Whether store bought cheesecake is gluten free or not depends on the specific brand and variety. Many cheesecakes are naturally gluten free, while others contain ingredients derived from wheat, barley or rye which contain gluten. Carefully reading the ingredient list and understanding common allergens is key to determining if a cheesecake is safe to eat on a gluten free diet.
What is gluten and why does it matter?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that causes damage to the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and more. The only treatment is following a strict lifelong gluten free diet by avoiding foods and ingredients containing gluten.
Many people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity rely on packaged and processed foods labeled “gluten free” when grocery shopping. This includes desserts like cheesecake. Reading labels carefully and understanding where hidden sources of gluten can lurk is important to stay safe. Cross-contamination is also a concern, where gluten is unintentionally introduced during manufacturing. That’s why it’s not enough to assume a food is gluten free based on the ingredients alone.
Ingredients to look for on cheesecake labels
When evaluating a cheesecake label for gluten, there are several key ingredients to look for:
- Wheat – Wheat contains gluten and is not safe in a gluten free diet.
- Barley – Barley contains gluten and is not gluten free.
- Rye – Rye contains gluten and is not suitable for a gluten free diet.
- Malt – Malt is usually derived from barley and contains gluten. The only gluten free malts come from corn, rice or sorghum.
- Oats – Some people with celiac disease react to a protein in oats called avenin. Only oats labeled “gluten free” are considered safe.
- Soy Sauce – Soy sauce contains wheat and is not gluten free unless specifically labeled.
- Flavorings/Natural Flavors – These vague terms could potentially hide gluten. Opt for cheesecakes with flavors from gluten free ingredients like fruit, chocolate or extracts.
Aside from avoiding obvious sources of gluten in the ingredients, there are several other things to look for on labels:
- A “gluten free” claim which indicates the item meets the FDA requirements to be labeled gluten free. This means it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
- Being produced in a facility free of gluten/wheat. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
- Certification by organizations like GFCO (Gluten Free Certification Organization) which have stringent standards and auditing processes for gluten free labeling.
Are grocery store cheesecake brands gluten free?
Here is an overview of some popular cheesecake brands sold at mainstream grocery stores and whether they offer gluten free options:
The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory is a popular chain restaurant that also sells cheesecakes in grocery stores. Some of their classic cheesecake flavors are made without gluten ingredients. However, they contain a “wheat flour” warning on the label and are produced in facilities that also process wheat. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should exercise caution.
This iconic New York bakery sells their signature cheesecakes in grocery stores across the country. Their traditional plain, strawberry and chocolate cheesecakes are gluten-free friendly. They also offer gluten free mini cheesecakes in flavors like chocolate chip and seasonal pumpkin. Their products do not contain a gluten free claim or certification.
Philadelphia cream cheese is commonly used as an ingredient in cheesecakes. The company also sells pre-made cheesecake products. Their website states that all their cheesecake varieties are gluten free except ones that contain graham cracker crusts or toppings. Philadelphia cheesecakes do not currently have gluten free labeling or certifications.
Walmart sells pre-made cheesecakes under its Marketside brand that appear to be gluten free based on their ingredients. They offer mini and full size cheesecakes in flavors like strawberry, chocolate and New York style. However, the cheesecakes contain an allergen warning that they may contain wheat. Walmart cheesecakes do not have any claims or certifications for gluten free suitability.
Trader Joe’s offers gluten free labeling on some of their cheesecake products indicating they meet the FDA standard of less than 20ppm of gluten. This includes their flourless chocolate cheesecake and no-bake cheesecakes sold in the refrigerated desserts section. Their baked cheesecakes do not currently have gluten free claims. Contacting the company may provide more insight.
Are gluten free certified cheesecakes available?
Yes, there are cheesecake brands that are certified gluten free and labeled accordingly. Here are some options:
Katz Gluten Free
Katz offers gluten free classic New York style cheesecakes as well as flavors like chocolate, marble and pumpkin. They are certified gluten free to meet standards less than 20ppm gluten. Katz cheesecakes are sold online and in some grocery stores.
Charm City Cakes
This Baltimore bakery made famous by the Ace of Cakes TV show offers gluten free cheesecakes by special order. Their products are certified by GFCO and they operate a dedicated gluten free bakery. Flavors include original, chocolate, Oreo and raspberry white chocolate.
Divvies is a dedicated gluten free New York bakery offering custom cakes, cupcakes and cheesecakes. Their products are certified gluten free to meet standards below 10ppm. Cheesecake flavors include marble, pumpkin and chocolate. Items can be ordered online.
|Brand||Gluten Free Certification|
|Charm City Cakes||Yes – GFCO|
|Divvies Bakery||Yes – 10ppm gluten|
Are gluten free cheesecake mixes available?
For those wanting to bake cheesecake at home, there are several brands of gluten free cheesecake mix products:
Pamela’s makes a number of gluten free baking mixes including cheesecake. Their classic cheesecake mix is gluten free certified and contains ingredients like tapioca flour, brown rice flour and potato starch. The mix is available on Amazon and in health food stores.
The gluten free brand under King Arthur Baking offers a gluten free cheesecake mix that contains rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch. It is certified gluten free to meet standards under 20ppm. The mix can be found online and in many grocery stores.
Glutino is a popular brand with a range of gluten free products including a gluten free cheesecake mix. It contains corn flour and potato starch but does not have any gluten free certifications.
Betty Crocker, owned by General Mills, has a gluten free cheesecake mix that contains rice flour. It meets the requirements to be labeled gluten free and has less than 20ppm gluten. The mix is available at many mainstream grocery stores.
Tips for finding gluten free cheesecake
When searching for a gluten free cheesecake option, keep these tips in mind:
- Carefully read ingredient lists and look for gluten free claims for validation.
- Contact the manufacturer with any questions or concerns about ingredients, facility processes and potential cross-contamination.
- Look for gluten free certifications from organizations like GFCO to ensure stringent standards are met.
- Purchase cheesecakes with shorter ingredient lists. Long lists increase chances of hidden gluten.
- Stick to flavors made with real fruit, chocolate and extracts versus vague natural flavors.
- Opt for brands made in dedicated gluten free facilities when possible.
- Look for gluten free brands online if options in stores are limited.
Are gluten free crust options available?
Those sensitive to gluten will also need to avoid traditional cheesecake crust made with graham cracker crumbs or wheat-based crusts. There are several gluten free alternatives:
- Nut crusts – Crushed nuts like almonds, pecans or walnuts make tasty gluten free crusts.
- Cookie crusts – Gluten free cookies like shortbread or vanilla wafers can be processed into fine crumbs.
- Chocolate crusts – Crumbled gluten free chocolate cookies or chocolate wafer cookies work well.
- Gingersnap crusts – Look for gluten free gingersnap cookies to make a gingersnap crust.
- Vanilla crusts – Gluten free vanilla sandwich cookies can be crushed for a vanilla flavored crust.
There are also ready-made gluten free crusts sold in grocery stores, such as Kinnikinnick Foods’ Graham Style Pie Crust. Additionally, gluten free crusts can be made from scratch with gluten free oats, rice flour or almond flour.
Top gluten free cheesecake recipe brands
Those wanting to bake gluten free cheesecake at home can find many recipes from popular brands and bloggers:
The King Arthur gluten free brand shares a recipe for gluten free New York cheesecake using their gluten free flour blend. It includes tips for a foolproof crust and creamy texture.
This recipe site has an extensive gluten free section with cheesecake recipes. Options include chocolate almond, pumpkin spice and lemon blueberry cheesecakes using gluten free ingredients.
Food Network has gluten free New York baked cheesecake recipes from celebrity chefs like Ree Drummond and Alex Guarnaschelli. Their recipes offer substitutions to make traditional cheesecake gluten free.
Dairy Free Dish
Dairy Free Dish specializes in allergy friendly recipes. Their gluten free cheesecake options include dairy free, paleo and vegan versions made with alternate ingredients.
Gluten Free on a Shoestring
This gluten free food blog has simple cheesecake recipes suitable for beginners. Options include easy instant pot, no-bake and mini cheesecakes with gluten free ingredients.
Are there risks of cross-contamination?
Cross-contamination is a concern when selecting gluten free cheesecake options. Even cheesecakes made without gluten ingredients can be subject to cross-contact if they are produced alongside wheat-based foods or on shared equipment.
Some potential sources of cross-contamination include:
- Shared bakery case in grocery stores
- Shared equipment for processing and packaging
- Shared ingredients like flavorings
- Airborne flour particles in facilities that also use wheat
- Utensils used for multiple cheesecakes
Companies that manufacture gluten free products on dedicated equipment in segregated facilities greatly reduce this risk. Certifications requiring stringent testing also minimize the chances of gluten cross-contamination.
What is the gluten free status at restaurants?
Dining out and ordering cheesecake at restaurants carries a high risk of cross-contamination. Cheesecake is often displayed in a shared bakery case alongside wheat-based options. There is also a greater chance kitchen staff use the same tools to cut and plate gluten free cheesecake after handling regular cheesecake.
Those with celiac disease should exercise extreme caution when ordering cheesecake in restaurants and bakeries. Some tips include:
- Ask about dedicated prep areas and utensils for gluten free food
- Request cheesecake directly from the packaging if available
- Avoid bakery cases and opt for gluten free flavors if offered
- Stick to restaurants with strong gluten free training processes
- Check if the restaurant has gluten free certifications for proper protocols
When in doubt, it’s best to avoid restaurant cheesecake and opt for reputable gluten free brands purchased from the grocery store.
What about gluten free comfort foods?
Along with cheesecake, those on a gluten free diet may miss other classic comfort foods and baked goods normally made with wheat flour, barley malt, and rye. Fortunately, there are many gluten free comfort food options available:
Cauliflower, corn, rice or gluten free flour crusts can serve as the base for gluten free pizzas topped with tomato sauce, cheese and favorite veggies or meats. Brands like Against the Grain, Ops and Califlour Foods offer gluten free frozen pizzas.
Gluten free pasta comes in every shape imaginable from fettuccine to elbows using alternate flours like rice, quinoa and lentils. Explore brands like Barilla, Jovial, Banza and Grainful.
Gluten free loaves from brands like Canyon Bakehouse, Schar and Udi’s mean those with celiac disease don’t have to give up their morning toast. There are also gluten free bagels, rolls, pitas and more.
From brownies to cookies, cupcakes to donuts, there are endless gluten free dessert options to satisfy any sweet tooth. Enjoy gluten free treats from brands like Katz, Enjoy Life, Cheryl’s Cookies and Namaste Foods.
In summary, those avoiding gluten have many store bought cheesecake options to still enjoy this classic dessert. Carefully reading labels, verifying gluten free claims and contacting manufacturers helps identify risk. Opting for dedicated or certified gluten free brands provides more assurance. With some adjustments to crusts and toppings, cheesecake can still be on the menu for those on a gluten free diet.