Are Italian dressings gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Most Italian dressings are gluten-free, but some brands or flavors may contain gluten. To know for sure if an Italian dressing is gluten-free, check the ingredients list and look for wheat, barley, rye or derivatives like malt vinegar. Many popular brands of Italian dressing like Wishbone, Ken’s Steak House and Newman’s Own have gluten-free options. Making homemade Italian dressing is an easy way to control ingredients and ensure it’s gluten-free.

Ingredients in Italian Dressing

Authentic Italian salad dressing is made with oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. Traditional ingredients like these are naturally gluten-free:

  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Sugar

These basic components make a flavorful vinaigrette dressing that is safe for gluten-free eaters. However, some brands add thickening agents like wheat starch or malt vinegar that do contain gluten. Flavor variations like Caesar, balsamic bacon or Romano cheese may also introduce gluten ingredients.

Reading the Label

To know for sure if a bottle of Italian dressing is gluten-free, read the ingredient list carefully. Words like “wheat,” “barley,” “rye” or “malt” indicate the presence of gluten.

Some problematic ingredients to look out for include:

  • Wheat flour
  • Barley malt
  • Malt vinegar
  • Rye flour
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Hydrolyzed barley protein

If the bottle says the dressing was made in a facility that processes wheat, it may be cross-contaminated. Your safest bet is to choose brands labeled “gluten-free” made in dedicated facilities.

Gluten-Free Italian Dressing Brands

Many popular salad dressing brands offer Italian flavor varieties that are labeled gluten-free, like:

  • Ken’s Steak House Italian dressing
  • Newman’s Own Italian dressing
  • Brianna’s Italian dressing
  • Girard’s Italian dressing
  • Wishbone Italian dressing
  • Kraft Zesty Italian dressing
  • Walden Farms Italian dressing

Ken’s Steak House, Newman’s Own, Brianna’s and Girard’s brands indicate their dressings are made in dedicated gluten-free facilities. Wishbone, Kraft and Walden Farms explicitly label their Italian dressings “gluten-free.”

Always verify by carefully reading labels, since ingredients can change. Some flavor varieties, like Wishbone Caesar Italian or Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette Italian, may contain gluten while others don’t.

Potential Cross-Contamination

Even if the bottle of Italian dressing lists only gluten-free ingredients, there’s still a chance of cross-contamination occurring during manufacturing if shared equipment is used.

Those who are highly sensitive should look for brands produced in allergen-free facilities. Or stick to brands with clear labeling like “gluten-free” and certification symbols:

  • GFCO Gluten-Free Certification Organization
  • NSF Gluten-Free Certification Program

When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to ask about their safety protocols for gluten-free production.

Making Homemade Italian Dressing

Making fresh Italian dressing at home is an easy, foolproof way to control ingredients. You can customize it to suit your taste and guaranatee it’s 100% gluten-free.

Try this simple homemade Italian dressing recipe:


  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl or jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk or shake vigourously until well blended.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Feel free to tweak this basic italian vinaigrette recipe to suit your preferences. Add a little mustard, swap in balsamic vinegar or add your other favorite herbs.

Purchasing Bottled Italian Dressing Safely

When shopping for pre-made Italian dressing, here are some tips to find a gluten-free option:

  • Check labels carefully for any wheat, barley, rye or malt ingredients.
  • Look for brands that are certified gluten-free or explicitly labeled “gluten-free.”
  • Stick to oil-based dressings, not creamy ones which may contain thickeners.
  • Buy from brands made in dedicated gluten-free facilities.
  • Reference lists of gluten-free brands recommended by celiac groups.
  • When dining out, ask for gluten-free Italian dressing packets.
  • Contact manufacturers if you have any questions about their products.

With so many reputable brands offering gluten-free Italian dressings, there’s no need to risk exposure. A little label reading goes a long way towards safely enjoying this salad staple.

Risks of Gluten Exposure

For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming even small amounts of gluten can trigger symptoms and health issues. Effects may include:

  • Digestive problems like bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Fatigue, headaches and “brain fog”
  • Skin rashes or eczema flare-ups
  • Joint pain and muscle aches
  • Damage to the small intestine
  • Nutrient malabsorption and deficiencies
  • Increased risk of anemia, osteoporosis and certain cancers

In kids, inadvertent gluten exposure can result in stunted growth and dental issues.

While tiny amounts may be tolerated, it’s important for those following a gluten-free diet to avoid cross-contamination. Consuming Italian dressing with hidden gluten sources could trigger issues, so vigilance with labels is key.

What About Organic Wheat Starch?

Some brands of gluten-free Italian dressing list “organic wheat starch” as an ingredient. Isn’t wheat an off-limits grain?

Here’s the deal: wheat starch is extracted from the wheat kernel, separating it from the protein component (gluten) that causes issues for those with celiac disease.

When processed thoroughly according to gluten-free standards, wheat starch contains very minimal gluten residues, below 20 ppm (parts per million). This tiny, trace amount is generally considered safe for most gluten-sensitive individuals.

However, anyone with severe celiac disease or wheat allergy should avoid all forms of wheat, including wheat starch. For those who tolerate it well, wheat starch gives dressings a desirable thickness and consistency.

Cost of Gluten-Free Italian Dressings

One downside to specialty gluten-free products is their higher price tag. Gluten-free Italian dressings typically cost $3-$5 per bottle compared to $2-$3 for conventional dressings.

Why the uptick in price? Ingredients like gluten-free vinegars, modified food starches and xanthan gum tend to be more expensive. Producing dressings in dedicated facilities requires extra care and often smaller batch sizes. There are also additional costs related to gluten-free testing and certification.

Fortunately, prices have dropped somewhat as the gluten-free market expands. Sales of gluten-free foods grew by 44% from 2012-2014 alone (1). Withrising demand, more competition is helping lower costs.

Choosing store brand gluten-free dressings can help save a bit. Ultimately the extra couple dollars per bottle is a small price to pay for peace of mind and health.

Dining Out with Italian Dressing

Italian dressing is a staple salad topper at many restaurants. When eating out, take some precautions to avoid gluten exposure:

  • Ask your server for gluten-free Italian dressing options.
  • Request the brand name and check labels yourself if possible.
  • Ask that your salad is prepared in a clean bowl, not one exposed to croutons.
  • Specify that your dressing comes in a sealed packet, not from a shared bottle.
  • Avoid salad bars where cross-contact is likely.
  • If in doubt, stick to oil and vinegar.

At home, carrying your own stash of gluten-free Italian dressing is handy when dining out or traveling. That way you’ll always have a safe, tasty topping for salads.

Bottom Line

So can you enjoy Italian dressing on a gluten-free diet? The answer is a resounding yes!

Most Italian dressings are naturally gluten-free. Leading brands offer plenty of certified gluten-free varieties. With some label reading and extra care when dining out, you can safely include this versatile salad dressing in your gluten-free lifestyle. Whip up homemade dressings for total control over ingredients.

While going gluten-free reduces dining out options and costs a bit more, many find improving their health is well worth it. Though giving up gluten takes some adjustment, you’d be surprised how many delicious foods you can still enjoy, Italian dressing included!



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