Available at just about any cookout, tailgate or baseball game, hot dogs are an American staple. However, for people with celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it's best to be cautious before grabbing a hot dog off the grill.
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Even though they're not breaded or starchy, hot dogs aren't always gluten-free, making them potentially unsafe for people avoiding gluten, according to Lisa Moskovitz, RD. While some hot dogs may contain wheat-derived preservatives or filler ingredients, others may be cross-contaminated by gluten-containing ingredients.
Understanding Gluten-Free Hot Dog Packaging
There are many gluten-free hot dog products on the market. Packages marked "gluten-free," "no gluten" or "without gluten" contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten (no foods can be tested 100 percent gluten-free), according to the FDA. Generally, even people with celiac disease can safely consume this (minuscule) amount of gluten.
Hot dogs marked "certified gluten-free" by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization meet a stricter limit of 10 ppm or less of the protein, which is found naturally in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten-free hot dogs that are certified by the National Celiac Association fit even more stringent criteria at less than 5 ppm. Certified gluten-free hot dogs are likely the safest bet for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
Certified Gluten-Free Hot Dogs
- Dietz & Watson: While not all of this company's offerings are certified gluten-free (you will have to read the label), Dietz & Watson does offer several products that are gluten-free certified by the National Celiac Association, which means they test at less than 5 ppm of gluten.
- GeeFree: While GeeFree doesn't offer standard, plain hot dogs, the certified gluten-free company (by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization) does make "Gluten-Free Franks in a Blanket," small hot dogs wrapped in a gluten-free dough.
- Sabrett: Sabrett hot dogs are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization and are therefore safe for those with celiac disease, according to the Sabrett website.
FDA-Regulated Gluten-Free Hot Dogs
- Applegate Naturals: Applegate Naturals produces a variety of beef, pork, turkey and chicken hot dogs, which meet the FDA standard of less than 20 ppm of gluten, according to the Applegate website. While not exactly hot dogs, Applegate Naturals' dinner sausages are also gluten-free and safe to consume.
- Bar-S: Most Bar-S products, hot dogs included, are gluten-free with less than 20 ppm of gluten, according to Bar-S. However, the company also makes corn dogs, which are covered in wheat-containing batter. While Bar-S hot dogs are gluten-free and generally safe to consume, they may be prepared in the same facility as some gluten-containing foods.
- Boar's Head: While Boar's Head is not certified gluten-free, all of the company's offerings are gluten-free by FDA-level standards, according to the company site. This includes the brand's hot dogs and other meat products, cheeses, condiments and hummus.
- Hebrew National: Known for its kosher hot dogs, Hebrew National products are also free of gluten.
- Hoffy: All of Hoffy's hot dogs — available in several different meat varieties — are labeled gluten-free.
- Jennie-O: Nearly all Jennie-O products are gluten-free, including all of the company's hot dog varieties, making them generally safe for people avoiding gluten, according to the Jennie-O site.
- Kayem: Kayem brand provides some gluten-free hot dog products. However, not every package is marked gluten-free, so read the labels carefully before buying.
- Kirkland: The popular Kirkland hot dogs available at Costco are gluten-free, according to the retailer's website. While you can buy these hot dogs packaged, they're also available in cooked form at many Costco locations. Be cautious of potential cross-contamination when buying (or sampling) Costco's prepared hot dogs.
- Kunzler: All Kunzler hot dogs are labeled gluten-free and contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, according to Kunzler. The company's website allows users to select which allergens they prefer to avoid and suggests the safest products for them.
- Miller's: While Miller's doesn't have a huge variety of hot dog products, all of them are gluten-free, according to the brand's website.
- Nathan's Famous: Nathan's Famous hot dogs meet the FDA's gluten-free standard of less than 20 ppm, according to the company's website. However, Nathan's does make products that contain gluten, so read the packaging carefully before you purchase.
- Omaha Steaks: Omaha Steaks produces several types of gluten-free hot dogs, including classic franks and gourmet bratwurst, according to the Omaha Steaks site.
- Organic Valley: Organic Valley carries beef and turkey hot dogs, both of which are free of gluten, according to the brand's website.
- Sahlen's: This popular retailer supplies the hot dogs that are served at many sporting events. They're labeled gluten-free, making them a safe option, according to the Sahlen's site.
Non-Gluten-Free Hot Dogs
- Ball Park: While many of Ball Park's hot dogs may not be formulated with wheat or other gluten-containing ingredients, the company does not label its products "gluten-free," meaning they may contain higher amounts of gluten through cross-contamination, according to the company site.
- Gwaltney: Gwaltney does not claim that any of its hot dogs are free of gluten.
- Oscar Mayer: Although most Oscar Mayer hot dogs aren't formulated with gluten ingredients, their hot dogs are not labeled gluten-free and therefore may face cross-contamination.
- Wellshire Farms: While you are able to search for gluten-free products on the Wellshire Farms site, the company's hot dogs are not labeled gluten-free and can't guarantee safety against cross-contamination.
Read more: What Are Uncured Hot Dogs?
Healthier Hot Dog Alternatives
Although there are plenty of wheat-free hot dog brands out there, Moskovitz recommends that you keep them out of your regular diet, gluten-free or not. Hot dogs are heavily processed and contain about 567 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA, putting quite the dent in the American Heart Association's recommendation to get just 1,500 milligrams per day.
If you're looking for cookout-friendly food that you can stick between two pieces of gluten-free bread, grass-fed burgers, meatballs or chicken kebabs (check for gluten on the labels of these foods, too) are all better alternatives, Moskovitz says. A good rule of thumb: Look for a meat that isn't wrapped in a casing, which can contain artificial ingredients.
Committed to the hot dog? Opt for an organic chicken or soy sausage, preferably with some spinach or other vegetable mixed in, Moskovitz says. Just keep in mind that even these alternatives should be consumed sparingly and in moderation.
- FDA: "Gluten and Food Labeling"
- Dietz and Watson: "Originals Natural Beef Franks"
- GeeFree: "Gluten-Free Franks in a Blanket"
- Nathan's Famous: "Skinless Beef Franks"
- Jennie-O: "Gluten Free Turkey to Fit Your Diet"
- Bar-S: "FAQ"
- Applegate Naturals: "Hot Dogs"
- Boar's Head: "A History of Gluten Free"
- Kunzler: "Hot Dogs, Sausages & Pretzel Dogs"
- Organic Valley: "Hot Dogs"
- Sahlen's: "Hot Dog & Sausage"
- Hebrew National: "Kosher Beef Franks"
- Ball Park: "Hot Dogs"
- Oscar Mayer: "Hot Dogs"
- Wellshire Farms: "Healthy All Natural Meats"
- Costco: "Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs"
- Omaha Steaks: "Gluten-Free Sausages & Franks"
- Hoffy: "Frank Archives"
- Kayem: "Our Products"
- USDA: "Franfurter, Meat"
- AHA: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?"