Do meat pies contain gluten?

Quick answer

Meat pies may or may not contain gluten depending on the recipe and ingredients used. The pastry shell, fillings, gravies and thickeners can all potentially contain sources of gluten like wheat flour. Checking the ingredients list and contacting manufacturers is the only way to be certain if a meat pie contains gluten or not. Many gluten-free meat pie options are now available.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Do traditional meat pie recipes contain gluten?

Yes, most traditional meat pie recipes do contain gluten. This is because the pastry shell is typically made from wheat flour dough. Wheat flour contains gluten proteins, so meat pies made with regular wheat flour crusts will contain gluten.

Some examples of common meat pie recipes that contain gluten include:

  • Steak and ale pie – wheat flour pastry
  • Chicken and leek pie – shortcrust pastry made with wheat flour
  • Shepherd’s pie – mashed potato topping made with wheat flour
  • Cornish pasties – pastry made from wheat flour

Unless the recipe specifically states it is gluten-free, it’s safest to assume a meat pie from a traditional recipe contains gluten.

Which ingredients in meat pies contain gluten?

These are some of the common sources of gluten found in meat pies:

The pastry shell

Most meat pie pastry shells are made from wheat flour dough. Wheat flour contains the gluten proteins, so the shell will nearly always contain gluten. Other gluten-containing grains like rye or barley flour may also be used.

The pie fillings

While meats themselves don’t contain gluten, some pie fillings do:

  • Gravies or sauces thickened with wheat flour
  • Onion, mushrooms or other vegetables sautéed in wheat flour
  • Fillings containing barley, wheat berries, croutons or pasta

The main fillings are often fine, but it’s the extra ingredients that can add hidden sources of gluten.

Mashed potato toppings

For pies like shepherd’s pie or cottage pie, mashed potato is used as a topping instead of pastry. However, many recipes add wheat flour to the mashed potato to help thicken it. This introduces gluten.


Cornstarch and wheat flour are common thickeners used in meat pie gravies and fillings. Cornstarch is naturally gluten-free, but wheat flour contains gluten. Other gluten-containing thickeners like roux or glutenous starch may also be used.

Flavorings and seasonings

Many seasoning blends, stock cubes and bouillon powders contain gluten as an additive. Soy sauce is also a common ingredient that contains gluten. Always check the labels on any pre-made flavorings used in meat pies.

Are there any gluten-free meat pie options?

Yes, there are now many gluten-free meat pie options available, including:

Gluten-free pastry shells

– Shortcrust pastry made from gluten-free flours like rice flour, tapioca flour or almond flour.

– Filo pastry made with gluten-free flours.

– Pastry cases made from gluten-free crumbs or batter.

– Gluten-free puff pastry.

Gluten-free fillings

– Meats, vegetables, lentils, pulses and potatoes used on their own or in gravy thickened with cornstarch instead of wheat flour.

– Gluten-free stocks and gravies.

– Fillings without wheat flour for dusting or sautéing.

Gluten-free toppings

– Mashed potatoes without added wheat flour.

– Mashed sweet potato, parsnip or celeriac instead of regular mash.

– Gluten-free crumbs, seeds or nuts used for topping.

Ready-made gluten-free meat pies

Many supermarkets and food brands now sell ready-made gluten-free meat pies, pasties and sausage rolls made with gluten-free ingredients. You can also find gluten-free meat pies at many bakeries and restaurants. Just double check they are certified gluten-free.

How to tell if a meat pie contains gluten

Here are some tips for working out if a meat pie contains gluten:

  • Check the ingredients list – wheat flour, barley, rye or unspecified starch indicate gluten.
  • Look for a “gluten-free” label from a certified brand.
  • Contact the manufacturer and ask if the product contains gluten.
  • If made from scratch at a bakery, cafe or restaurant you can ask staff to confirm all ingredients used are gluten-free.
  • If in doubt, avoid it or contact the supplier for gluten information.

Remember even small amounts of gluten can trigger issues for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. When checking for gluten, don’t just look at the main filling ingredients. Consider the pastry, gravies, flavorings and toppings too.

Tips for making gluten-free meat pies

If you want to make your own gluten-free meat pies at home, here are some tips:

  • Use gluten-free flours like rice flour, tapioca flour, almond meal or gluten-free oat flour for the pastry.
  • Check all stocks, gravies and seasoning blends are gluten-free.
  • Avoid wheat flour for dusting or thickening fillings. Opt for cornstarch instead.
  • Sauté vegetables in oil rather than coating in wheat flour first.
  • Use gluten-free breadcrumbs or crushed corn chips if you need a topping.
  • Look for gluten-free pie dishes if you don’t want pastry.
  • Clearly label gluten-free pies if cooking for others.

Trial and error will be needed to find the perfect gluten-free meat pie recipe that holds together and tastes great. Start with small adjustments to existing recipes before trying complicated gluten-free pastry.

Are meat pies safe for a gluten-free diet?

Meat pies made with gluten-containing ingredients are not safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Consuming them will cause immune system reactions that damage the small intestine.

However, meat pies made from certified gluten-free ingredients are perfectly safe to eat on a gluten-free diet. Choosing commercially made gluten-free meat pies ensures peace of mind that they definitely don’t contain any gluten.

When homemade, care must be taken to avoid cross-contamination with gluten. This means having dedicated gluten-free utensils, cookware and preparation areas.

Nutrition of gluten-free meat pies

Going gluten-free does not have to mean missing out on flavors or nutrition. Here is how the nutrition profile of gluten-free meat pies compares:

Gluten-free pros

  • Can use nutritious gluten-free whole grains like buckwheat, quinoa or millet
  • Room for extra vegetables and lean protein fillings
  • No nutritional downsides if using a healthy gluten-free flour blend

Potential gluten-free cons

  • Gluten-free flours on their own can be lower in B vitamins
  • May be higher in fat and calories if using nut flours or butter-based pastry
  • Can lack fiber if not using whole grain gluten-free flours

As long as you choose healthy ingredients, going gluten-free doesn’t have to make meat pies less nutritious. Focus on adding extra vegetables, using lean meats and incorporating gluten-free whole grains.

Are meat pies gluten-free? The bottom line

Traditional meat pie recipes do contain gluten from wheat flour pastry and fillings. However, with the rise in gluten-free diets, there are now many healthy and tasty gluten-free meat pie options available. With homemade gluten-free pies, care must be taken not to contaminate ingredients and cooking areas with gluten. Overall, people avoiding gluten can still enjoy meat pies as part of a balanced gluten-free diet.

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