Is Butter Gluten-Free?

Butter is gluten-free

Finding gluten-free foods to fit your dietary requirements can be something of a minefield. But luckily for us – butter is naturally gluten-free.

There can be some confusion over this as many other dairy products, like cheese, contain flavorings and other additives that contain gluten. Flavored butters do exist, but they are relatively uncommon. As long as the butter you are using is as natural as possible you will likely have nothing to worry about.

Another point of confusion over the gluten status of butter concerns packaging conventions. We’re all used to seeing pasta, bread, and cereal advertised as gluten-free by its manufacturers. But because butter is naturally gluten-free, brands often don’t feel the need to announce this on the packaging.

In the same way that other dairy products, like milk, almost never state that they are gluten-free, butter manufacturers also assume that it’s obvious their products don’t contain gluten. Even so, butter may contain other ingredients which make it unsafe for people on a gluten-free diet, so it’s always safest to check the ingredients label before selecting a brand of butter.

One of the main sources of gluten in butter comes from cross-contamination. It’s all too easy for people to use a knife covered in gluten-filled crumbs and therefore add gluten into your carefully selected butter. Make sure you keep your butter separate. 

Read More >> Is Pam Cooking Spray Gluten-Free?

What is butter?

Butter is defined as a pale-yellow fatty food item made by churning cream from cows or other milk-producing animals such as goats. It is one of the most widespread ingredients in American cooking to this day. Butter adds a delicious creamy richness to recipes, boosts savory and sweet flavors alike, and is the basis for most types of baking.

We have long loved butter. Historical mentions of butter can be traced back thousands of years where it has been used as food, medicine, and even a healing ointment. Amazingly, butter is even mentioned in the bible.

But where did butter come from? Legend states that butter was discovered by accident when milk was stored in a bag tied to a horse for a long journey. The rocky terrain meant that the milk was shaken so much that the naturally occurring proteins and fats solidified. The traveler was probably quite surprised when he opened his bag, but quickly realized the value of his discovery.

This creamy, spreadable delicacy was as early version of the butter we know and love today. In fact, the process of churning cream into butter has remained largely unchanged in the thousands of years since.

Butter is undeniably important to our way of life, but is butter gluten-free? To answer this, we need to look at the ingredients.

Butter ingredients

Butter is a great example of how tastiness can be achieved through simplicity as it typically uses only 3 ingredients:

  1. Heavy cream (either cow, goat, or sheep)
  2. Salt
  3. Water

That’s it! Other butters on the market may have additional ingredients, but traditional butter should contain no more than these 3. As with all gluten-free foods, it is important to check the ingredients carefully for any additions which may contain gluten. To keep gluten off your plate and out of your cooking, always choose a plain butter.

Nutritional information

Butter is an excellent source of calcium with very low levels of sugar and carbohydrates. Below is a summary of the nutritional values in a tablespoon of natural, salted, butter. One tablespoon is equivalent to 14 grams (g) of butter or a ½ ounce.

Energy (kcal) 102
Total Fat (g) 12
Carbohydrate (g) 0.01
Protein (g) 0.12
Sugars (g) 0.01
Calcium (mg) 3.41
Sodium (mg) 81.79

Aside from sodium and calcium, butter also contains small amounts of other vitamins and minerals essential to our health. Natural butter is a particularly good source of vitamin A, also known as retinol, which is essential to immunity and healthy eyesight.

The fat content of butter means that it isn’t advised to rely on it for your nutritional requirements, but a little never hurt anyone. Below is a summary of the vitamins and minerals in one tablespoon (14g) of butter.

Vitamin A (mg) 106
Vitamin E (mg) 0.33
Vitamin D (mg) 0.2
Potassium (mg) 3.41
Phosphorus (mg) 3.41

Final thoughts

Butter is one of the staples of American cooking, and for good reason. Not only is it delicious – for those of us on a gluten-free diet it is almost always a safe option as most butter brands are naturally gluten-free.

It should be noted however, that even if a product is likely to be gluten-free you should always check the ingredients label. Some butters have undergone processing or flavoring which may have added gluten into the product.

Even when you have found a gluten-free butter that you love, make sure that you keep it separate from other gluten-containing products. Gluten-free butter is very easily contaminated with gluten from other sources, so make sure to pay attention to any knives going in.

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