Celiac disease is pretty scary, but the scariest part about it is that it routinely goes undiagnosed. While some cases manifest with obvious symptoms, many people go through their entire lives without realizing that their intestines are being damaged by the gluten in their diets. This makes it all the more important to understand what gluten is, how it’s made, and what types of foods are gluten-free. Questions like “does pudding have gluten?” can make a huge difference in your health.
Gluten is a naturally occurring substance that’s produced by some plants. It’s a mix of various proteins that are used by grains to store resources for later. Gluten is mostly found in wheat, oats, barley, rye, and other related plants. In other words, it’s primarily found in grains. Foods that aren’t grains generally don’t have any gluten. This includes things like rice, corn, milk, sugar, most meats and vegetables, spices, and a variety of other food items that are too numerous to list.
This isn’t to say that if something doesn’t have cereal grains that it’s totally gluten-free. There’s a concept called “cross-contamination” that we’ll talk about later that makes a variety of innocuous ingredients susceptible to being sold with small quantities of gluten. Depending on your level of gluten sensitivity, cross contamination might be a total non-issue or a really big deal.
Unlike some types of food, there’s no universally accepted definition for “pudding.” In the United States, “pudding” usually refers to a thick, sweet dessert food. Puddings are often made with eggs, gelatin, and other thickening agents. They’re almost never made with grains, however.
In other parts of the world, “pudding” can refer to a pretty wide variety of other dishes. This includes things like Yorkshire pudding, a British dish that’s somewhere in between a pancake and a muffin, and black pudding, which is a mix of blood and oats or barley. While some other “puddings” don’t contain gluten, these two examples most definitely do.
Does Pudding Have Gluten?
In other words, if you’re looking at a pudding cup or a box of instant pudding at the grocery store, there’s almost certainly no gluten in it. If you’re looking at a menu item at an ethnic restaurant, there’s a chance that there might be gluten depending on the type of pudding and how it’s made. In the latter case, the best thing to do is to ask your server.
Is Jello Pudding Gluten Free?
Both the pre-made and the mix-it-yourself varieties of Jello pudding do not have notable amounts of gluten. These desserts are made with a variety of ingredients, but cereal grains are not among them. Jello chooses not to market these products as “gluten-free” because they’re enhanced with artificial colorants. Since Jello doesn’t control the manufacturing of these colorants, it has no way of knowing whether or not any gluten accidentally ended up in them.
Of course, there’s not a huge amount of food coloring in pudding. Even if a small amount of gluten wound up in the coloring of your pudding by accident, you almost certainly wouldn’t eat enough to notice in a normal serving of pudding. In other words, you can effectively treat pudding as gluten-free.
But what about specific varieties? Is Jello chocolate or vanilla pudding gluten free? Again, the answer is yes. All Jello pudding is gluten-free. There’s no need to worry about any specific variety.
What About Instant Pudding?
Again, there are no grains in the types of pudding you’re likely to eat in the US. This includes both the puddings you make from scratch, the pudding you eat a restaurant, and the pudding that you buy at the store, whether it comes in a box, a tub, or a single-serving cup. Instant pudding is no different. It’s basically a mix of sugar, cornstarch, flavors, and a few fancy ingredients that put on the finishing touches.