Sprinkles are a staple in any baker's kitchen. They add a touch of color and whimsy to cookies and cupcakes. But are sprinkles gluten-free? This article will take a look at the most common sprinkle ingredients, dig into the most popular brands, and determine which brands are gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Candy sprinkles are small pieces of decorative confectionary that come in many forms, from jimmies to nonpareils, confetti to stars. They come in every color too, including rainbow mixes and chocolate varieties. They are often used in recipes for gluten-free sugar cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, donuts, gluten-free birthday cake granola, and many other sweet treats, like this gluten-free Christmas Chex mix!
If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, by now you know all too well that you need to look for gluten on the labels of every thing you eat, no matter how small, to determine its safety. Sprinkles are no exception, so let's dive in to a world of gluten-free sprinkles!
Ingredients In Sprinkles
All sprinkles generally consist of similar ingredients which include but are not limited to:
- Vegetable oil
- Food coloring
- Natural and artificial flavors
- Confectioner's glaze
- Carnauba wax
- Emulsifiers and/or thickeners such as dextrin or soy lecithin
- Cocoa powder (in chocolate sprinkles)
How Are Sprinkles Made
A dough is formed from a mixture of water, powdered sugar, shortening, and food coloring. The dough is then sent through an extruder to form long narrow strands. At this point it looks like colorful angel hair pasta. The strands are then dried and broken into smaller pieces. The sprinkles are sprayed with confectioner's glaze and carnauba wax to add shine and help them retain their color.
What To Look Out For
Generally speaking, most sprinkles do not contain wheat flour or other gluten ingredients. Whether or not they are considered a gluten-free food is another story. It all depends on the manufacturer.
- Some manufacturers readily label their sprinkles as gluten-free.
- Other manufacturers state that while there are no gluten ingredients, there is a potential for cross-contamination (actually, cross-contact) during production since the sprinkles are made on shared manufacturing lines with other products.
- Then there are manufacturers that provide little to no information at all since the gluten-free label and 'may contain' allergen statements are voluntary.
All of this makes shopping for sprinkles a little difficult. Unless you've done your research beforehand, it may be hard to tell solely based on the packaging if you can trust a certain product unless it explicitly states gluten-free on the label.
Best Gluten-Free Sprinkles Brands
Since most of us with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity do our best to avoid gluten at all costs, the safest choices are sprinkles that are labeled gluten-free from manufacturers who are validating these claims. This is because, as you'll see in the next section, most of the manufacturers not labeling their products gluten-free are also stating there is a risk for cross-contact because the sprinkles are made on shared equipment.
If the package has a gluten-free label, it is likely safe to assume that the sprinkles are made with gluten free ingredients, contain less than 20ppm gluten, and are safe for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
While this does limit your options, there is still a great selection of gluten-free sprinkles from the brands listed here. These sprinkles were labeled gluten-free at the time of posting. Please double-check all labels when purchasing as things can change.
- Betty Crocker - most sprinkles are labeled gluten-free.
- Cake Mate - all sprinkles are made without gluten.
- Chef's Select - rainbow sprinkles.
- Color Kitchen - has rainbow and nonpareil gluten-free sprinkles. Also, vegan and artificial dye free.
- Kate's Safe and Sweet - all sprinkles are gluten-free. Also, vegan and top 8 allergen free, made with all natural vegetable colorants.
- Pillsbury Funfetti Sprinkles - on frosting containers labeled gluten-free.
- Supernatural - has many varieties labeled gluten-free, also available on amazon. Also vegan and soy free.
- Sweetapolita - also has quite a few varieties labeled gluten-free.
- Sweets Indeed - All sprinkles and edible glitter are gluten-free.
- Watkins - sprinkles are labeled gluten-free.
Gluten Information From Popular Sprinkles Brands
Here is a deep-dive into what the most popular brands have to say about the gluten content of their sprinkles and their manufacturing processes. If there is another brand you would like more information on, leave it in the comments.
- Betty Crocker: Many of the Betty Crocker sprinkles are labeled gluten-free, although specific information about validation or manufacturing was hard to find.
- Cake Mate: Cake Mate attests that none of their products contain wheat or gluten, including decorating sprinkles, sugar shapes, sugar crystals, and nonpareils. They also state that any products with even a slight risk of cross contamination will be declared and clearly marked in the “Ingredients” portion of the product label.
- Cake Craft: Does not list any information on their website about gluten or manufacturing.
- Chef's select: These sprinkles are available on amazon and are labeled gluten-free, but no other information could be found about this brand.
- Color Kitchen: Sprinkles are manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat. They utilize third-party lab testing for gluten to ensure the products meet gluten-free certification standards.
- Dairy Queen: Wheat is not listed as an allergen or as 'may contain wheat', but cross-contact is likely in the store.
- Fancy Sprinkles: All sprinkles are gluten-free (except for the metallic decorations line), but not certified gluten-free. The sprinkles are produced in a facility that also manufactures products with gluten so there is always a risk of cross contamination.
- Hobby Lobby - Sunny Side Up Bakery: Hobby Lobby has several varieties, including rainbow nonpareils and sanding sugar, that are labeled gluten-free. Not all sprinkles are labeled gluten-free, so check labels on a case by case basis. No information about sourcing, manufacturing, or gluten-free labeling could be found.
- India Tree: India tree states that their sprinkles do not contain gluten from wheat, barley, rye, oats, or any other crossbred hybrid, but it is impossible to determine whether any cross contamination has occurred. They claim to verifiy with their suppliers that gluten-containing grains are not present in any of the ingredients utilized in their manufacturing process but they do not label products as gluten-free.
- Kate's Safe and Sweet: All products are both wheat free and gluten free. Products are made without wheat or any other source of gluten, such as barley, rye, or oats. There is no wheat or gluten ingredients in the production facilities.
- Mr. Sprinkles: Although there is no gluten used to manufacture Mr. Sprinkles products, they are packaged in a facility that processes wheat. For this reason, they do not claim Mr. Sprinkles to be gluten-free, only that no ingredients in the product contain gluten.
- Nuts.com: Their sprinkles are packaged in a facility with wheat.
- Pillsbury: Many of the funfetti frostings are packaged with sprinkles and are labeled gluten-free. Please read labels though, as they do sell some funfetti frostings, such as the Oreo variety, that are not gluten-free.
- Supernatural: Many of their products are labeled gluten-free, although they may be made in a shared facility.
- Sweetapolita: The sprinkles they deem gluten-free are suitable for those with celiac disease, as they contain no wheat, and trace amounts are notably less than 20 parts per million (PPM).
- Sweets and Treats: The sprinkles are gluten free (minus the crispies line), but are not certified gluten free. While there is a list of ingredients on each package, products are produced on shared lines, so there is a possibility of cross contact.
- Watkins: Most Watkins products are free of glutenous grains, therefore are naturally gluten-free. Decorating sprinkles and decorating sugars are listed as gluten-free. Also, Watkins is committed to producing safe, high quality products. They follow rigorous cleaning routines designed to eliminate the risk of cross contamination.
- Williams Sonoma: Not much information available but likely prepared and packaged using machines that may come in contact with wheat/gluten. Some products have this claim, while others have no information at all.
- Wilton: Does not label any product gluten-free. Wilton labels for the top 8 allergens and notes all allergen-related information on product packaging, including whether allergens are present in the product, on shared equipment or in the manufacturing plant. If an allergen is not mentioned on the label, it is not in the facility. Wilton carefully labels for wheat in products and any potential cross-contamination with wheat, but they do not label any product as gluten free. In addition, some of their manufacturing facilities may produce other items that do contain gluten and there is always a risk of cross contamination when wheat is present in the manufacturing facility. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, allergen plans and protocols are in place at all facilities where Wilton products are manufactured.
Grocery Store Brands:
As is usually the case with grocery store brands, it was much harder to find any information about their products. It is likely safe to assume that these products are made on shared lines or in shared facilities.
- Kroger: Kroger lists on their website that the rainbow sprinkles are free from wheat and its derivatives, although they are not explicitly labeled gluten-free. None of the other sprinkles have this same claim, even though they do not contain gluten ingredients.
- Simple Truth: The sprinkles do not contain gluten ingredients but no other information could be found about the products.
- Target - Favorite Day, Wonder Shop: No gluten ingredients, some varieties state may contain wheat or processed in a facility with wheat. No other information was available.
- Walmart - Great Value: No gluten ingredients. No other information available.
- Whole Foods: Does not list information about gluten on their sprinkles.
Yes, someone with celiac disease can safely consume sprinkles. Most sprinkles do not contain gluten ingredients but could potentially come in contact with gluten during manufacturing, so it is best to look for sprinkles with a gluten-free claim on the label.
Generally speaking, sprinkles do not contain gluten ingredients but could come in contact with gluten during manufacturing. Always check labels.
To date, there are no manufacturers utilizing third party gluten-free certification from one of the major organizations, GFCO, BRCGS, or NSF. Each individual manufacturer is using their own protocols to validate gluten-free claims.
The Bottom Line
While most sprinkles are made without gluten-ingredients, due to potential cross-contact during manufacturing, it is best to seek out sprinkles labeled gluten-free. These sprinkles should be validated gluten-free and are therefore safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Gluten-free sprinkles are safe to use in all of your gluten-free recipes.
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is the personal opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. This is not medical or nutritional advice. Please consult a doctor or medical professional before making changes to your diet or regarding any health related decisions. Ingredient information was accurate at the time of posting but should always be verified by the consumer by checking the product ingredient label for the most up to date information.