Gluten-Free Easter Foods

Everything Gluten-Free, From Ham to Chocolate Bunnies

Easter celebrates rebirth and renewal, and as with other holidays, certain foods are traditionally served ... making it a challenge for those of us who follow the gluten-free diet.

Fortunately, there are work-arounds for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity: some of those traditional Easter foods are naturally gluten-free, while the rest can easily be bought or made gluten-free.

There's no reason not to have an entirely gluten-free Easter day, from breakfast to dinner. Here's the list of traditional Easter foods, and how to make sure they're safe for you to enjoy.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Getty Images/Digital Vision

Easter wouldn't be the same without hard-boiled eggs dyed in festive pastels. Decorating Easter eggs has always been one of my favorite holiday activities ... and boiled eggs are almost perfectly safe to enjoy on the gluten-free diet (see: Are Eggs Gluten-Free? for more information).

Most egg-dying kits call for using vinegar to help "fix" the dye. This won't be a problem for people with average sensitivity to gluten, but some people react to plain white vinegar if it's made from gluten grains. If you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten and you plan to eat your eggs, I recommend using apple cider vinegar as a precaution. Learn more about vinegar: Which Vinegars Are Gluten-Free?

Hot Cross Buns

© Teri Lee Gruss

Hot cross buns, which evolved from sweetbreads offered up to ancient gods, traditionally are enjoyed on Good Friday, but these days they appear in many grocery stores just after Ash Wednesday and linger until Easter Monday.

Few places outside of major metropolitan areas offer gluten-free hot cross buns (I've seen them at Whole Foods once or twice, but not regularly). Fortunately, it's not too difficult to make your own — if you have kids, this might make a fun Easter project.

Here's what you'll need to make these excellent Lenten treats: Gluten-Free Hot Cross Bun Recipes. Enjoy!


Getty Images/Steve Wisbauer

Pretzels seem like the quintessential snack food, but did you realize they're closely associated with both Lent and Easter Catholic traditions?

In Roman times, the faithful ate only a little bread during Lent — and that bread was shaped like crossed arms (instead of putting their palms together, those folks prayed with their arms crossed over their chests). These "little breads," made only of flour and water, became the pretzels we know and enjoy today.

In some Germanic regions of Europe, families hide pretzels along with their Easter eggs for the children to find. In others, entire festivals are built around pretzels — in Luxembourg on the fourth Sunday of Lent, for example, boys hand out large pretzels to girls they like (the larger the pretzel means the more intense the feelings).

If you want to experiment some with these Lenten and Easter pretzel traditions, here's my list of safe pretzels: Gluten-Free Pretzel List. Most stores with even a small gluten-free section will have one or more of these options.

Roast Lamb

Getty Images/Adrian Burke

Lamb as a sacrifice has tremendous Biblical significance, so it's not surprising that roast lamb is a traditional and popular Easter dinner main course. In fact, it's said that the pope dines on roast lamb every Easter, and in Greece, many families roast entire lambs on a spit over an outdoor pit fire.

Roast lamb is simple to make gluten-free — I've included five excellent recipes here: Gluten-Free Roast Lamb Recipes, plus options for mint sauce or mint jelly (served with roast lamb in many households).

Ham Roast

Getty Images/Preston Schlebusch

Lots of families (mine included) traditionally serve ham on Easter Sunday, and so I definitely consider ham an "Easter food." As with so many traditions, there's a good historical reason for this: in the days before refrigeration was invented, animals such as pigs were slaughtered in the fall, and the only meat left by the time spring rolled around was cured meat, such as ham.

Nowadays, of course, this isn't an issue, but Easter just doesn't seem right without a large ham on the table.

Ham can be tricky on the gluten-free diet. Most manufacturers will tell you their ham is gluten-free or doesn't contain gluten ingredients, but some of the glazes do contain gluten, and the hams themselves can be subject to (sometimes significant) gluten cross-contamination in processing. I've been glutened by supposedly "gluten-free" hams more than once.

Here's my guide to ham for Easter and the rest of the year: Gluten-Free Ham List

Easter Candy

© Danielle Cassell

Easter just wouldn't be the same without chocolate bunnies and candies. Kids love to find a well-stuffed Easter basket waiting for them that Sunday morning, not to mention a treat or two hidden inside a plastic egg.

Lots of the candy sold at Easter isn't gluten-free, but some is safe for us. Here's the annually updated list: Gluten-Free Easter Candy

Finally, if you want to pull together a safe Easter basket for a gluten-free child in your life, here's a blueprint: Create A Gluten-Free Easter Basket

Happy Easter!

Continue Reading