Is jowar gluten-free or not?

Jowar, also known as sorghum, is a gluten-free grain that is a staple food in many parts of the world. There has been some debate over whether jowar contains gluten or not, so let’s take a detailed look at the facts.

What is jowar?

Jowar is the Indian name for sorghum, a grain crop grown primarily in Africa and South Asia. It is the 5th most important cereal crop grown in the world. Other names for jowar include milo, durra, kaoliang and great millet.

Jowar is a tall, broad-leaved grass that can grow up to 12 feet high. The edible part of the plant is the grain, which grows at the top of the stalk in a dense cylindrical head. When ripe, the grains are usually red or white in color.

Jowar has been cultivated in Africa and Asia for thousands of years. Evidence suggests it was first domesticated in Ethiopia around 4000 BC. Today, India, Nigeria, Sudan, China and Niger are the leading producers of jowar.

The jowar grain is nutritious and gluten-free. It is high in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals like thiamine, iron, zinc and magnesium. Jowar also has high levels of antioxidants compared to other cereals.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the main storage proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. The two main proteins that make up gluten are:

  • Gliadin
  • Glutenin

When flour and water are mixed together, the gluten proteins form an elastic network that gives bread dough it’s chewy texture. This elasticity allows bread to rise when baked by trapping the gases produced by yeast.

People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten because their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine when gluten is present.

Does jowar contain gluten?

No, jowar does not contain gluten. This is because jowar belongs to a different biological tribe of grasses called Andropogoneae, whereas gluten-containing grains like wheat belong to the tribe Triticeae.

The Triticeae tribe contains grains that produce proteins like gliadin and glutenin, which together form gluten. Jowar and other millets like ragi, bajra and kodo millet belong to the Andropogoneae tribe and do not produce gluten-forming proteins.

There has been some confusion because in the past, jowar was sometimes contaminated with wheat or barley grains, which do contain gluten. But when grown and processed in a gluten-free environment, jowar itself does not contain gluten.

Studies confirming jowar is gluten-free

Several scientific studies have tested jowar grains and flours using advanced protein analysis methods and confirmed it does not contain gluten proteins:

  • A 2004 study analyzed 50 sorghum varieties from around the world using ELISA tests and confirmed sorghum is devoid of gliadin and therefore lacks gluten.
  • A 2008 study tested 120 sorghum accessions from the National Plant Germplasm System using immunochemical assays. No gluten proteins were detected.
  • A 2018 study tested 8 sorghum varieties grown in Spain using a sensitive sandwich ELISA assay. Results showed a lack of gluten proteins in all varieties.

Why jowar is considered safe for gluten intolerance

Here are some reasons why jowar is considered a safe and healthy grain option for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease:

  • Lacks gluten proteins: As discussed above, all evidence indicates jowar does not contain gluten-forming proteins like gliadin and glutenin.
  • Well-tolerated: Numerous studies have shown that people with celiac disease can tolerate jowar without adverse effects. It does not trigger an immune or intestinal reaction.
  • Used in gluten-free diets: Jowar is recommended in the gluten-free diets prescribed for managing celiac disease, by organizations like the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Sprue Association and Gluten Intolerance Group of North America.
  • No cross-reactivity: Some grains like oats can trigger reactions in celiacs due to similar protein sequences. But studies have found no evidence of cross-reactivity with jowar.

Based on all this evidence, jowar can be considered conclusively gluten-free and safe for consumption by those sensitive to gluten.

Benefits of jowar for gluten-free diets

Here are some of the benefits jowar offers as a gluten-free grain:

  • High in nutrients: Jowar is nutritious and provides protein, minerals, B vitamins and antioxidants.
  • High fiber: It is high in dietary fiber, which supports good digestion and heart health.
  • Promotes satiety: The combination of fiber, antioxidants and nutrients makes jowar effective for appetite control and weight management.
  • Anti-inflammatory: It contains beneficial phytochemicals that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Supports gut health: Fermentable fibers in jowar can act as prebiotics and feed good gut bacteria.
  • Versatile grain: Jowar can be used to make flatbreads like roti, porridge, pancakes and even beer.
  • Gluten-free substitute: Jowar flour can be used to replace wheat flour in many recipes.

Overall, jowar is a tasty and nutritious gluten-free grain option with many health benefits.

Is all jowar 100% gluten-free?

There are a few important points to keep in mind regarding jowar and gluten:

  • Jowar grains are naturally gluten-free. But cross-contamination can occur if jowar is grown or processed along with gluten-containing grains.
  • Look for jowar products certified as 100% gluten-free, to ensure no contamination.
  • Jowar can be contaminated if processed in facilities that also process wheat. Check for “gluten-free facility” certification.
  • Some ready-to-eat jowar snacks may contain gluten from added ingredients like wheat flour or barley malt. Check labels carefully.

So while jowar itself does not contain gluten, the presence of gluten in products labeled “jowar” is still possible due to cross-contamination. Seeking third-party gluten-free certification provides assurance of no contamination.


Jowar or sorghum is a naturally gluten-free grain that does not contain prolamine proteins like gliadin and glutenin which make up gluten. Extensive scientific testing using sensitive methods has validated the absence of gluten proteins in jowar.

Leading celiac disease foundations endorse jowar as a gluten-free food as it does not cause immunological reactions in those sensitive to gluten. When handled in a gluten-free environment, jowar is considered very safe for gluten-free diets.

As a tasty and nutritious gluten-free grain, jowar offers various health benefits. However, contamination is possible during growing and processing, so certified gluten-free products are recommended.

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