Is chicken broth gluten and dairy free?

Chicken broth is a savory liquid that is made by simmering chicken bones and meat in water, often with vegetables, herbs, and spices. It’s a fundamental ingredient in many cuisines and dishes. With its neutral flavor and velvety texture, chicken broth can provide depth and richness to sauces, stews, soups, gravies, and more. But an important consideration for many home cooks is whether chicken broth contains common allergens like gluten or dairy.

Gluten in Chicken Broth

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause gastrointestinal distress and other symptoms. Fortunately, chicken broth that is prepared properly at home or purchased commercially is gluten-free.

Chicken broth is made by simmering chicken in water, so the only potential sources of gluten would come from added ingredients. Some commercial broths may contain small amounts of wheat, barley, or rye as flavoring agents or thickeners. However, most major brands of chicken broth clearly label their products “gluten-free.” When preparing homemade chicken broth, avoid using flour, pasta, or other gluten-containing ingredients when sautéing the vegetables or making the broth.

Some people may be concerned about cross-contamination of chicken broth with gluten-containing foods during processing. However, reputable brands follow good manufacturing practices and have dedicated equipment and facilities to prevent cross-contamination of gluten-free foods. Calling the manufacturer to inquire about their safety protocols can provide additional peace of mind.

How to Verify Chicken Broth is Gluten-Free

When purchasing chicken broth, read the ingredient list and look for a “gluten-free” label on the packaging. The broth should not contain any wheat, barley, rye, malt, or oats. Avoid broths that list only “natural flavors” without specifying the source or that include starch, flour, or other thickening agents unless they are specifically gluten-free varieties. Wheat-free does not necessarily mean gluten-free.

When making homemade chicken broth, use fresh, plain chicken and vegetables. Don’t add flour, bread crumbs, pasta, or other starchy thickeners. Check that all spices and dried herbs used are gluten-free.

If there is still doubt about the gluten-free status of a chicken broth, check the company’s website for their gluten-free certification or call their customer service line to inquire about testing protocols. People with celiac disease can also use gluten testing kits to check food if extreme sensitivity requires it.

Dairy in Chicken Broth

Dairy products like milk, cream, butter, and cheese are another common food sensitivity. Fortunately, chicken broth is traditionally dairy-free as well. Real chicken broth contains no milk-derived ingredients.

Some commercial broths may list casein, whey, or milk-derived ingredients like lactose or milk solids. This is more common in cream-based soups and condensed canned broths. Always read labels carefully and avoid products listing any dairy components.

Homemade chicken broth is inherently dairy-free. Simply use water or non-dairy liquids like vegetable broth and avoid adding butter, cream, or other dairy products during cooking.

Hidden Sources of Dairy in Chicken Broth

Although chicken broth itself is dairy-free, there are some potential hidden sources of dairy to watch out for:

  • Pre-made soup bases, broth concentrates, or bouillon cubes can contain milk derivatives, especially if they have a creamy appearance.
  • Powdered broth mixes may contain milk products such as whey protein or milk solids.
  • Canned broths are typically just chicken broth but some “cream of” soups contain milk or cream.
  • Broths made from blocks or pastes have a higher chance of containing milk or lactose.
  • Some brands add butter, cream, or cheese to their broths for richness.

Always diligently read the ingredients label to check for any dairy-based or milk-derived components. When doubt remains, call or email the manufacturer to inquire about dairy in the broth. Making broth homemade is the easiest way to avoid dairy and control all the ingredients.

Special Diets and Chicken Broth

For people following special diets that restrict gluten and dairy, chicken broth can be a versatile ingredient because it’s typically free of both allergens. Some key considerations include:

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet avoids grains, dairy, legumes, and processed foods. As long as homemade chicken broth is made according to Paleo guidelines without any thickeners like flour, it can be used freely.

Keto and Low Carb Diets

Chicken broth is nearly zero net carbs, making it ideal for ketogenic and very low-carb diets. Broth contains the natural flavors and gelatin released from the chicken during simmering. Verify labels for hidden sugars or high-carb thickeners.


Chicken broth made without any additives is compliant with the Whole30 program. However, some commercial broths contain off-limits additives like added sugars, MSG, and sulfites so labels need to be read carefully before use.

Vegetarian and Vegan

Traditional chicken broth is not vegetarian or vegan since it is made from chicken. Vegans would need to opt for vegetable broth. Vegetarians can consume chicken broth if it aligns with their dietary parameters.

Food Allergies and Intolerances

People with food allergies need to read labels carefully and call manufacturers for chicken broth containing any of their allergenic foods. Common allergens sometimes found in broths include shellfish, fish, soy, and MSG.

Homemade Chicken Broth Without Gluten or Dairy

Making your own chicken broth at home is the easiest way to control all the ingredients. Simply simmer chicken bones and parts in water with aromatics like vegetables, herbs, and spices.

This classic homemade chicken broth recipe is completely gluten and dairy-free:


  • 3 pounds chicken bones and parts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2.5 quarts cold water


  1. Place the chicken, onion, carrots, celery, peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves into a large pot. Pour in the cold water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  3. Simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.
  4. Strain the broth through a mesh sieve. Discard the solids.
  5. Allow the broth to cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for several months.

This simple homemade chicken broth delivers rich flavor and is guaranteed gluten and dairy-free. The broth can be used as the base for soups, stews, gravies, or as a warm, comforting drink on its own.

Substitutions for Chicken Broth

For vegans, people with certain food intolerances, or those avoiding chicken broth for other reasons, there are several good gluten and dairy-free substitutes:

Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth provides savory flavor from sautéed vegetables and aromatic ingredients without using any animal products. Check labels for gluten or dairy-based thickeners or flavor enhancers when purchasing pre-made.

Beef or Lamb Broth

Broths made from beef bones or lamb parts are robustly flavored options. Beef and lamb broths are traditionally gluten and dairy-free as well. Like chicken broth, check labels and avoid any additions like flour, milk, or cream.

Mushroom Broth

Broth made by simmering dried mushrooms in water takes on an earthy, umami richness. Dried porcini, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms make flavorful broths. Mushroom broth can replace chicken broth in many recipes.

Seaweed Broth

For a unique Japanese-inspired broth, kombu seaweed simmered in water produces glutamate-rich umami flavor. Add bonito fish flakes for extra depth in dashi broth. Seaweed broth is vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free.


Chicken broth is valued in cooking for its neutral background notes that enhance other ingredients. Fortunately for those avoiding gluten and dairy, most chicken broth is free of these common allergens. When purchasing commercially, check for gluten-containing additives like flour or barley and dairy-derived ingredients like casein on the label.

Homemade broth made from chicken parts, water, and aromatics like vegetables, herbs, and spices provides ultimate control over ingredients. For vegetarians or vegans, vegetable broth, mushroom broth, or seaweed broth can provide savory, gluten and dairy-free flavor in place of chicken broth.

With the proper precautions and attention to labels and ingredients, chicken broth can be safely enjoyed as a versatile, comforting addition to a diet free of gluten and dairy.

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