Most traditional Mexican foods are gluten-free, especially if you prepare them from scratch. In fact, the only items containing gluten that are widely used in Mexican cooking are flour tortillas. In addition, if you buy prepared or processed Mexican foods, check the labels carefully to make sure they don’t contain wheat-based preservatives and flavorings such as lecithin, dextrin or hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
Corn products, widely used in Mexican food, do not contain gluten. Mexican corn products include corn tortillas, tortilla chips, masa harina (used in tamale dough) and hominy. Although corn is a grain, it lacks the sticky protein known as gluten contained in other grains, such as wheat and barley. Its lack of gluten makes it inadequate for making yeasted breads, unless it is used in conjunction with wheat flour. Corn is, however, versatile and useful for other purposes, including in soups, stews and salsas.
Beans, the staple plant-based protein of traditional Mexican cuisine, contain no gluten. Black beans and pinto beans are most commonly used in Mexican dishes. Because canned foods often contain preservatives, which may contain gluten, it is best to prepare beans from scratch. Start with dried beans and soak them overnight in enough water to cover them. Change the water, then bring the beans to a boil, lower the heat and cook them uncovered for an hour or two, until they are tender.
Salsa is the primary condiment used in Mexican food. It is gluten-free, unless you buy a commercial, packaged salsa that contains a preservative that has gluten. Check the ingredients on salsa labels and ideally buy a variety that only contains foods whose names you recognize, such as tomatoes, chilies and vinegar. To make gluten-free salsa from scratch, roast chilies and tomatoes in a 450-degree-Fahrenheit oven until they are very soft but not blackened. Remove the stems and purée the roasted tomatoes and chilies along with cilantro, vinegar and salt.
References and ResourcesNo Recipes: How to Make Tortillas
Canadian Celiac Organization: The Gluten-Free Diet