Is Farro Gluten-Free?

What Exactly Is Farro, and Can You Safely Eat It?

Farro - is it gluten-free?
Farro is a form of wheat, but this package of farro had no mention of wheat on it. Copyright Jane M. Anderson

Farro refers to several different types of wheat, including spelt and more ancient forms of the grain such as Einkorn and emmer. As wheat, it contains the gluten protein, which is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye, and is most definitely not gluten-free.

Farro represents a danger to people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity: Gourmet and health food stores increasingly are including farro in prepared dishes sold in the deli section, and in many cases it's not labeled as wheat ...

only as "farro." I've also seen it listed as "farro" in salads, vegetarian burgers, and soups, with no "contains wheat" allergy warning.

If you didn't know farro is a form of wheat, you easily could get badly glutened by one of those foods. Also, farro grains look remarkably like brown rice, so don't get fooled — always double-check the ingredients of anything you're planning to eat.

But It's Ancient. Isn't That Supposed To Be Safe?

Some people maintain that ancient forms of wheat are safe (or at least safer) for those of us with a gluten-related condition since they contain a somewhat different form of gluten than is found in modern-day wheat. In fact, I've read of some who say they don't react to Einkorn and emmer.

However, scientific studies have shown that the gluten in these ancient grains still has the potential to cause villous atrophy in those with celiac disease. It's not clear whether it represents a danger to those with gluten sensitivity (studies haven't been done to test it), but I don't recommend trying it.

The bottom line: Steer well clear of farro and any prepared foods that include the grain in their list of ingredients.

What Other Sneaky Ways Can Gluten Get Me?

Unfortunately, there are many, many ways gluten grains can be disguised — I can't even vouch for the gluten-free safety of rice, when you're not the one buying and cooking it.

Here's some more information on the trickiest of grain dishes:

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