How to Plan the Perfect Gluten-Free Barbecue


Planning a gluten-free barbecue can be tricky. Barbecues are a fun way to connect with people over food and beautiful weather. However, if you have celiac disease or another gluten-related disorder, attending or hosting barbecues can sound scary!

Fear not, we’ve got you covered with this guide on how to plan the perfect gluten-free barbecue!

Not All Barbecue Food is Gluten-Free

Let’s get the elephant out of the room, not all barbecue food is gluten-free. As always, before buying any food for a barbecue, always check the food label for gluten.

Some popular barbecue foods that may contain gluten include:

  • Dips – storebought dips can often contain gluten so be careful of wheat starch, barley extract, and other sources of gluten that may be listed in the ingredients. If dips are being served, make sure cross-contact can’t occur by only offering gluten-free foods to dip in the dip.
  • Sauces and dressings – not all sauces or dressings, including barbecue sauces, are gluten-free. Be careful of yeast extract, barley malt, soy sauce, and other potential gluten-containing ingredients potentially added to these.
  • Seasonings – some seasonings may contain gluten, so always check. Some examples of potentially unsafe ingredients include yeast extract, barley malt, wheat starch, and more.
  • Meats like hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. – watch out for barley malt, barley extract, soy sauce, beer, or other sources of gluten potentially added to meats for flavor. If eating meats at someone else’s house, always make sure any marinades used were gluten-free and no gluten was added. (Soy sauce is often used in marinades, and some people add bread crumbs or unsafe oats to homemade hamburger patties).
  • Alcohol – remember, gluten-removed beer is not safe for people with celiac. Make sure you’re only enjoying gluten-free alcohol. This means making sure you’re drinking gluten-free beers, seltzers, hard ciders, and distilled alcohols

These are just some of the common ways gluten could show up in the barbecue food you buy. If you’re looking to make your life easier when checking for gluten in all of these foods, don’t forget that the Spoonful app can help!

Gluten-Free Barbecue Seasonings to Try

Now that we’ve briefly covered some of the ways gluten can show up when buying food to serve at your barbecue, let’s talk gluten-free barbecue seasonings! As mentioned above, seasonings can contain gluten in the form of yeast extract, barley malt, wheat starch, and more. Luckily, there are some delicious gluten-free barbecue seasonings you can buy!

For example, many of the McCormick Grill Mate seasonings are gluten-free. With a big gluten-free claim featured on the front to help you easily identify which ones are safe! The top-rated Grill Mates Seasonings on our app is the McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning, Hamburger Seasoning, and Smokehouse Maple Seasoning.

Gluten-Free Barbecue Sauces

When it comes to gluten-free barbecue sauces, you have a lot of options. Again, not all barbecue sauces will be gluten-free. This means if you’re buying barbecue sauce, you want to make sure you’re checking the ingredients for potential sources of gluten like brown rice syrup, yeast extract, barley malt, and soy sauce.

Luckily, a lot of popular barbecue sauces are gluten-free so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in the store. For example, most Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue sauces are gluten-free and are marked as such! Stubb’s is another brand that sells many gluten-free barbecue sauces too.

If you want to go the homemade route, there are many barbecue sauce recipes out there to try! Most of them are pretty simple, requiring a tomato base, an acid, a sweetener, and seasonings. Here’s a simple gluten-free BBQ sauce you can try to make yourself!

Gluten-Free Barbecue Sides

Now that we’ve got potential sources of gluten and sauces out of the way, let’s dive into what gluten-free barbecue sides to serve or bring to your next barbecue!

First up are salads. Salads are a great side to prepare for gluten-free barbecues because they can easily be made gluten-free and complements the heavy meat entrees that tend to be served well. Consider making a gluten-free pasta salad with chopped veggies and bean pasta to boost protein and fiber in the dish. Alternatively, go the traditional salad route and bring a bowl featuring your favorite greens, veggies, and gluten-free dressing.

Deviled eggs are another great gluten-free side to serve at barbecues. Just make sure the mustard you are serving is gluten-free, as very rarely, some mustards like Inglehoffer Honey Mustard, can contain gluten. Of course, if you’re using Spoonful to scan ingredients for gluten, this is something that would be easily caught. Here’s a simple gluten-free deviled egg recipe to try!

Next, another great gluten-free barbecue side dish to serve would be any dip! Serving dips at barbecues is an easy way to satisfy your guests. Think hummus with vegetables, potato chips, and french onion dip, or gluten-free corn chips and salsa. If you’re going the homemade route, make sure all the ingredients you use are gluten-free. And if you’re choosing to buy the dips to save some time, make sure you’re checking for added gluten.

Lastly, it’s not a barbecue if you don’t serve any fruit. During the warm months of barbecue season, make sure you’re serving up fresh melon, pineapple, berries, and other popular favorites.

Avoiding Cross-Contact if it’s a Potluck Style BBQ

Now let’s talk cross-contact at potluck or buffet-style potlucks. If the barbecue you’re attending or hosting is not 100% gluten-free, you’ll want to make sure you’re managing cross-contact. 

Cross-contact with celiac is when gluten-free food comes into contact with gluten and no longer is gluten-free anymore. Everyone with celiac needs to worry about cross-contact but if you have gluten intolerance, your needs may vary. Here are some tips for managing cross-contact in this setting:

If it’s buffet style, make sure the gluten-free food is at the start of the buffet or even better, on another table. Additionally, make sure all gluten-free guests go through the buffet first OR reserve a large serving and set it to the side for gluten-free guests to access.

If it’s a potluck-style barbecue, notify guests when inviting them, that they should bring a list of the ingredients for their dish. If you’re gluten intolerant, this may be enough to keep you safe. If you have celiac, you may want to bring your own meal and opt out of the potluck completely as you can’t be sure if the food was prepared without cross-contact.

Have a Safe Barbecue!

All of that said, it’s totally possible to have a safe gluten-free barbecue or enjoy a barbecue while gluten-free. When avoiding gluten while barbecuing, make sure you’re checking the gluten-free status of foods during preparation and eating. If you have celiac disease, definitely make sure you’re avoiding cross-contact as well.

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