Does Ice Cream have Gluten?

Yes, sometimes ice cream has gluten (and not in the flavors you'd expect)

Yes, some ice cream does contain wheat. Copyright © Jane M. Anderson

Ice cream has been one of our go-to treats ever since we began following the gluten-free diet, and it's always been hard for me to imagine someone putting gluten-containing ingredients in an ice cream flavor that doesn't absolutely require them (obviously, Oreo cookie ice cream is going to be gluten-y, but vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream don't need to be).

But an alert reader messaged me on Facebook a while back to let me know she'd been out for ice cream, and the owner of the cafe told her there's flour in virtually all the homemade ice cream selections sold at that cafe.

Flour? Really? Why would someone do this? Fortunately, the cafe owner told her before she had ordered her ice cream, but it was still disappointing ... and surprising.

Flour in Ice Cream Not as Uncommon as You'd Think

So I started looking at recipes for homemade ice cream and discovered that yes, some recipes do indeed call for flour — usually a couple of tablespoons to help thicken the mixture. Obviously, even a tiny bit is way too much for us, so we'd have to give that flour-containing ice cream a pass ... assuming we know about the surprise ingredient.

You Always Have to Ask. Always.

Since I heard from that reader, I've routinely quizzed the owners and managers of small ice cream shops, and I've only found one (out of many) where this was an issue. (Gluten cross-contamination in otherwise gluten-free flavors is much more of an issue — learn ways to avoid that here: How to Order Ice Cream Out and Not Get Sick)

In scrutinizing the labels of store-bought ice creams — specifically, the flavors where you wouldn't expect to find gluten-containing ingredients — I've only found one brand that appears to use flour as a thickener: Blue Bell. In other brands' products, I've found gluten where I expected to find it (the aforementioned cookies and cream flavors, for example) but haven't found it in basic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

Still, my research (and that of my alert reader) shows we just can't take anything for granted. The lesson here? Never assume something is gluten-free (even something that seems like it ought to be gluten-free, like simple vanilla or chocolate ice cream) unless you actually verify the ingredients. I've always followed this advice, but I have to admit that my review of ingredients in ice cream parlors has been a little, well, cursory. Now I know we can't let down our guard for a minute.

Looking for a safely gluten-free ice cream that's sold in stores? Check out my master list:

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