As a person with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it’s important to know which foods contain gluten and which foods are safe to eat. For many people, cheese is a beloved part of their diet. Feta cheese in particular is a popular type of cheese used in Mediterranean dishes, salads, and more. If you love feta, you may be wondering if Athenos brand crumbled feta cheese contains gluten.
The Short Answer
Yes, Athenos crumbled feta cheese is certified gluten-free. According to the company, all Athenos feta cheese products are tested to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This level of gluten is generally considered safe for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
What is Feta Cheese?
Feta is a brined curd white cheese originating from Greece. It is made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. The cheese is formed into blocks and aged in a brine solution of water and salt. This aging process gives feta its distinctive tangy, salty flavor. The texture of feta can range from semi-soft to firm depending on the age. Young feta is creamier while aged feta is crumbly and crumbles easily.
Traditional feta cheese is produced in specific areas of Greece and is protected under the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin guidelines. Feta produced outside of Greece is often called “feta-style” or “feta-type” cheese. Much of the feta cheese today is made from cow’s milk instead of sheep/goat’s milk.
How is Feta Cheese Made?
Here is a quick overview of the feta cheese making process:
- Milk (usually sheep/goat or cow milk) is heated and curdling agents are added to separate the curds from the whey.
- The curds are drained and pressed to remove excess whey.
- The curd is cut into blocks and placed into a brine solution for aging/curing.
- The blocks of cheese age and cure in the brine for at least 2 months.
- The cheese blocks are removed from the brine, sliced into portions, packaged, and distributed.
Is Feta Naturally Gluten-Free?
Yes, traditional feta cheese is naturally gluten-free. Feta cheese is made from milk, cultures, enzymes, and salt. None of these ingredients contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Dairy products like milk and cheese do not naturally contain gluten proteins.
There are no gluten-containing ingredients inherently used in the production of real feta cheese. The only potential source of gluten could come from cross-contamination during manufacturing if equipment is shared with gluten-containing foods.
For individuals with celiac disease or extreme gluten sensitivity, cross-contamination is a concern to be aware of with all foods. Even dairy products labeled gluten-free can potentially come into contact with gluten during harvesting, transportation, or production.
Many companies take steps to avoid cross-contamination by using dedicated equipment, production areas, and storage for gluten-free items. Reputable gluten-free brands like Athenos should be able to provide documentation to ensure their products are reliably gluten-free.
Athenos Feta and Gluten
Athenos is a popular brand of Greek dairy products owned by Kraft-Heinz. The company specializes in feta cheese, yogurt, tzatziki sauce, and other Mediterranean style foods. Athenos uses sourced milk and traditional techniques to craft authentic Greek-style feta cheese.
According to Athenos, all of their feta cheese products are certified gluten-free to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This very low level of gluten is considered safe for the vast majority of people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Testing and Certification
Athenos states that each batch of their feta cheese is tested for gluten during the production process. The products are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). The GFCO has strict standards requiring independent 3rd party testing before providing certification. The GFCO logo on Athenos feta cheese packaging indicates the products have been rigorously tested and confirmed as gluten-free.
Facilities and Processing
In addition to testing, Athenos avoids cross-contamination through the following procedures:
- Milk sourcing from dedicated gluten-free suppliers
- Production equipment thoroughly cleaned between runs
- Gluten-free products separated from gluten-containing products
- Dedicated storage for finished gluten-free products
Following these strict quality controls allows Athenos to produce certified gluten-free feta cheese consistently under 20ppm of gluten.
Types of Athenos Feta Cheese
Athenos makes a variety of feta cheese products that are all certified gluten-free. Some of their popular feta cheese options include:
Athenos Traditional Crumbled Feta
This is Athenos’ classic feta cheese packaged as crumbled pieces in a resealable container. The traditional feta is made from pasteurized milk and salt using a traditional Greek recipe. It has a tangy, robust flavor perfect for salads, cooking, and snacking.
Athenos Organic Feta
For a premium option, Athenos organic feta is made from organic cow’s milk. It has a smoother texture and milder flavor than the traditional style feta. The organic feta comes in a brine solution or as pre-crumbled pieces.
Athenos Marinated Feta Products
Athenos makes several flavors of marinated feta cheese tossed with olive oil, herbs, and spices. These marinated feta varieties include Mediterranean, basil pesto, sun-dried tomato, and Greek olive. The marinated fetas can be used similarly to the original crumbled feta cheese in recipes and as a topping.
Athenos Feta Crumbles
In addition to the traditional crumbled feta, Athenos makes feta crumble variety packs. These include a Mediterranean and an Herbs de Provence crumbled feta mix with added spices and herbs.
Athenos Feta Blocks
Athenos also sells Athenos feta in vacuum sealed blocks. These feta blocks allow you to slice, cube, or crumble the firm feta cheese yourself. The block feta is available in both pasteurized cow’s milk and organic styles.
In some stores, you may also find Athenos feta cheese sold in tubs packed in brine solution. All forms of Athenos feta cheese are certified gluten-free whether sliced blocks, crumbles, or marinated varieties.
Cooking and Baking with Athenos Feta
Athenos crumbled feta cheese works wonderfully for cooking recipes and baking. Here are some ideas for ways to enjoy gluten-free Athenos feta cheese:
Crumbled feta is the perfect salad topping. Sprinkle it over garden, Greek, pasta, or lentil salads.
Add crumbled feta to your morning scrambled eggs or omelets.
Top your gluten-free pizza crust with tomato sauce, veggies, and feta crumbles for a Greek-style pizza.
For an easy side dish, roast vegetables tossed with oil and top with Athenos feta after baking.
Toss crumbled feta with cooked gluten-free pasta noodles, olive oil, and fresh herbs or greens.
Try using Athenos feta crumbles in place of sliced cheese on your favorite sandwich or wrap.
Skewer cubes of feta along with veggies, fruit, and gluten-free meat or chicken for a fun twist on kabobs.
Cover gluten-free flatbread or pizza dough with caramelized onions, spinach, and feta before baking for a delicious flatbread.
Blend crumbled feta into the vinaigrette dressing for your next salad.
Where to Buy Athenos Feta
Athenos feta cheese products are sold at major grocery stores across the United States and online. Stores carrying Athenos feta cheese include:
- Stop & Shop
- Harris Teeter
You can find Athenos feta cheese varieties in the specialty cheese section, salad toppings area, or with other Greek and Mediterranean ingredients. The products are clearly labeled gluten-free on the packaging.
Athenos feta cheese can also be purchased online from retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Peapod, Fresh Direct and Instacart.
Other Gluten-Free Feta Cheese Brands
In addition to Athenos, some other brands of feta cheese certified gluten-free include:
- Mt. Vikos
- Paris Bros.
- Cascade Fresh
- Market Pantry (Target)
- 365 Organic (Whole Foods)
- Trader Joe’s
When in doubt, check the label for a gluten-free certification logo or indicator. Call the manufacturer if you don’t see an explicit gluten-free statement.
Feta Cheese Alternatives
For those who cannot consume dairy, there are some solid feta cheese alternatives to consider:
Vegan Nut-Based Feta
Brands like Kite Hill and Minerva make delicious vegan feta cheese using almond milk and cultures. These mimic the crumbly texture and salty flavor of real feta.
Marinated baked tofu can be used in place of feta in recipes. Choose extra firm tofu, drain it, bake it until golden, then marinate the cubes in lemon, herbs, oil, and salt.
Sprinkled over dishes, nutritional yeast flakes provide a savory, cheesy flavor similar to feta.
Athenos is a trusted gluten-free brand when it comes to feta cheese. Those with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet can enjoy the flavor and versatility of Athenos crumbled feta cheese without worry. Always check labels to confirm gluten-free status, as manufacturing can change over time. When in doubt, reach out to the company directly to inquire about testing policies and gluten-free manufacturing procedures before consuming the product.