Gluten Free Vegetables
Gluten free vegetables are an important part of your diet if you have celiac disease.
- But what is a vegetable and what is a grain?
- Which are gluten free and which aren't?
This page will help answer questions such as these, along with.
It is safest to buy vegetables in their natural state i.e. raw, uncooked, and unpeeled. If you buy them ready prepared it does save time, but you run the risk of contamination.
I can tell you from experience that is is frustrating to go to make a stir fry for supper and then see a note on the packet to say the vegetables were not prepared in a gluten free environment! At least everyone else enjoyed their meal, even if I had to go without.
Also beware vegetables coated in sauces, as wheat flour may have been used to thicken the sauce.
What is a vegetable?
When I tell people I am on a gluten free diet I often get asked...
- Does that mean you can't eat potatoes?
- What about corn or maize?
- What do you class as a vegetable, and what is a grain?
So let's start by looking at the dictionary definition of a vegetable.
1. Any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves or flowers are used as food.
2. The edible part of such a plant
Roots and tubers tend to be grouped together, and known as root vegetables. These include...
- sweet potatoes
- beets (beetroot)
- Jerusalem artichokes
Most of the items in the list above could also be labelled as starchy vegetables, which is perhaps where new celiacs get muddled up. After all, floury things are starchy, and flour contains gluten, so maybe potatoes contain gluten?
This is not the case. All the gluten free vegetables in the list above are safe for us to eat on our diet, although you may want to limit them if you are counting the carbs either for purposes of weight loss or if you also have diabetes.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are perhaps the most well known. These include...
- bok choy
- collard greens
There is much less confusion here. Again the list above only contains gluten free vegetables.
Now this is where things do get tricky. For example a grain of wheat is a seed, and the definition further up this page said that a seed is an edible part of a plant, and therefore a vegetable!
However, you know from reading the page about foods containing gluten, that wheat along with rye and barley, are not allowed on a gluten free diet. Which could lead you to deduce that not all vegetables are gluten free. In fact it is how we use the seeds that defines whether we think of them as a vegetable or a grain crop.
Let's take corn (maize) for example.
In the USA, where corn is grown in abundance, the grains are normally ground down into flour or cornmeal. Whereas, here in the UK we would recognize the bright yellow kernels as sweetcorn, and we would eat them as a vegetable. In both cases, of course, the seed itself is gluten free, however we classify it.
Just to complicate matters further, cornflour in the UK is gluten free, but the same product is known as cornstarch in the US and can be mixed with gluten containing ingredients so is off limits.
Peas and Beans
Other foodstuffs that are technically seeds, are peas and beans, or legumes as they are known collectively.
Legumes can serve a double purpose for a celiac sufferer. As well as being cooked and served as gluten free vegetables, they can also be dried and ground into safe flour substitutes.
This group includes...
- garden peas
- mange tout
- fava (broad beans)
- green (runner) beans
- french beans
A bud is a swelling on a plant stem that consists of overlapping immature leaves or petals.
You might have thought a brussels sprout was a leafy green vegetable, but actually it is a bud. The edible buds are all types of gluten free vegetables. Now hands up, did you just go "yum" or "yuck" at the thought of brussels sprouts? They seem to be a love it or hate it veggie. Personally I love them, while my husband hates them with a vengeance!
The following are actually buds...
You could be excused for thinking of bulbs as belonging to the root vegetable category. However, they are actually a modified bud, consisting of a thickened underground stem.
They are gluten free when cooked as they are (or eaten raw), but I am afraid deep fried onion rings are off the menu, unless you use a gluten free flour.
Care should be taken with pickled onions as they are likely to have used malt vinegar in the pickling process.
The most common bulbs we eat are...
Stems and stem shoots
A stem doesn't really need much explanation, does it? Basically it is a stalk that supports the plant or leaves, and in the case of the list below, it can be eaten as a safe vegetable (even if you might think of one of them as being a fruit).
- chinese celery
Fruit or vegetable?
Not all fruit is sweet and eaten raw! A fruit is a ripened reproductive part of a plant and as such is a vegetable. People often argue as to whether a tomato is a vegetable or a fruit, it actually belongs with other fruits such as...
- zucchini (courgettes)
- eggplant (aubergine)
- butternut squash
Cooking gluten free vegetables
In most cases it is the cooking method that determines whether the vegetables served on your plate can be eaten on the gluten free diet or not.
The following methods are fine - boiling, stewing, roasting, frying and grilling - as long as you do not dip them in wheat flour first.
If the vegetables are served in a thickened sauce or soup then a gluten free thickener must be used.
If you still have any questions about gluten free vegetables please feel free to contact me, use the forum or the Facebook commenting feature below.