Trader Joe’s cookie butter, also known as speculoos spread, has become a cult favorite among fans of the grocery chain. This rich, cookie-flavored spread is sweet, smooth, and utterly addicting. But is Trader Joe’s cookie butter gluten free? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter?
Trader Joe’s cookie butter is a spread made from crushed Biscoff cookies, also known as speculoos cookies. Biscoff cookies originate from Belgium and are made with wheat flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and other spices. The cookies are crushed into a smooth paste to create the cookie butter spread.
The cookie butter comes in two varieties at Trader Joe’s – the original cookie butter and a chocolate cookie butter. Both spreads are extremely thick and smooth, with an intense cookie flavor. They can be used like peanut butter on sandwiches or toast, added to milkshakes, or eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon.
Are Biscoff/Speculoos Cookies Gluten Free?
Authentic Biscoff/speculoos cookies contain wheat flour and are therefore not gluten free. Since cookie butter is made from these cookies, it also contains gluten. The Trader Joe’s cookie butters list wheat in the ingredients, confirming that they are not gluten-free.
Can Cookie Butter Be Made Gluten Free?
It is possible to make homemade gluten free cookie butter by using gluten free cookie recipes. Substituting the wheat flour for gluten free flours like almond, coconut, or rice flour can produce cookies that are safe for gluten free diets. Crushing these homemade gluten free cookies will result in cookie butter that does not contain any gluten.
There are also some specialty brands that make gluten free cookie butter, using certified gluten free ingredients. These would be a good option for anyone seeking cookie butter that is guaranteed gluten free.
What About Cross-Contamination Risks?
Even if a product does not directly contain gluten ingredients, there can still be a risk of cross-contamination if it is produced in a facility that also handles wheat. Some individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity react to even small amounts of cross-contamination.
Trader Joe’s does not make any guarantees regarding shared equipment or production lines with their cookie butters. The products do have a “May contain wheat” disclaimer on the label. So there is a good chance that cross-contamination might occur during manufacturing.
For people with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive, this may rule out consuming Trader Joe’s cookie butter. Those with less severe gluten issues may be able to tolerate the spreads, but it is impossible to know for sure.
What Do Customer Reviews Say?
Reviews of Trader Joe’s cookie butter on sites like Amazon and social media are mixed when it comes to gluten and celiac safety.
Some reviewers who are gluten free report having no issues after eating Trader Joe’s cookie butter. They seem to be able to tolerate it without any symptoms of a reaction. A few celiac customers also note that they’ve eaten it without problems.
However, many other reviews state that Trader Joe’s cookie butter caused symptoms for those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. Stomach pain, bloating, nausea, and fatigue are some of the commonly reported effects after eating it.
It’s impossible to know based on anecdotal reviews whether Trader Joe’s cookie butter will be “safe” for any given person with gluten restrictions. The level of sensitivity and reaction can vary widely. So the only way to know is to try a small amount and monitor symptoms.
Is There an Increased Celiac Risk from Cookie Butter?
For those with diagnosed celiac disease, consuming any amount of obvious gluten ingredients like wheat is not recommended. Even tiny traces of gluten can trigger antibodies in celiac patients that attack and damage the small intestine.
However, celiac disease is not caused or “activated” by gluten consumption. Those with a genetic predisposition already have the disease – it just remains dormant until gluten exposure turns on the autoimmune reaction.
So while cookie butter would clearly be unsafe for anyone with known celiac, it does not increase the risk of developing celiac disease if you have a genetic predisposition but have not had it triggered yet.
What About Dermatitis Herpetiformis Risk?
Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a skin condition associated with celiac disease and gluten intake. About 15-25% of people with celiac also develop DH, which causes an itchy rash with blisters and papules.
Ingesting gluten products like Trader Joe’s cookie butter could trigger DH symptoms or cause a flare-up in those who have the condition. Complete avoidance of gluten is recommended to treat DH. So those with DH should not consume cookie butter due to the likely gluten cross-contamination.
Can Cookie Butter Help Identify a Gluten Intolerance?
Trying potential problem foods like Trader Joe’s cookie butter could function as a test to help identify a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. If someone without celiac disease experiences symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, brain fog, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, or skin issues after eating cookie butter, it may be a sign of some degree of gluten reactivity.
Of course, other ingredients like sugar, butter, spices, or preservatives could also be the culprit. But if cookie butter reliably and repeatedly causes symptoms, gluten may be the trigger. Consulting with a doctor and/or eliminating gluten from the diet can help determine if gluten is indeed the offender.
What About Oats in Cookie Butter?
Some cookie butter brands use oats as an ingredient. For people with celiac disease, oats can also trigger an autoimmune reaction similar to wheat. Oats contain a type of gluten called avenin that can activate the immune system for those sensitive to gluten.
The purity or contamination of oats also plays a role in whether they are tolerated. Commonly available oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat and barley during growing and processing.
Trader Joe’s cookie butter ingredients do not list oats or oat flour. But those wishing to be extra cautious about oat exposure should look for brands that are certified gluten free or explicitly state they use purity protocol oats.
What Are Some Alternatives to Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter?
For those avoiding gluten who still want to enjoy the cookie butter experience, there are some gluten-free friendly options to consider:
- Lucy’s Cookie Butter – made with rice flour and tapioca starch
- Free2B Foods Cookie Butter – gluten, dairy, soy, and nut free
- Homemade cookie butter using gluten free cookies or alternate flours
- Wow Baking Cookie Spread – gluten free and vegan
- Nutella – while not exactly cookie butter, it has a similar flavor profile
Double checking that any cookie butter product is certified gluten free and processed in a dedicated gluten free facility is advised for celiac safety. Many store brands or smaller bakeries also offer gluten free cookie butters.
The Verdict on Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter
Based on the ingredient list and lack of gluten free certification, Trader Joe’s cookie butter is very likely to contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination. The wheat-based cookies it is made from already pose a problem for strict gluten avoidance.
While some gluten intolerant consumers seem to tolerate it well, others report reactions and symptoms after eating Trader Joe’s cookie butter. Those with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis should not consume it due to the uncertainties around contamination.
In summary, Trader Joe’s cookie butter cannot be considered gluten free. Gluten free alternatives are available for a safer option to get your cookie butter fix.