Do Potatoes Have Gluten?
When adopting a gluten free diet, it can become confusing to understand which foods contain gluten. In particular, starchy carbohydrate foods tend to draw a lot of skepticism. One food in particular that comes into question is potatoes. But like most foods, the answer isn’t so simple. In this article, we’ll be tackling the following questions:
- Are potatoes naturally gluten free?
- When do potatoes contain gluten?
- What do you need to watch out for when consuming potatoes on a gluten free diet?
- How can potatoes and potato flour be used in a gluten free diet?
What Is Gluten and What is Celiac Disease?
But first, a refresher on gluten and celiac disease to provide some context to our conversation. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system perceives gluten as an invader. This causes your body to launch an immune response that causes inflammation and damage to the intestines.
Those who have celiac disease need to avoid gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grains. If you think you have gluten intolerance, take our sensitivity test!
Can You Eat Potatoes If You Have Gluten Intolerance?
Potatoes are a root vegetable that contain no grains. In their raw and whole form, potatoes are naturally gluten-free. However, potatoes are frequently cooked with ingredients that are not gluten free or prepared in such a way that causes cross contamination.
- Mashed, scalloped, and au gratin potatoes commonly have added wheat flour to thicken them. These dishes also typically contain dairy, which can be problematic for those who are gluten sensitive.
- Potatoes can be topped with processed bacon bits (not just pure bacon) that contain the preservative MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is derived from wheat and may pose a problem for those with gluten issues.
- Soups or stews prepared with potatoes are often thickened with gluten-containing flours. Common flour thickeners include wheat, corn, and rice.
- Potato wedges or home fries can be tossed and coated in wheat flour to create a crispy crust. So beware of fries, especially when eating out.
- Cross contamination can happen in instances as little as boiling potatoes in the same water that a gluten-based pasta was boiled in. Similarly, french fries can be fried in the same oil as breaded chicken (of course, deep fried foods are problematic for other reasons anyway!) Be sure to ask very specific questions around cross contamination of any restaurant that prepares your food.
Potential Potato Pitfalls
Potatoes are also considered a nightshade. Nightshades contain chemicals that are suspected to be problematic for many people with autoimmune disease. Some research has identified nightshades as a culprit in the exacerbation of inflammatory bowel disease, skin rash, digestive issues, and joint pain.
Additionally, researchers have found that certain compounds in potatoes called glycoalkaloids can contribute to leaky gut and exacerbate inflammatory bowel issues. The frying of potatoes can concentrate these glycoalkaloid compounds.
Potatoes are also often consumed as potato chips. Potato chips are generally deep fried in inflammatory oils that may be cross contaminated with gluten. While certain brands are now available that use better ingredients, like coconut and avocado oils, potato chips are still a high glycemic food that can be problematic for those with blood sugar management issues, so eat them judiciously.
However, as long as your potatoes aren’t cross-contaminated with other gluten-containing foods, potatoes are completely gluten-free. As always, preparing your own food with fresh, whole ingredients that you select yourself is the best way to ensure that you are eating gluten free!
Gluten Free Potato Recipes
There are a number of ways to enjoy potatoes in healthy gluten free recipes. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Potato Sloppy Joe’s
- Turkey Sweet Potato Cabbage Rolls
- Sweet Potato Tots
- Bacon Sweet Potato Chowder
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi
- Potato Salad
How Potatoes Can Be Used as a Gluten Alternative
- Potato flour can be used as an alternative to gluten-containing flours. It is made from ground potato roots, removing fibrous materials. Potato flour is mostly used for thickening sauces and is generally incorporated in gluten-free flour blends to add moisture to baked goods.
- Potatoes can be used to make a crust. Rather than a traditional pizza crust, use sliced or mashed potato as a base, and bake until crispy. Then top with sauce and toppings.
- In their shredded form, potatoes can make a great hash brown crust for a veggie quiche.
- Instead of breadcrumbs for frying, you can “bread” your chicken or fish in dehydrated potato crumbs.
The Bottom Line
Potatoes in their natural form are gluten free, and can be a great option for those with celiac disease. Potatoes and potato starch can also be a great substitute for gluten in many recipes.
However, potatoes commonly contain added gluten ingredients when packaged and processed, and can become cross-contaminated with gluten-containing foods when eaten outside of the home. Those with gluten issues that also have blood sugar problems or inflammatory bowel disease should use caution around potatoes.
If you think you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, take our quick and reliable sensitivity test.