Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues. This leads many to wonder if fruit jams, which are made from fruit, contain gluten. Here is a detailed look at whether or not fruit jams contain gluten.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. The two main proteins that make up gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape and gives elasticity to dough. It also gives a chewy texture to products like bread and pasta.
For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or adverse health effects. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can trigger an autoimmune response and cause damage to 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 a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. For those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, eliminating gluten from the diet may help manage symptoms.
Gluten content in different grains
Here is the approximate gluten content in grains:
- Wheat – contains up to 14% gluten
- Rye – contains up to 16% gluten
- Barley – contains up to 13% gluten
- Oats – may contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination
- Corn – gluten-free
- Rice – gluten-free
- Millet – gluten-free
- Sorghum – gluten-free
- Teff – gluten-free
Any food product containing wheat, rye or barley has gluten in it. This includes things like bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, cereals, beer and more. Oats are naturally gluten-free but may contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination during growing and processing.
What ingredients are found in fruit jam?
The main ingredients in fruit jam include:
- Fruit – Usually crushed or pureed fruit like strawberries, raspberries, peaches, etc.
- Sugar – Granulated white sugar or corn syrup to sweeten the jam.
- Pectin – A natural gelling agent found in fruit.
- Lemon juice or citric acid – Helps activate the pectin.
Additional ingredients like spices, chia seeds or butter may also be added for flavor and texture. Fruit jam recipes do not contain any gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye or barley.
Why fruit jam is gluten-free
Fruit jams are gluten-free for two main reasons:
- They are made with fruits, sugar, pectin and water – none of which contain gluten.
- They do not contain any gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye or barley.
The fruit which forms the base of jams, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries etc, are naturally gluten-free. Refined white sugar, which is commonly added to jams, is also gluten-free. It does not contain any protein from wheat or other gluten sources.
Pectin, which causes the jam to gel, is extracted from the cell walls of fruit. No gluten-containing grains are used in the production of pectin. Likewise, citric acid and water do not contain gluten.
In some cases, small amounts of cornstarch may be added to jam. Corn does not contain gluten, so cornstarch is safe for a gluten-free diet. Overall, the ingredients used in making fruit jam do not contain any gluten sources.
Risk of cross-contamination
Although the ingredients in fruit jam are gluten-free, there is a small risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing if gluten containing grains are processed on the same equipment. Some brands may add a “Contains: Wheat” statement on the label as a warning.
For people with celiac disease, it is recommended to choose jam brands that are labeled “gluten-free” to ensure no cross-contamination. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can normally tolerate small amounts of cross-contamination.
Homemade fruit jam
When making fruit jam at home, you have full control over the ingredients and processing equipment. As long as you don’t add any wheat, barley, rye or oats and ensure all utensils and pots are thoroughly cleaned, homemade jam will be gluten-free.
One thing to watch out for is certain pectin products made for home jam making. Some contain wheat to act as a thickener. Be sure to read labels and only purchase pectin labeled “gluten-free”.
Types of fruit jam that are gluten-free
All types of fruit jam without added gluten-containing grains are gluten-free. Some examples include:
- Strawberry jam
- Raspberry jam
- Blueberry jam
- Blackberry jam
- Apricot jam
- Peach jam
- Plum jam
- Cherry jam
- Orange jam/marmalade
- Pineapple jam
- Fig jam
- Apple jam
- Mixed fruit jam
As long as the jam does not contain wheat, rye, barley or oats, it can be considered gluten-free. Be sure to check the labels for any gluten containing additives. Homemade jams are the safest bet for avoiding cross-contamination.
Are there any jams that contain gluten?
Most standard fruit jams do not contain gluten. However, there are some specialty jam products that may include gluten:
- Jams with added oats – Some jam recipes call for oats to thicken the jam or add texture.
- Jams with wheat/barley as an ingredient – Some artisanal jams may use cereals like wheat or barley.
- Jams with malt extract – Malt extract contains gluten.
- Flavored jelly with wheat-based ingredients – Some jelly flavors like maple pecan could have wheat.
As long as you stick to basic single fruit jams without specialty ingredients, they will be gluten-free. If in doubt, check the label for any mentioning of wheat, barley, rye or oats.
Are fruit preserves, conserves and butters gluten-free?
Fruit preserves, conserves and butters have a similar ingredient profile and manufacturing process as regular fruit jam. The main ingredients are fruit, sugar, pectin, citric acid and water. None of these contain gluten. Here is a quick overview:
Fruit preserves refer to jam made with whole or large pieces of fruit, instead of pureed. Common types include strawberry, peach, apricot and cherry preserves. As long as no gluten-containing grains are added, these preserves will be gluten-free.
Fruit conserves contain fruit mixed with nuts, raisins, coconut or other ingredients. For example, strawberry and coconut conserve. The added ingredients are naturally gluten-free in most cases. But check labels in case wheat/gluten was added as thickener.
Fruit butters are made by cooking down fruit puree to a thick, spreadable consistency. Common versions are apple butter and peach butter. The ingredients are simply fruit puree, sugar, spices and sometimes pectin. Fruit butters do not contain any gluten.
Are jams with added pectin gluten-free?
Pectin is a gelling agent naturally found in fruits. In some jams, additional pectin may be added to help the jam set and thicken. The pectin sold for home and commercial jam making is extracted from fruit cell walls. No gluten-containing grains are used.
However, some pectin contains wheat to act as a thickener and stabilizer. These types would not be gluten-free. If using pectin powder in homemade jam, be sure to use one labeled as gluten-free.
For store-bought jams with added pectin, check the labels for any hidden gluten-containing ingredients.
Are jams with chia or quinoa seeds gluten-free?
Chia seeds and quinoa are gluten-free pseudo-grains that are sometimes added to jams. They act as a natural thickener. Some examples include:
- Strawberry chia seed jam
- Raspberry quinoa jam
- Peach apricot chia jam
Neither chia nor quinoa contain gluten naturally. So jams with these added ingredients are safe for a gluten-free diet as long as no other gluten containing grains are included as well.
Are savory jams gluten-free?
Savory jams refer to spreads made from vegetables, herbs, chilies, spices and vinegar, rather than fruit. Some popular savory jams include:
- Tomato jam
- Pepper jelly
- Onion jam
- Garlic jam
These types of savory jams typically do not include grains or wheat-based ingredients. However, always check labels to be sure no gluten containing ingredients were added. Homemade vegetable jams are the safest option.
Should you avoid jam if you have celiac disease?
Jam that does not contain any gluten-containing ingredients should be safe for people with celiac disease. However, there is a small risk of cross-contamination with gluten during manufacturing, especially on shared equipment.
For very sensitive celiacs, avoiding store-bought jams and only eating homemade jams is advised. Others can tolerate small amounts of cross-contamination and should be able to eat commercial jam, especially if labeled gluten-free.
Those with celiac disease should also ensure other breakfast items like toast or biscuits are 100% gluten-free when consuming jam.
Jam alternatives for a gluten-free diet
If you prefer to avoid jams due to celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or other reasons, there are plenty of alternative gluten-free fruit spreads to consider:
- 100% fruit spreads – Made from pure fruit without added pectin or sugar.
- Honey – Plain honey makes a tasty spread.
- Nut butter – Gluten-free nut butters like almond or peanut butter work well.
- Banana – Mashed banana can substitute for sweet jam.
- Applesauce – Look for unsweetened applesauce without questionable thickeners.
- Coconut butter – Made from pureed coconut flesh.
Is jam safe in a gluten-free diet?
In most cases, plain fruit jam made without gluten-containing ingredients is safe for those on a gluten-free diet. However, there is a small risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing. Homemade jams are the safest option.
People with celiac disease should use caution and only choose jams labeled as gluten-free, or stick to brands known to be gluten-free. Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can tolerate small amounts of cross-contamination and do not need to be as strict when choosing jam products.
The bottom line
Fruit jams are naturally gluten-free foods, since they are made from fruit, sugar, pectin and citric acid. None of these ingredients contain gluten. There is only a small chance of cross-contamination with gluten during manufacturing.
As long as you avoid jams with added grains like oats, barley or wheat, fruit jams are perfectly safe to eat on a gluten-free diet. Check labels to be sure. Homemade jams using clean equipment are the safest choice for those with celiac disease.