Tortilla chips are snack foods made from tortillas, which are thin and unleavened flatbreads usually made from corn or wheat flour.
Some tortilla chips may contain gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Gluten helps breads and other baked goods stick together.
However, in certain people, including those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or wheat allergy, eating gluten can cause symptoms ranging from headaches and bloating to more serious complications like intestinal damage.
Although some tortilla chips are made from gluten-free ingredients, many people wonder if all tortilla chips are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
This article examines whether tortilla chips contain gluten and how to be sure.
Most tortilla chips are gluten-free
Tortilla chips are most often made from 100% ground corn, which is naturally gluten-free. They may be made from white, yellow, or blue varieties of corn.
Nonetheless, some brands may contain a mix of both corn and wheat flour, meaning they are not gluten-free.
Gluten-free tortilla chips can also be made using other grains and legumes, such as chickpeas, cassava, amaranth, teff, lentils, coconut, or sweet potatoes.
Summary: Most tortilla chips are made from 100% corn, which doesn’t contain gluten. However, some corn tortilla chips may also contain wheat flour, in which case, they’re not gluten-free.
Certain tortilla chips contain gluten
Tortilla chips contain gluten if they are made out of wheat, rye, barley, triticale, or wheat-based grains, such as:
- wheat berries
- Kamut (khorasan wheat)
- einkorn wheat
- wheat berries
Multigrain tortilla chips may contain both gluten-containing and gluten-free grains, making reading ingredient labels essential for those who can’t tolerate gluten.
What’s more, some people with celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten sensitivity may be affected by tortilla chips that contain oats.
Oats are gluten-free, but they’re often grown near wheat crops or processed in facilities that also handle gluten-containing grains, which poses a risk of cross-contamination.
Summary: Tortilla chips contain gluten if they are made with wheat, barley, rye, triticale, or grains made from wheat. Tortilla chips that contain oats may also be problematic for some people who can’t tolerate gluten due to cross-contamination risk.
How to ensure your tortilla chips are gluten-free
The first step in determining whether tortilla chips contain gluten is to check the ingredient label for gluten or gluten-containing grains.
It’s best to look for tortilla chips that are made from 100% corn or another gluten-free grain like rice, chickpea flour, sweet potatoes, teff, or quinoa.
Some tortilla chips may say “gluten-free” on their packaging, but this doesn’t guarantee there’s no gluten in the product. Cross-contamination is still a concern.
According to the Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-free labeling regulations, products that claim to be gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
Furthermore, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires manufacturers to declare the presence of common food allergens on product labels.
Wheat is considered a major food allergen and must be listed on products for this reason. However, wheat isn’t the only gluten-containing grain, and a “wheat-free” product isn’t necessarily gluten-free.
You can also contact the product manufacturer to ask questions related to ingredients, food processing, and gluten contamination.
Suggested read: Do vegans eat gluten?
Look for third-party certification to be sure
To be certain that tortilla chips and other products are gluten-free, look for a third-party seal on the packaging that states it’s gluten-free.
Third-party certification means that the product has been independently tested in a laboratory and meets the requirements to be labeled as gluten-free. Third-party testing is conducted by parties that don’t have a financial interest in the company or product.
There are several third-party gluten-free labels to look for when choosing tortilla chips.
NSF International’s gluten-free certification verifies that products don’t contain more than 20 ppm of gluten. Meanwhile, the Gluten Intolerance Group’s certified gluten-free label goes further and requires that products don’t contain more than 10 ppm.
Summary: Check the ingredient label and allergen listing on tortilla chips to determine whether they’re gluten-free. It’s best to look for tortilla chips that have been certified gluten-free by a third party.
How to make your own gluten-free tortilla chips
You can easily make your own gluten-free tortilla chips by following these steps:
- Cut 100% corn tortillas into triangles.
- Drizzle them with a tablespoon of olive oil and mix.
- Spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake at 350°F (176°C) for 5–6 minutes.
- Flip the tortillas, sprinkle them with salt, and bake for another 6–8 minutes until they begin to brown.
- Remove them from the oven to cool.
Summary: Making your own gluten-free tortilla chips at home is a simple way to ensure that your chips are 100% gluten-free.
Most traditional tortilla chips are made with corn, which is gluten-free. However, some tortilla chips are made using wheat or other gluten-containing grains.
If you are following a gluten-free diet, check the product packaging for gluten-free claims, gluten-containing ingredients, and allergen listings.
Suggested read: What is gluten? Common foods, conditions, and more
The best way to ensure your tortilla chips don’t contain gluten is to buy a brand that is certified gluten-free by a third party.