Are Reese’s peanut butter cups safe for celiacs?

Quick answer

Reese’s peanut butter cups are not safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. While the peanut butter filling itself is gluten-free, the chocolate coating contains ingredients derived from wheat and barley which contain gluten. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid eating Reese’s peanut butter cups due to the risk of gluten cross-contamination and reaction.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In people with celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune response that attacks the small intestine, leading to damage and inability to absorb nutrients properly. This can cause symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia. The only treatment for celiac disease is sticking to a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, which allows the intestine to heal and prevents further damage.

Prevalence of celiac disease

Celiac disease affects approximately 1% of people worldwide. However, it is estimated that 83% of people with celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. This is because symptoms can vary greatly or be absent altogether. Getting tested for celiac disease is important, as without treatment it can lead to complications like osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions, and intestinal cancers.

Gluten-free diet for celiac disease

When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, the only treatment is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet for life. This means avoiding foods and products containing wheat, barley, rye, and any derivatives of these grains. Even tiny amounts of gluten can cause issues for those with celiac disease. Sticking to naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa is recommended. Reading ingredient labels carefully and looking for “gluten-free” labels on packaged foods is important.

Are Reese’s peanut butter cups gluten-free?

No, Reese’s peanut butter cups are not gluten-free. While the peanut butter filling itself does not contain gluten, the chocolate coating surrounding the peanut butter does contain ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains.

Ingredients in Reese’s peanut butter cups

Ingredient Contains Gluten?
Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, PGPR) Yes
Peanut butter (roasted peanuts, sugar, mono and diglycerides, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils [rapeseed and soybean], salt) No
TBHQ and citric acid added as preservatives No

The milk chocolate coating contains ingredients like sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and soy lecithin which are derived from gluten-containing grains. The chocolate liquor and soy lecithin contain wheat and barley which are not safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Risk of cross-contamination

In addition to the chocolate containing gluten, there is a risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing and processing at facilities that also handle gluten-containing ingredients. Even if the peanut butter itself is gluten-free, traces of gluten could make their way into the Reese’s peanut butter cups during production. This makes them unsafe for anyone following a gluten-free diet.

Are there any gluten-free Reese’s alternatives?

There are a few gluten-free alternatives to Reese’s peanut butter cups on the market for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance:

  • Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups – These are gluten-free and vegan peanut butter cups made with dark chocolate and organic peanut butter.
  • Enjoy Life Peanut Butter Cups – Made in a dedicated nut-free and gluten-free facility with no risk of cross-contamination. They contain chocolate and peanut butter.
  • Skinny Dipped Almonds – These are almonds dipped in dark chocolate or peanut butter. The dark chocolate flavor is gluten-free.
  • Homemade peanut butter cups – Gluten-free peanut butter cups can be made at home by combining peanut butter or other nut/seed butters with melted chocolate chips or chocolate bark that is verified gluten-free.

As with any specialty product, it is still important to check the ingredient label and allergen information even on foods labelled “gluten-free” when you have celiac disease or an allergy. Many gluten-free brands also clearly state on the packaging when items are produced in dedicated gluten-free facilities, which can provide added assurance.

Is it safe to eat Reese’s around those with celiac disease?

People with celiac disease need to avoid any exposure to gluten from foods, which includes trace gluten transferred from other people’s hands or food surfaces. Here are some tips for safely enjoying Reese’s products around someone with celiac disease:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after eating Reese’s peanut butter cups to avoid contaminating shared spaces or surfaces.
  • Avoid eating Reese’s and then kissing or sharing utensils with someone who is gluten-free.
  • Clean surfaces thoroughly after contact with Reese’s wrappers or uneaten product.
  • Store Reese’s separately from gluten-free foods to prevent cross-contact.
  • Be aware of airborne particles – avoid opening or eating Reese’s right next to gluten-free food.

Being conscious and considerate about contamination risks is important to keep loved ones with celiac disease safe. Eating Reese’s in a separate space away from where gluten-free foods are prepared can help reduce risks.

What snacks can celiacs eat with others?

Here are some delicious snack options that are naturally gluten-free for celiacs to enjoy with family and friends:

Gluten-Free Snack Benefits
Fresh fruits like apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries Provide fiber, vitamins, antioxidants
Vegetables with hummus or guacamole Healthy fats and vegetable nutrients
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews Protein, healthy fats, fiber
Popcorn Whole grain, fiber
Olives Healthy fats, fiber
Cheese slices or cubes Protein, calcium
Yogurt with fresh berries Protein, calcium, fruit
Trail mix Variety – nuts, seeds, dried fruit

Choosing snacks with a mix of protein, fiber, and nutrients can help celiacs avoid feeling deprived or left out when others are snacking. There are so many tasty options to enjoy together!

What candy and chocolate can celiacs eat?

While Reese’s peanut butter cups may be off limits, there are still many sweet gluten-free candy and chocolate options celiacs can enjoy in moderation:

  • Dark chocolate – Make sure it is produced in a gluten-free facility and contains no malt. Enjoy bars from Enjoy Life, Lindt, Endangered Species, etc.
  • Jelly beans – Most major brands like Jelly Belly are gluten-free. Licorice and jelly beans flavored with wheat contain gluten.
  • Skittles, Swedish Fish – These popular gummy candies are naturally gluten-free.
  • Starbursts – The regular fruit chews are gluten-free, but specialty flavors may contain gluten.
  • Lindor truffles – Lindt’s regular and specialty truffles are gluten-free, just avoid any cookie-flavored ones.
  • Twizzlers – These wheat-free licorice twists are gluten-free.

Choosing gluten-free specialty chocolate, licorice, and gummy candies that are produced in dedicated facilities can allow those with celiac disease to still enjoy sweet treats. Just be sure to check labels for gluten-containing ingredients.

Being gluten-free at special occasions and holidays

Navigating special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and parties with food can be challenging for those with celiac disease. Here are some useful tips:

  • Scope out snacks and dessert options ahead of time if possible. Offer to bring a gluten-free dish to share.
  • Politely ask questions about ingredients or preparation methods to assess gluten risk.
  • Bring safe gluten-free foods along in case there are no suitable options.
  • Focus on enjoying time with loved ones rather than the food.
  • Thank hosts who make accommodations or find gluten-free options.
  • Avoid cookie tables, candy bowls, etc. with uncontrolled risk.
  • If unsure, stick to naturally gluten-free produce, meat, dairy.
  • Be extra careful at potlucks where cross-contamination is high.
  • Accept you may need to indulge less. Savor a tiny taste of something nostalgic.

While being gluten-free presents challenges in social situations involving food, focusing on preparing in advance, communicating needs, and enjoying time with others can help celiacs stick to their diet while still having fun.


Reese’s peanut butter cups are unfortunately not safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity due to the gluten-containing ingredients in the chocolate coating. While giving up a favorite candy can be disappointing, there are many delicious gluten-free substitutes available, from peanut butter cups to chocolate bars. Carefully checking labels and being aware of cross-contamination risks allows celiacs to safely enjoy all kinds of snacks. With some extra care and preparation, those adhering to a gluten-free diet can still take part in special occasions and enjoy treats without compromising their health.

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