Is Peanut Butter Gluten Free?

It can be tough to sort through what is and is not gluten free. In most cases, the answer is not so simple. That is the case with peanut butter. Is peanut butter gluten free? Is it safe for those with celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity? 

In its simplest, natural, unadulterated form, peanut butter and peanuts do not include any gluten containing ingredients. However, this doesn’t mean all peanut butter is safe for your gluten free diet. In the following sections we will discuss what to watch out for when choosing peanut butter on a gluten free diet.

When Is peanut butter not gluten free?

Peanut butter made with simple, carefully sourced and handled ingredients like peanuts and a touch of salt is naturally gluten free. However, this doesn’t mean all brands are gluten free.

The biggest culprit causing peanut butter to not be gluten free is cross contamination. During the manufacturing process, it is common that peanuts can come into contact with gluten containing ingredients, machinery, or packaging. 

Some brands take care to ensure that their peanuts are kept separate from other ingredients, and use manufacturing facilities that do not contain gluten containing products.

Therefore, it is important to check the labels of the peanut butter you purchase. The label should explicitly note that it is certified gluten free. This indicates that the product was made carefully and tested for gluten.

Other things to look out for

  • Aflatoxins: Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi (mold) that are commonly found in peanuts. When eaten in high amounts, aflatoxins can cause illness and damage to the liver. Higher quality brands will test for aflatoxin. If you aren’t sure, just ask.
  • Added hydrogenated inflammatory oils: Some brands attempt to make their product more homogeneous (smooth and creamy) by adding in inflammatory seed oils. There is no reason to include these oils that are detrimental to your health.  Watch out for corn, soy, and canola oils.
  • Added sugar: Some brands add sugar to make the taste of peanut butter more appealing. Avoid these!
  • Peanut powder: Peanut powder is sold as a way to get the taste of peanut butter without the fat. Unfortunately, most brands that make peanut powder also add in other low quality ingredients, like sugar and fillers. One safe brand that tests for gluten (and publishes results on their website!) is NorCal Organic.
  • Peanut butter ground in store: Some grocery stores, especially more naturally-minded grocery stores, have the option to grind peanuts fresh in the store. While this might seem like a better option, the risk of cross contamination is high. You don’t know how the peanuts were stored and handled, or how cautious the store employee was in transferring peanuts to the machine and in keeping it clean.

Brands you can trust

There are dozens of peanut butter brands on the market, but it can be overwhelming to sort through them to find one that is truly gluten free and otherwise good for you. Luckily, there are few brands that are committed to using high quality ingredients and skipping the unnecessary and damaging filler ingredients. Here are the best gluten free peanut butter options:

A note on antinutrients

It is important to note that peanuts and other nuts and legumes contain substances known as antinutrients. Antinutrients are compounds that can interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals and can inhibit digestive enzyme production. When eaten in excess, this can create concerns around nutrient deficiencies. In addition, some people may experience digestive discomfort when eating foods containing antinutrients.

Common antinutrients include lectins in legumes and grains, oxalates in green leafy vegetables, tea, beans, nuts, beets, phytates (or phytic acid) in whole grains, seeds, legumes, some nuts, saponins in legumes and whole grains, and tannins in tea, coffee, and legumes.

It is not necessary to avoid all foods containing antinutrients at all times, but it is helpful to be aware of their existence, as you can mitigate their effects in two ways:

  1. Preparation: Soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds can help to reduce the lectins and phytates. 
  2. Meal timing: Antinutrients tend to affect the absorption of nutrients eaten at the same meal, so you may consider simply avoiding eating large amounts of foods containing antinutrients at an otherwise nutrient dense meal.

Best gluten free ways to use peanut butter

So how can you use gluten free peanut butter? Here are a few creative ways to add healthy protein and fat into your gluten free diet:

  1. Mixed into a smoothie
  2. On a piece of Warrior Bread
  3. In a stir fry sauce like our Thai Peanut Chicken
  4. Spread it onto pancakes or waffles
  5. Spread onto an apple or banana 
  6. Mixed into a dressing as the fat and emulsifier

The bottom line

Peanut butter can be a good addition to your gluten free diet. As always, just be sure to purchase a brand that uses quality ingredients and is committed to providing a certified gluten free product. Want to learn more do’s and don’ts of your gluten free diet? Take the Sensitivity Test and keep up with the Gluten Free Society’s blog for all things gluten free!

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