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When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

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When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

“Whaaaat? I have thought spuds were fine to eat on a gluten free diet and now you tell me potatoes are NOT gluten free?!” I hear you. This is a normal reaction to have. But don’t freak out just yet. Potatoes in their raw form do not contain any gluten and are therefore perfectly suitable for celiacs and anyone who’s on a gluten free diet. BUT, because many times, even the plainest potato dishes are cooked with the addition of gluten containing ingredients, these dishes are not safe to eat for those on a gluten free diet.

In this article, you’ll find a complete list of potato-based dishes that, depending on the way they’re prepared, may not be gluten-free. Knowing the gluten-related pitfalls of each one of these foods will help you ask the right questions to your server before ordering dishes with potatoes that are not gluten free.

Save this post on your Pinterest and keep this information at hand so that you can have it available next time you order a potato dish outside of your house.

A note on Potatoes & Dairy:

If, like many of those who have problems with gluten, you also have a hard time tolerating dairy, ask if the potato dish you are about to order is seasoned with milk, butter or cheese, as these items are commonly used in the preparation of many potato recipes.

And if you are curious to know about other gluten free foods that can easily contain gluten, make sure you don’t miss my article The 5 Types of Rice That Are NOT Gluten Free!

Yup, you read well: rice can contain gluten when cooked with one of these 5 preparations, so make sure you don’t miss this post!

8 Cases in Which Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free:

1. French Fries

French fries should be nothing more than potatoes cut in sticks, fried and salted. Given their simple ingredients, it’s easy to think they are safe to eat even for those who have problems with gluten, but the preparation they use to make them turns this naturally gluten free food into something celiacs and people sensitive to gluten need to avoid.

Here’s two scenarios in which French fries are NOT gluten free:

  • When they are cooked in the same fryer used to prepare other gluten containing foods, such as battered chicken, fish patties or onion rings, and therefore exposed to major cross contamination
  • When they are dusted with flour or coated with a flour-based breading to make them crispy

Unless the menu specifically states that French fries are gluten free, or the restaurant can guarantee a custom preparation for you using a dedicated gluten-free fryer, fries are a no go.

When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

2. Potato Skins

Just like it is for French fries, when potato skins are deep fried in an appliance that’s also used for mozzarella sticks and other breaded items, they become unsafe for those who can’t tolerate gluten.

While frying, the flour-based batter that coats the other foods gets dispersed into the cooking oil and that’s when cross contamination happens.

Only trust potato skins if they are cooked in a separate vat of oil, or if they are baked and the kitchen can guarantee they haven’t touched any gluten containing food.

3. Potato Chips:

While technically potato chips should be a fully gluten free food, there are cases in which gluten sneaks into them too:

  • Some of the potato chips you can find packaged and served in restaurants contain wheat starch or malt vinegar (derived from the gluten containing grain barley). And because malt vinegar, unlike other vinegars, is not distilled, it still contains gluten.
  • When potato chips are flavored, they can be seasoned with all sorts of additional ingredients, such as maltodextrin, which contains gluten. Make sure to read the labels carefully, or, if you are dining in a restaurant, ask the waiter to double check the list of ingredients for you or bring you the package.
  • Potato chips can be processed in a facility that also handles gluten containing products. You have severe reactions to gluten and are sensitive to airborne or shared equipment cross contamination, avoid potato chips unless properly labeled as gluten free. 

NOTE: Even if you find potato chips that are guaranteed to be gluten free, don’t forget that deep fried chips are nothing but empty calories, and a highly inflammatory food with no nutrition value. If you want to make yourself a favor, avoid eating them, whether they are gluten free or not.

When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

4. Baked Potatoes

While baked potatoes are generally gluten free, there are a couple of situations in which they are not.

  • Some restaurants coat the potato skin with butter and flour to give it a crispier texture.
  • Some restaurants bake their potatoes on the same oven rack on which they baked their bread rolls.
When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

5. Mashed Potatoes:

Mashed potatoes in restaurants are normally served with gravy, which, well, contains flour and butter as their main ingredients.

Before you order them, ask if their plain mashed potatoes are safe for you to eat and, if yes, order them without gravy. 

Also, if you opt to make this dish at home and decide to buy instant mashed potatoes, make sure to check the ingredient label as some brands aren’t gluten free.

6. Potatoes Au Gratin:

Potatoes au gratin are usually seasoned with and flour and topped with gluten, hence contain a lot of gluten. If you like this recipe, find a good gluten free recipe online and make it at home.

When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

7. Potato Bread:

Don’t get fooled by the name. Potato bread is made with a mixture of potato and wheat flour. Unfortunately, for us, that’s another no go.

8. Hash Browns, Tater Tots, Potato Cakes & Potato Croquettes:

Most of these potato recipes made with fried mashed potatoes use cheese and flour as a thickener, they may have a flour coating and they might have been processed or cooked in a place where they also make things containing gluten.

Make sure you ask questions to your server before ordering this dish!

When Potatoes Are NOT Gluten Free (8 Cases Explained)

Did I forget about anything? Please, if you are aware of some other occasions in which potatoes are not gluten free, don’t hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment below!

Your tips and experience can definitely help a lot of other gluten free eaters so make sure to leave your feedback!

I send you all a big kiss from Italy and I will catch you next time!


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Ambra Torelli
Born and raised in Italy, Ambra visited over 20 countries and now she divides her time in between Italy and the US, where her husband is from and where she moved in 2011 work as university professor of Italian Literature. She writes about food, travel and things that inspire her! more about ambra

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  • Sarah Williams September 7, 2020 5:36 pm

    Potato gnocchi generally contain gluten also.

    • ambra September 8, 2020 1:54 am

      That’s a great one Sarah, thanks! Regular potato gnocchi are always made with wheat flour, so you definitely need to look for a specific gluten free version when you buy them.

  • Shannon September 8, 2020 2:06 pm

    Hi Ambra. Shannon from California.
    I limit my potato intake to sweet potatoes. Are there any instances of sweet potatoes that we shouldn’t eat?

    • ambra September 9, 2020 1:16 am

      Great question Shannon! Yes, you can assume that some of these warnings are true even in the case of sweet potatoes. Just to give you an example, I once ordered sweet potato fries in a restaurant that were coated with flour before being baked because that makes them crispier. My tip is: always ask and double check that your food is gluten free, even if seems obvious to you that it is. i hope this helped,

  • michelle August 6, 2022 8:58 am

    good points here, probably best to make your own,

    • ambra August 25, 2022 12:20 am

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Michelle! 💕

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