Chips and salsa are staple appetizers at Mexican restaurants. But for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, enjoying these crispy treats comes with some precautions. We’ll explore whether corn tortilla chips and salsa are gluten-free, look at what to watch out for, and suggest some safe chip and salsa options to enjoy.
Are corn tortilla chips gluten-free?
Traditional corn tortilla chips are made from corn, a naturally gluten-free grain. However, that doesn’t mean all corn tortilla chip brands are gluten-free.
Some corn tortilla chips may contain seasonings or additives that contain gluten. The most common sources of gluten to watch out for in corn tortilla chips include:
- Flour tortillas fried with the corn tortillas
- Wheat flour in seasonings
- Malt vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (unless confirmed gluten-free)
To ensure corn tortilla chips are gluten-free, check the ingredients list for any obvious sources of gluten. Look for chips that are labeled “gluten-free” to give you peace of mind. Reputable gluten-free brands of corn tortilla chips include:
- Food Should Taste Good
- Garden of Eatin’
- Tostitos gluten-free
You can also make your own gluten-free corn tortilla chips by cutting corn tortillas into wedges and baking them until crispy. Be sure to use brands that state they are made with 100% corn.
Are flour tortilla chips gluten-free?
Flour tortilla chips are not gluten-free. Flour tortillas contain wheat flour, which gives them their soft, pliable texture. Look for corn tortilla chips instead if you need a gluten-free option.
Is restaurant salsa gluten-free?
Salsa is generally gluten-free, but restaurant salsas may contain added ingredients that contain gluten. Here are some things to watch out for in restaurant salsa:
- Thickeners like wheat flour
- Soy sauce
- Malt vinegar
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (unless confirmed gluten-free)
Your safest bet is to ask the restaurant if their salsa contains gluten or is thickened with wheat flour. Many restaurants now offer gluten-free salsas. Look for salsas made fresh in-house and avoid creamy or extra thick salsas, which are more likely to contain flour.
What about chips and salsa from Mexican restaurants?
Chips and salsa served at Mexican restaurants present some challenges for the gluten-free diner:
- Cross-contamination from flour tortillas is likely if corn and flour tortillas are fried in the same oil.
- Chips may be seasoned with wheat flour.
- Salsas may contain thickeners or other gluten ingredients.
- Chips and salsas are often served as free appetizers, and restaurant staff may not know if they are gluten-free.
To enjoy Mexican restaurant chips and salsa safely:
- Ask if the tortilla chips are gluten-free or made only from corn.
- Request corn tortilla chips that are fried in a separate fryer from flour tortillas.
- Ask if the salsa contains any wheat or gluten ingredients.
- Ask for a fresh bowl of chips to avoid cross-contact from other tables.
- Consider bringing your own gluten-free chips and salsa.
Can I eat the complimentary chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants?
Eating the free chips and salsa served before meals at Mexican restaurants is risky for a gluten-free diet. Since they are free, the staff likely won’t know the ingredients or preparation methods. Your best option is to request gluten-free chips fried separately and salsa with no gluten thickeners added.
What about corn chip dippers and salsa?
Pre-packaged corn chip dippers that come with salsa or queso cheese dip may also contain gluten. Some potential sources in these products include:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein in queso dip
- Wheat flour in salsa
- Seasonings containing malt vinegar, soy sauce, or wheat flour
Read the labels carefully and contact the manufacturer if any ambiguity exists around “natural flavors” or seasoning mixes. Your safest bet is to choose reputable gluten-free brands of corn chip dippers and salsa.
Can I eat tortilla chips at parties or potlucks?
Chips and salsa at parties can be risky for gluten-free diets. Bringing your own snacks is the safest option. If you want to indulge:
- Ask the host what brand of chips they are serving.
- Check the chip ingredients before eating them.
- Ask if the salsa contains any wheat flour or gluten ingredients.
- Avoid dipping chips after others, to prevent cross-contact.
Plain corn tortilla chips are your best bet. Avoid baked flour tortilla chips, which likely contain gluten.
What about taco dip with chips?
Taco dip or seven layer dip with tortilla chips is a party favorite. Like salsa, the dip may contain thickeners like wheat flour. Homemade dips are less likely to contain gluten, but ask the host about the ingredients to be safe. As for the chips, follow the same precautions for party snacks and only eat corn tortilla chips after ensuring they are gluten-free.
Can I eat chips and salsa from a restaurant take-out order?
Chips and salsa for take-out from a restaurant come with the same risks as eating the chips and salsa at the restaurant. Follow these precautions:
- Ask if corn tortilla chips are used and fried separately from flour tortillas.
- Request salsa made without any wheat flour or gluten ingredients.
- Ask for fresh serving bowls to avoid cross-contact.
- Consider purchasing a take-out order of gluten-free chips and salsa from a gluten-free restaurant.
Packages of chips and salsa from the grocery store are a safer option. Be sure to read labels carefully and look for gluten-free certified chips and salsa.
Are corn chips and salsa safe?
Plain corn tortilla chips and fresh salsa made without questionable thickeners are generally safe gluten-free options. But take precautions anytime you are not preparing them yourself, including at restaurants. Play it safe by checking ingredients, asking questions, and being cautious of cross-contact with unsafe ingredients.
What about blue corn and other flavored tortilla chips?
Blue corn, yellow corn, and other flavored tortilla chips come with the same risks and precautions. Look for gluten-free labels and read the ingredients carefully. Flavored chip varieties are more likely to contain seasonings with questionable gluten-containing ingredients.
Can I eat tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant if I have celiac disease?
Eating corn tortilla chips from a Mexican restaurant is risky with celiac disease due to the chance of cross-contact. Your best options include:
- Calling ahead to ask about their chips and preparation process.
- Bringing your own certified gluten-free chips.
- Ordering a corn tortilla entree instead of the chips.
- Asking for a lettuce wrap or corn tortilla shell for tacos instead of chips.
In general, those with celiac disease need to be extra cautious about potential cross-contact from fryers, utensils, and serving dishes in restaurants.
What kinds of salsa should I avoid on a gluten-free diet?
Watch out for these varieties of salsa on a gluten-free diet:
- Extra thick salsa – Often contains added wheat flour
- Creamy salsa – May have wheat flour or hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Restaurant hot salsa – Often uses hydrolyzed vegetable protein for flavor
- Pico de gallo – Sometimes made with soy sauce instead of lime juice
- Mango salsa – Mango purees may have added wheat flour
Your best bets are traditional tomato-based salsas or salsas made with fresh, whole ingredients. When in doubt, check the ingredients or ask.
What about tortilla chips and gluten-free beer – are they safe together?
Enjoying corn tortilla chips with gluten-free beer is a tasty combination! Just keep these tips in mind:
- Verify gluten-free status of the chips, checking for malt vinegar in the ingredients
- Choose reputable gluten-free beer brands like Omission, Ghostfish, or Glutenberg
- Request chips without cross-contact at restaurants
- Ask about preparation of salsa for dipping
Choosing packaged brands of gluten-free chips and beer gives you the most control. For restaurants, opt for naturally gluten-free corn tortilla chips and fresh tomato salsa if available.
Can I make my own gluten-free tortilla chips and salsa?
Absolutely! Making homemade tortilla chips and salsa is a great way to control ingredients. Here are some tips:
- Buy corn tortillas verified gluten-free
- Cut tortillas into wedges and bake with a small amount of olive oil until crispy
- Season chips lightly with salt, garlic powder, lime juice or other gluten-free spices
- Make fresh pico de gallo, tomato salsa, or pineapple salsa
- Use naturally thick ingredients like avocado in salsa instead of flour thickeners
Baking your own tortilla chips prevents cross-contact from fryers. Making fresh salsa allows you to control ingredients. Homemade is the safest route for gluten-free chips and salsa.
Are corn tortilla chips safe for a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance?
Plain corn tortilla chips are wheat-free and safe for wheat allergies. However, those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease still need to check for cross-contact. Look for reputable gluten-free brands made in facilities free from gluten cross-contact.
Can I eat corn tortilla chips if I’m sensitive to gluten cross-contact?
Those highly sensitive to gluten cross-contact need to exercise caution with corn tortilla chips:
- Choose brands processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities
- Call restaurants ahead to ask about their preparation procedures
- Avoid chips cooked in shared fryers or with questionable seasonings
- Bring your own snacks to parties and social gatherings
Stick to chips certified gluten-free to the highest standards. These products undergo gluten testing to ensure no detectable gluten from cross-contact.
Are tortilla chips fried in vegetable oil safe for celiacs?
Plain corn tortilla chips fried in dedicated vegetable oil are safer for celiacs. However, there is still a risk of cross-contact if the oil is shared with flour tortillas. Only consider corn chips fried in vegetable oil safe if the restaurant can guarantee the oil has no cross-contact from other gluten sources.
Traditional corn tortilla chips tend to be gluten-free, but caution is still required. Watch out for added seasonings or cross-contact from fryers in restaurants. Make sure any salsas, dips or sauces paired with the chips are free of thickeners like wheat flour. Choose reputable gluten-free brands of corn tortilla chips, verify salsa ingredients, and consider making your own for full control. With some care reading labels and asking questions, you can enjoy delicious corn chips and salsa safely on your gluten-free diet.