Is there gluten in sweet potato fries?

Quick Answer

Sweet potatoes themselves are naturally gluten-free. However, sweet potato fries can contain gluten depending on how they are prepared and what other ingredients are used. Plain sweet potato fries made at home by slicing and baking sweet potatoes only contain the naturally gluten-free vegetable. But restaurant or pre-made sweet potato fries may pick up traces of gluten during processing or from batter, breading, seasonings, fryer oil or cross-contamination.

What is Gluten and Why Does it Matter?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or need to be avoided. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and headaches. The only treatment for gluten-related disorders is strictly following a lifelong gluten-free diet by avoiding foods and ingredients containing gluten.

For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, checking labels and asking questions about ingredients is extremely important to avoid inadvertent gluten exposure. Even tiny amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can cause issues for those who are sensitive. Being vigilant about identifying hidden sources of gluten in foods that otherwise seem safe, like French fries, is key to maintaining a strict gluten-free diet.

Are Sweet Potatoes Naturally Gluten-Free?

Yes, sweet potatoes are naturally gluten-free. Sweet potatoes are root vegetables closely related to regular potatoes, but come from the morning glory plant family. The tuberous roots of the sweet potato plant do not contain any gluten proteins.

All pure forms of sweet potato, including:

  • Whole, unprocessed sweet potatoes
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Sweet potato cubes
  • Pureed sweet potatoes
  • Dried sweet potatoes
  • Canned sweet potatoes

Are gluten-free since they contain just the vegetable without any additional ingredients.

There are over 400 varieties of sweet potatoes, differentiated by their skin and flesh color. The most common types are orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, white-fleshed sweet potatoes and purple-fleshed sweet potatoes. Regardless of variety, the sweet potato tuber itself does not contain gluten or wheat.

Can Sweet Potato Fries Have Gluten?

While plain sweet potatoes are gluten-free, sweet potato fries may contain some gluten depending on how they are made. Sweet potato fries can pick up traces of gluten in the following ways:

  • Batter or Breading: Many restaurants and brands coat their sweet potato fries in a wheat-based batter or breading to make them extra crispy. This introduces gluten to the otherwise gluten-free vegetable.
  • Seasonings: Sweet potato fries are often seasoned with a blend of spices and herbs. Some seasoning blends contain glutenous ingredients like wheat flour or malt vinegar.
  • Fryer Oil: Sweet potato fries are typically fried in hot oil. If the same fryer is also used to cook breaded, gluten-containing foods, it can pass trace amounts of gluten to the fries.
  • Cross-Contamination: Gluten cross-contamination may occur during growing, harvesting, processing, cooking or serving if equipment or surfaces come into contact with gluten-containing ingredients.

Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

Making baked sweet potato fries at home is the best way to ensure they are gluten-free. By peeling, slicing and seasoning the potatoes yourself, you have full control over the ingredients used.

To make gluten-free sweet potato fries:

  • Wash and peel sweet potatoes
  • Cut into wedges, sticks or shoestrings
  • Toss with oil, salt and pepper or other gluten-free seasonings
  • Bake at 425°F for 25-35 minutes, flipping halfway

Homemade sweet potato fries baked this way contain only sweet potatoes without risk of gluten exposure. Use caution with packaged seasonings blends, which may contain hidden sources of gluten like malt vinegar or wheat.

Restaurant or Pre-Made Sweet Potato Fries

Take precautions when ordering sweet potato fries in restaurants or buying pre-made versions from the grocery store, as the preparation methods may introduce gluten in the following ways:

  • Check ingredient lists for batter, breading or seasonings containing wheat, barley, rye or malt.
  • Ask about the oil used to fry the fries and risk of cross-contamination.
  • Inquire about gluten-free preparation and handling procedures.
  • Stick to reputable brands that label certified gluten-free foods.

Some restaurant chains have gluten-free menus and protocols in place to prevent cross-contamination of ingredients. But without special procedures, many restaurants likely do not pay close enough attention to prevent traces of gluten from contacting sweet potato fries during prep and cooking.

Are Frozen Sweet Potato Fries Gluten-Free?

When buying frozen sweet potato fries, checking the ingredient list and product labels is important. Look for a “gluten-free” certification to ensure appropriate precautions were taken by the manufacturer.

Gluten-Free Brands

Many mainstream brands now offer gluten-free versions of frozen sweet potato fries:

  • Alexia
  • Ore-Ida
  • McCain
  • Publix
  • Whole Foods 365

Some things to look for when selecting frozen gluten-free sweet potato fries:

  • No wheat, barley, rye or malt in ingredients
  • “Gluten-Free” label on packaging
  • No breading or batter coating
  • Dedicated gluten-free fryer
  • No cross-contamination risk

Risk of Cross-Contamination

One risk with frozen fries is cross-contamination with gluten-containing foods during processing and packaging. Some brands take extra precautions like:

  • Gluten-free production lines
  • Testing final products for gluten
  • Dedicated equipment

Without such procedures, gluten exposure may occur through shared equipment, fryer oil or processing areas. If unsure, contact the company directly to ask about gluten-free practices before purchasing.

Are Sweet Potato Fries Gluten-Free at Restaurants?

The gluten-free status of sweet potato fries from restaurants is questionable unless the establishment has strict protocols and training on gluten-free preparation. Without dedicated fryers, utensils and work spaces, the chances of cross-contamination with gluten-containing menu items and ingredients is very high.

More Gluten-Free Risks

Some other common risks that can introduce gluten into restaurant sweet potato fries include:

  • Fryer oil used for breaded, glutenous foods
  • Wheat-flour based batters
  • Seasoning blends with malt vinegar, soy sauce or wheat flour
  • Shared cooking tools and preparation areas
  • Airborne wheat particles settling onto food

Ordering Tips

If you need to avoid gluten, take the following extra precautions when ordering sweet potato fries in restaurants:

  • Check that the restaurant has a gluten-free menu and protocols before ordering.
  • Confirm the fries have no batter, breading or wheat-based seasoning.
  • Request the fries are cooked in dedicated fryer only used for gluten-free foods.
  • Ask about risk of cross-contamination during prep and cooking.
  • Inspect fries upon arrival to ensure no breading or cross-contaminants.

Unless the restaurant has strong gluten-free preparation practices, it may be safest to avoid sweet potato fries when eating out and stick to whole, naturally gluten-free foods.

Sweet Potato Fries Gluten-Free Certifications

When purchasing sweet potato fries, look for a certified gluten-free label from one of the following organizations:

  • Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)
  • Celiac Support Association (CSA)
  • Celiac Sprue Association (CSA)
  • National Celiac Association

These independent organizations have strict standards products must meet in order to display their gluten-free label. This includes testing for gluten levels and implementing procedures to prevent cross-contamination with gluten.

Many larger brands producing gluten-free foods will display one of these recognizable logos on their packaging to clearly identify gluten-free options.

What the Labels Mean

Here is what you can expect from these gluten-free certifications:

  • GFCO: Less than 10ppm of gluten; annual facility inspections
  • CSA: Less than 5ppm of gluten; annual facility inspections
  • NCA: Less than 10ppm of gluten; product testing every 2 years

The extra validation from third-party testing provides added assurance when identifying truly gluten-free sweet potato fries.

Are Sweet Potato Fries Gluten-Free? The Bottom Line

Plain sweet potatoes are a naturally gluten-free food. However, gluten can make its way into sweet potato fries during growing, processing, cooking or serving in restaurants if precautions are not taken.

To ensure the sweet potato fries you consume are gluten-free:

  • Make baked sweet potato fries at home
  • Read labels on packaged fries for certifications
  • Call restaurants to inquire about gluten-free prep
  • Avoid batter, breading and questionable seasonings

With proper handling and cleaning procedures in place, sweet potato fries can be a delicious gluten-free treat. But without control over preparation, traces of gluten can inadvertently get introduced.

When in doubt, reach out to manufacturers and restaurants directly to get confirmation that your sweet potato fries are guaranteed gluten-free.


Sweet potatoes themselves contain no gluten. But sweet potato fries, especially those prepared outside the home, have a risk of gluten exposure from cooking methods, shared equipment, batter, breading or seasonings. Eating sweet potato fries out requires extra care when you follow a gluten-free diet. Making baked sweet potato fries yourself or buying certified brands you can trust are the best ways to make sure your fries stay gluten-free.

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