Is pizza gluten free and what about all the toppings and pieces that go onto a pizza? Can a Celiac eat at a pizzeria?
Pizza is not gluten free. Pizza dough uses wheat-based flour. People with Celiac Disease need to be careful when eating pizza at a restaurant that is not entirely gluten free. Pizza is traditionally cooked directly on a stone shared by all pizzas in the same oven and not in a separate pan.
Does this mean pizza is never safe to eat? What about pizza toppings? It can get a little complicated on this topic, but I’ve gathered some information to help you out.
Is Pizza Safe To Eat For A Celiac?
Pizza, as appears on a menu in a restaurant, is not safe to eat for someone who has Celiac Disease.
Pizza uses with wheat-based flour. Even thin-crust pizzas contain wheat. The flour content can be surprising considering how much better some gluten free flours behave when it comes to crunchy textures.
Many pizza restaurants have started to carry gluten free crusts, but some other items that top the pizza crust can be an issue and you should always ask about it.
Cheese is typically gluten free, especially the ones that pizza restaurants use. However, most restaurants will use shredded cheese, and there is a concern that some shredded cheese could be dusted with wheat flour to prevent sticking. Most brands have discontinued this practice.
Pepperoni and sausage are other ones that need caution. Pepperoni is a cured meat, but sometimes wheat flour is used as a binding agent to keep it together. Many sausages are gluten free, but some contain breadcrumbs to bind with the fat and hold it together as it cooks.
Pizza sauce may use wheat flour as a thickener. It is less common in tomato-based marinara sauces on most pizzas, but white sauce typically contains wheat flour.
Cauliflower pizza is one of those products that has combined two dietary restrictions into one. This product is usually for people following a keto diet as cauliflower is very low on carbs.
However, cauliflower does not contain a binder and needs other ingredients to stay together and form a pizza crust. A fathead crust has almond flour, mozzarella cheese, and eggs added. However, some others will contain wheat or oat.
When eating out at a restaurant and ordering a pizza, be sure to ask about these things. Make sure that the it is cook on a dedicated gluten free surface.
Is Cheese Gluten Free?
Cheese contains milk and enzymes. Some of these enzymes are grown on wheat, although most are gluten free.
The more considerable risk in cheese is when it comes shredded as most pizza restaurants get, it may have wheat flour to keep it from sticking together.
Thankfully this practice has been mostly discontinued, but it is still worth checking to make sure the brand they use does not use wheat.
Is Pepperoni Gluten Free?
If you are ordering a pizza made fresh at a restaurant, always check on the toppings that come with it. The servers may not think to check if each topping is gluten free before serving it. And the impression most people have of gluten free people is that they will sometimes eat gluten and sometimes they won’t. So they may not tell you.
Pepperoni is usually safe but not often enough to risk it without asking.
Sometimes the manufacturers will use wheat flour as a binder or coat the outside as the sausage ages.
Is Sausage Gluten Free?
Many ground sausage is gluten free.
However, this depends on the brand and the specific type of sausage that you are getting. Some links are traditionally made with breadcrumbs and would contain breadcrumbs even if not in a casing.
Rusk or breadcrumbs are common in sausage. Andouille, Bratwurst, and English sausages, including Blood Sausage, are the highest risk for gluten. It may be known as flour, breadcrumbs, or rusk.
Is Pizza Sauce Gluten Free?
Pizza sauce may be something most people would overlook and not consider when it comes to gluten. But there is a chance of gluten ingredients in the sauce.
Marinara sauce, the tomato-based sauce most commonly used for pizza, is typically gluten free. However, it can sometimes contain flour to thicken the sauce and make it less watery. That practice can also save money by using fewer tomatoes and other ingredients to make the sauce.
The more considerable risk is in the white sauce used on pizza. White sauce can be a cream sauce, sometimes Alfredo-style sauce, or other house sauce. White sauces typically contain gluten. You should make traditional Alfredo sauce with cheese to create the binding, but it is cheaper to use wheat-based flour to create this.
Is Cauliflower Pizza Gluten Free?
Cauliflower pizza is newer on the scene, but many restaurants are starting to carry them as an option that doubles up for both keto diet patrons and those on a gluten free diet.
Most people assume cauliflower pizza is always gluten free and may offer it as such. However, some of them contain wheat or oat flour as a binder. This is often is in the form of fiber rather than flour because fiber can be subtracted from the total carbs in a ketogenic diet to get net carbs.
However, some other cauliflower pizzas will use cheese, cream cheese, almond flour, and egg to add protein and bind all the parts of the crust together.
Are Gluten Free Pizzas Safe To Eat At Restaurants?
For the most part, no. If you have Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity with high sensitivity to gluten, most restaurants do not have safe practices.
Traditionally, pizza is cooked on a pizza stone for a short time to create the crunchy outer layer of pizza crust and melt the cheese quickly. The wheat flour used to make pizza crusts is left on this pizza stone and transferred to the previously gluten free pizza if cooked on the same pizza stone.
If they use a pizza oven instead of a pizza stone, it is typically a convection oven. What these ovens do is move the air around to have the contents cooked evenly. Unfortunately, this means the ovens circulate gluten.
So even if the ovens are used strictly for gluten free some days of the week but used for gluten other days, it has rendered it unsafe for anyone with sensitivity.
Most pizzerias will not have a separate area to prepare the gluten free pizza and make their pizza dough. Flour is in the air where most gluten free pizzas are prepared. And pizzas call for flour that is high in gluten to encourage that stretch of the dough.
What Do I Need To Ask For To Make Sure A Pizza Is Gluten Free?
Despite the number of risks, some restaurants have gone above and beyond to make gluten-free patrons possible to enjoy their restaurant. Some restaurants do take precautions and have created an environment that may be safe for Celiacs, although there are risks involved when eating anywhere that is not strictly gluten free.
Ask about their pizza crusts. Do they make their own, do they get them frozen, and what brand are they? Most will get the gluten free crusts frozen. You can search online for the manufacturer to see what they say about being gluten free.
Ask about the preparation of the pizza. Are gluten free and regular pizzas prepared on the same surface?Where is the flour mixed for the gluten dough? Are gluten free pizzas prepared in the same room? Are the toppings shared between both types of pizza, or is there a separate supply?
Ask about the sauces, cheese, and toppings you are interested in to make sure they are gluten free as well. Use the above as a guide for questions to ask. You can tell them that you are willing to read ingredient lists to make it easier for them. Sometimes the cashier or server doesn’t know what ingredients to spot.
Ask about the preparation of gluten free pizzas. Are they done in the same oven? On the same pizza stone?
Be prepared to decline to go or order. I have found a couple of restaurants that understand how important it is, but most do not. I have found it best always to have the default answer be to leave if there are questions.