If you’re on a strict gluten free diet, you might be wondering - is butter gluten free?
The answer is yes!
Keep reading to learn more about butter, what ghee is and how to keep your butter safe from dreaded cross-contamination.
What is butter?
Butter is a dairy product made from churning cream.
During this process, fat particles are separated from the buttermilk in the cream. The buttermilk is drained off, resulting in a semi-solid material that we all know as butter.
It is traditionally made from cow’s milk, but can also be made from sheep and goat’s milk, as well.
Is it gluten free?
Yes, butter is naturally gluten free. Natural, unflavoured dairy products are safe to eat on a gluten free diet. You might not see any gluten free labelling on butter products because of this.
Beware of flavoured butters - additives may be added which may not be gluten free, so be sure to always check the product labelling before purchasing flavoured versions.
Types of butter
If you go to your grocery store dairy case, you’ll notice there are several different types of butter. Here’s a breakdown of a few of them:
- Salted butter: butter with salt added during the production process. Salt was traditionally added to preserve the butter; however, these days it is added for flavour.
- Unsalted butter: butter that contains no additional salt. When baking, always use unsalted butter and add salt separately per the recipe recommendations.
- Ghee: a clarified butter that has had the majority of the lactose (milk sugar) removed.
- Cultured butter: live bacterial cultures are added to the butter before churning, These cultures ferment the dairy, which gives the butter a more tangy and acidic taste. (Similar to yogurt or sour cream.)
- Organic butter: made with milk from cows that have only given feed without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
- Grass-fed butter: made with milk from cows that have been on a grass-fed diet. Typically these cows roam pastures and openly graze on the grass.
- Plant-based butter: butter that does not contain any animal products whatsoever. Plant-based butter is typically made from oils, such as olive, coconut, palm or avocado oil.
What is ghee?
Ghee is a clarified butter, which has had almost all of the milk solids (proteins and sugars) removed, leaving only the fat. It is made by heating butter in a pot to its melting point, allowing it to cool and then skimming the milk solids out of the solution. Ghee is a dark yellow to golden colour and has a rich, full flavour.
Individuals who have a lactose intolerance may be interested in ghee, as it removes lactose from the butter. There are also low levels of casein in ghee, which may benefit people who suffer from issues with milk proteins as well.
Please note that ghee is not dairy free. If you are on a dairy free diet, you’ll need to use a plant-based butter in order to stay completely dairy free.
Dairy free butter options
If you are on a dairy free diet, there are lots of dairy free butter options available for you! Here are a few of them:
- Earth Balance: this is my favourite dairy free butter option. I love it so much, I used it to make these Gluten Free Dairy Free Sugar Cookies. They are just like the real thing - even my celiac daughter can’t believe they are dairy free! Earth Balance has salted spreads, or buttery sticks available for baking.
- Milkadamia Salted Buttery Spread: made with macadamia and coconut oils. They have both salted and unsalted versions.
- Melt Organic Butter: made with coconut, palm, canola, sunflower and flaxseed oils. They offer both salted and unsalted plant-based butters.
- Miyoko’s European-Style Cultured Vegan Butter: made with coconut and sunflower oils and cashew milk. Salted and unsalted versions are available.
Watch out for cross contamination
Butter is naturally gluten free, but issues for people on a gluten free diet can come from cross-contamination.
Cross-contamination is when gluten particles are introduced to a gluten free product by some additional means - shared utensils, contaminated cutting boards, or shared manufacturing lines without proper cleaning procedures.
When it comes to butter, gluten cross-contamination can occur due to bread crumbs. Traditional wheat-based breads contain gluten, so if a loved one or roommate uses a knife to spread butter on their bread or toast, then returns that knife into the butter - the butter has been cross-contaminated and is not safe to eat by someone on a strict gluten free diet.
To keep yourself safe, keep butter away from any potential sources of gluten cross-contamination.
How we store butter in our house
In our house, we have a shared kitchen. My boys (husband and son) aren’t strictly gluten free, while my daughter and I both have celiac disease. The majority of our food is gluten free, but we still have some gluten foods stored in the kitchen.
To prevent cross contamination, I store our gluten free butter in a separate dish on the kitchen counter, physically separate from gluten foods.
My son and husband know to only use clean utensils in the butter designated as gluten free and they never use it for their gluten bread or toast.
Recipes that use butter
Feel like making something with butter now that you’re an expert? Here are a few recipes to get you started!
My favourite bread recipe is Gluten Free Brioche. It uses butter and eggs to make such a rich, fluffy crumb that just melts in your mouth.
Feel like making a Gluten Free Pie Crust? Cold and cubed butter is the secret to making the perfect flaky pastry dough for any type of pie you’d want to make! It works for sweet or savoury recipes.
What about cookies? My Gluten Free Dairy Free Sugar Cookies recipe uses plant-based butter - perfect if you or your loved ones are on a dairy free diet.