The Short Answer
Blue cheese dressing can contain gluten depending on the specific ingredients used. Many popular brands of blue cheese dressing are labeled “gluten-free” and are safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, some brands may use thickening agents or other ingredients that contain gluten. To be sure a particular brand of blue cheese dressing is gluten-free, check the ingredient list for wheat, barley, rye or malt ingredients. When in doubt, choose brands that are certified gluten-free. Making blue cheese dressing at home using gluten-free ingredients is another way to control for gluten content.
What is Blue Cheese Dressing?
Blue cheese dressing is a creamy salad dressing made with crumbled blue cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, milk or buttermilk, lemon juice, black pepper and other herbs and spices. It has a distinctively pungent, tangy and salty flavor from the blue cheese that sets it apart from other creamy salad dressings.
Blue cheese dressing can be found ready-made in bottles and packets at grocery stores or made from scratch at home. It’s often served as a topping or dip for salads, wings, burgers, steaks and vegetables.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people cannot tolerate gluten due to medical conditions like celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine. This causes a variety of digestive symptoms and other health problems. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that don’t seem to contain wheat, rye or barley as an ingredient. Trace amounts of gluten are often present due to cross-contamination during manufacturing and processing.
Common Sources of Gluten
Gluten is most concentrated in foods made from wheat flour, such as bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods and cereals. It’s also found in barley and rye-based foods.
Ingredients that often contain gluten include:
- Wheat or wheat flour
- Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
- Bread crumbs or crumbs
- Soy sauce or tamari (unless labeled gluten-free)
- Malt vinegar
- Malt extract
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Beer and ale (unless gluten-removed)
In addition, many processed foods use small amounts of wheat, rye or barley derivatives as additives, flavorings or preservatives. These can include:
- Modified food starch
- Caramel color
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Why Check for Gluten in Blue Cheese Dressing?
While ingredients like blue cheese, mayonnaise, and buttermilk don’t naturally contain gluten, other ingredients commonly added to blue cheese dressing could introduce gluten.
Thickeners and stabilizers: Many brands use wheat flour, wheat starch or other gluten-containing ingredients as thickeners and stabilizers in blue cheese dressing. They help create the creamy, thick texture.
Soy sauce: Some recipes call for a splash of soy sauce or tamari to add flavor. Traditional soy sauce contains gluten unless labeled gluten-free.
Malt vinegar: Malt vinegar, made from barley, is sometimes used in blue cheese dressing recipes. However, distilled white vinegar is more common.
Anti-caking agents: Silica and comminuted silicon dioxide are anti-caking agents made from wheat in some cases. They prevent clumping in dried herbs and cheese.
Flavorings: Natural and artificial flavors are often derived from gluten-containing grains. Most companies can’t disclose if their proprietary flavors are gluten-free.
Cross-contamination: Even if the ingredients look gluten-free, many dressings are made in facilities that also handle wheat, rye and barley. This increases the risk of gluten cross-contamination through shared equipment.
Are Major Brands of Blue Cheese Dressing Gluten-Free?
Many widely available brands and types of blue cheese dressing are labeled gluten-free right on the packaging. This makes selecting a gluten-free option much easier.
Here are some of the most popular brands of blue cheese dressing that currently identify as gluten-free:
- Ken’s Steak House Blue Cheese Dressing
- Marie’s Blue Cheese Dressing
- Brianna’s Asiago Caesar Dressing
- Litehouse Gluten-Free Blue Cheese Dressing
- Annie’s Naturals Organic Goddess Dressing
- Kraft Blue Cheese Crumbles and Dressing
- Wish-Bone Blue Cheese Dressing
- Hidden Valley The Original Ranch Dressing & Dip Mix, Buttermilk Ranch
However, always check the label each time you purchase a product, as ingredients can change over time. Never assume a dressing is gluten-free based on past purchases.
Also be aware that some blue cheese flavored salad dressing blends, such as ranch and blue cheese, may contain gluten even when the plain blue cheese version doesn’t. Always verify by reading ingredient lists.
Other Tips for Choosing Gluten-Free Brands
When shopping for blue cheese dressing, keep these tips in mind to find the best gluten-free option:
– Check labels for any mention of wheat, barley, rye or malt. Also look for terms like bread crumbs, flour, starch and soy sauce.
– Look for the certified gluten-free seal from GFCO, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. This independent certification ensures products are gluten-free through testing down to 10 ppm.
– Select brands processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities to avoid cross-contamination risks.
– Call or email manufacturers if you have any doubts or questions about their ingredients and processing practices. Many have helpful customer service teams.
– Opt for oil and vinegar-based dressings instead of creamy ones to minimize thickening agents. Make your own using gluten-free ingredients.
Are Restaurant Blue Cheese Dressings Gluten-Free?
Ordering blue cheese dressing when dining out can be tricky for those avoiding gluten. Since many restaurants prepare dressings from scratch in house, the ingredients and gluten-free status can vary significantly.
Here are some tips for finding gluten-free blue cheese dressing when dining out:
– Check the restaurant’s website or menu for any allergen information indicated. Many restaurants will identify gluten-free menu items.
– Ask your server what brand of dressing they use or if their blue cheese dressing contains gluten or wheat-based thickeners.
– Request to see the ingredient list for the dressing, if available.
– Find out how they prepare blue cheese dressing and what steps they take to prevent cross-contamination.
– Choose vinaigrette or oil-based dressings instead of creamy ones. Request olive oil and vinegar on the side to drizzle over your salad.
– Bring your own gluten-free dressing or dip to be on the safe side.
– For salad bars with shared utensils, stick with oil and vinegar instead of creamy dressings that may be cross-contaminated.
Making Homemade Gluten-Free Blue Cheese Dressing
Preparing fresh blue cheese dressing at home using entirely gluten-free ingredients is the healthiest and safest option for those avoiding gluten.
This ensures you have full control over what goes into the recipe. There’s no need to worry about unlabeled ingredients, cross-contamination or hidden sources of gluten.
Here is a simple recipe for homemade gluten-free blue cheese dressing:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp dried chives
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, blue cheese crumbles, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, parsley, chives, salt and pepper until well blended.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- Serve as a salad dressing, veggie dip or sandwich spread. Adjust seasoning if desired before serving.
Making your own gluten-free blue cheese dressing allows endless opportunities for creativity and customization as well. Try experimenting with different cheese varieties, herbs, spices and vinegars to invent your own signature dressing.
Is Blue Cheese Naturally Gluten-Free?
Traditional blue cheeses like Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton and Danish blue are naturally gluten-free. These classic blue cheeses are made from cow, goat or sheep milk, cultures, mold spores (Penicillium roqueforti), salt, and enzymes.
Gluten grains are not used during the cheesemaking process. However, there is a small risk of cross-contamination at the production facility if other gluten-containing cheeses are also made there.
Always check labels for any indication that a blue cheese contains wheat, barley or rye. Avoid blue cheese crumbles that have anti-caking agents, which can be a hidden source of gluten.
Some people also react to the mold in blue cheeses. So those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease may still experience symptoms from eating blue cheese even if gluten wasn’t introduced.
Blue Cheese Nutrition Facts
Here is the nutrition breakdown for a 1-ounce (28g) serving of regular blue cheese made from cow’s milk (6):
- Calories: 99
- Fat: 9g
- Saturated Fat: 6g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Cholesterol: 28mg
- Sodium: 320mg
- Carbohydrates: <1g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: <1g
- Protein: 4g
- Calcium: 184mg
As you can see, blue cheese is high in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat. The calories also primarily come from fat.
While blue cheese can be enjoyed in moderation as part of flavorful recipes and dressings, it may need to be limited by those on low-sodium diets or with specific cholesterol goals.
Always weigh your personal nutritional needs and health conditions when including blue cheese in your diet, regardless of the gluten-free status.
The Bottom Line
Blue cheese dressing often contains gluten, especially via thickeners like wheat starch. But many major brands now offer gluten-free options that are safe for people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
To enjoy gluten-free blue cheese dressing:
– Read labels carefully and look for a gluten-free certification seal
– Ask restaurants about their ingredients and preparation practices
– Make your own dressing at home with known gluten-free ingredients
– Verify blue cheese itself is gluten-free by checking labels for anti-caking agents
With some care in label reading and good communication, both commercially prepared and homemade blue cheese dressings can be part of an gluten-free diet. This allows those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease to enjoy the tangy, creamy flavor in their favorite salads and dips.