Are Potatoes Gluten-Free? Learn When They're Not Safe

Plain potatoes are fine, but watch out for hidden gluten in potato dishes

Close up of mashed potatoes and rosemary
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Plain potatoes are gluten-free. However, certain potato dishes (for example, French fries and potatoes au gratin) may not be gluten-free, depending on how they're prepared. The more ingredients you add, the bigger the risk that potatoes will no longer be safe on the gluten-free diet. Here are some common ways to prepare potatoes, and the potential gluten-related pitfalls of each.

Baked Potatoes

Plain baked potatoes are gluten-free in and of themselves.

Preparing them at home and having a completely gluten-free kitchen is best, as baked potatoes in restaurants may or may not be safe.

How to make gluten-free baked potatoes at home: If you prepare gluten-containing foods in your kitchen, you should not place baking potatoes directly on the oven rack, as that may introduce ​​cross-contamination from gluten-filled rolls or pizzas that also were baked on that oven rack.

How to order gluten-free baked potatoes in restaurants: You'll need to talk to the chef to see how the potatoes are prepared. Baked potatoes you get in restaurants may be safe (they usually are, in fact), but you'll need to check with the chef to be certain. Some restaurants coat the skins in butter and flour to make them crispier, and some bake the potatoes in the oven directly on the oven rack with the rolls. Most restaurants will be willing to fix you a gluten-free baked potato baked in aluminum foil if their regular spuds are unsafe.

French Fries

French fries you make at home from scratch should be gluten-free. Also, many brands of prepared French fries are considered gluten-free. However, you're very likely to run into problems when ordering them in a restaurant or a fast food place.

How to make gluten-free French fries at home: You can prepare them from fresh potatoes by slicing the potatoes thinly, tossing them with olive oil and your choice of spices, and then baking them in the oven at 425 degrees until crisp (usually between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on how thin you make your slices).

These healthy low-fat French fries (which you can make from potatoes, butternut squash, carrots or even turnips) never disappoint.

Alternatively, you can buy a brand of gluten-free French fries and follow the directions on the package.

How to order gluten-free French fries in restaurants: The problem with French fries in restaurants usually isn't the fries themselves—it's the oil they're cooked in. Restaurants typically share oil between fries and wheat-coated foods such as onion rings and chicken fingers, and this can introduce enough gluten cross-contamination to make you sick. You'll need to ask in every restaurant if the fries are prepared in a shared fryer. You'll also need to steer clear of French fries with a crispy batter coating—the batter typically is made with wheat flour.

The guide to gluten-free fast food lists of chain restaurants and fast food outlets that serve safe fries.

Mashed Potatoes

Plain mashed potatoes made from scratch should be gluten-free, assuming you avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen. Pre-made mashed potatoes may or may not be gluten-free, and the same goes for mashed potatoes in restaurants.

How to make gluten-free mashed potatoes at home: It's quite possible to make delicious, healthy mashed potatoes that also are gluten-free.

Mashed potatoes generally consist of potatoes plus milk and butter, all of which are safe on the gluten-free diet. Add some gluten-free spices to spice them up, or blend in some gluten-free cheese.

If you want the convenience of store-bought mashed potatoes, several brands of instant mashed potatoes are considered gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million (ppm), including Betty Crocker Potato Buds, Idaho Spuds Naturals line, and Hungry Jack Instant Mashed Potatoes. Simply Potatoes products, which you'll find in the refrigerator section at the store, also are considered gluten-free.

How to order gluten-free mashed potatoes in restaurants: Most restaurant-made mashed potatoes are gluten-free.

However, you'll need to ask the chef to be certain.

Stuffed Potatoes

Stuffed potatoes may or may not be gluten-free, depending on the ingredients used and whether they're prepared in a safe manner. 

How to make gluten-free stuffed potatoes at home: Most stuffed potato recipes would be easy to make gluten-free as they didn't contain any obvious gluten-containing foods, such as bread. But most contain ingredients like bacon, cheese, and instant soup mix that come in both gluten-free and gluten-filled versions. Choose your ingredients carefully if you make stuffed potatoes at home. You'll need to make sure to use gluten-free bacon and other safe ingredients, such as gluten-free sour cream (Daisy brand sour cream is safe). 

How to order gluten-free stuffed potatoes in restaurants: Again, this is a matter of double-checking the ingredients used to make the potatoes. Some chain restaurants, such as Wendy's, do offer gluten-free stuffed potatoes.

Potato Skins

If you're making your own fried potato skins, you'll need to check all the ingredients. But most people only eat potato skins in restaurants, where shared (and cross-contaminated) fryers are the main problem. Unfortunately, most restaurants fry their potato skins in fryers shared with breaded items like mozzarella sticks and onion rings, which makes them unsafe for those people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The bottom line here: Tread super-carefully when it comes to potato skins.

Potatoes Au Gratin

Recipes for potatoes au gratin generally are not safe; they almost always call for flour as a thickener, plus have a breadcrumb topping. Of course, you can make them with a gluten-free scalloped potato recipe. But you should avoid potatoes au gratin and other potato casseroles when dining out or when at a friend's house, or at the very least check for gluten-containing ingredients before eating. Also, it would be hard to find a safe frozen version of potatoes au gratin in the supermarket, so steer clear of those.

Potato Bread

Conventional potato bread you can buy in the store contains wheat flour, usually as the first or second ingredient. Steer clear, or make your own from a gluten-free recipe.

Potato Flour and Potato Starch

These potato flour products appear as ingredients in numerous gluten-free recipes, and you easily can find safe sources for them. Bob's Red Mill tests for trace gluten to below 20 parts per million, or GF-20 levels. Ener-G tests to below 5 parts per million, or GF-5.

A Word From Verywell

Protect your health by being diligent in checking for gluten in recipes and prepared foods if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Potatoes can be a delicious part of a gluten-free diet if you take those precautions to look for hidden sources of gluten.

Source:

Celiac Disease Foundation. What Should I Eat? Fact Sheet.

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