Does sugar free pudding have gluten?

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 has led to an increase in gluten-free food options, including desserts like pudding. But does removing sugar from pudding also remove gluten? Here is a quick answer:

Sugar free pudding may contain gluten depending on the ingredients and manufacturing process. Many sugar free puddings contain wheat-based thickeners, flavorings or starches that contain gluten. Checking the ingredients list and looking for a gluten-free certification are the best ways to identify gluten-free sugar free puddings.

This article will take an in-depth look at sugar free pudding and whether it contains the problematic protein gluten. We’ll examine the various ingredients found in popular supermarket and pre-packaged sugar free pudding brands and determine the likelihood of gluten. Tips for identifying and choosing truly gluten-free sugar free pudding products will also be provided.

What is Gluten?

Gluten consists of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. When flour from these grains is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form elastic strands that give breads and other baked goods their chewy texture.

For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or negative health effects. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can trigger a variety of unpleasant symptoms:

  • Diarrhea, constipation, vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Fatigue, joint pain, headaches
  • Rashes or skin issues
  • Weight loss or nutrient deficiencies

Over time, eating gluten can cause damage to the small intestine for those with celiac disease. This is why following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet is recommended for celiac patients.

Gluten sensitivity is less understood but also appears to cause immune and digestive issues for those affected. Limiting or eliminating gluten from the diet may help reduce symptoms.

It’s estimated that 1% of people worldwide have celiac disease. Many more are gluten intolerant or sensitive. This has led to an explosion in the availability of gluten-free products, including gluten-free pudding options.

What Ingredients Are Found in Sugar Free Pudding?

To understand if sugar free pudding contains gluten, we need to look at the various ingredients used to make it:


One of the main functions of ingredients like wheat flour in regular pudding is to act as a thickener and give the pudding its rich, smooth texture. In sugar free pudding, alternative thickeners are often used in place of wheat flour, including:

  • Cornstarch – Made from corn, naturally gluten-free
  • Tapioca flour – From the cassava root, gluten-free
  • Xanthan gum – Produced by bacteria, gluten-free
  • Arrowroot – From the arrowroot plant, gluten-free
  • Rice flour – Made from rice, gluten-free

However, some sugar free pudding brands do use wheat-based thickeners:

  • Modified food starch – May contain wheat
  • Flour – Often wheat-based, contains gluten


Common sweeteners in sugar free pudding include:

  • Acesulfame potassium – Artificial sweetener, gluten-free
  • Aspartame – Artificial sweetener, gluten-free
  • Sucralose – Artificial sweetener, gluten-free
  • Stevia – Natural sweetener, gluten-free
  • Monk fruit extract – Natural sweetener, gluten-free

Sweeteners themselves do not contain gluten. However, bulking agents are sometimes added to sugar substitutes, which could potentially contain gluten:

  • Maltodextrin – Often made from wheat, contains gluten
  • Dextrin – May be derived from wheat, can contain gluten
  • Modified starch – May come from wheat, can contain gluten

Milk Products

Milk products like milk powder and whey are commonly found in instant sugar free pudding mixes. These dairy-derived ingredients are naturally gluten-free.

Some people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may also be lactose intolerant or have issues digesting milk proteins like casein. So those with gluten issues should also be aware of milk-related ingredients when choosing sugar free puddings.

Flavors and Colors

Sugar free puddings come in a wide array of flavors like chocolate, vanilla, pistachio and butterscotch. Natural and artificial flavors are added to create these flavors.

Artificial colors are also often added to improve the appearance of sugar free puddings.

While most flavors and colors are gluten-free, some can contain gluten, like:

  • Malt flavoring – Derived from barley, contains gluten
  • Caramel color – May be produced with wheat, can contain gluten

So checking flavor and coloring agents is important when looking for gluten content.

Stabilizers and Emulsifiers

Ingredients like guar gum, cellulose gel and carrageenan are sometimes added to improve the texture and moisture retention of sugar free puddings. Most common stabilizers and emulsifiers are gluten-free.

However, wheat-derived ingredients like cereal solids or wheat dextrins could be used in small amounts as stabilizers.

Are the Most Common Sugar Free Pudding Brands Gluten-Free?

With an overview of the types of ingredients found in sugar free puddings, we can now look at some popular brands and whether they are gluten-free:

Jell-O Sugar Free Pudding

  • Uses cornstarch as main thickener
  • Sweetened with artificial sweeteners
  • Flavored with natural and artificial flavorings
  • Does NOT contain wheat or barley ingredients
  • Verdict: Jell-O sugar free pudding mixes are gluten-free

Swiss Miss Sugar Free Pudding

  • Contains modified food starch, likely from corn
  • Sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium
  • Flavored artificially
  • Does NOT contain any wheat, barley or malt
  • Verdict: Swiss Miss sugar free puddings do not contain gluten

Snack Pack Sugar Free Pudding Cups

  • Uses corn starch and tapioca starch thickeners
  • Sweetened with sucralose
  • Flavored artificially
  • Does NOT contain wheat, barley or malt ingredients
  • Verdict: Snack Pack sugar free pre-made pudding cups are gluten-free

Kozy Shack Sugar Free Pudding

  • Contains modified food starch (likely from corn)
  • Also includes wheat-based ingredients like wheat dextrins
  • Sweetened with artificial sweeteners
  • Flavored artificially
  • Verdict: Kozy Shack sugar free puddings contain gluten

Hunt’s Sugar Free Pudding

  • Uses both cornstarch and wheat flour as thickeners
  • Contains maltodextrin, likely derived from wheat
  • Sweetened with sucralose and stevia
  • Flavored artificially
  • Verdict: Hunt’s sugar free pudding contains gluten

As shown, most major brands of dry sugar free pudding mixes and pre-made pudding cups do NOT contain gluten. However, some brands add small amounts of wheat-based stabilizers and bulking agents.

Carefully reading ingredient lists is necessary to determine if a sugar free pudding contains gluten. Gluten-free labeling or certification provides added assurance.

What About Homemade Sugar Free Puddings?

Many people enjoy making sugar free pudding at home. This allows you to control all the ingredients and avoid potential sources of gluten used by food manufacturers.

Here are some easy tips for making gluten-free sugar free pudding:

  • Use naturally gluten-free thickeners like cornstarch, tapioca flour or arrowroot
  • Sweeten with gluten-free zero calorie sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit or erythritol
  • Flavor with pure extracts like vanilla, almond or lemon
  • Stabilize with guar gum or xanthan gum instead of wheat-based ingredients
  • Use dairy or non-dairy milk substitutes that are certified gluten-free

Making your own sugar free pudding allows total control over the ingredients. You can be confident your homemade pudding is both gluten-free and low in sugar.

What About Cross-Contamination Risks?

Even puddings made without gluten-containing ingredients can pose a risk to those with celiac disease due to cross-contamination during manufacturing and processing:

  • Shared equipment may transfer gluten from other products
  • Shared facilities increase risk of airborne gluten contamination
  • Errors in labeling or ingredient handling can occur

For highest level of safety, look for puddings that are produced in dedicated gluten-free facilities and have reputable gluten-free certifications on packaging.

Tips for Choosing Safe Gluten-Free Sugar Free Puddings

Here are some tips to help identify and select sugar free pudding products that are reliably gluten-free:

  • Carefully read the ingredients list and look for any wheat, barley or malt ingredients
  • Check for a “gluten-free” label on the packaging
  • Look for reputable gluten-free certifications like GFCO or NSF
  • Call or email the manufacturer with any questions or concerns
  • Stick to major brands that make a range of gluten-free items
  • Avoid generic or store brands, as their facilities are less likely to be gluten-free
  • Make your own pudding at home using simple, naturally gluten-free ingredients

Being an informed shopper and knowing what to look for on labels makes selecting safe gluten-free sugar free pudding much easier.

Can a Gluten-Free Diet Still Lead to Weight Gain?

One concern with relying on gluten-free packaged products is that they can sometimes be higher in calories, fat, and sugar compared to regular versions:

Nutrition Facts Regular Pudding (1/2 cup) Sugar Free Pudding (1/2 cup)
Calories 190 60
Fat 5g 2g
Carbs 34g 8g
Sugar 23g 0g
Protein 4g 2g

Going gluten-free does not automatically mean a product will be low in calories or support weight loss. Sugar free puddings offer a good option for enjoying sweet gluten-free desserts while controlling calories and carbs.

Focusing on whole, naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and dairy products can promote healthy gluten-free eating for better weight management.

Should You Eat Sugar Free Pudding on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Here are some things to consider when deciding if sugar free pudding can be part of a gluten-free diet:


  • Provides a sweet, gluten-free dessert option
  • Allows greater variety in the diet
  • Low in sugar and fewer carbs than regular pudding
  • Convenient pre-made cups and instant mixes available


  • Packaged products may have higher fat, calories and additives
  • Higher risk of cross-contamination from processing
  • Can crowd out healthier, whole food options
  • Artificial sweeteners may cause gastrointestinal issues for some

People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance already face restrictions on what foods they can enjoy. Having tasty gluten-free dessert options like sugar free pudding available provides a nice option to satisfy sweet cravings in moderation.

However, over-relying on processed gluten-free products can negatively impact your diet. Be sure to also emphasize whole, naturally gluten-free foods for optimal health on a gluten-free diet.

The Bottom Line

Reading through ingredients carefully is the best way to assess if a sugar free pudding contains harmful gluten. Many popular brands of dry pudding mixes and ready-to-eat cups are gluten-free, but some brands do add small amounts of wheat-based ingredients.

Making your own sugar free pudding allows you to control all ingredients and avoid any sources of gluten. While packaged gluten-free products provide convenience, focusing your diet on whole foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats leads to the best health on a gluten-free diet.

Overall, sugar free puddings can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy gluten-free lifestyle for those sensitive to gluten. Just be diligent about reading labels to identify truly gluten-free brands that fit into your diet.

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