Are meat alternatives gluten-free?

As more people adopt vegetarian, vegan, or flexitarian diets, meat alternatives are becoming increasingly popular. Many consumers want to know if these plant-based meats are also gluten-free. This comprehensive guide will examine the most common meat substitutes on the market and provide insight into their gluten content.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, and more. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also need to avoid gluten to manage symptoms.

Why gluten content matters in meat alternatives

For those who must follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, checking labels and understanding how products are made is extremely important. While many meat alternatives are gluten-free, some do contain gluten-containing ingredients. Consuming even small traces of gluten can cause illness and damage to the intestines. Being aware of which meat substitutes are gluten-free can help consumers make informed choices and safely navigate special diets.

Common meat substitutes and their gluten content

Tofu and tempeh

Tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans, which are naturally gluten-free. Look for brands that specifically say “gluten-free” on the label and avoid flavored varieties with questionable ingredients. Plain tofu and tempeh are safe gluten-free options.


Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, so it contains gluten. It is not safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Textured vegetable protein or TVP is a versatile meat substitute made from soy flour. Plain TVP is gluten-free, but some flavored varieties may contain gluten. Check the labels carefully when purchasing.


Quorn makes meatless products from mycoprotein, or fungus. Most Quorn foods are gluten-free, but some products contain gluten-based ingredients. Double check labels for wheat, barley, rye or malt.

Impossible Burger

The Impossible Burger is a popular plant-based alternative to beef. According to the company, all Impossible Burger products are gluten-free. They do not contain wheat, barley, rye, or derivatives. However, check labels for gluten cross-contamination warnings if severe sensitivity.

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat products are made from pea protein and do not contain gluten ingredients. The company confirms their products are gluten-free and safe for celiac disease. Always double check packaging though, as formulations can change.

MorningStar Farms

MorningStar Farms offers a wide range of vegetarian and vegan meat products. The majority of their foods are labeled gluten-free, but a handful do contain gluten. Check each product carefully to confirm it is gluten-free.

Boca Burgers

Most Boca veggie burgers and soy-based meat alternatives are labeled gluten-free. However, a few products contain wheat-based ingredients. Contact the company if unsure about an ingredient labeled “natural flavors.”


Gardenburger patties and other meatless products are made without gluten-containing ingredients. The company confirms all items are gluten-free, though it’s wise to verify by reading labels.


Gardein uses soy, wheat, and pea protein to createplant-based meat alternatives. While they offer some gluten-free products, other Gardein foods contain wheat and are not safe for gluten-free diets.

Upton’s Naturals

Upton’s Naturals offers gluten-free and seitan (wheat gluten) meat substitutes. Check each product carefully, as the seitan items contain gluten while the jackfruit and soy foods do not.

Sweet Earth Foods

Nestle-owned Sweet Earth Foods makes meatless products from seitan, tofu, quinoa, beans, and other ingredients. While some foods are gluten-free, seitan-based items contain gluten.

Meat substitutes that are not always gluten-free

When assessing the gluten content of meat alternatives, these ingredients and factors may indicate the presence of gluten:

  • Wheat, barley, rye, triticale – These grains contain gluten.
  • Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring – Usually derived from barley.
  • Couscous – A pasta made from wheat.
  • Seitan – Made from wheat gluten.
  • Flavors or seasonings – Could contain gluten, check ingredient list.
  • Breading or batter – May have flour-based coatings.
  • Cross-contamination – Gluten exposure risk during manufacturing.

Certified gluten-free labels

When a product carries a certified gluten-free label from an organization like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) or Celiac Support Association (CSA), it has been tested to verify gluten levels are under 20 parts per million. This is the recognized safety standard. Look for these logos:

Contacting manufacturers about gluten content

When in doubt about an ingredient or a risk of cross-contamination, don’t hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer. Many companies have helpful customer service teams and detailed information on their website about product formulations and allergen policies. They can answer questions and help determine if a product is gluten-free.

Being proactive for special diets

Following a gluten-free diet, whether for medical reasons or by choice, requires vigilance. Carefully read all ingredient labels, look for gluten-free certifications, and learn how products are made. If you or a loved one has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, make sure friends and family who handle food are aware of the serious need to avoid gluten. With teamwork and knowledge, people requiring gluten-free diets can safely enjoy delicious meat alternatives.

Table summarizing common meat substitutes and gluten content

Meat Substitute Gluten-Free?
Tofu Yes
Tempeh Yes
Seitan No (contains wheat gluten)
TVP (plain) Yes
Quorn (plain) Yes
Impossible Burger Yes
Beyond Meat Yes
MorningStar Farms Some products yes, some no
Boca Burgers Most products yes, some no
Gardenburger Yes
Gardein Some products yes, some no
Upton’s Naturals Some products yes, some no
Sweet Earth Some products yes, some no


Many popular meat alternatives on the market are gluten-free, but some do contain gluten. Reading labels carefully, looking for gluten-free certifications, and contacting manufacturers helps determine the gluten content of meat substitute products. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use extra caution and awareness when selecting plant-based meat options to ensure safety of their gluten-free diets.

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