Is all French dressing gluten-free?

French dressing is a popular salad dressing that often contains ingredients like oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices. However, some varieties of French dressing also contain ingredients that contain gluten, while other brands are formulated to be gluten-free. So is all French dressing actually gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.

What is French Dressing?

French dressing is a emulsion-style salad dressing that generally contains oil, vinegar, and other flavorings like herbs, spices, tomato paste, eggs, or sweeteners like sugar or honey. It has a smooth, creamy texture from being emulsified into an oil-in-vinegar mixture.

Some key ingredients commonly found in French dressing include:

  • Oil – Usually a neutral-tasting oil like canola, vegetable, soybean, or sunflower oil
  • Vinegar – Such as red wine, white wine, champagne, or balsamic vinegar
  • Herbs – Such as thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, chives
  • Spices – Such as garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper
  • Tomato paste or ketchup
  • Sugar or honey
  • Eggs or egg yolks
  • Mustard
  • Water or juice

The exact ingredients and proportions vary between brands and recipes, creating different flavor profiles from tangy and savory to sweet and creamy. But the basic oil and vinegar dressing base remains consistent in French dressing.

Which Ingredients Typically Contain Gluten?

Gluten refers to the proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Most French dressings are gluten-free by nature, using ingredients like oil, vinegar, eggs, sugar, and spices that don’t naturally contain gluten.

However, some French dressing brands or recipes do incorporate thickening agents that can contain gluten. Here are some examples:

  • Wheat flour – Often used as a thickening agent
  • Malt vinegar – Made from barley malt
  • Soy sauce – May contain wheat
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) – Can be derived from wheat
  • Modified food starch – May come from wheat or other gluten sources
  • Natural flavors – May contain gluten as a carrier

So while classic French dressing recipes don’t require any gluten-containing ingredients, some modern brands do add in thickeners or flavorings that can introduce gluten.

Are Major Brands of French Dressing Gluten-Free?

Many popular French and other salad dressing brands specifically formulate certain products to be gluten-free to appeal to gluten-conscious consumers. Here is the gluten status of some top-selling premade French dressings:

Brand Product Gluten-Free Status
Kraft Zesty French Not gluten-free
Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette French Not gluten-free
Ken’s Northern French Gluten-free
Ken’s Steakhouse French Gluten-free
Brianna’s Asiago French Vinaigrette Gluten-free
Newman’s Own Classic French Gluten-free
Wishbone French Not gluten-free
Marzetti Simply Dressed French Gluten-free

This table shows that some major brands such as Ken’s, Brianna’s, Newman’s Own, and Marzetti have gluten-free French dressing options. However, other leading brands like Kraft and Wishbone currently do not offer gluten-free traditional French dressings.

It’s important to always check the label on any dressing for the gluten-free status, as formulations can change over time. Some brands may also offer gluten-free claims on the front of the packaging to make it easier to spot. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly to inquire about testing for gluten.

Tips for Finding Gluten-Free French Dressings

Here are some tips for locating gluten-free French dressings in grocery stores or for making your own gluten-free version at home:

  • Look for brands that advertise “gluten-free” on the label
  • Check ingredient lists and avoid wheat, barley, rye, malt vinegars, and ambiguous thickeners
  • Call or email manufacturers to ask about gluten testing
  • Search for specialty gluten-free brands online if options are limited in stores
  • Make your own using oil, vinegar, mustard, herbs and spices, lemon juice, etc.
  • Substitute arrowroot, cornstarch, or potato starch for thickeners if needed
  • Use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce
  • Look for gluten-free labels from organizations like GFCO

Checking both ingredient lists and third-party certifications can help ensure the dressing you choose is gluten-free. Homemade dressings let you control all the ingredients.

Are Restaurant French Dressings Gluten-Free?

If ordering a salad with French dressing at a restaurant, check with your server on whether the dressing is gluten-free. Many restaurants use premade dressing that likely contains gluten as mentioned previously.

However, some higher-end or gluten-friendly restaurants may make their own dressing in-house. This allows them to better control the ingredients to create gluten-free options. They may also have dedicated fryers or preparation areas to reduce cross-contamination.

When in doubt at a restaurant, request olive oil and vinegar instead so you can control what touches your salad. And be sure to confirm that croutons or bread on the salad are gluten-free as well.

Should You Avoid Malt Vinegar in French Dressing?

Malt vinegar is made from barley malt, which contains gluten. So malt vinegar is not considered gluten-free.

Many classic French dressing recipes don’t actually call for malt vinegar as an ingredient. They more commonly use wine vinegars, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar or cider vinegar.

However, some brands of premade dressing do use malt vinegar in their flavorings. So if you need to strictly avoid gluten, you’ll want to check ingredient lists for malt vinegar and look for gluten-free claims when buying dressings.

As long as you stick with wine, balsamic, champagne, sherry, or rice vinegars, you can feel confident you are avoiding malt vinegar and gluten in your homemade French dressings.

Is Distilled Vinegar Gluten-Free?

Yes, distilled white vinegar is gluten-free. Distilled vinegars go through a purification process that removes the gluten protein molecules from the final product.

Some examples of popular gluten-free vinegars include:

  • White vinegar
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Spirit vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar

As long as vinegar is made from a gluten-free source like grapes, apples or rice, and is distilled, it will not contain trace gluten. So you can safely use it in gluten-free French dressings.

Malt vinegar is the only vinegar that contains gluten due to the barley malt base. All other vinegars are naturally gluten-free ingredients.

What Thickeners Can You Use to Make French Dressing Gluten-Free?

To thicken and emulsify gluten-free French dressings, you can use:

  • Arrowroot – Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of liquid
  • Cornstarch – Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of liquid
  • Potato starch – Similar to cornstarch, subs 1:1
  • Xanthan gum – Use 1/2 teaspoon per cup of liquid
  • Guar gum – Use 1/2 teaspoon per cup of liquid
  • Egg yolks – Use 1-2 yolks per cup of oil

Mix these starches into the vinegar first to fully dissolve. Then slowly whisk in the oil to make a smooth, clingy emulsion.

You can also make vinaigrette style dressings without any thickeners. Just vigorously whisk oil and vinegar together until blended. The classic 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar will help the dressing emulsify.

Gluten-Free Substitutes for Soy Sauce in French Dressing

Instead of soy sauce, you can use:

  • Coconut aminos – Adds sweet and salty flavor
  • Tamari – Make sure it’s 100% gluten-free
  • Liquid aminos – Derived from coconut or rice
  • Fish sauce – Adds umami flavor
  • Worcestershire sauce – Some brands are gluten-free
  • Maggi seasoning sauce – Check labels

Start with small amounts like 1/2 to 1 teaspoon at first as these alternatives often have bolder flavor than soy sauce. Taste and adjust amounts as desired.


While some French dressing brands and recipes contain gluten, there are still plenty of gluten-free options out there. You just need to carefully read labels since formulations vary between products. Major brands like Ken’s, Newman’s Own, Brianna’s, and Marzetti offer gluten-free choices. Or make your own homemade French dressing using oil, gluten-free vinegars, mustard, and spices. Stick to pure distilled vinegars and use substitutes like arrowroot instead of wheat flour for thickening. With some adjustments, you can definitely enjoy delicious gluten-free French dressing on your salads.

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