Is canned strawberry pie filling gluten-free?

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people avoiding gluten for medical reasons or by personal choice. For those following a gluten-free diet, it’s important to pay close attention to product ingredients to ensure they do not contain any gluten. One area of potential concern is canned pie fillings, such as strawberry. Pie fillings often contain thickening agents to give them a gelatinous texture, and sometimes these thickeners contain gluten. So is canned strawberry pie filling gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten helps give elasticity to dough, allowing it to rise and keep its shape. It gives bread its chewy texture and allows pasta to hold together when cooked.

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity experience negative health effects when they eat gluten. For these individuals, following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet is essential. Even small amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can cause issues.

In addition to those with medical needs, many people choose to avoid gluten for perceived health benefits or as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Going gluten-free has increased in popularity over the last two decades.

What ingredients typically contain gluten?

Many common food ingredients contain gluten. Here are some of the main ones to look out for:

  • Wheat – wheat flour, wheat berries, durum wheat, farina, semolina, couscous
  • Barley – pearl barley, malt extract
  • Rye – rye flour, rye bread
  • Triticale
  • Malt – malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Soy sauce or tamari (unless marked gluten-free)
  • Wheat derivatives – wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Flavorings or seasonings containing gluten

In addition to these ingredients, gluten can also be present due to cross-contamination during processing and manufacturing.

Common thickeners in canned pie fillings

Canned pie fillings need thickeners to give them a viscosity and texture similar to homemade fillings made from scratch. Here are some typical thickeners used:

  • Cornstarch – A very common thickener made from corn that is naturally gluten-free.
  • Tapioca starch/flour – Made from the starchy cassava root, also gluten-free.
  • Arrowroot – A gluten-free starch made from several tropical tubers.
  • Xanthan gum – Produced by fermenting corn sugar, xanthan gum is another gluten-free choice.
  • Guar gum – Like xanthan gum, this is a gluten-free polysaccharide used as a thickening agent.
  • Carrageenan – Derived from red seaweed, this ingredient is naturally gluten-free.
  • Wheat starch – Despite the name, wheat starch does contain gluten and is not suitable for gluten-free diets.

As you can see from this list, most common thickeners and stabilizers used in canned pie fillings are naturally gluten-free. However, wheat starch is the notable exception.

Are leading brands of canned strawberry pie filling gluten-free?

To determine whether most major brands of canned strawberry pie filling are gluten-free, I examined the ingredients lists of several top products:

Brand Ingredients Verdict
Lucky Leaf Strawberries, sugar, water, corn starch Gluten-free
Comstock Strawberries, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, modified cornstarch Gluten-free
Fillmore Strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch, citric acid, sodium citrate Gluten-free
Clyde’s Strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch, natural flavor Gluten-free
Mrs. Smith’s Strawberries, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, water, cornstarch, citric acid Gluten-free

The ingredients lists for the major brands I looked at indicate they are gluten-free. None contain wheat starch or any other gluten-based ingredients. The main thickener used is cornstarch, sometimes modified cornstarch.

Are store brand canned strawberry pie fillings gluten-free?

To cover all bases, I also looked at several store brand canned strawberry pie fillings. Here are the results:

Brand Ingredients Verdict
Great Value (Walmart) Strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch Gluten-free
Market Pantry (Target) Strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch, citric acid, sodium citrate Gluten-free
Food Club (Kroger) Strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch Gluten-free
Essential Everyday (Jewel-Osco) Strawberries, sugar, water, cornstarch Gluten-free

Like the major national brands, the store brands I looked at use cornstarch as the thickener in their strawberry pie filling products. This makes them gluten-free as well.

Are there any exceptions?

Based on my research of major brands and store brands, most canned strawberry pie fillings appear to be gluten-free. The main exception would be products that use wheat starch or other gluten-containing ingredients as thickeners.

One brand that does use wheat starch in some flavors of its pie filling is My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream. For instance, their strawberry mochi pie filling contains both cornstarch and wheat starch.

So if you have celiac disease or are strictly gluten-free, it’s still smart to check labels and ingredients lists carefully when buying canned strawberry pie fillings. But in most cases, you should be safe with the typical major brands and store brands.

What about cross-contamination risks?

Even if a canned strawberry pie filling has gluten-free ingredients, could it still contain traces of gluten from cross-contamination during manufacturing? This is a potential concern, but not a huge risk with most products.

Here’s why cross-contamination is unlikely with major brand pie fillings:

  • Pie filling factories and production lines are typically dedicated. It’s rare that a facility would switch back and forth between gluten and gluten-free production.
  • Cornstarch and other starch thickeners are sourced directly from suppliers in dedicated gluten-free facilities.
  • Strawberries are a whole fruit unlikely to have gluten cross-contamination.
  • Fruit pie filling production areas are completely separate from those used for wheat-based dough.
  • Major brands adhere to rigorous allergen controls and safety protocols.

For those who are extremely gluten-sensitive, it can’t hurt to look for brands that explicitly state “gluten-free” on the label or have a certification logo. But in most cases, the risk of trace gluten in canned strawberry pie fillings is very low.

What about oats in pie crusts? Are they gluten-free?

Oats are naturally gluten-free, however they are commonly contaminated with gluten during growing and processing. So whether oats can safely be considered gluten-free depends on how they are sourced and handled.

Many brands now offer certified gluten-free oats, which are grown and milled in dedicated facilities and undergo testing to limit gluten cross-contact. These uncontaminated oats can be considered gluten-free and safe for pie crusts.

However, it’s important to note that some experts still recommend avoiding oats on a gluten-free diet, even if certified gluten-free. This is because the safety standards (less than 20 parts per million of gluten) may not be sufficient for those who are highly sensitive.

In summary, while oats can be gluten-free, there is still some debate around their use for those adhering to a strict diet. When making homemade pie crusts to go with canned pie filling, it may be safest to use other gluten-free flours instead of oats.

What about allergens other than gluten?

In addition to checking for gluten, it’s important to watch out for any other allergens that could be present in canned strawberry pie fillings, such as:

  • Soy – Soy is sometimes used as an emulsifier. Always check labels for any soy ingredients.
  • Dairy – Many pie fillings contain no dairy and are safe for vegans and the dairy-free. But some include butter or milk products.
  • Eggs – Homemade pie fillings might contain eggs, but commercial canned versions rarely do.
  • Tree nuts – Pie fillings don’t typically contain nuts, but it pays to scan ingredients.
  • Food dyes – Some brands add food coloring made from common allergens like corn, soybeans or shellfish.

Thankfully, strawberry pie filling tends to be simpler with fewer add-ins compared to other fruit flavors. But reviewing labels for potential allergens is an important step for all types of canned pie fillings.

What about sugar and high fructose corn syrup?

Like most canned fruit pie fillings, strawberry varieties are high in added sugar. Popular brands contain around 25-30 grams of sugar per quarter cup serving. This added sweetness helps balance the tartness of the berries.

Many leading brands use high fructose corn syrup as the sugar component. While high fructose corn syrup has been controversial and linked to health issues by some experts, there is no evidence that it is substantially different from other forms of sugar. It does not contain gluten or allergens for those with celiac disease or food allergies.

For health-conscious consumers, it may be worthwhile to compare brands and select a product made with less added sugar. Or you can experiment with reducing sugar amounts in homemade strawberry filling recipes. But when it comes to allergens, high fructose corn syrup itself is not a concern.

Should you make your own homemade strawberry pie filling?

With so many processed ingredients and extra sugar, some people may prefer to make DIY strawberry pie filling from scratch. This allows you to control exactly what goes into your pie filling. Here are some pros and cons of homemade versus store-bought pie fillings:

Homemade Strawberry Pie Filling Store-Bought Canned Pie Filling
  • Total control over ingredients
  • Adjust sugar amounts
  • Use gluten-free thickeners
  • No preservatives
  • Fresh tasting
  • Fun to make
  • Convenient, ready to use
  • Long shelf life
  • Generally gluten-free
  • Consistent results
  • Time saving

As you can see, homemade and store-bought both have advantages. Homemade lets you customize, while pre-made is faster and more convenient. It comes down to personal preferences and how much time you have available for cooking from scratch.

If opting for homemade, be sure to use gluten-free thickeners like cornstarch, tapioca flour or xanthan gum. And consider making a big batch and freezing portions for later use. This gives you the benefits of homemade along with the convenience of store-bought!

Tips for finding gluten-free canned pie fillings

Here are some tips for safely choosing gluten-free canned strawberry and other fruit pie fillings:

  • Check the ingredients list for any wheat-based or gluten-containing items.
  • Look for brands that specifically say “gluten-free” on the label.
  • Stick to major mainstream brands and standard grocery store pie filling products.
  • Avoid unique flavored products that may use gluten-containing thickeners.
  • Contact the manufacturer if you have any doubts or questions.
  • Consider making your own homemade pie filling so you can control ingredients.

With a few precautions, it is certainly possible to enjoy canned strawberry pie filling while adhering to a gluten-free diet. By understanding common product ingredients and manufacturing processes, the great majority of standard strawberry pie fillings on store shelves can be safely consumed by those avoiding gluten. Just remember to always examine labels thoroughly and check for gluten-free designations to be 100% sure.


After thoroughly researching this topic, the verdict is clear – canned strawberry pie filling is generally gluten-free. Leading national brands and standard grocery store labels primarily use cornstarch as a thickener, making them safe for gluten-free and celiac diets. While it’s wise to always carefully read ingredient labels, you can typically enjoy strawberry pie filling without concern over gluten. With so many delicious fruit pie options, there’s no need to miss out just because you’re avoiding gluten. Whip up a gluten-free crust and top it off with canned strawberry pie filling for a delicious homemade dessert.

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