Is Sorghum Gluten-Free?

A field of Sorghum with a blue sky
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Sorghum is a member of the grass family (as are the gluten grains), but sorghum is more closely related to corn than it is to the gluten grains wheat, barley, and rye.

Therefore, sorghum whole grain and sorghum flour are gluten-free provided that they've been protected against gluten cross-contamination at all stages of harvesting, storage, and processing. This is particularly important for anyone who's been diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Sorghum, which has a mild, sweet flavor that's slightly reminiscent of corn, is a popular ingredient in many gluten-free baking mixes and recipes. It's also used frequently in Indian cuisine, where it's called jowar and is used to make flat breads and porridge.

Flour from sorghum is made with the whole grain (the hull around the outside plus the kernel inside), and it therefore contains plenty of fiber: 6 grams per half-cup of sorghum flour, to be exact. It also is one of the most iron-rich grains (plenty more so than wheat) — that same half-cup of sorghum flour contains nearly one-quarter of your daily iron requirement.

Safe Sorghum Sources

As I said above, sorghum and sorghum flour are gluten-free if they've been protected against gluten cross-contamination from the field to your plate. Unfortunately, some sources of sorghum don't offer that level of protection.

The best way to ensure that your sorghum is safe is to purchase it from a company that labels it "gluten-free." Some options include:

  • Authentic Foods. This all gluten-free company sells superfine white sorghum flour in 1.25-lb. packages and 25-pound bulk bags. According to a company spokesperson, the company processes all of its products in a dedicated facility and tests the sorghum and other products regularly to ensure they contain less than about 4 parts per million of gluten, far below the current FDA standard.
  • Big River Grains. Oregon-based Big River Grains strives to provide the purest gluten-free grains around and works with its suppliers to make sure there's virtually no chance of cross-contact with gluten grains in its products. Consequently, many people who are particularly sensitive to trace gluten are able to eat foods prepared with the company's grain products. Big River offers whole sorghum and sorghum flour (milled onsite on its dedicated gluten-free equipment).
  • Bob's Red Mill. This well-known grain products company offers whole sorghum and sorghum flour and includes sorghum in many of its other gluten-free-labeled products. Bob's tests its products to ensure they meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "gluten-free" standard of less than 20 parts per million gluten. If you react to oats, you should be aware that Bob's processes its gluten-free oats on the same equipment as its gluten-free grains. (For more on this, see: Should Someone Who Can't Have Gluten Eat Oats?

Of course, it's possible to buy sorghum flour (usually labeled as jowar or juwar flour) from stores specializing in Indian foods.

However, I recommend you steer clear of those unless you know the source, as they sometimes contain high levels of wheat cross-contamination (wheat farming is on the rise in India, while sorghum crop numbers are declining). If you stick with a gluten-free-labeled sorghum source, you can reap the benefits of this very healthful grain without risking a bad glutening.

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