Especially around treat-laden holidays, like Halloween or Valentine's Day, it can be difficult to navigate the candy aisles when you're on a gluten-free diet.
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Following a gluten-free plan involves avoiding wheat, rye and barley (and these grain's derivatives). But you don't have to keep your sweet tooth totally reigned in around the holidays — there are plenty of candy and chocolate brands that are free of gluten ingredients.
Is Candy Gluten-Free?
There's no one way to make candy — a stroll through the candy aisle says it all, as there are seemingly endless brands and varieties. For sugar fans, this is fabulous news but for those following a gluten-free diet, this makes shopping challenging.
For the most part, chocolate is made of cocoa bean liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin (a soy-based ingredient) and vanilla, according to the National Confectioners Association. Gluten isn't a primary ingredient but different chocolates can have different add-ins — like pretzels or graham crackers — which may not necessarily be safe on a GF diet.
Candy is often made with a mix of different ingredients, including corn syrup, artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils and food coloring, among others, according to New York-Presbyterian.
While the most basic candy ingredients don't contain gluten, that doesn't mean any candy you buy will be safe to eat. It's important to look for gluten-free varieties and brands (more on that below).
How to Find Gluten-Free Candy
Even if the candy you're buying doesn't contain gluten ingredients, there may still be a risk for cross-contamination, which occurs when gluten foods come in contact with other ingredients either through manufacturing or preparation, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
You can avoid cross-contact by choosing your brand carefully. To play it safe, avoid candy unless you can be certain it's gluten-free.
First, look for a "Gluten-Free" label on the front package of the product. This label is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration and signifies that the food you're eating has less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is generally safe for people with celiac disease to eat.
If you want even more security, buy candy that is labeled "Certified Gluten-Free" and assessed by qualified third parties, such as the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). The GFCO has especially strict standards, certifying foods that have only 10 ppm of gluten or less, according to the organization's website.
If a product doesn't have a gluten-free label, read the ingredient list of any package you decide to buy and look out for any gluten-based ingredients and check the allergen listing for wheat or gluten.
Gluten-Free Candy Brands
1. The Hershey Company
The Hershey Company owns a variety of popular candy brands, including Reese's, KitKat and Hershey's, among others. While some of these may be free of gluten ingredients, that's not the case for each variety. Also, some seasonal versions of different candy bars may contain gluten.
You can browse the Hershey Company's full gluten-free product list to see which flavors are safe to eat. Some GF candies include:
- Hershey's Milk Chocolate Candy Bar ($46.45 for 37 bars, Amazon.com)
- Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolate Candy ($9.98, Amazon.com)
- Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Candy Bar ($13.99 for 18 bars, Amazon.com)
- Almond Joy Coconut and Almond Chocolate Candy Bar ($34.66 for 36 bars, Amazon.com)
- York Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patty ($31.25 for 175 bars, Amazon.com)
- Rolo Creamy Caramels in Rich Chocolate Candy ($44.95 for 36 bars, Amazon.com)
- Reese's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups ($24.22 for 36 bars, Amazon.com)
- PayDay Chocolatey Covered Peanut Butter and Caramel Candy Bar ($16.92 for 24 bars, Amazon.com)
- Mounds Dark Chocolate and Coconut Candy Bar ($25 for 16 bars, Amazon.com)
2. Mars Inc. and Wrigley
Mars Wrigley makes popular chocolate and candy, like M&M's, Snickers and Skittles, among others. The company doesn't explicitly list which products are gluten-free but includes any common allergens in the ingredient list. You can find out which Mars Wrigley candies are safe to eat by browsing the company site — some include:
- M&M's Milk Chocolate Candy ($25.29 for 36 packs, Amazon.com)
- M&M's Peanut Chocolate Candy ($32.96 for 48 packs, Amazon.com)
- Milky Way Midnight Dark ($19.49 for 24 bars, Amazon.com)
- Milky Way Simply Caramel ($9.99 for 14 mini bars, Amazon.com)
- Snickers ($31.99 for 48 bars, Amazon.com)
- 3 Musketeers ($25.62 for 36 bars, Amazon.com)
- Skittles ($36.95 for 36 packs, Amazon.com)
- Starburst ($17.79 for 54-ounce jar, Amazon.com)
Standard Milky Way bars are not gluten-free and may contain wheat. Instead, opt for the Dark Chocolate or Simply Caramel version.
Nestle labels all major allergens, including gluten, on their product ingredient labels — so take a close look at any Nestle products before you dig in. These are some of the more popular gluten-free Nestle candy bars:
4. Tootsie Roll
All Tootsie Roll Industries candy, including Junior Mints, Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops, among others, are completely gluten-free, according to the company's website. Some include:
5. Just Born
Just Born's products are popular right around Easter (hint: It's a marshmallow peep). This company labels all major allergens and many of the candies the company produces are free of gluten ingredients, like Peeps, Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales, per the company site. Some include:
6. Smarties Candy Company
All Smarties products are gluten-free and safe to eat, according to the company website. But they do manufacture their candy in factories that also process ingredients, like peanut, milk, wheat and soy, which can put Smarties at risk of cross-contamination.
For the most part, these are still safe for most gluten sensitivities but this will vary from person to person.
- Smarties Original ($3.90, Amazon.com)
Malaco is the Swedish candy company that makes the beloved Swedish fish, which are gluten-free. These gummies aren't labeled gluten-free but do not contain any gluten ingredients.
- Swedish Fish ($9.30 per 12-pack, Amazon.com)