Cranberry sauce is usually naturally gluten-free. The main ingredients in a basic recipe are fresh cranberries, sugar, and water… all gluten-free. However, check the product label or homemade cranberry sauce recipe for potential gluten in added flavorings.
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Naturally Gluten-Free Ingredients
For those of us who need to eat gluten-free due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s a wonderful relief to know that your family recipe for this holiday staple is most likely already safe to enjoy as-is.
The following naturally gluten-free ingredients are commonly found in cranberry sauce:
- White Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Pure Maple Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Lemon Juice
- Orange Juice
- Orange Zest
Ingredients to Check
The following ingredients require additional vetting before adding cranberry sauce to your gluten-free holiday table:
- Alcohol: From bourbon to rum, alcohol frequently appears in homemade cranberry sauce. While distilled alcohol is considered gluten-free due to the distillation process, regardless of the grain being distilled, check for added flavorings that can contain gluten.
- Natural Flavors: Because barley is not a top 9 allergen in the United States, per FDA labeling guidelines, barley can be hidden under the ingredient “natural flavors”. If the product has a voluntary gluten-free label, it does not contain hidden barley, even if the ingredients include “natural flavors”. Sometimes store-bought cranberry sauce contains “natural flavors” on the ingredient list and has no gluten-free claim on the label. In that case, you will have to contact the manufacturer to determine if the cranberry sauce contains gluten.
- Spices: Spice blends occasionally contain gluten ingredients. Check the ingredient list, use individual spices, or stick to spice brands that are labeled gluten-free, such as Badia. Learn more about gluten in spices in the Celiac Guide: Gluten-Free Spices and Seasonings.
- Nuts: Cranberry sauce recipes commonly include walnuts or pecans. Flavored nuts could have gluten-containing ingredients. Plain nuts, while inherently gluten-free, are subject to cross-contamination during manufacturing. Nuts.com is a reliable source of gluten-free nuts from Nuts.com (shop the gluten-free category).
5 Gluten-Free Ready-Made Cranberry Sauce Options
These five store-bought cranberry sauces are either gluten-free or do not contain gluten ingredients, as noted below.
- Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce: The manufacturer states that its canned cranberry sauces and plain Craisins are free from gluten.
- Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce: Same Ocean Spray’s whole berry sauce, the manufacturer states it is free from gluten.
- Thrive Market Cranberry Sauce: Labeled gluten-free.
- Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Spiced Cranberry Sauce: Labeled gluten-free.
- Trader Joe’s Fresh Cranberry Sauce: No gluten ingredients. Simply cranberries, sugar, and water.
Canned cranberry sauce is an easy side dish when you are toting your own personal gluten-free feast to Thanksgiving dinner. While I love fresh cranberry sauce, it is not practical to make everything from scratch, especially when packing a Thanksgiving meal to-go. Find the shortcuts that work for you!
Need more ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving in someone else’s gluten-full home? Here are 8 Thanksgiving Tips When You Are the Gluten-Free Guest.
Hosting gluten-free guests for a holiday dinner? Touch base in advance regarding their dietary needs.
Cross-contamination is a concern for individuals with celiac disease. Choose ingredients from the safe ingredients list above, vet any questionable ingredients with your gluten-free guest, and be sure to avoid cross-contact with gluten ingredients during prep and at the meal.
Tips to avoid gluten cross-contact when making gluten-free cranberry sauce:
- Use a clean pan. Avoid cast iron, which is porous and can have residual gluten.
- Use a clean spoon. Avoid wooden spoons and scratched plastic spoons that can also have residual gluten. Metal spoons and plastic spoons in excellent condition are fine.
- Prepare cranberry sauce in a clean area without crumbs and airborne flour. It’s an excellent make-ahead dish, so you can easily make cranberry sauce well ahead of other holiday baking and cooking.
- Store cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- While cooking and serving, do not share spoons with gluten-containing dishes, such as stuffing or gravy.
- Allow gluten-free guests to serve themselves first, as other guests may inadvertently cross-contaminate the cranberry sauce with other gluten-containing foods.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Once you have vetted the ingredients, use your family’s traditional cranberry sauce without worry.
Looking for a crowd-pleasing homemade gluten-free cranberry sauce recipe? Try my family’s favorite, Spiced Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce!