Is fortune cookie gluten-free?

Fortune cookies are a popular dessert served at Chinese restaurants across America. They are small, crunchy cookies that contain a slip of paper with a “fortune” or message inside. Fortune cookies are typically served alongside the check at the end of a meal and are fun to crack open and read the fortune inside.

However, for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, determining if fortune cookies are safe to eat can be challenging. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by the protein gluten, which is found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Consuming gluten causes damage to the small intestine for those with celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is a milder condition involving digestive discomfort after eating gluten. For both conditions, following a strict gluten-free diet is important.

So are fortune cookies gluten-free? Keep reading to find out the answer. We’ll explore how fortune cookies are made, their ingredients, and if they are safe for those avoiding gluten.

How Fortune Cookies Are Made

Fortune cookies as we know them today were invented in America, based on a Japanese cracker. They were first created by the Makoto Hagiwara of Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco in the early 1900s. The cookies were made from flour, sugar, and sesame seed oil.

The recipe was later refined by Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1920s or 1930s. The Chinese version replaced sesame oil with vanilla or almond extract. These crispy cookies wrapped around the iconic fortune message took off in Chinese restaurants across the country by the 1950s.

Here is a summary of how fortune cookies are made:

– The dough starts with a basic cookie dough recipe, using flour, sugar, oil or butter, and water or eggs. Recipes can vary between bakeries.

– Portions of dough are spooned onto a hot skillet or waffle iron and quickly baked. The high heat creates the thin, crispy cookie.

– Shortly after baking, the cookies are folded around a fortune message while still warm and pliable.

– The folded cookies are allowed to cool and set their shape. Cooling sets the curve of the cookie.

– For mass production, specialized machines quickly form the cookies and insert fortunes.

– Once cooled, the cookies are packaged to be delivered to restaurants.

So while recipes can vary, the traditional fortune cookie baking process involves baking a flattened dough on a hot surface and folding it around a message.

Traditional Ingredients

Fortune cookies are typically made using very simple ingredients. Here are the most common ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour – The cookie base relies on flour for structure and texture.
  • Granulated white sugar – Sugar adds sweetness and promotes browning.
  • Vegetable oil or butter – Oil or butter adds richness and keeps cookies tender.
  • Water or egg – Hydrates the dough so it is pliable but not sticky.
  • Vanilla extract – For flavoring.
  • Salt – A pinch of salt balances sweetness.

The simplicity of a fortune cookie recipe means there are relatively few ingredients to evaluate for gluten. However, any wheat flour contains gluten and is unsuitable for a gluten-free diet.

Some fortune cookie recipes may also include:

  • Baking powder – For lift and added crispness.
  • Cream of tartar – Helps stabilize egg whites.
  • Food coloring – For decorative tint if desired.

These additional ingredients do not contain gluten.

Are Fortune Cookies Gluten-Free?

Fortune cookies are traditionally made with all-purpose flour, which contains gluten. So in their classic form, fortune cookies are not gluten-free.

However, some brands of fortune cookies may specifically formulate their recipe to be gluten-free. This requires swapping the regular wheat flour for a gluten-free flour alternative. Options can include:

  • Rice flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Potato starch
  • Chickpea flour
  • Almond flour
  • Cornstarch

Blending a few gluten-free flours and starches can result in a fortune cookie with a similar crispy, delicate texture as the original.

Companies that certify their fortune cookies as gluten-free will typically advertise this clearly on the packaging. Phrases like “Gluten-Free,” “Made in a gluten-free facility,” or a certified gluten-free symbol will be displayed.

So while traditionally not gluten-free, some fortune cookie brands using custom recipes eliminate gluten and produce versions safe for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

Cross-Contamination Risks

Even if a fortune cookie is made with gluten-free ingredients, there is still a risk of cross-contamination with gluten.

Cross-contamination means gluten could accidentally be introduced from shared equipment, surfaces, or facilities:

  • Shared equipment – If a facility uses the same equipment to make wheat-based and gluten-free cookies, traces of gluten could get into the “gluten-free” cookies.
  • Shared surfaces – Working on the same tables and using the same utensils could transfer gluten.
  • Shared facility – Gluten particles floating in the air in a shared facility could contaminate the gluten-free cookies.
  • Shared ingredients – Some ingredients like flavorings or spices might be used in multiple recipes.

To reduce the chance of cross-contamination, dedicated gluten-free manufacturing facilities are best. Companies with strong protocols to avoid cross-contact between gluten and gluten-free foods also have lower risks.

Are Restaurant Fortune Cookies Safe?

Fortune cookies served at restaurants are another story. These fortune cookies typically contain regular wheat flour and are not gluten-free.

Very few restaurants make gluten-free fortune cookies from scratch in-house. Fortune cookies at restaurants are usually purchased pre-made from fortune cookie suppliers and simply served with the check.

So unless your server confirms the restaurant serves certified gluten-free fortune cookies, it is safest to avoid eating them if you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. The restaurant fortune cookies likely contain gluten even if their main menu meals have gluten-free options.

Ingredient and Allergen Precautions

Aside from checking for gluten, those with food allergies need to watch for other fortune cookie ingredients too:

  • Eggs – Some recipes use egg whites or whole eggs, so not suitable for egg allergies.
  • Dairy – Butter is used in some recipes, so dairy-free if made with oil.
  • Tree nuts – Almond flour or almond extract could be used in some “gluten-free” versions.
  • Soy – Associated allergens if using vegetable oil like soybean oil.

Carefully read all ingredient labels and allergen warnings before consuming store-bought fortune cookies. For restaurant fortune cookies, ask about the ingredients if you have food allergies.

Homemade Gluten-Free Fortune Cookies

For a completely gluten-free fortune cookie, the best option is to make them at home. DIY fortune cookies allow control over the ingredients and avoid cross-contamination risks from manufacturing.

Here is an example recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free fortune cookies:

Gluten-Free Fortune Cookies Recipe

Dry ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients.
  3. Add the wet to the dry and stir until a thick, smooth batter forms.
  4. Drop tablespoons of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced apart.
  5. Bake for about 6 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven.
  6. Working quickly while still hot, use a spatula to transfer cookies to a rounded mold. Place a fortune in center and fold cookie in half to shape.
  7. Stand cookies in muffin tins to hold shape as they cool and set.
  8. Enjoy your fresh, gluten-free fortune cookies!

The key is using a blend of gluten-free flours like rice flour, potato starch, and corn starch to achieve the right cookie texture. Enjoy your homemade gluten-free fortune cookies!

Shopping for Gluten-Free Fortune Cookies

If you prefer to buy pre-made fortune cookies, here are some recommended gluten-free brands to look for:

Brand Details
Katz Gluten Free Certified gluten-free fortune cookies. Free of wheat, dairy, egg, nuts, soy.
Pamela’s Fortune Cookies Gluten-free and non-GMO fortune cookies. Dairy, nut, soy, corn free.
Mr. Fortune Cookie Organic fortune cookies made with rice flour and tapioca starch.
Byul Bakery Vegan, gluten-free fortune cookies with organic rice flour.

Check your local health food store, specialty bakeries, and online for these and other gluten-free, allergy-friendly fortune cookie options.


Traditional fortune cookies are not gluten-free because they are made with wheat flour. However, some specialty brands use gluten-free flours and are safe options for anyone avoiding gluten due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Cross-contamination is still a risk factor, so purchasing certified gluten-free products made in dedicated facilities is recommended. Restaurant fortune cookies likely contain gluten and pose a higher risk. Homemade is the best way to guarantee gluten-free fortune cookies. Carefully checking ingredients labels and understanding how each brand produces their cookies allows those sensitive to gluten to enjoy this classic Chinese dessert. Overall, gluten-free fortune cookies are available, but need to be sourced carefully.

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