The simple answer is yes — potatoes are gluten-free. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grains. Potatoes aren’t grains, they’re a type of starchy vegetable.
That’s good news for people who can’t tolerate gluten because they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly targets gluten as a foreign invader — much as it would identify bacteria and viruses that cause infection.
If you have celiac disease, your immune system launches an attack that produces inflammation and damage in your intestines whenever you eat gluten-containing foods. This can cause uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain whenever you consume gluten.
If you’re sensitive to gluten, the good news is you can still include potatoes in your diet. You can even use them as a substitute for some of the gluten-containing foods you’re not able to eat. You just need to be sure you don’t add anything to your potatoes that’s off limits.
How to use potatoes
The advantage to potatoes is that there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Some of the most popular include: russet, sweet, white, red, purple, fingerling, and petites. And all of them are gluten-free.
They’re also versatile enough that you can incorporate them into your gluten-free diet in many ways. You can also use potatoes and products made from them as recipe substitutes for ingredients you can’t eat.
Here are a few ideas:
When baking bread, cookies, or cakes, use potato or sweet potato flour — made from ground potatoes — instead of wheat flour.
Rather than use dough to make your pizza crust, place your sauce, cheese, and toppings atop a crust made from mashed potatoes or thin sliced roasted potatoes.
Potato soup thickener
When thickening soups and sauces, skip the roux — which is made with flour — and instead add mashed potatoes.
Don’t make spaghetti or linguini on pasta night. Cook gnocchi, which is made with potatoes. When making them at home, use a gluten-free flour as your binder. Make sure any gnocchi you buy at the store is also gluten-free.
Use potato ‘bread’ for frying
Roll fish and chicken in potato flakes instead of breadcrumbs for frying.
Layer thinly sliced potatoes in place of the lasagna noodles in your lasagna.
How to spot gluten
Plain potatoes are gluten-free but many common potato recipes and add-ons aren’t.
Here are some potato-heavy dishes where the gluten is hiding in plain sight:
Don’t top mashed potatoes with gravy. Flour is a main ingredient in most kinds of gravy, but you can find gluten-free options at the store, or make your own.
Fried and baked potatoes
Order baked potatoes plain — without any butter or oil. Butter in restaurant kitchens can become easily contaminated when utensils that have been used in gluten-containing foods are dipped in them.
Also avoid restaurant french fries. They may be cooked in the same fryer as gluten-containing foods like battered chicken or onion rings. The same goes for potato skins.
Watch out for packaged potato bread. It may contain wheat flour. Check the nutrition label on store-bought, or make your own to be safe.
Skip the store-bought potato chips and make your own, it’s easy! Some packaged and restaurant versions contain malt vinegar or wheat starch.
Instant mashed potatoes
When buying instant mashed potatoes, check the ingredient label. Some brands aren’t gluten-free.
Potatoes au gratin
Don’t eat potatoes au gratin. It usually contains ingredients like breadcrumbs and flour. If you like this recipe, look for a gluten-free version online.
Being gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all the foods you love. Making a few simple modifications to your recipes — including substituting potatoes for gluten-containing ingredients — can broaden your culinary options and prevent you from feeling deprived.