Is Vodka Sauce Okay for Gluten-free Diets?

By Emily Jarvis

Gluten-free diets have become more common in recent years due to the rise in awareness about celiac disease. A gluten-free diet prohibits foods with the protein gluten, including wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is often included in foods as an additive for thickening, even if the food is not a traditional wheat product, like bread or pasta. It is vital to always read labels, but most prepared vodka sauces do not contain gluten.

Vodka sauce blends cream and vodka with tomato sauce for a hearty, gluten-free dish.

Vodka Sauce Ingredients

Vodka sauce is simply a marinara, or tomato, sauce blended with cream and vodka. A typical recipe for vodka sauce includes 4 cups of prepared marinara, 1 cup of vodka and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, plus grated Parmesan cheese for thickening, per 1 lb. of pasta. It is always wise to inspect the label of your marinara sauce, but it should include little more than tomatoes and seasoning. With Parmesan cheese to thicken it, vodka sauce is safe for gluten-free diets.

Prepared Vodka Sauces

Most national brands of prepared pasta sauces offer a gluten-free vodka sauce, including Bertolli, Classico, Emeril's and Rao's Homemade. Newman's Own contains nonfat dried milk, which is gluten-free in its own right, but there is a risk of cross-contamination in the factory. Its presence in the sauce is miniscule, but may still cause a reaction.

Pitfall: Pasta

Although vodka sauce is safe for gluten-free diets, the pasta over which it is served is not. The semolina or wheat flour used to make pasta is highly glutenous. Look for a pasta product labeled "gluten-free," or use an alternative like rice, quinoa, polenta or spaghetti squash.

More on Gluten-free Diets

Gluten hides in many foods that do not appear to be wheat or grain products. People with celiac disease and those who avoid gluten for other health reasons should avoid foods that contain the following: barley, bulgur, durham, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo meal, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale and wheat. Other possible contaminants from the factory are not listed in the ingredients, but should appear under the label "allergens." Reading labels is the best measure for avoiding hidden gluten.