Do sugar ice cream cones have gluten?

Quick Answer

Most sugar ice cream cones are gluten-free. The main ingredients in traditional sugar cones are flour, sugar, corn starch, water, baking powder and salt. None of these contain gluten. However, some mass-produced sugar cones may contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination during manufacturing. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should check the label or contact the manufacturer to confirm the cones are gluten-free.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale (1). It helps foods like bread maintain their shape and gives a chewy texture. For most people, gluten is well-tolerated. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten in foods can cause issues for those who are gluten-intolerant (2).

This is why checking labels for gluten-containing ingredients is so important. Being exposed to gluten can cause diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea and other digestive issues in those with gluten-related disorders.

Common Sources of Gluten

Gluten is naturally found in foods containing the grains wheat, barley, rye and triticale. This includes (3):

  • Breads, baked goods and crackers made with these grains
  • Pasta, cereals, baking mixes and other processed foods containing these grains
  • Beer and ales
  • Soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces and seasonings that contain gluten-based ingredients

In addition, gluten can find its way into foods during processing and preparation through cross-contamination. For example, gluten-free oats can become contaminated with wheat during growing, harvesting or processing.

Are Traditional Sugar Cones Gluten-Free?

Most traditional sugar cones are gluten-free. They’re made with just a few simple ingredients (4):

  • Enriched flour (usually wheat flour)
  • Sugar
  • Corn starch
  • Water
  • Baking powder
  • Salt

None of these contain gluten. Plain sugar cones made with just these ingredients should be safe for people avoiding gluten.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Wheat Flour

Some sugar cone recipes call for all-purpose or wheat flour rather than just “enriched flour.” People often use these terms interchangeably. Wheat flour contains gluten, so cones made with it would not be gluten-free.

Make sure to check the specific type of flour used. Most brands opt for less allergenic rice flour or another gluten-free alternative.

2. Cross-Contamination

Even if the ingredients look gluten-free, cross-contamination during manufacturing can introduce small amounts of gluten.

This risk depends on the brand and their processing methods. Some facilities also process wheat-based foods, increasing the chance for cross-contamination.

Those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive should verify the cones are gluten-free through third-party testing or by contacting the company.

3. Added Flavors

Some sugar cone products have extra flavorings added, such as vanilla or chocolate. The ingredients in these flavorings could potentially contain gluten.

As always, thoroughly check the ingredient list if choosing flavored cones. If in doubt, plain sugar cones are the safest bet.

Are Waffle Cones Gluten-Free?

Waffle cones are gluten-free, as well. They’re made by pouring a sweet batter into a waffle-style iron, rather than rolling and baking a sugar cone (5).

Here are the main ingredients found in gluten-free waffle cone batter (6):

  • Rice flour
  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Butter or oil
  • Eggs
  • Extracts like vanilla or almond
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Milk

Rice flour is used instead of wheat flour, making these cones safe for gluten-free diets. As always, check labels carefully for any wheat-based ingredients. Also look for certification from groups like GFCO, which test products to under 10 ppm of gluten.

Other Cone Options for Gluten-Free Diets

In addition to sugar and waffle cones, other cone varieties that are naturally gluten-free include:

Chocolate Dipped Cones

These are traditional sugar or waffle cones coated in chocolate or chocolate-flavored coating. Most brands use gluten-free coatings, but check labels for any wheat-based ingredients.

Cake Cones

Cake cones have a flavor and texture similar to cake. They are more crumbly than crisp. Basic cake cone ingredients are generally gluten-free, including (7):

  • Rice flour
  • Sugar
  • Potato starch
  • Butter or oil
  • Eggs
  • Flavor extracts
  • Salt
  • Baking powder


This hybrid cone starts off with a crisp waffle cone base that transitions to a cake-like texture. Most brands are gluten-free, using rice flour.

Chocolate-Dipped Wafflecone

This option combines a wafflecone base coated in chocolate or chocolatey coating. Check labels for any gluten-containing ingredients.

Are Pretzel Cones Gluten-Free?

Pretzel cones are not gluten-free. Traditional pretzels are made from wheat flour, which contains gluten. Soft pretzel cones have the same ingredients as standard pretzels. Even gluten-removed wheat starch still contains some gluten.

There are gluten-free pretzel options made with rice flour and other gluten-free flours. Brands like Katz and Hammond’s make gluten-free pretzel snacks. However, gluten-free pretzel cones are not as common currently. Those avoiding gluten should stick with cones labeled as gluten-free.

Are Birthday Cake Cones Gluten-Free?

Birthday cake cones have the flavor and appearance of birthday cake. These fun cones usually start with a cake cone base in vanilla or chocolate flavors. They are then decorated with frosting and sprinkles.

The cake cone base tends to be gluten-free, made with rice flour. However, check ingredient lists carefully, as some brands may use wheat flour.

Also ensure any frostings or decorations are gluten-free. Some frostings contain flour or malt ingredients. If a birthday cake cone is not labeled gluten-free, contacting the manufacturer is the best way to confirm it’s safe for those avoiding gluten.

Do Ice Cream Cones Contain Gluten?

Ice Cream Cone Ingredients

The cone ingredients themselves are generally gluten-free, including:

  • Sugar cones: rice flour, sugar, cornstarch, butter, vanilla, salt.
  • Waffle cones: rice flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt.
  • Cake cones: rice flour, sugar, potato starch, vanilla, baking powder.

However, there is still the potential for cross-contamination with gluten during manufacturing. This is especially true for major ice cream brands producing high volumes of cones.

Ice Creams and Toppings

The cone itself may be gluten-free, but gluten can hide in ice cream flavors and toppings:

  • Flavored ice creams: Cookies and cream, birthday cake, cookie dough and other flavored varieties may contain gluten from cookie pieces, wheat flour in batter or malt.
  • Candy toppings: Sprinkles, candies and novelty toppings may contain gluten as a binding agent.
  • Sauces: Fudge, caramel and chocolate sauces thickened with flour.

Those with celiac should verify the cone, ice cream and all toppings are gluten-free through labeling or by contacting the company. This goes for purchasing cones in grocery stores, ice cream shops and convenience store chains.

What About Dairy-Free Cones?

Many cone manufacturers also offer dairy-free options:

  • Coconut milk cones: Coconut milk replaces dairy ingredients like butter, milk and cream. Often egg-free too.
  • Soy milk cones: Soy milk gives a dairy-free version. May also be vegan if no eggs.
  • Vegan cones: Made without any animal products including dairy, eggs, honey or gelatin.

Dairy-free and vegan cones typically rely on rice flour, sugar, vegetable oils and starch instead of milk-based ingredients. As long as the flours used are gluten-free, these are safe for those avoiding gluten. Still check labels for any wheat-based ingredients.

Those with multiple food allergies or intolerances should also verify the cones are free of their other allergens beyond just gluten.

Do Gluten-Free Cones Taste Different?

Most gluten-free sugar or waffle cones taste very similar to traditional versions. Here’s how some popular brands compare:

Brand Base Ingredients Taste and Texture
Kinnikinnick Rice flour, sugar, oil, potato starch Crisp, slightly sweeter
Pizzelle Rice flour, sugar, butter, eggs Neutral sweet flavor, crispy
Katz Rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch Very similar texture to wheat cones
Enjoy Life Rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch Slightly sweeter, crispy texture

Substituting rice flour for wheat flour gives a very comparable cone taste and crunch. Any differences are typically subtle. Those new to gluten-free may find alternative flours like rice, tapioca and potato work well in cones.

The biggest difference is that gluten-free cones are less prone to getting soggy compared to wheat-based cones. They maintain their crispy texture longer when filled with ice cream.

Finding Gluten-Free Cones

Here are some places to find gluten-free cones:

  • Health food stores: Large selections of brands dedicated to gluten-free and allergy-friendly foods.
  • Online stores: Large gluten-free brands like Kinnikinnick, Pizzelle and Katz offer online ordering.
  • Ice cream shops: Locally-owned shops are more likely to have knowledge about ingredients and gluten-free options than large chains.
  • Specialty grocers: Some regular supermarkets also carry gluten-free brands in the natural foods section.

Look for reputable brands that specifically advertise being gluten-free, rather than generic unmarked cones which may be cross-contaminated. Confirming gluten-free status through third-party certification or directly contacting the manufacturer provides extra assurance.

Are Gluten-Free Cones More Expensive?

There is often a price premium for specialty gluten-free products compared to conventional ones. Factors like lower production volume, use of more expensive ingredients, and extra processing to avoid cross-contamination can increase costs.

However, many leading gluten-free cone brands are competitively priced with regular cones. Here’s how some compare:

Brand Type Price
Enjoy Life Sugar cones $3.49 per 6-pack
Keebler Sugar cones $2.50 per 6-pack
Katz Waffle cones $4.99 per 6-pack
Joy Waffle cones $3.79 per 6-pack

Prices range from $0.40-$0.85 per cone, very similar to conventional brands. Buying larger value packs can help further reduce the cost. Overall, going gluten-free does not have to break the bank.

Bottom Line

Traditional sugar cones and waffle cones are gluten-free, made with simple ingredients like rice flour, sugar, cornstarch and eggs. However, mass production can increase the risk of cross-contamination with gluten. Cake cones, chocolate-dipped cones and wafflecone hybrids are other gluten-free varieties.

Those with celiac should verify the cones are certified gluten-free or contact the manufacturer, especially when buying major brands. Also check any ice cream flavors and toppings for gluten-containing ingredients.

Many reputable brands offer gluten-free cones at affordable prices. With some label reading, ice cream lovers can enjoy cones without gluten worries. Overall, being gluten-free does not have to come between anyone and their love of ice cream.

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