free products, there is a risk of cross-contamination.
This means that Quaker cannot guarantee that their grits are gluten-free, even if there are no gluten-based ingredients in the final product. If you have a serious gluten intolerance, or have Celiac Disease, then it’s best to avoid this brand.
Are Waffle House Grits Gluten-Free?
Waffle House isn’t a great choice for gluten-free dining and unfortunately their allergen menu specifies that their grits contain gluten.
Unlike cross-contamination, this is because the grits are cooked with gluten-based ingredients. Make sure to steer clear of these grits if you avoid gluten in your diet.
Are Cracker Barrel Grits Gluten-Free?
Cracker Barrel grits are gluten-free, so head over there if you’ve got a craving. As with many in-house dining spots, they make it clear to customers that they can’t guarantee that their menu items are gluten-free. This is a risk for anyone with a gluten-intolerance when eating out unless the kitchen has a gluten-free section. Ask your server if you’re unsure.
Are Jim Dandy Grits Gluten-Free?
Although Jim Dandy grits aren’t made with any ingredients that contain gluten, their allergen list points out that their products may contain wheat. This is another example of potential cross-contamination in the manufacturing process. As wheat is one of the three gluten grains, these grits should be avoided in people with gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease.
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Are Bob’s Red Mill Grits Gluten-Free?
Bob’s Red Mill is widely known for their grain products and are well established amongst the gluten-free community. Although they make a lot of types of grits, only their Yellow Corn Polenta is labelled and certified as gluten-free.
Bob’s Red Mill can be relied upon to create great, safe, gluten-free products as they have their own dedicated gluten-free facility, so cross-contamination is never an issue.
Are Cheese Grits Gluten-Free?
Premade cheese grits are available to buy, but they’re not all gluten-free. Quaker make Cheddar Cheese Instant Grits but, like the plain grits, they aren’t labelled as gluten-free. Not because they contain gluten, but rather because Quaker can’t be sure that there isn’t any gluten in the product from other sources.
The ingredients for these cheese grits contain something called hydrolyzed corn gluten. You may see this in other brands of grits too, but don’t worry- it isn’t the same thing as the gluten that causes reactions in people with gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease.
Can I Make My Own Cheese Grits?
If you’re struggling to find gluten-free cheese grits, then you can always make your own.
Make sure you are using certified gluten-free grits and pay attention to the other ingredients in your recipe. Gluten can sneak its way into a lot of surprising products, so pay attention to the cheese and seasonings you are using.
Are Great Value Grits Gluten-Free?
Great Value grits are loved across the US for their use of tasty white hominy corn and their super speedy cooking times. But they process their grits in the same environment as other gluten products, so despite not containing gluten in their listed ingredients, they missed out on a gluten-free certification due to possible cross-contamination.
Are Instant Grits Gluten-Free?
The only difference between instant and traditional grits is how they are processed, and how they cook.
Traditional grits have a coarser texture and need to be soaked or cooked for at least five minutes on the stove. Instant grits are ground into a much finer texture and only need to be heated with hot water in the microwave for a couple of minutes for that perfect bowl of grits.
As with traditional grits, instant grits are naturally gluten-free but achieving a gluten-free certification depends on the manufacturing process and whether other ingredients have been added. Always check the nutritional information of the brand you are buying, and if gluten products aren’t listed then look for a gluten-free label.
Are Grits Good for Gluten-Free Diets?
Gluten is a hot topic at the moment, and whether you have a sensitivity to it or are just looking to cut it out of your diet, you deserve to know what’s in your food.
Grits are a great option for gluten-free diets, but no matter what kind of dietary requirements you have, you should always read the labels.