Everything You Need to Know About Gluten-Free Ice Cream and Toppings

Gluten Free Ice Cream and Toppings

Everything you need to know about gluten-free ice cream and toppings. Are your ice creams and toppings gluten-free? Well, are they? One of the most common questions we get asked in our ice cream shop is whether our ice creams and toppings are gluten-free. And it is no surprise. Studies have shown that 25% of Americans follow a gluten-free diet regardless of medical reasons. This means that if you are starting an ice cream shop you want to make sure you have a good selection of gluten-free ice cream and toppings.

Are you starting an ice cream shop and you want to offer some gluten-free ice creams and toppings? Or are you personally gluten-free, or recently moved to a gluten-free diet, and want to know what ice creams and toppings you can enjoy? I have you covered either way. In this post, I am going to be looking at everything you need to know about gluten-free ice cream and toppings.

But first, let’s start with the most obvious question – is ice cream even gluten-free?

Is Ice Cream Gluten-Free?

As a general rule, most simple ice cream flavors do not contain glutenous ingredients and are naturally gluten-free. The main reasons ice cream can contain gluten is due to glutenous add-ins, such as cookie pieces and/or cross-contamination. Waffles cones contain gluten, as do toppings such as granola and cookies. Ice cream toppings such as sprinkles, nuts, and chocolate usually do not contain gluten.

What is the Difference Between Gluten-Free and Certified Gluten-Free?

At this point, we should note the difference between gluten-free and “certified” gluten-free.

  • Gluten-free means an ice cream doesn’t contain glutenous ingredients.
  • Certified gluten-free means an ice cream manufacturer has been inspected and certified through a recognized gluten-free certification program. As part of this, production facilities are rigorously inspected and producers have steps in place to ensure gluten-free production. At the same time, the ice cream has also been independently tested for traces of gluten.

It is extremely rare to find an ice cream shop that is certified gluten-free. Although most ice cream shops will have various gluten-free ice cream flavors there is always the chance of cross-contamination in ice cream shops due to glutenous cones and toppings. If you want certified gluten-free ice cream, it is best to go to the grocery store and purchase a certified gluten-free pint.

Everything You Need To Know About Gluten Free Ice Cream And Toppings - cookies and cream

What Ice Cream Has Gluten?

Most ice cream bases of classic flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and mint will not contain gluten.

The base ingredients of ice cream are milk, cream, sugar, and sometimes egg. All these ingredients are naturally gluten-free. However, ice cream can still contain gluten. This is usually for one of the following reasons:

1.       Ice Cream Flavors with Glutenous “Add-Ins”

The main cause of gluten is “mix-ins” e.g., cookie, cake, or cookie dough pieces in ice cream. This means if you are gluten-free, avoid anything with a glutenous add-in in the name. Examples of such flavors include cookie & cream, cookie dough, birthday cake, etc. If you are unsure also check with the server if it is gluten-free or not.

You can make gluten-free versions of these mix-in flavors. For example, in our ice cream shop, we have a cookie & cream flavor that uses gluten-free cookie pieces made from the almond flavor. We also have cheesecake flavors with almond-based gluten-free cheesecake pieces. Yes, buying gluten-free baked goods is more expensive. But you can charge a higher price point for them.

2.        Ice Cream Processed in The Same Machinery as Glutenous Ice Cream

If ice cream is made on the same machines that also process gluten-containing flavors, then there is a chance of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when a recipe does not contain gluten, but because of the way it is processed and made it can end up containing gluten. This is usually from mixing, preparing, or making ice cream with the same equipment used to make gluten-containing recipes.

3.       Cross-Contamination in General

Virtually all ice cream shops have glutenous cones as well as glutenous toppings (granola, cookies, crackers, etc.).

Cross-contamination in ice cream shops can easily mean that ice creams that do not contain glutenous ingredients still contain traces of gluten. For example, if a scooper is used to put a scoop of ice cream on a waffle cone and the same scooper is then used to scoop a gluten-free ice cream flavor there may be crumbs of the waffle cone still on the scooper. Also, cross-contamination on the toppings counter is extremely common – for example cookie crumbs dropping into the mix nuts bowl.

If you work for an ice cream shop and a customer wants gluten-free scoops of ice cream, make sure to use a fresh scooper to serve theirs. I would also recommend getting their toppings from the back of the house directly from the packets and not from the toppings counter.

Why Do They Put Gluten in Ice Cream?

Gluten is mainly put in ice cream in the form of cake and cookie “mix-ins” – for example, cookie pieces in cookie & cream, cake pieces in birthday cake flavor, marshmallows in the rocky road, etc.

What Ice Cream Ingredients Contain Gluten?

The main ice cream ingredients that contain gluten are:

  • Cookies pieces
  • Cookie Dough
  • Cake pieces
  • Cheesecake pieces
  • Oreos
  • Marshmallows

Is Soft Serve Ice Cream Gluten-Free?

As a general rule, soft-serve ice cream is more likely to be gluten-free than scooped ice cream. This is for two reasons:

  • Add-Ins: Add-ins cannot be added to the soft-serve mix as soft serve machines can only process silky smooth ice cream mix. As a general rule, it is the add-ins in ice cream (cookie pieces, etc) that are the glutenous ingredients.
  • Cross-contamination: There is a lower risk of cross-contamination with soft-serve due to soft-serve coming directly out of the machine and scoopers not being involved.

You can read more about soft serve ice cream generally here – Everything You Need To Know About Soft Serve Ice Cream.

Does Sherbet Have Gluten?

Sherbet is almost always gluten-free. The core ingredients of sherbet are cream or milk, fruit, sugar, and egg whites – all of which are gluten-free. Also, as sherbet is designed to be a lighter ice cream it doesn’t usually contain add-ins like thicker traditional ice cream.

Is Any Ice Cream Gluten-Free?

There are many ice creams that are gluten-free, particularly simple ice cream flavors with no add-ins. In grocery stores look for any ice cream pints that are labeled as gluten-free or even better – certified gluten-free.

In an ice cream shop steer clear of any ice cream flavors with glutenous ingredients in the name and ask the server which flavors do not contain glutenous ingredients. Be aware though that in a non-exclusively gluten-free ice cream shop there is always the possibility of cross-contamination.

Are Ice Cream Cones Gluten-Free?

As a general rule, ice cream cones are not gluten-free. Some ice cream shops will have a gluten-free cone on the menu. A lot of ice cream shops that offer gluten-free cones offer these Joy gluten-free cones, which can be bought on Amazon here. They are slightly smaller, but a pretty good as a gluten-free cone offering.

Everything You Need To Know About Gluten Free Ice Cream And Toppings - sprinkles

What Ice Cream Toppings Are Gluten-Free?

The main glutenous ice cream toppings are granolas, cookie pieces, graham crackers, and crushed waffle cones.

The main ice cream toppings that are often gluten-free are:

  • nuts
  • chocolate chips
  • nut butter
  • sprinkles
  • fresh fruit
  • dried fruit
  • coconut
  • seeds

Do Oreos Have Gluten?

Oreos contain gluten and so are not gluten-free.

Are Marshmallows Gluten-Free?

As a general rule, many marshmallow brands are gluten-free as many marshmallow brands are made with corn starch. Any marshmallow brands made with wheat starch instead of corn starch will not be gluten-free. The only way to know is to check the label.

The marshmallows I sell in my ice cream store are these Dandies brand ones, which can be bought on Amazon here. They are vegan too as they are made with tapioca instead of gelatin.

Are Sprinkles Gluten-Free?

A lot of sprinkles are gluten-free but always make sure to check the label. These colorful sprinkles from Amazon, for example, are certified gluten-free.

Is Caramel Sauce Gluten-Free?

As a general rule, most caramel sauces are gluten-free.

Is Hot Fudge Gluten-Free?

Most, but not all, hot fudges are gluten-free. This Sanders hot fudge is marked as gluten-free on the jar. You can try it from Amazon here.

Does Almond Butter Have Gluten?

Most almond butter is gluten-free. Justin’s almond butter is gluten-free and made from simply two ingredients – almond and palm oil. You can buy it on Amazon here.

We have found 1-2 ingredient nut butter to be a very popular topping in our ice cream shop.

Does Peanut Butter Have Gluten?

Most peanut butter does not contain gluten. Justin’s classic peanut butter is gluten-free and made from two ingredients. You can find it on Amazon here. Similarly, most higher-end peanut butter is normally made just from dry roasted peanuts and sea salt.

Is Magic Shell Gluten-Free?

As a general rule magic shell is gluten-free. Magic shell is the ice cream sauce that hardens on ice cream. This is mostly due to the use of coconut oil in the sauce which has a higher hardening temperature.

Everything You Need To Know About Gluten Free Ice Cream And Toppings - oreo

Gluten-Free Ice Cream and Toppings – The Final Lick

Everything you need to know about gluten-free ice cream and toppings. If you plan on opening your own ice cream shop or truck, then you need to seriously consider gluten-free options. In my ice cream business, the two most common questions we get asked are: “is your ice cream gluten-free?” and “do you have any dairy-free options?”. The good news is that it is super easy to make gluten-free ice cream flavors. Simply have separate utensils and buckets for gluten-containing ingredients and mix in glutenous add-ins once the ice cream. This means none of your ice cream equipment will process gluten.

As for toppings do the same. Make sure you have separate buckets and utensils and label everything clearly. If you are not sure if a product contains gluten check with the supplier. And, whether your ice cream is dairy-free or not…well you may want to check out my posts on vegan ice cream here: Vegan “Ice Cream” and Is Vegan Ice Cream Profitable.

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Time To Learn Some More

Want to learn more on your path to ice cream entrepreneur success. Then check out some of my other articles.

Chilled Startup Team

Since 2012, the Chilled Startup team has been in the ice cream business. From creating retail store ice cream concepts from scratch to ice cream trucks to selling ice cream pints wholesale to grocery store outlets to private and public events. We have even set up vegan and plant-based ice cream concepts. The ice cream business is one we understand inside and out.

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