Is a box of chocolates gluten free?

Quick Answer

Whether or not a box of chocolates contains gluten depends on the specific ingredients used in the chocolates. Many dark chocolates are naturally gluten free. Milk chocolates may contain ingredients derived from wheat, barley or rye that contain gluten. Individual chocolate candies may also have gluten containing ingredients such as cookies or wafers. Reading the label is important to determine if a particular chocolate box contains gluten. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye (1). 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 diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue (2).

For people who cannot tolerate gluten, following a strict gluten-free diet by avoiding all foods and drinks containing gluten is important. Even tiny amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can cause issues for those who are highly sensitive.

Common Sources of Gluten

In addition to products made directly from wheat, barley and rye, gluten can be found in foods made with ingredients derived from these grains. Here are some common sources of gluten (3):

– Bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods
– Beer
– Cereals
– Soy sauce
– Salad dressings, sauces and soups
– Processed meat products
– Fried foods that have been dusted with flour
– Foods containing malt extract or malt flavoring

As you can see, gluten can be found in many common foods and drinks. Checking labels is important to avoid consuming hidden sources of gluten.

Are Chocolates Naturally Gluten Free?

Cocoa beans — the natural source of chocolate — are naturally gluten free. However, other ingredients added during chocolate production may introduce gluten.

Dark Chocolate

Pure dark chocolate contains just cocoa beans and sometimes sugar. As cocoa beans are naturally gluten free, most dark chocolate bars are also gluten free (4).

However, some dark chocolate may have flavorings or inclusions that contain gluten, such as cookie bits or wheat-based ingredients. Check the label and ingredient list.

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate contains cocoa butter and milk or milk solids in addition to cocoa beans and sugar. The milk ingredients may come from dairy sources or milk derived from grains containing gluten.

Some milk chocolate bars contain malt extract or malt flavoring. Malt is derived from barley, so these milk chocolates are not gluten free.

Again, reading the label is key when determining if a milk chocolate is gluten free. Contact the manufacturer if you have any doubts.

Chocolates with Inclusions

Chocolates that have inclusions or fillings may also contain gluten:

– Chocolates with cookie, cake or biscuit pieces are not gluten free if the cookies/cakes contain glutenous grains.

– Chocolates with wafer fillings may contain wheat-based wafers.

– Chocolates with cereal pieces or crunchy toppings may contain glutenous grains.

– Chocolate bars with granola are not gluten free, as granola contains oats with gluten.

– Candy bars covered in crisped rice contain barley malt as an ingredient and are not gluten free.

Again, reading the detailed ingredient list can help identify if any gluten-containing ingredients are present. When in doubt, call or email the manufacturer.

How to Check if a Box of Chocolates is Gluten Free

So when confronted with a box of assorted chocolates, how do you determine if they are gluten free? Here are some tips:

1. Check the packaging

Look for any statements on the box indicating the chocolates are gluten-free or wheat-free. Statements like:

– Gluten free
– Wheat free
– Free from gluten containing ingredients
– No gluten containing ingredients

May indicate the box is gluten free. However, don’t rely solely on these claims. Proceed to read the ingredients as well.

2. Read the ingredient list

Carefully read the entire ingredient list on the box. Watch for any of these gluten containing ingredients:

– Wheat
– Barley
– Rye
– Malt
– Oats (may be contaminated)

Also watch for vague ingredients that may indicate hidden sources of gluten, like “natural flavors”, “starch” or “spices”.

3. Look for information about shared equipment

Even if a chocolate doesn’t directly contain gluten, it could be cross contaminated if made on shared equipment with gluten containing products.

Look for advisory statements like:

– “May contain wheat”
– “Made in a facility that also processes wheat”

This indicates there is a risk of gluten cross contamination.

4. Call or email the manufacturer

If you don’t see an ingredients list or advisory statements on cross contamination, your best bet is to directly contact the chocolate manufacturer:

– Call the customer service number on the packaging.
– Check their website for more product information.
– Email them your questions.

Explain that you need to know if the product contains gluten or if it is at risk for cross contamination with gluten. A knowledgeable customer service representative should be able to help.

5. When in doubt, avoid it

If you are unsure about the gluten free status of a particular box of chocolates, the safest bet is to avoid eating them altogether. The consequences of accidentally consuming gluten can be unpleasant and dangerous for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Don’t take risks when it comes to your health.

Choosing Safe Gluten Free Chocolates

To choose safe gluten free chocolates for yourself or others, look for:

1. Dedicated gluten free brands

There are many companies today that specialize in making gluten free chocolates and candies. Their products are produced in dedicated gluten free facilities and tested to ensure no cross contamination.

Some examples of gluten free chocolate brands include Endangered Species, Hu Kitchen, Pascha Organics, Alter Eco and Enjoy Life.

2. Individual chocolate squares

Rather than assorted chocolates, choose boxes with individually wrapped gluten free chocolate squares. That way there is no risk of cross contamination from gluten containing chocolates in the box.

3. Simple, classic chocolates

Stick to simple chocolate squares rather than more elaborate chocolates. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate and chocolate with basic mix-ins like nuts, caramel or fruit are safer bets.

Avoid chocolates with cookie, cake or wafer inclusions which have a higher chance of containing gluten.

4. Non-chocolate alternatives

If you want to be extra safe, choose non-chocolate candies instead. Options like gummy bears, licorice, lollipops and jelly beans are naturally gluten free. Just confirm by reading the label.

Homemade Gluten Free Chocolates

For full control over ingredients, make homemade chocolate confections:

Basic Chocolate Bark

Melt gluten free chocolate chips and spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Top with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut flakes or sprinkles while still warm and let cool. Break into pieces and enjoy.

Chocolate Fruit Dip

Melt equal parts dark chocolate and peanut or almond butter. Dip strawberries, banana slices, orange segments or other fruit. Refrigerate to set chocolate.

Chocolate Nut Clusters

Make clusters by mixing together roughly chopped nuts with melted chocolate, coconut oil and desired spices, seeds or salt. Scoop spoonfuls onto parchment paper and chill until set.

Chocolate Candy Bars

Make candy bar shaped chocolates by spreading melted chocolate into a parchment lined pan. Layer with desired mix-ins like caramel, nuts or puffed rice. Chill until firm and cut into bars.

Chocolate Cookie Dough Balls

Mix together gluten free cookie dough and form into balls. Freeze balls on a parchment lined sheet. Melt chocolate and dip frozen balls, then return to sheet to set chocolate coating.

Traveling with Gluten Free Chocolate

Bringing safe gluten free treats along when traveling or sending to school/office can be challenging. Here are some tips to ensure chocolate stays gluten free on-the-go:

1. Choose single serve packs

Buy single serve chocolate packs rather than a full box. Individually wrapped chocolates or mini bars have less risk of cross contamination.

2. Use resealable plastic bags

Place chocolates in resealable plastic bags or containers rather than original packaging which could get crushed. This prevents contamination from other snacks.

3. Inform others of gluten free needs

Tell travel companions, family, coworkers or teachers about your need to avoid gluten. Ask them not to offer you food without checking ingredients first.

4. Bring dry snacks too

While tasty, chocolate alone isn’t balanced. Also pack nut mixes, protein bars, dried fruit and other filling gluten free snacks.

5. Read labels carefully

When purchasing chocolates away from home, take time to carefully read labels rather than assuming foods are gluten free.

Gluten Free Chocolates for Gift Giving

Chocolate makes a great gluten free gift option for holidays, birthdays, thank yous and more. Here are tips for safe gifting:

1. Purchase dedicated gluten free brands

Choose reputable brands that clearly label products gluten free and free from cross contamination. Some trusted options include Alter Eco, Pascha, Hu and Endangered Species.

2. Select individually wrapped chocolates

Rather than full chocolate boxes, give individual chocolate squares, mini bars or chocolate medallions. This avoids cross contamination.

3. Focus on simple chocolate varieties

Basic chocolate squares or truffles have a lower risk of gluten compared to chocolates with cookie or wafer inclusions.

4. Add a gluten free gift label

Be sure to indicate the gift is gluten free by attaching a label or tag that says Gluten Free Treats! This saves the recipient from having to inspect ingredients themselves.

5. Include other fun gluten free goodies

Make a gluten free gift basket by adding other treats like candy, popcorn, nut mixes, cider, cookies or snack bars.

Dining Out with Gluten Free Chocolate Desserts

Those avoiding gluten don’t have to miss out on chocolate desserts when eating out at restaurants. Here are some tips for enjoying safe gluten free chocolate treats:

1. Stick to basic chocolate favorites

Plain chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, flourless chocolate tortes, and chocolate mousse are typically safe bets on menus.

2. Avoid chocolate desserts listing wheat ingredients

Avoid menu items listing ingredients like wheat flour, cookies or wafers as these contain gluten.

3. Ask about separate preparation

Inquire about separate gluten free preparation to avoid cross contamination from wheat-based desserts.

4. Specify a gluten allergy when ordering

Be sure to note your gluten allergy to the server so they understand the importance of avoiding cross contamination during preparation and serving.

5. Only eat chocolate desserts labelled gluten free

Only eat menu items that specifically state they are gluten free or wheat free. Don’t make assumptions.

6. Bring your own chocolate treats

Travel with packaged gluten free chocolate snacks you can enjoy in case the restaurant doesn’t offer safe options.

Making Milk Chocolate Gluten Free

While many dark chocolates are gluten free, milk chocolate can be more tricky due to added binders and dairy-derived ingredients that may contain gluten. Here are some tips for keeping milk chocolate gluten free:

1. Choose non-grain based milk powders

Opt for milk powders made from milk or soy rather than those derived from barley, wheat or rye grains which contain gluten.

2. Avoid malt flavoring or extracts

Malt gives milk chocolate a distinctive flavor but should be avoided as malt contains gluten.

3. Use cornstarch instead of wheat starch

binders help improve texture but wheat starch contains gluten. Substitute with cornstarch instead.

4. Add extra milk fats and cocoa butter

Increasing the amounts of milk fat and cocoa butter gives milk chocolate a creamier texture without needing glutenous binders.

5. Label milk chocolate products gluten free

Clearly indicate on ingredient lists and packaging that milk chocolate products are gluten free so consumers are informed.


Determining whether a box of chocolates is gluten free requires careful inspection of ingredients labels and thorough questioning of manufacturers. While many dark chocolates are naturally gluten free, milk chocolates in particular may contain questionable ingredients.

To enjoy safer gluten free chocolate treats, choose products from dedicated brands, look for individually wrapped chocolates with simpler ingredients, or make chocolate at home. With proper precautions, those avoiding gluten can still savor chocolate. Just be vigilant about reading labels and understanding production processes to avoid unwanted gluten exposure.

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