Is Beef Jerky Gluten-Free?

Is Beef Jerky Gluten-Free?

From athletes to celebrities to talking heads, chatter about gluten-free foods has been dousing media outlets for over two decades. You’d think gluten was deadly if you didn’t know any better — fortunately, that’s rarely the case. 

And because we want you to snack confidently and smartly in the Jerky Universe, we’re here to clear the air.

Is beef jerky gluten-free? It’s usually not. Let’s look at why that’s the case and what you can do if you truly need gluten-free beef jerky.

[Related: Can Beef Jerky Make You Sick? What To Know]

First, What Does “Gluten-Free” Mean?

Let’s get this part out of the way: What’s gluten? 

Put simply, it’s a natural protein in wheat, barley, rye and a rye-barley mix called triticale. And gluten’s in practically everything, from your delicious dark brew to dipping sauces to — yes — most jerkies. 

Manufacturers may also use or add gluten to change texture, enhance flavor and add protein. Brands can mark a food “gluten-free” when, well, it contains negligible to no gluten. Specifically, a food must contain fewer than 20 parts per million to be officially gluten-free.

But that’s not necessarily a reason to panic or ditch your beloved snack. Unless you have one of a handful of health issues, gluten itself is not harmful. In fact, the gluten in whole grains provides crucial nutrients, fiber and protein.

So what’s the rigmarole about gluten-free foods? It’s a long story, but it boils down to tragic events, then recognition of actual illnesses — and then to good old-fashioned marketing.

You may have sound reasons to go gluten-free. If you’re here with us, that means gluten-free beef jerky is a high priority (and rightly so). Let’s dig in deeper.

[Related: Beef Jerky Nutrition Guide]

Why Go Gluten-Free?

You might go gluten-free for your health if you have one of these disorders:

  • Celiac disease. An autoimmune disorder, celiac disease causes real physical harm. Gluten prompts the body to attack the small intestine, which then doesn’t absorb enough nutrients. Less than 1% of the global population suffers from celiac disease.
  • Gluten intolerance (aka non-celiac gluten sensitivity, NCGS). Gluten irritates the intestinal tract, but celiac disease isn’t a factor in NCGS.
  • Gluten ataxia. A rare autoimmune disorder, gluten ataxia causes the body to attack the brain when a person eats gluten. With gluten ataxia, the reaction causes problems such as trouble balancing, walking and speaking.
  • Wheat allergy. Like other allergies, wheat allergy causes a person’s immune system to react negatively to a substance (wheat). This includes all wheat products, not gluten alone.

Suffering from celiac disease is by far the soundest reason to stop eating gluten. If your doctor diagnoses you with celiac disease, going gluten-free vastly improves your health

But if you want to lose weight, no evidence suggests dropping gluten does the trick. If you simply want to live more healthily, following a balanced diet does far more good than nixing gluten.

Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t have one of the four conditions above, gluten shouldn’t hurt your health. So eating beef jerky, gluten-free or full of the stuff, is most likely just fine.

And if you suspect your body reacts negatively to gluten, see your doctor for testing. At the very least, it’ll ease your mind — and you won’t have to worry about finding gluten-free beef jerky!

[Related: Considering Beef Jerky for Weight Loss? Read This First]

Is Beef Jerky Gluten-Free?

Beef jerky may be meat instead of wheat, but most beef jerkies aren’t gluten-free. That’s because jerky marinades frequently include ingredients with gluten, like soy and teriyaki.

But fear not — if you need it, gluten-free beef jerky is by no means a struggle to find! 

Tip: Try checking paleo and Whole30 jerkies for the gluten-free mark. Health-centric brands often stamp out gluten alongside other ingredients.

[Related: Can Pregnant Women Eat Beef Jerky?]

Buying or Making Gluten-Free Beef Jerky

Because quitting gluten has become so popular, even major commercial brands carry gluten-free jerkies. Buying the best jerky should never be a challenge.

And you know we’ll give you the heads-up! These are some of our favorite gluten-free beef jerky brands (and they’re delectable, too):

Plus, you can curate your own beef jerky, gluten-free (and keto-friendly) ingredients and all. 

Oh, is beef jerky gluten-free? Your special recipe sure can be: Swap ingredients like soy sauce for gluten-free alternatives. For example, you can replace soy sauce with gluten-free Worcestershire sauce.

[Related: Is Beef Jerky Good for Diabetics?]

Explore the Jerky Universe

It’s fascinating to learn about beef jerky health benefits, and we’re all about eating smartly in the Jerky Universe. Do you have experience with gluten-free beef jerky? Tell us about it!

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