Is turkey bacon gluten-free?

Bacon is a popular breakfast food that is commonly made from pork. However, turkey bacon has become increasingly popular as a lower-fat and lower-calorie alternative to traditional pork bacon. Many people wonder if turkey bacon is a good option for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet. This article will examine what turkey bacon is, how it is made, and whether it contains gluten.

What is turkey bacon?

Turkey bacon is bacon made from turkey meat rather than pork. It is manufactured to have a similar look, taste, and feel to regular pork bacon, but contains less fat. Turkey bacon is made from slices of turkey that come either from the turkey breast or a composite of turkey parts.

To make turkey bacon, the turkey meat is cured, smoked, and cooked. This process produces the characteristic color, smoky flavor, crispy texture and elongated shape of regular bacon. However, since it comes from turkey rather than pork, it has a slightly different taste. Many brands of turkey bacon contain slightly more saturated fat than pork bacon, but it does have less total fat, calories and sodium.

How is turkey bacon made?

Turkey bacon undergoes a similar manufacturing process to regular pork bacon. Here are the basic steps:


Curing is the process of preserving meat by adding salt, nitrites, sugars or spices. This helps inhibit bacteria growth and gives the bacon flavor. Turkey bacon is cured by immersing the meat in a water solution that contains ingredients like salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate and smoke flavoring.


Many types of bacon go through a smoking process. This helps preserve the meat and gives it a distinctive smoky flavor. Turkey bacon can be smoked by exposing the cured meat to smoke created by burning wood chips or sawdust. This smoking can last from 1-3 hours.


The final step is cooking the cured, smoked turkey to the proper doneness. This can involve broiling, baking or frying. High heat is often used at the end to get the crispy texture associated with bacon.

Does turkey bacon contain gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in cereal grains like wheat, barley and rye. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity need to avoid gluten, as it can cause digestive issues for them.

For most brands, turkey bacon does not naturally contain gluten. Turkey meat is naturally gluten-free. However, there are some instances where turkey bacon could contain gluten:

Added flavorings or seasonings

Some turkey bacon contains additional flavorings, spices or seasonings that may have gluten. For example, certain brands use soy sauce, which contains wheat. It’s important to read ingredient lists carefully.


Even if the turkey bacon doesn’t directly contain gluten, cross-contamination is possible during manufacturing. Shared equipment, surfaces and facilities increase the risk of gluten exposure.

Binders and fillers

Some turkey bacon contains binders like wheat flour or fillers that have gluten. This helps reduce production costs. Again, thoroughly reading the ingredients list can identify these additives.

Breading or coating

Certain turkey bacon products have an outer breading or coating that contains gluten. These are usually clearly labeled as breaded or coated.

So while turkey meat itself is gluten-free, the only way to know for sure if a turkey bacon product is gluten-free is to carefully read the label ingredients or contact the manufacturer.

What to look for when buying gluten-free turkey bacon

When purchasing turkey bacon to maintain a gluten-free diet, here are some tips:

  • Select brands that are certified gluten-free. This means the product has been tested to verify under 20 ppm of gluten.
  • Call or email the manufacturer to confirm the turkey bacon is gluten-free.
  • Avoid turkey bacon with soy sauce or flavorings that commonly contain gluten.
  • Look for 100% turkey meat on the ingredients list without fillers or binders.
  • Make sure there is no added wheat, barley or rye.
  • Check that liquid smoke is used rather than real smoked.
  • Don’t buy coated or breaded turkey bacon varieties.

Buying turkey bacon labeled as gluten-free is the only way those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can safely consume it.

Best gluten-free brands of turkey bacon

Here are some top recommended brands of turkey bacon that are labeled as gluten-free:

Hormel Black Label Turkey Bacon

– Naturally hardwood smoked
– Free of gluten, wheat and soy
– Available in regular and thick-cut varieties

Wellshire Sugar-Free Uncured Turkey Bacon

– Contains no added sugar
– Gluten-free and soy-free
– Made from all natural ingredients
– Minimally processed

Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon

– Select varieties explicitly labeled gluten-free
– No added MSG or preservatives
– Lower fat and calories than pork bacon
– Maple flavored variety available

Butterball Everyday Turkey Bacon

– Gluten and wheat-free
– Contains no artificial flavors or preservatives
– Made from turkey breast meat
– Hickory smoked flavor

Applegate Naturals Sunday Bacon

– Gluten and soy-free
– Minimally processed with no artificial ingredients
– Made from organic, pasture-raised turkeys
– Sweet and savory flavor

Nutrition comparison of turkey bacon vs. regular pork bacon

How does turkey bacon compare nutritionally to regular pork bacon? Here is a nutritional breakdown:

Nutrient (per serving) Turkey Bacon Pork Bacon
Calories 45 53
Fat (g) 1.5 4.5
Saturated Fat (g) 0.5 1.7
Protein (g) 5 4
Sodium (mg) 474 161

As shown, turkey bacon is lower in total fat, saturated fat and calories compared to regular pork bacon. However, it tends to contain significantly more sodium. The protein content is comparable.

So if you are looking to reduce fat and calories, turkey bacon can be a healthier alternative while still providing a similar bacon taste and texture. However, it is still a processed meat and should be consumed in moderation. Those limiting sodium need to keep the higher salt content in mind.

Risks of eating turkey bacon

While turkey bacon has some advantages over pork bacon, it also poses some potential downsides:

  • Higher sodium content which can aggravate high blood pressure or heart conditions.
  • Potential for cross-contamination with gluten during manufacturing.
  • May contain preservatives like sodium nitrite which can form cancer-causing compounds when cooked at high heat.
  • Less protein than regular pork bacon.
  • Lower levels of healthy monounsaturated fats found in pork bacon.
  • Heavily processed product with artificial ingredients added.

In moderation, turkey bacon is likely safe for most people. But those with certain medical conditions or food sensitivities may want to avoid it.

As with any processed meat, it should not be consumed in excess or as a daily part of the diet. The American Cancer Society recommends limiting processed meats and choosing homemade or minimally processed varieties whenever possible.

How to cook turkey bacon

Turkey bacon can be prepared in all the same ways as regular bacon. Here are some cooking tips:


The most common way to cook turkey bacon is by pan-frying. Place slices side by side in a skillet over medium heat. Cook 3-5 minutes per side until browned and crispy. Dab away excess fat with a paper towel.


Baking allows the turkey bacon to cook evenly without curling. Place slices on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook at 400°F for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.


Microwaving is a quick option, though it won’t make the bacon as crispy. Lay slices on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels and microwave 3 minutes, flipping halfway through.


Get smoky flavor by grilling turkey bacon on skewers or a grill pan over medium heat. Cook 4-5 minutes per side. Brush with a little oil to prevent sticking.

Oven roasting

Roast turkey bacon alongside vegetables in the oven. Spread slices on a rack over a baking sheet and roast at 375°F for 15-20 minutes until crisp.

No matter how it’s cooked, turkey bacon tends to shrink more than pork bacon so may need closer monitoring. Adjust cook times as needed for your preferred crispness.

Recipes using turkey bacon

Here are some recipe ideas for ways to enjoy gluten-free turkey bacon:

Turkey BLT

Crisp turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado on gluten-free bread for a classic BLT.

Brussels sprouts salad

Saute shredded Brussels sprouts with diced turkey bacon, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Turkey club wrap

Fill a gluten-free tortilla with turkey, turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato and light mayo.


Line a pie crust with turkey bacon before filling with eggs, cheese, and vegetables.

Pasta carbonara

Make a lighter version with gluten-free pasta, turkey bacon, Parmesan, eggs, and peas.

Roasted cauliflower

Toss cauliflower florets in olive oil and roast with crumbled turkey bacon until browned.

Breakfast sandwich

Cook an egg with a side of turkey bacon and cheese on gluten-free English muffin or bread.

With its savory, smoky flavor, turkey bacon can add richness to both breakfast and dinner recipes. It works well in pastas, salads, sandwiches, wraps, vegetables and casseroles.

Healthier substitutes for turkey bacon

For those looking to further minimize processed meats or sodium, here are some alternative ingredients to use instead of turkey bacon:

  • Prosciutto – Dry-cured Italian ham, lower in fat than bacon.
  • Salmon – Smoked or cooked salmon provides healthy fats.
  • Tempeh – Fermented soybean cake with 20 grams protein per 3 ounces.
  • Shiitake mushrooms – When cooked, provides a meaty, umami flavor.
  • Eggplant bacon – Made by slicing eggplant thin, seasoning and baking.
  • Beans – Black or pinto beans can stand in for bacon in some dishes.
  • Tofu – Smoked or baked tofu can mimic the dense, chewy texture.

While they may not perfectly replicate bacon, these whole food options provide nourishing benefits without the excess sodium and additives.

Is turkey bacon kosher or halal?

Most turkey bacon is not kosher or halal, though specialty options exist:

Kosher: Turkey bacon is generally not kosher, as it typically contains additives that aren’t kosher certified. However, there are some kosher turkey bacons like Kol Foods and Goldbaum’s. They follow kosher preparation standards under rabbinical supervision.

Halal: Traditional halal laws prohibit pork. But there is debate around whether turkey bacon is halal. Some Islamic scholars say turkey bacon is permissible for Muslims to eat since it comes from poultry not pork. However, others argue against it since it is a pork imitation product. Those seeking halal turkey bacon can look for a halal certification symbol.

So while most standard turkey bacons are not kosher or halal, those following religious dietary laws can find specialty varieties that adhere to kosher and halal practices.

Is turkey bacon safe during pregnancy?

Most experts consider turkey bacon reasonably safe to eat during pregnancy:

– It contains nutrients pregnant women need like protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. However, the amounts are relatively low compared to other foods.

– Pregnant women are advised to avoid cold deli meats due to the risk of listeria. This includes turkey bacon. However, turkey bacon that is freshly cooked at home just before eating has minimal risk.

– As a processed meat, turkey bacon is recommended only in moderation, no more than a few times a month. Excessive intake may increase risk of gestational diabetes and weight gain.

– Nitrates and nitrites in turkey bacon in excess have been associated with some cancers and birth defects. But small, occasional amounts are likely safe.

So for pregnant women, a few servings of freshly cooked turkey bacon per month pose minimal risks. But it shouldn’t be a regular part of their diet due to the sodium and nitrates. As always, pregnant women should consult their doctor about specific diet concerns and restrictions.


While turkey bacon makes a convenient substitute for traditional pork bacon, take care to choose brands that are explicitly labeled gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination. Compared to pork, turkey bacon is lower in fat and calories but higher in sodium. Enjoy it in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, and be sure to thoroughly cook it before eating to reduce any associated foodborne illness risks. For those looking for even more nutritious alternatives, ingredients like tempeh, salmon or shiitake mushrooms can provide similar rich, savory flavors without the high sodium and nitrates. In general, turkey bacon is reasonably safe for most people when consumed occasionally in limited amounts. But as with any processed meat, it’s best not to make it an everyday habit.

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