Spices are inherently gluten-free. However, some spice blends contain gluten ingredients, such as wheat, and even single spices can be a source of confusion regarding cross-contamination.
Single-ingredient spices contain only one spice and are naturally gluten-free. On the product label, you’ll see only one ingredient, the actual spice.
Examples of popular individual spices that do not contain gluten are basil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic powder, ginger, mustard powder, nutmeg, onion powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, red pepper flakes, rosemary, sage, salt, thyme, and turmeric. This list is not exhaustive.
Some of the links on this post are affiliate links. To learn more, visit our Disclosures.
Seasoning blends have the potential to include gluten-containing ingredients, such as wheat flour, wheat starch, or barley. It’s important to read the ingredient statement on the package to confirm there are no gluten contents.
Or look specifically for a blend of spices that is labeled gluten-free. In the United States, products with a gluten-free claim on the label are required to meet the FDA guidelines of containing below 20 parts per million gluten.
McCormick’s Original Chili Seasoning, French’s Chili-O, Mrs. Dash Chili Seasoning, and Amazon’s Happy Belly Chili Seasoning all contain wheat, used to thicken the chili sauce.
Instead, choose one of the following. Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chili Mix Kit is thickened with corn masa flour, not wheat flour, and is labeled gluten-free. Chugwater Chili Blend is also labeled gluten-free.
McCormick also makes a special chili seasoning pack that is specifically labeled gluten-free, as its original version contains wheat.
Taco seasoning packets are less likely than chili mixes to include thickening, gluten-containing products, such as wheat flour or wheat starch. It is still important to read the ingredients to check for added flavorings that may contain gluten.
There are several labeled gluten-free options: Old El Paso Taco Seasoning (Original, Mild & Less Sodium), Riega Organic Taco Seasoning, and Siete Taco Seasoning. McCormick has several varieties of taco seasoning, and one is clearly labeled gluten-free on the front of the packet.
Pot Roast and Beef Stew Seasoning
Watkins & McCormick Pot Roast Seasoning and Beef Stew Seasoning all contain wheat. In fact, the McCormick Pot Roast Seasoning contains wheat and barley.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Most pumpkin pie spice blends have no gluten-containing ingredients. Badia Pumpkin Pie Spice is labeled gluten-free. The ubiquitous McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice has only a mixture of spices and sulfiting agents, and no hidden gluten ingredients, per company policy.
Italian seasoning blends are usually naturally gluten-free and just a simple combination of common Italian spices: basil, bay leaves, garlic, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Always read the ingredient list to confirm.
Popular Seasonings: Old Bay, Lawry’s, and Mrs. Dash
The household names Old Bay, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and Mrs. Dash Original Seasoning do not contain gluten ingredients. None of those companies make a gluten-free claim, however. See the more detailed discussion of popular seasoning brands below.
Gluten-Free Spice Brands
The following brands of spices are labeled gluten-free and some are certified gluten-free:
- Badia Spices: labeled gluten-free and extremely affordable. The line is extensive, including individual spices and blends for everything from Adobo Seasoning to Steak Seasoning.
- Dan-O’s Seasonings: labeled gluten-free.
- Morton & Basset Spices: certified gluten-free.
- Noble Made Seasonings: certified gluten-free noted on jars, including my favorite, Organic Everything Bagel Seasoning! (Use my affiliate code GOGLUTENFREELY to save 15% at checkout.)
- Simply Organic: Some, not all, Simply Organic spices are certified gluten-free.
- Spicely Organics: certified gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Status of Popular Seasonings and Spice Brands
McCormick is one of the most well-known spice brands in the U.S. and has a large market share globally. You probably have McCormick spices in your kitchen. I do!
The company has a very clear allergen statement regarding gluten that includes the following reassuring information:
- No hidden gluten. Gluten ingredients will always be identified on the label. For example, barley won’t be hidden under “natural flavors”.
- Some products are labeled gluten-free. If McCormick labels a product gluten-free, “the product and the manufacturing line has been validated gluten-free”.
- Allergen protocols. “Our McCormick facilities have allergen, sanitation, and hygiene programs in place. Our employees follow good manufacturing practices and are trained in the importance of correct labeling and the necessity of performing thorough equipment clean-up and change over procedures to minimize cross-contact of ingredients.”
- Read the label. It is the most accurate, up-to-date source of ingredient information.
Old Bay is owned by McCormick, so all of the above allergen protocols apply.
The product does not contain a gluten-free claim, but there are no gluten ingredients. According to the McCormick website, Old Bay ingredients are: celery salt (salt, celery seed), spices (including red pepper and black pepper), and paprika.
Simply Organic Spices
Some Simply Organic spices are certified gluten-free. The company specifically cautions that it does not make gluten-free claims for the ones that do not have a certified gluten-free label.
Some of the certified spices include practical spice blends, like Simply Organic Mulling Spice Blend. This blend can be used to make a variety of holiday drinks and recipes.
Great Value (Walmart)
Great Value spices and seasonings are not labeled gluten-free.
Read the ingredient label to verify there are no gluten ingredients. Single spices will only contain the actual spice, but blends can contain gluten, such as Great Value’s Chili Seasoning Mix, which contains wheat.
Walmart is good about including “may contain statements” for products that may be contaminated with top 9 allergens, including wheat.
Good & Gather (Target)
Good & Gather spices and seasonings are not labeled gluten-free.
Single spices, such as cinnamon or basil, only contain the spice and do not have gluten ingredients.
Good & Gather Spice blends may contain natural flavors. For example, Good & Gather’s Chili Lime Seasoning ingredient list includes natural flavors, but does not specify the source(s) of natural flavors.
Target frequently lists “natural flavors” as an ingredient without disclosing the source. Unfortunately, because current U.S. labeling laws do not require that manufacturers declare barley and rye (wheat is a top 9 allergen and must be declared), “natural flavors” potentially means hidden barley.
Good & Gather products with natural flavors require a call to the manufacturer. Target includes the phone number right on the spice jar.
Morton & Bassett
The much-loved Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and Lawry’s Garlic Salt are also owned by McCormick. Neither is labeled gluten-free, but there are no gluten ingredients.
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt ingredients: salt, sugar, spices (including paprika, turmeric), onion, corn starch, garlic, tricalcium phosphate (to make free flowing), sunflower oil, extractives of paprika & natural flavor. Note, McCormick does not hide gluten under “natural flavor”.
Lawry’s Garlic Salt ingredients: sea salt, garlic, salt, modified corn starch, sugar, parsley, natural flavor and extractives of carrot (for color). Note, McCormick does not hide gluten under “natural flavor”.
This Mexican spice blend contains chili peppers, sea salt, citric acid, dehydrated lime juice, silicon dioxide… and no gluten. I copied those ingredients from the jar in my gluten-free kitchen! The company also states that Tajin meets the FDA requirements for a gluten-free product.
Mrs. Dash has a line of salt-free products and does not make gluten-free claims on any product. Note that its Chili Seasoning Mix contains wheat.
The Mrs. Dash Original Season Blend does not have any gluten ingredients: onion, spices (black pepper, parsley, celery seed, basil, bay marjoram, oregano, savory, thyme, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, mustard, rosemary), garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato, lemon juice powder, citric acid, oil of lemon.
Gluten Cross-Contamination of Spices
Cross-Contamination in the Factory
What about the risk of cross-contact with gluten during manufacturing?
Products that are labeled gluten-free or certified gluten-free are widely accepted as safe for individuals with celiac disease.
- If a spice or seasoning packet has a gluten-free claim, it is required by the FDA to have less than 20 ppm of gluten (ppm=parts per million).
- Products with a gluten-free certification offer further assurance to celiac consumers. These spices and seasonings have been verified by a third party to meet strict gluten-free standards, which vary by certification organization. For example, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization has a standard of less than 10 ppm.
For spices that are not labeled or certified gluten-free, there is a potential risk of cross-contact with gluten ingredients in the factory.
However, an important and reassuring consideration with spices is how little you actually consume in one dish. A spice jar with traces of gluten that exceed 20 parts per million (the FDA limit) would be dramatically fewer parts per million in a finished dish when using only a couple of teaspoons at a time.
Cross-Contamination from Grocery Bulk Bins
Bulk bins are a high risk of cross-contact in the grocery store. Bins containing gluten ingredients are stored near bins with gluten-free ingredients. Scoopers can be shared between bins by customers and employees. Bins and scoopers are not always thoroughly cleaned.
Avoid bulk bins for spices. Stick to prepackaged spices only.
Cross-Contamination in Your Kitchen
We’ve all done it… reuse a measuring cup or spoon between ingredients. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour to thicken a sauce, and then dip that same tablespoon in the ground cinnamon jar.
When cleaning out your kitchen after a celiac diagnosis, used spices that may have been double-dipped go in the clean-out pile. They can be set aside for others to use, if you are maintaining a shared kitchen, or given to a friend.
If you have a shared kitchen, keep separate spices for gluten-free cooking. Or make sure everyone is on board with using clean measuring spoons every time!
About the Author: Heather King has maintained a gluten-free home since her daughter’s celiac diagnosis in 2014, followed by her own celiac diagnosis a few months later. For about a decade, she has navigated label-reading in grocery aisles (finally without tears), calls to manufacturers, playdates & sleepovers, entertaining, school parties, overnight camps, and traveling the world, all gluten-free. She is committed to helping others live fully while on a gluten-free diet, currently the only treatment for celiac disease.