Are there gluten free Cheez-Its?

Cheez-It is one of the most popular cracker brands in the United States, known for its iconic square shape and cheesy flavor. However, like many snack foods, Cheez-It crackers contain gluten, which means they are off-limits for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

For people who follow a gluten-free diet, finding tasty, gluten-free versions of favorite snacks can be challenging. So an important question for many gluten-free consumers is: are there any gluten free Cheez-It crackers available?

What is gluten and why do some people need to avoid it?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and other related grains. It helps give elasticity to dough, which is why it’s found in many types of baked goods.

For most people, eating gluten is not a problem. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headache 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.

There are several reasons someone may need to be on a gluten-free diet:

  • Celiac disease – An autoimmune disorder where gluten triggers immune system damage to the small intestine.
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity – Gluten causes symptoms like pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue, but there is no damage to the small intestine.
  • Wheat allergy – An allergic reaction to wheat proteins, which usually develops in childhood.
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis – An itchy, blistering skin rash triggered by gluten exposure.

Following a strict gluten-free diet is the only way for people with these conditions to manage symptoms and avoid further damage. This means reading ingredient labels carefully and avoiding any products that contain gluten.

Do original Cheez-It crackers contain gluten?

Yes, original Cheez-It crackers are not gluten-free. They contain wheat flour as a main ingredient.

According to the ingredient list, a serving of 27 crackers (1 oz) contains:

  • Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), whole wheat flour,
  • Vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: canola, sunflower or corn oil), cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), salt.

Both enriched wheat flour and whole wheat flour contain gluten. Since Cheez-It crackers are made with these gluten-containing flours, they are not safe for people who need to follow a gluten-free diet.

Are there any gluten-free Cheez-It crackers?

Yes, Cheez-It now produces several varieties of gluten-free crackers that mimic the taste and texture of original Cheez-Its!

Here are the gluten-free Cheez-It flavors currently available:

  • Gluten Free Original – The classic square crackers with cheesy flavoring.
  • Gluten Free White Cheddar – White cheddar flavored gluten-free crackers.
  • Gluten Free Extra Toasty – An extra crispy and toasty gluten-free version.

According to Cheez-It, these gluten-free options use a proprietary blend of gluten-free flours, including rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and corn starch. They are certified gluten-free to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

The gluten-free Cheez-It crackers first launched in 2019. They aim to replicate the taste and texture of traditional Cheez-Its to satisfy gluten-free customers craving this iconic snack.

Where can you find gluten-free Cheez-Its?

The gluten-free versions of Cheez-It crackers are widely available at major grocery stores across the United States. They can typically be found in the gluten-free aisle or section. The major retailers that carry them include:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Publix
  • HEB
  • Albertsons
  • Whole Foods
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Stop & Shop

The gluten-free Cheez-Its may also be available through online retailers like Amazon and direct from the Cheez-It website. A 6 ounce box retails for around $3.50 – $4.50 at major stores.

What do reviews say about the taste and texture?

Overall, reviews of the gluten-free Cheez-It varieties are very positive when it comes to taste and texture:

  • Many reviews say the gluten-free version offers the classic, nostalgic Cheez-It flavor people know and love.
  • Most agree the texture is very crisp and crunchy, just like a regular Cheez-It cracker should be.
  • Some reviews say it’s hard to tell the gluten-free crackers apart from the original in terms of taste and texture.
  • Some customer reviews say the gluten-free version actually tastes better than the original!

Here are some direct quotes from customer reviews:

“These taste exactly like the original Cheez-Its! You’d never know they were gluten-free.”

“The texture and taste bring back so many memories of eating Cheez-Its as a kid. I’m so happy they finally made them gluten-free!”

“Literally cannot tell the difference between these and regular Cheez-It crackers. Crispy, cheesy, delicious!”

Any complaints about the gluten-free version?

There are a few common complaints about the gluten-free Cheez-Its in some reviews:

  • They tend to break apart more easily and crumble compared to the original.
  • They can taste slightly more bland or less flavorful to some.
  • The crackers are more airy and porous in texture.
  • Some people say greasiness or oiliness is more noticeable.
  • The crispy texture may fade more quickly after opening.

However, most reviewers indicate any differences are relatively minor and don’t take away from the overall positive experience.

Nutrition Info for Gluten-Free vs. Regular Cheez-Its

From a nutritional standpoint, the gluten-free Cheez-Its are very similar to regular Cheez-Its. However, there are a few slight differences.

Here is a nutrition comparison of a serving size of 27 crackers (1 ounce):

Nutrient Gluten-Free Regular
Calories 140 150
Carbohydrates 21g 21g
Fiber 0g 1g
Sugar 1g 2g
Fat 7g 7g
Saturated Fat 1.5g 2.5g
Sodium 270mg 290mg

Key differences:

  • The gluten-free version is slightly lower in calories, sugar and sodium.
  • Regular Cheez-Its contain 1g fiber per serving while the gluten-free have 0g.
  • Saturated fat content is lower in the gluten-free crackers.

Overall, the macros and ingredients are largely comparable between the two. But the gluten-free alternative does appear to be slightly more processed due to use of refined starches/flours.

Are there any other gluten-free Cheez-It style crackers?

In addition to the Cheez-It brand gluten-free crackers, there are some other brands making similar gluten-free baked crackers with cheese flavoring:

  • Aldi Simply Nature – LiveGFree Gluten Free Baked Cheese Crackers
  • Schar – Gluten-Free Table Crackers, Cheese Flavor
  • Kinnikinnick – Gluten Free Cheese Sandwich Crackers
  • Aleia’s – Gluten Free Baked Cheese Crackers

Reviews indicate these other options can make a good substitute for those who can’t find the gluten-free Cheez-Its. However, some people feel the Cheez-It brand still provides superior texture and flavor.

Are there risks of cross-contamination?

Even though Cheez-It has specific gluten-free labeled products, there is still a small risk of gluten cross-contamination during manufacturing. The facility that produces the gluten-free crackers also produces regular Cheez-Its with wheat.

Cheez-It states that they follow strict safety processes to keep ingredients separate and avoid cross-contamination. All equipment and areas are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between production runs.

But because there is gluten in the facility, they can’t guarantee 100% zero cross-contamination. People with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity may want to exercise caution.

Those with less severe gluten issues can likely eat the gluten-free labeled Cheez-Its safely. But it’s a personal choice based on individual sensitivity levels.

Should you eat gluten-free Cheez-Its if you don’t need to?

For people who don’t have celiac disease, a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, there are no clear benefits from choosing the gluten-free Cheez-Its.

In fact, the gluten-free versions tend to be slightly more processed due to use of refined flours and starches. They are lower in nutrients like fiber.

Additionally, whole grains with gluten like wheat flour contain beneficial compounds including:

  • B vitamins
  • Minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and copper
  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber
  • Protein

Unless you must follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, health experts generally recommend opting for whole grain foods that contain gluten instead of processed gluten-free alternatives.

The Bottom Line

For anyone who needs or wants to follow a gluten-free diet, the introduction of gluten-free Cheez-Its provides another tasty snacking option. The gluten-free versions aim to replicate the classic baked cheddar taste and crunchy texture of original Cheez-Its.

Most reviewers say the gluten-free Cheez-Its are extremely close to the original in terms of flavor and texture. There are just minor differences in characteristics like crumbliness or oiliness.

Nutritionally, the gluten-free crackers are similar to regular Cheez-Its. But they do contain slightly fewer calories, sugar, sodium and saturated fat in an equal serving size.

People who must eat gluten-free can find reassurance in the “Certified Gluten-Free” seal and widespread availability of these products. Those without a medical need may be better off sticking to the regular wheat flour Cheez-Its to get the nutritional benefits of whole grains.

Overall, Cheez-It has succeeded in formulating gluten-free baked crackers that can satisfy the cravings of gluten-sensitive fans. The introduction of gluten-free options makes this iconic snack accessible to an even wider audience.

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