Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging.
It requires strict dedication and diligence to determine which foods can be safely eaten and which should be avoided.
Sweets — such as chocolate — are a tricky topic for those on a gluten-free diet, as many kinds are made using flour, barley malt, or other ingredients that often contain gluten.
This article tells you whether chocolate is gluten-free and can be enjoyed on a gluten-free diet.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein found in many types of grains, including rye, barley, and wheat (
Most people are able to digest gluten without experiencing issues.
However, eating foods that contain gluten can cause side effects in those with celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten.
For those with celiac disease, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that causes the body to attack healthy tissue. This results in symptoms like diarrhea, nutritional deficiencies, and fatigue (
Meanwhile, those with gluten sensitivity may experience issues like bloating, gas, and nausea after eating foods that contain gluten (
For these individuals, opting for ingredients that are free of gluten is key to preventing side effects and maintaining overall health.
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as rye, barley, and wheat. Eating gluten can cause adverse effects for those with celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten.
Pure Chocolate Is Gluten-Free
Pure, unsweetened chocolate derived from roasted cacao beans is naturally gluten-free.
However, few people eat pure chocolate, as it tastes much different than the sweet confectionery that most are familiar with.
Several types of high-quality chocolate on the market are produced using just a few simple ingredients like liquified cacao beans, cocoa butter, and sugar — all of which are considered gluten-free.
On the other hand, many common brands of chocolate contain 10–15 ingredients — including powdered milk, vanilla, and soy lecithin.
Therefore, it’s important to carefully check the label for any gluten-containing ingredients.
Pure chocolate is made from roasted cacao beans, which are gluten-free. However, most types of chocolate on the market have additional ingredients that may contain gluten.
Certain Products May Contain Gluten
Though pure chocolate is considered gluten-free, many chocolate products contain additional ingredients, such as emulsifiers and flavoring agents that improve the taste and texture of the final product.
Some of these ingredients may contain gluten.
For example, crispy chocolate candies are often made using wheat or barley malt — both of which contain gluten.
Additionally, chocolate bars that include pretzels or cookies use gluten-containing ingredients and should be avoided by those on a gluten-free diet.
Plus, baked goods made with chocolate — such as brownies, cakes, and crackers — may also include wheat flour, another glutenous ingredient.
Some common ingredients to look out for that indicate that a product may contain gluten include:
- barley malt
- brewer’s yeast
- graham flour
- malt extract
- malt flavoring
- malt syrup
- rye flour
- wheat flour
Some types of chocolate may have added gluten-containing ingredients, such as wheat flour or barley malt.
Risk of Cross-Contamination
Even if a chocolate product doesn’t contain any ingredients with gluten, it still may not be gluten-free.
This is because chocolates can become cross-contaminated if they’re processed in a facility that also produces gluten-containing foods (
This occurs when particles of gluten are transferred from one object to another, increasing the risk of exposure and adverse side effects for those who are unable to tolerate gluten (
Therefore, if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s always best to opt for products that are certified gluten-free.
Only products that meet strict manufacturing standards for gluten-free food production are able to obtain this certification, ensuring that these products are safe for those who are sensitive to gluten (6).
Chocolate products may be cross-contaminated with gluten during processing. Choosing products that are certified gluten-free is the best option for those with a sensitivity to gluten.
The Bottom Line
While pure chocolate made from roasted cacao beans is gluten-free, many chocolate products on the market may have gluten-containing ingredients or be cross-contaminated.
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, reading the label or buying certified gluten-free products is key to avoiding adverse health effects.