Is sour cream gluten?

Sour cream is a dairy product made by fermenting regular cream with certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria. It has a rich, tangy flavor and thick, creamy texture that makes it a popular ingredient in many recipes. But is sour cream gluten free? For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, knowing whether sour cream contains gluten is important. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the gluten content of sour cream.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It helps give bread and other baked goods their soft, chewy texture. Gluten is made up of two protein groups: gliadins and glutelins.

For most people, gluten poses no health problems. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten in foods can cause issues for those who are gluten intolerant.

This is why checking labels and understanding which foods contain gluten is so important if you need to follow a gluten free diet.

Is Sour Cream Naturally Gluten Free?

Sour cream starts out as just regular dairy cream. Cream is the high fat layer that rises to the top of non-homogenized milk. It does not naturally contain any gluten.

The processing that turns cream into sour cream does not introduce any gluten ingredients either. Sour cream gets its tangy flavor from bacterial cultures that ferment the lactose (milk sugar) in the cream over a period of several days.

The main ingredients in sour cream are pasteurized cultured cream, sometimes with small amounts of milk and enzymes added. None of these ingredients contain gluten.

So in its plain, unflavored form, sour cream does not contain gluten. But what about the flavored varieties?

Could Flavored Sour Cream Contain Gluten?

While plain sour cream is gluten free, some flavored sour creams could potentially contain gluten.

Manufacturers sometimes add ingredients like wheat starch to thicken and stabilize flavored sour cream varieties. Flavorings derived from gluten grains could also be an issue.

For example, a chipotle sour cream could contain distilled vinegar made from barley. Or an herbed sour cream might have flavorings derived from wheat.

So if you see a flavored sour cream, be sure to read the ingredients list carefully rather than assuming it’s gluten free. Potential sources of gluten to watch out for include:

  • Wheat starch
  • Barley malt
  • Rye flakes
  • Malt flavoring or extract
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein

As long as none of these appear in the ingredients list, the flavored sour cream should be fine on a gluten free diet. But it’s always best to verify.

Sour Cream Brands That Are Labeled Gluten Free

Many major brands now clearly label their plain sour cream products as “gluten free” right on the package. This takes the guesswork out of figuring out if it’s safe to eat.

Some sour cream brands that are labeled gluten free include:

  • Breakstone’s
  • Daisy
  • Friendship
  • Knudsen
  • Organic Valley
  • Simplot Classic
  • Tillamook

Again, be sure to check the label if purchasing a flavored variety, even from a brand that states “gluten free” on their plain sour cream. The added flavorings could change the gluten status.

What About Greek Yogurt Sour Cream?

Greek yogurt has risen in popularity over the past decade. Manufacturers have started offering sour cream made from Greek yogurt as well.

Since Greek yogurt is just strained regular yogurt, it’s naturally gluten free. And most brands of Greek yogurt sour cream, like Fage and Dannon Oikos, don’t contain any potentially gluten-containing additives.

However, it’s still wise to verify ingredients. In theory, a Greek yogurt sour cream could contain thickening agents like wheat starch that wouldn’t be found in regular dairy sour cream. But as long as you read labels, most Greek yogurt sour creams are gluten free just like regular sour cream.

Sour Cream Alternatives

For those who can’t eat dairy in addition to avoiding gluten, there are some non-dairy sour cream substitutes available:

  • Tofutti Sour Supreme – Made from soybeans and organic brown rice syrup
  • Kite Hill Almond Milk Yogurt – Contains almond milk, chickpea flour and bacterial cultures
  • Forager Project Cashewgurt – Made from fermented cashew milk

With any non-dairy substitute, checking for gluten-containing additives is still important even though the base ingredients are safe. Forager Project Cashewgurt, for example, contains guar gum which could potentially be derived from wheat or barley.

Making your own homemade sour cream substitute is another option. Blending full fat coconut milk with apple cider vinegar and lemon juice can mimic the tangy flavor. Adding starch from gluten free sources like arrowroot or tapioca helps thicken it.

Is Sour Cream Safe in a Shared Kitchen With Gluten?

Since sour cream itself does not contain gluten, it’s not at high risk for cross-contact in a shared kitchen as long as proper precautions are taken.

According to the FDA, foods require a “gluten-free” label if they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is the lowest amount that can be reliably detected.

To avoid cross-contamination with gluten, best practices include:

  • Using a clean and designated butter knife to scoop the sour cream
  • Keeping the sour cream covered when not in use
  • Storing it on a shelf above gluten items to prevent crumbs falling in
  • Replacing the sour cream if it does become contaminated

With vigilant label reading and proper handling, sour cream purchased in stores or used at home should pose little risk for gluten exposure.

Sour Cream Takeaways

Plain, unflavored sour cream made from cultured dairy cream does not naturally contain gluten. Flavored varieties may have questionable additives like wheat starch, so reading ingredient lists is key.

Most major brands label their regular sour cream gluten free for peace of mind. Greek yogurt-based and non-dairy sour creams can also be safe if carefully checked. Proper handling and storage reduces cross-contact risk at home.

So for the lactose tolerant, enjoying sour cream without worry is certainly possible with the right product selection and precautions to prevent contamination. Sour cream can be a delicious gluten-free addition to baked potatoes, tacos, chili and more

Frequently Asked Questions

Does sour cream have gluten?

Plain sour cream does not contain gluten. However, some flavored sour cream varieties may have questionable ingredients added like wheat starch. Checking the label is important, especially with flavored types.

What ingredients in sour cream could contain gluten?

Potential gluten-containing ingredients sometimes added to flavored sour creams include wheat starch, barley malt extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein and rye flakes. Malt flavoring could also be derived from barley.

Is dairy naturally gluten free?

Yes, plain dairy products like milk, cream, butter and yogurt do not naturally contain gluten. However, some flavored dairy foods may have gluten-containing additives so it’s still important to read labels.

Can sour cream be contaminated with gluten?

Sour cream can become cross-contaminated if it comes into contact with gluten. For example, if a knife used on regular bread also touches the sour cream. Proper handling and storage helps prevent contamination at home.

Are there gluten-free sour cream substitutes?

Yes, brands like Tofutti, Kite Hill and Forager Project make gluten-free and dairy-free sour cream alternatives from ingredients like soy, almond milk and cashews. Homemade versions can also be made.

The Bottom Line

Unflavored sour cream made from pasteurized cultured dairy cream does not naturally contain gluten. Flavored varieties should be checked for questionable ingredients. With proper label reading and precautions to avoid cross-contact, sour cream is generally safe for gluten-free diets.

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