I have recently been seeing more and more “gluten free” recipes calling for spelt flour. With the holidays approaching when people will be doing more baking I decided to tackle this issue.
The short answer to the question “Is spelt gluten free?” is no. The FDA in Questions and Answers on the Gluten-Free Labeling Proposed Rule explains the use of the word gluten in relation to Celiac Disease in this way:
“In the context of celiac disease, the term “gluten” is used to collectively refer to gluten in wheat, and to the proteins in other grains that have been demonstrated to cause harmful health effects in individuals who have celiac disease. These grains are wheat (including different varieties such as spelt and kamut), rye, barley, cross-bred hybrids (e.g., triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye), and possibly oats.”
The FDA has declared that spelt must be labeled on products as wheat since it and wheat come from the same genus, Triticum. The Mayo Clinic, The Celiac Disease Foundation and a White Paper on the Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods are just a few of the sources that corroborate this definition of spelt as a cross-bred hybrid of wheat which contains gluten.
So if you live with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance stop before grabbing the spelt flour for your holiday baking. No, spelt is NOT gluten free.
Also keep in mind that this is not just a problem with spelt. The list below from 12 Tips for Gluten Free Living #5: Learn Other Names and Forms of Wheat includes varieties and hybrids of wheat, trademarked names for wheat and wheat products, flours and products or ingredients made from wheat. This list is just intended to get you started, there are more.
- Graham Flour
But don’t worry there are other grains that are gluten free including but not limited to this list from 12 Tips for Gluten Free Living #6: Get to Know your Gluten Free Grains
- Rice (Check out the many different varieties)
- Buckwheat (Don’t worry about the name, it is from the rhubarb family, not wheat)
For my baking I most often use a blend of brown rice flour and Bob’s Red Mill Baking flour with a little buckwheat flour. Try experimenting with different blends or commercial blends and you will find your favorites.
For more information check out The Spin on Spelt from Shirley at Gluten Free Easily.
Rogene Robbins has been living gluten free for over 10 years for health reasons. For her thoughts on gluten free living as well as more gluten free recipes check out The Gluten Free Good Life and Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday, both available at Espirational Books.