Is Barley (or Malt) Gluten Free?

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat (which includes; spelt, kamut, khorasan, einkorn, faro, and emmer), rye, triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid), and barley. Under no circumstance should people on a gluten free diet eat any of the above grains, including barley.

Foods Made From Barley

The following foods are made from barley, or have a high likelihood of containing barley, so be sure to read the ingredient label:

  • Beer (although many gluten free options available now)
  • Whisky (although safe to consume due to the distillation process)
  • Mugicha (Asian beverage)
  • Canned or pre-made soups and stews
  • Fructan (a sweetener)
  • Coffee substitutes/ coffee flavoured powdered instant beverage

Another product you need to be aware of that is made from barley, is malt.

Malt is made using barley grains. The dried grains are soaked until germination begins, at which point they are dried again. This process, known as ‘malting’, allows the enzymes within the barley to turn the starches into sugars (maltose). These sugars are further refined into malt syrup and malt extract, which can be added to a number of edible products and is used to enhance flavor.

Foods Containing Malt

Foods that always contain malt, and therefore are never safe to consume are:

  • Malt vinegar
  • Candy – Maltesers, Whoppers
  • Flavored/chocolate beverage mixes –  Horlicks, Ovaltine, Milo
See also
Why Switch To Grass-Fed Red Meat?
Malt syrup added to bagel recipe

Foods that can contain malt, so be sure to check the label, are:

  • Beer (many gluten free beers available now on the market)
  • Licorice
  • Imitation crab meat
  • Chocolate milkshakes (some chocolate syrups can contain malt)
  • Brown rice syrup (malt can be added to some brands)
  • Dry cereal
  • Baked Foods (including some types of bagels, pretzels, crackers, cookies, chocolate based foods)
  • Soy Milk
  • Ice Cream
  • Pharmaceuticals (including some vitamins brands)
  • Granola

A form of malt, maltodextrin, can be made from barley or wheat, as well as corn, potato, or rice.

So how do you know if maltodextrin is made from one of these safe ingredients, or from a gluten containing grain like barley or wheat?

With the new US Food Labeling laws, if maltodextrin is made from wheat it must state that on the product label – “wheat maltodextrin”. Maltodextrin made in the US and Canada is always made from potatoes or corn, however in other parts of the world it can still be made with barley or wheat. Having said that, because maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient, its protein is ultimately removed, rendering it gluten free.

Reading Labels – Words to Watch Out For:




Photo Credits
Barley: Wikipedia, Lucash
Malt Syrup:Wikipedia, Glane23

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  1. Thanks Angie, I have been a long time user of “Smuckers” (all of their products) and love it. The worst part of “love” for it is, the toast I spread it on (Arnold Whole Grain Oaknut Bread”. I will not use any other types of bread. It seems to be the safest. Is there any other breads out there as good as mine (taste and price)?

  2. I honestly don’t buy pre-made gluten free bread. I prefer the taste, texture (and price!) of my baking my own. It used to be a hassle to bake bread, but once I bought a bread machine (with a gluten free button-that is a must) its never been easier. Maybe someone else out there has some suggestions of their favorite loaves?

  3. what a good article, I have 17 different food alergies, barley is one, soy was not one of them but I was eating soy yougart, and drinking a soy milk energy sublemt for a meal, and every time I drank it my stomuch would bloat, and get full of gas, now I know why, the drink but have a barley in it , and barley is one of the things I am allergic to, the ingredients just said soy, so I thaught it would be safe, I love the drink, but it has to go now. Thanks for the artical,

  4. The mention of Cosmetics, Hair Care, Lotions, Powders etc. Are all being ignored for warnings, many include Gluten. Please educate us all to these.

  5. I would love to have your recipe for bread. Where did you find your machine?

  6. I have the Cuisinart brand (with the gluten free selection), but you can use any old bread maker, just set it ‘dough’ – should only be one rise, and then transfer the risen dough into your own pans to bake. The proper rising temperature is critical to help gluten free doughs get as high as they can, and in my cold house there was never any warm spot so using the old bread maker worked perfectly. Although my favorite bread now is our Olive & Rosemary Focaccia or our Italian Flatbread, which needs to be baked in a shallow pan, so I only use the ‘dough’ function on my Cuisinart.

  7. If you look up to my response to Dee, I listed my 2 favorite bread recipes. Although keep in mind that with gluten free breads, everyone has their own personal preferences to what flavors and textures they like, and what tastes like the closest thing to ‘real’ bread. Personally I love flatbreads (like those listed above), and baguette style breads. My machine I bought through

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