Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for health, dietary, or lifestyle reasons. For those following a gluten-free diet, oatmeal is often a staple breakfast food. However, not all oats are created equal when it comes to gluten content.
One popular brand of oats, Bob’s Red Mill, produces a variety of oat products, including steel cut oats. With so many different types of oats on the market, it can get confusing trying to figure out which ones are gluten-free. So are Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Gluten?
Before diving into whether Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats are gluten-free, it helps to understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). The two specific gluten proteins are:
When flour from these grains is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form an elastic network that gives bread and other baked goods their chewy texture. However, some people have an adverse reaction to these gluten proteins.
The most severe form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. This damage prevents the proper absorption of nutrients into the body. Symptoms of celiac disease may include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation. The only treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Some individuals experience negative symptoms when consuming gluten but do not have celiac disease. This is referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to celiac disease and may include gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, headache and anxiety.
A small percentage of people have a wheat allergy. Like other food allergies, this causes an immune response that can result in digestive symptoms, hives, headache, and even anaphylaxis. Those with a wheat allergy must avoid all products containing wheat.
For people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, following a gluten-free diet by avoiding all sources of gluten is essential. This leads back to the original question…
Are Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats Gluten-Free?
The good news is that yes, Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats are certified gluten-free.
Steel cut oats are made by cutting whole oat groats into smaller pieces. Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats undergo proprietary processing in a dedicated gluten-free facility to avoid cross-contamination with grains containing gluten. The finished product is lab tested to verify gluten levels are below 10 parts per million (ppm). This is the lowest detectable level of gluten and anything below this threshold is considered gluten-free.
Bob’s Red Mill also states their steel cut oats are “Processed in a facility that processes wheat, soy, milk, egg and tree nuts.” So even though the product itself is gluten-free, there is a risk of exposure for those with severe gluten intolerances or allergies. Anyone with celiac disease or who is highly sensitive to gluten traces should take caution and consult their healthcare provider before consuming.
Some other key facts about Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats:
- Ingredient list contains just one ingredient: Whole Grain Steel Cut Oats
- Verified gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Program (GFCP)
- Non-GMO Project Verified
- Kosher Pareve
So in summary, Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats are considered gluten-free by current standards and are safe for most people following a gluten-free diet. However, individuals with celiac disease or wheat allergy should use discretion based on their personal level of sensitivity and comfort level with the shared facility.
Comparison to Other Oat Types
Steel cut oats undergo less processing compared to other forms of oats. This minimal processing means there is less risk of cross-contamination. Here is a comparison to other oat varieties:
Rolled oats, sometimes labeled old fashioned oats, are made by steaming whole oat groats and then rolling them flat. The main concern with rolled oats is potential contamination from the equipment during rolling and processing. Bob’s Red Mill produces certified gluten-free rolled oats using dedicated equipment.
Quick oats are rolled thinner than old fashioned oats, so they cook faster. This extra processing introduces higher chances of cross-contact with gluten-containing grains. Bob’s Red Mill does not label their regular quick oats as gluten-free.
Instant oats are the most highly processed, as they are pre-cooked, dried, and rolled very thin. Gluten contamination risks are high, and Bob’s Red Mill instant oats are not labeled gluten-free.
Whole oat groats are the least processed form of oats, with only minimal cleaning done after harvest. Bob’s Red Mill oat groats are certified gluten-free and contain just whole, intact kernels. Cooking time is the longest for oat groats.
So in terms of processing, steel cut oats fall between oat groats and rolled oats. This helps them retain their gluten-free status while still cooking faster than less processed forms.
As mentioned before, Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats are produced in a facility that also processes wheat and other gluten-containing grains. Their products are extensively tested to ensure gluten levels test below 10 ppm.
However, those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive should be aware of these risks:
- Oats can become contaminated in the field by being rotated with wheat crops
- During transport, storage and processing, oats are often in close contact with sources of gluten
- Shared equipment is used for multiple products containing various allergens
- Many grains look similar and small kernels may be mixed in from other sources
While these risks apply to all oat products, not just Bob’s Red Mill, it highlights the need for extra care when trying to avoid trace amounts of gluten. Let’s explore some tips…
Choosing Safe Oats When Gluten-Free
If you require a strict gluten-free diet, here are some factors to consider when selecting oat products:
Look for Gluten-Free Labeling
Opt for oat brands that are certified gluten-free, which verifies the final product contains under 10 ppm of gluten. In the U.S., look for the Certified Gluten-Free label from organizations like GFCO, as well as labeling compliant with the FDA gluten-free labeling law.
Check Processing Methods
Minimally processed oats like steel cut and oat groats have lower risks of cross-contamination compared to highly processed quick oats and instant oats.
Consider Purity Protocols
Some brands follow purity protocols with additional testing along the supply chain to limit contamination. Certifications like Certified Pure, GFCO Purity Protocol and Gluten-Free Watchdog Approved indicate these higher standards.
Look for Dedicated Facilities
Facilities that only process gluten-free oats have the lowest risk. Brands grown and processed in gluten-free dedicated plants include Cream Hill Estates, GFHarvest (Montana Gluten-Free), Avena Foods and Only Oats.
Research the Company
Thorough research on the brand’s supply chain, processing practices and lab testing procedures can offer peace of mind. Reputable companies provide detailed information about their commitment to gluten safety.
Always communicate your dietary needs clearly to any food manufacturers. Many are happy to provide information about products and allergen protocols if contacted directly.
Stick to Whole, Certified Oats
The less processed the oats, the lower the risk of cross-contact. Opt for groats or steel cut styles over rolled or instant oats.
Other Considerations for Gluten-Free Diets
When shopping for gluten-free oats, be mindful of these other factors:
Avoid oat products with added ingredients unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free. Stick to pure, single-ingredient oats.
Take note of any allergen warnings like “processed in a facility…” to assess your personal comfort level with potential cross-contact.
Traces of wheat, barley and rye kernels may be present in some oats, as all grains are grown near each other. Very sensitive individuals may want to consider purity-verified oats.
Testing at Home
Specialized gluten testing kits can be used at home to further validate the gluten-free status of your oats. Products like the Nima Sensor provide at-home analysis down to 20 ppm of gluten.
Rotation of Products
Rotating between different gluten-free oat brands may help reduce repetitive trace exposure over time.
Personal Comfort Level
Those with celiac disease or wheat allergy should make choices aligned with their personal sensitivities and doctor’s guidance.
Always check with your healthcare provider when making significant diet changes to ensure appropriateness for your individual health status and gluten sensitivities.
Cooking and Serving Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
Once you’ve chosen Bob’s Red Mill or another certified gluten-free oat brand, be mindful of these cooking and serving tips:
Use a thoroughly cleaned pot, pan or cooking equipment only used for gluten-free cooking to prevent cross-contact from gluten residue.
To prevent accidental gluten exposure, store and serve gluten-free oats away from any wheat-based foods.
If adding toppings or mix-ins, check all labels to confirm gluten-free status.
Beware of Packets
Flavoring packets may contain gluten, especially those containing malt or barley. Make your own flavorings whenever possible.
Check Labels Twice
Oat products are sometimes produced on shared lines. Always verify gluten-free status each time you buy.
When in Doubt, Leave it Out
Avoid adding any questionable ingredients that may introduce gluten. Stick to pure oats and known gluten-free toppings like fruit.
Gluten-Free Steel Cut Oat Recipes
Steel cut oats make a simple, satisfying gluten-free breakfast. Add extra flavor and nutrition with mix-in ideas like:
- Fresh fruit like blueberries, bananas, strawberries
- Nuts and nut butters – walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanut butter
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia
- Dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates
- Milk or milk alternatives – almond, coconut, rice, soy
- Sweeteners – maple syrup, honey, brown sugar
- Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla
Or take oats beyond breakfast with these creative gluten-free recipes:
Overnight Steel Cut Oats
* Combine 1/2 cup steel cut oats with 1 cup milk and refrigerate overnight.
* In the morning, microwave and top with fruit, nuts, honey or maple syrup.
Cinnamon Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal
* Simmer 1/2 cup steel cut oats in 1 cup milk with 1/2 chopped apple, 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt.
* After cooking, stir in 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1/4 cup chopped pecans.
PB&J Steel Cut Oats
* Prepare oats with milk and top with 2 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp jelly and 1/4 cup granola.
Carrot Cake Steel Cut Oatmeal
* Cook oats in milk then stir in 1 grated carrot, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp walnuts.
Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oatmeal
* Prepare oats with milk then mix in 2 tbsp canned pumpkin, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp pepitas.
Oatmeal Cookie Steel Cut Oatmeal
* After cooking oats, mix in 2 crushed gluten-free oatmeal cookies and 1 tbsp chocolate chips.
The possibilities are endless for delicious ways to enjoy gluten-free steel cut oats!
So back to the original question – are Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats gluten-free? The answer is yes, Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats are certified gluten-free to under 10ppm by reputable third party testing. They are a trusted gluten-free brand.
However, those with celiac disease or wheat allergies should consider the risks of cross-contamination from being processed in a shared facility. Many people tolerate Bob’s Red Mill oats well, while some with high sensitivity may wish to opt for a purity-verified brand.
When choosing any oat product, be sure to look for gluten-free certification, minimal processing and purity protocols for the highest level of gluten safety. Follow all label precautions and check with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
With proper selection and handling, steel cut oats from gluten-free sources like Bob’s Red Mill can be enjoyed as part of a balanced gluten-free diet. Take care when preparing and serving to prevent cross-contact. Then kickstart your day the hearty, wholesome way with a warm bowl of gluten-free steel cut oatmeal.