Find out what chili is, what it’s made of, and if this food is safe for your gluten-free diet. Plus a list of brands of gluten-free chili.
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Do you love curling up on a cold fall or winter day with a big bowl of chili? Me too. It’s one of my favorite dishes to make when the cold season rolls in. I love getting out my Dutch oven and making a huge warm meal that fills the house with amazing savory smells.
If you follow a gluten-free diet like I do, you know that every dish needs to be looked at with a careful eye, and chili is no different. Whether you like to make your own chili, grab it at a fast food restaurant for lunch or on the way home from work for a quick dinner, or like to have canned chili in your pantry for an easy meal, knowing if chili is safe for a gluten-free diet is important before the spoon ever hits your mouth.
In this post, we’re going to dive into what chili is, what the main ingredients are, and if we can expect that this food is going to be safe for a gluten-free diet all the time. We’ll talk about homemade chili, store bought canned chili, and even chili from fast food restaurants and other restaurants.
Find out if this fill-you-up warm-you-through food is safe for your gluten-free diet and what you need to know about chili right here in this post.
What is chili?
Chili is a type of stew that originated in Mexico and has become wildly popular in the US and in particular many southern states like Texas.
Chili is a slow cooked stew that can be made with various protein sources, but the most common is ground beef and beans. Chicken, pork, and bacon can also be used as a protein source for chili. Chili can also be made with only beans and vegetables.
The idea of chili is a slow cooked full-flavored stew, but the ingredients can vary greatly. You can have a white chicken chili, chili con carne with ground beef and beans, vegetarian bean chili, no bean chilis, or vegetable chilis.
There are no real rules when it comes to making this dish, but the main idea with chili is that it is thick, rich, and filling.
Read on: 25 Gluten-free ground beef recipes
What is chili made of?
Chili can be made with a variety of different ingredients, depending on the type of chili you are making or eating.
The most common type of chili is one that contains ground beef, beans, and a base of tomato sauce. Other ingredients may be added like onions, bell peppers, and chili powder for seasoning.
Other types of chili, like chicken chili may or may not have a tomato base. White chicken chili uses green chiles instead of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. It’s called white chili, because it’s not red like the popular chili con carne.
Most chili will contain beans, onions, and tomatoes. Some people have their very own unique chili recipes and can add different ingredients to make it special to them. Here are some other ingredients you might expect to taste in chili: onions, bell peppers, chili peppers, paprika, smoked paprika, chili powder, black pepper, brown sugar, and tomato paste.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Gluten is often added as a binding ingredient in many foods, particularly those that have been processed.
Is chili gluten-free?
Depending on whether or not your chili is homemade or store bought, it may or may not be gluten-free. It is easy to make gluten-free chili at home as most of the ingredients called for in many chili recipes are naturally gluten-free.
You can assume that if you are making homemade chili, that if the ingredients you use are gluten-free, that the chili will also be gluten-free. Chili is generally considered a gluten-free food.
That said, if you’re looking to buy or eat store bought canned chili, this is where it can get a little more murky. Some brands of canned chili may contain gluten as a thickening agent.
Is canned chili gluten-free?
Canned chili is not always gluten-free. Some brands add wheat flour as a thickener or wheat protein. It’s important to check ingredients lists for any hidden names of gluten and to help you make an informed decision, look for a gluten-free label.
A gluten-free label will tell you the brand has done testing to determine if the chili has less than 20ppm of gluten in the product. Without that label, you can review ingredients lists and if there are no gluten ingredients, you can assume it’s safe for a gluten-free diet.
However, if you are sensitive to trace amounts of gluten or are Celiac, you’ll want to always look for that gluten-free label.
When is chili not gluten-free?
Chili is not gluten-free when you use any ingredient that contains gluten in a recipe, or when you are buying canned chili or chili from a restaurant that uses gluten-containing ingredients.
Places that you’ll want to be careful about finding gluten in your chili would be in the seasonings. Be sure to review ingredients in seasoning mixes, especially if you buy a chili blend that is premeasured.
The bottom line is that you’ll want to assume chili contains gluten until you can prove otherwise, specifically when you’re buying chili from the store or a restaurant.
Gluten-free Chili Brands
There are a number of chili brands that contain no gluten ingredients, and we know that without a gluten-free label that these options have not been tested for gluten or have trace amounts of gluten.
I’ve rounded up some options of chili that you can buy at the store that have no gluten ingredients AND a gluten-free label, so you can confidently choose a chili option next time you’re at the store.
- Amy’s Organic Chili with Vegetables
- Amy’s Organic Medium Chili, Light in Sodium
- Amy’s Organic Spicy Chili, Light in Sodium
- Amy’s Organic Black Bean Chili
- Amy’s Organic Medium Chili
- Amy’s Organic Spicy Chili
- Bush’s Best Magic Canned Chili
- Bush’s Chili Magic Campfire Style
- Bush’s Hearty Heat Chili Magic
Kettle & Fire
- Kettle & Fire Grass-fed Beef Chili with Beans Bone Broth Soup
This chili does not have a gluten-free label, but has a note that says “No Big 8 allergens present.”
- Stagg Chili Country Brand Chili with Beans
- Stagg Chili Classic Chili with Beans
- Stagg Chili Dynamite Hot Chili with Beans
- Stagg Chili Laredo Chili with Beans
- Stagg Chili Turkey Ranchero Chili with Beans
- Stagg Chili Silverado Beef Chili with Beans
- Stagg Chili Vegetarian Garden 4-Bean Chili
- Stagg Chili Classic Chili No Beans
- Thrive Market Plant-Based Chili with Beyond Meat, Medium
- Thrive Market Plant-Based Chili with Beyond Meat, Black Bean
- Thrive Market Plant-Based Chili with Beyond Meat, Original
Is chili from a fast food restaurant gluten-free?
Chili from a fast food restaurant may or may not be gluten-free. I’ve been doing a little research into some chili options recently and have been surprised to find gluten at some well known places (places I have blindly trusted to be gluten-free in the past – oops!).
For example, the chili at Wendy’s contains no gluten ingredients, but cross contamination is possible and the company states this in their allergen statement:
“We provide known instances of allergens; however, cross contact is possible due to common handling and preparation areas in our restaurants. We are unable to guarantee that any menu item can be completely free of allergens. Customers with allergies and sensitivities should exercise judgment when ordering.”
It’s a good idea to research the fast food restaurant or other restaurant you plan to order chili from ahead of time so you can be prepared knowing what is in your food.
Read on: Is Wendy’s chili gluten-free?
Gluten-free chili recipes
If you love chili and are looking for recipes to help you enjoy this food more and stick with your gluten-free diet, be sure to check out some of these yummy recipes:
If you enjoy eating a big bowl of chili on a cold fall or winter day, I hope this post has helped you find an answer as to whether or not you will want to keep this food in your gluten-free diet. Homemade chili is easily gluten-free when you choose your ingredients carefully. Store bought and restaurant chili will take a little more effort to find gluten-free options, but they are out there!
Be aware that you can review ingredients lists and be on the lookout for potential cross contamination situations wherever you find yourself buying chili.