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Does Chocolate Contain Gluten?

Nowadays a gluten-free diet is far more than a mere trend. The number of people suffering from severe gluten intolerance (like those with celiac disease) is fortunately relatively small. But more and more people are trying to eliminate gluten from their diet completely. So, it’s not surprising that the following question arises ever more often: is there gluten in chocolate?

Gluten-free chocolate?

The answer to that question is not that simple. The reason is because not all chocolates are the same, and not all chocolates are made the same way. The basis of chocolate, roasted cocoa beans, does not contain gluten. So you can taste it without fear when you come to the Chocolate Museum Zagreb. . But the chocolate you eat as an end product rarely contains 100% cacao. And herein lies the “danger” of gluten. Premium dark chocolate by definition has only three to four ingredients: cacao solids, cacao butter, sugar and usualy an emulsifier (which, if chocolate contains it, makes up only 0.5% of the share). Pure dark chocolate therefore does not contain gluten. High quality milk chocolate (and the same goes for ruby chocolate), in addition to the ingredients that go into dark chocolate, contains only one more: milk powder. So both milk and ruby chocolate per definition are also gluten free products. White chocolate, as the fourth in the bunch, has a composition alike milk and ruby. Except it does not contain cacao solids. Which means quality white chocolate is also gluten free.

Two things to look out for when choosing gluten-free chocolate!

And now we come to the big “but”. More precisely, two “buts”. First are the inclusions and infusions that are added to chocolates to get special creations. Like cookies and various other “crispy” or delicious toppings. Some truly top-quality chocolates, such as the internationally awarded gourmet chocolate “Dark 62% Chocolate with a Mixture of Spices and Crunchy Biscuit” (bronze winner at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2020) of the Croatian chocolatier Taman Artisan Chocolatesa, or „Lebkuchen“ chocolate (with gingerbread) from the “Handgeschöpft” series of the globally recognized Austrian chocolatier Zottera contain gluten. While some other bars, such as the fabulous Vegan White Oatmeal porridge winner of European Silver at the International Chocolate Awards 2020 International Chocolate Awards 2020) by the Norwegian manufacturer Fjaak Sjokolade do not contain gluten, despite what the ingredients might suggest. The second “but” is related to the production process. Regardless of the size of the chocolate producers factory or manufacture, there is rarely only one type of chocolate being produced in one location and on the same machines. Thus, it is not excluded that there may be “contamination” of gluten-free chocolates with ingredients that were previously used in the production of another batch of chocolates. It is the same reason why many chocolates have the indication “may contain traces of nuts”.

I am gluten intolerant, can I eat chocolate?

To conclude: pure chocolate does not contain gluten. The risk comes only in some special variants. It is therefore advisable to stick to chocolate makers and chocolatiers you trust and read the nutrition labelling. Serious manufacturers will tell you if the chocolate is gluten-free. Or warn you if there is any doubt. And if the list of ingredients is so long that you get lost in it and if it includes vegetable fats and other additives that have no place in chocolate, then it may be better to skip that product altogether. Gluten-free or not.  

Domagoj I. Cerovac, 08.10.2021

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