Are Doritos gluten-free? When you’re living gluten-free in the USA, food labels can feel confusing. Not to mention gluten-free online forums can leave you even more confused when you ask about the gluten-free status of products.
As a celiac dietitian who’s had celiac for over 10 years, I’m going to cut through the confusion of the internet and break down if Doritos are gluten-free for you.
But first, were you ever taught how to identify gluten properly on a food label? If not, sign up for my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I show you EXACTLY what you need to look for on a food label to stay celiac-safe in the USA. Stop stressing over grocery shopping in just 4-simple steps with this FREE training!
Before we can know if Doritos are gluten-free, we need to know what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, contaminated oats, and wheat. It may be helpful to remember the acronym “BROW” when trying to remember what foods have gluten.
In baked goods, gluten holds things together working as a binding agent. It gives texture and chew to foods.
Most people can safely eat gluten. However, some people have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease which means they need to avoid gluten. It can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and nausea as well as nonintestinal symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or joint pain.
Before we can know if Doritos are gluten-free, we need to know what they are. Per Wikipedia, Doritos is an American brand of flavored tortilla chips produced since 1964 by Frito-Lay, a wholly owned subsidiary of PepsiCo.
Which speaking of PepsiCo, want to know if more of their products are gluten-free? Check out my post on if Gatorade, a brand owned by Pepsico is gluten-free.
They are classically known as a cheesy tortilla chip that is finger-licking good. Personally, I used to LOVE the Nacho Cheese Doritos as a kid.
So are Doritos gluten-free? Tortilla chips aren’t always gluten-free as they can be flavored with gluten-containing ingredients or made with wheat flour. However, in the case of Doritos flavored tortilla chips, they are made with just corn.
That said, many Doritos contain maltodextrin, an ingredient that was once widely thought to hide gluten. However, maltodextrin is always gluten-free (despite the online rumors), read more about that here.
There are also other ingredients that people might find potentially risky on the Doritos ingredient list but luckily, we don’t have to worry because Frito Lay has an entire list of products that don’t contain gluten ingredients on their website. Find it here. On that list the following Dorito products are considered to be made without gluten:
Please note that ingredients and manufacturing are subject to change so just because I have this list does not mean you don’t have to check the label of your products to make sure they are gluten-free EVERY time.
Now the caveat here is that these chips are not made with gluten-containing ingredients however, they are at risk for cross-contact. That said, generally, cross-contact risk in food manufacturing is low, but does that mean these chips are safe for people with celiac?
Before we get into the celiac-safety of the gluten-free Doritos flavors, it’s important to know that not all Doritos are gluten-free. For example, the Doritos Spicy Sweet Chilli tortilla chips contain gluten.
If you read the ingredients you’ll find: Corn, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, and/or Sunflower Oil), Salt, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate, Fructose, Sodium Diacetate, Soy Sauce (Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Onion Powder, Maltodextrin (Made from Corn), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Garlic Powder, Torula Yeast, Malic Acid, Extractives of Paprika, Spices, Caramel Color, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Dextrose, and Natural Flavor.
The bag will also say “contains wheat” which is from the soy sauce, so it should be avoided. This is why understanding and reading food labels is so important.
So the Doritos chips listed here by Frito Lay do not contain gluten but they could come into cross-contact with gluten, does this mean they aren’t safe for people with celiac?
As I mentioned before, cross-contact risk in food manufacturing plants is pretty low, and this is for a lot of reasons. This includes the manufacturing of most foods. But not only that but we have research to show that when food items appear to be gluten-free based on the ingredients, they generally are. If you’re shocked by this, definitely check out my FREE USA Food Label-Reading Class where I break this down in detail.
But to summarize: in research done on products that appeared to be gluten-free solely based on the ingredients, they found that over 95% of all products met the FDA definition of gluten-free. And the <5% that didn’t meet the FDA definition contained higher risk ingredients like oats. Again, if you want to learn more about that study and why gluten-free claims aren’t always necessary, check out my TOTALLY free USA Food Label-Reading Class.
So because of all that, I would totally deem Doritos as gluten-free and generally safe for people with celiac. That said, most flavors of Doritos do contain dairy and lactose, which might take them off the table for those with lactose intolerance and celiac disease. And there are many other factors that might make someone with celiac sick here. Speaking of getting sick…
Most Doritos flavors are gluten-free but what if they made you sick one time? Or what if your dietitian said to avoid them?
If Doritos made you sick, I’m holding so much space for you. First, please remember that it’s important to be kind and care for yourself when you’ve been glutened. Check out this blog post for resources on managing getting glutened.
And when you feel unwell from food, it can be easy to immediately point the finger at gluten and it’s also important to consider other causes – especially if you’re getting sick from food that is gluten-free a lot.
With celiac disease, there’s a lot that can cause GI symptoms, especially if you’re still healing, that don’t include gluten. Which is also why it’s so important to understand what is and isn’t safe, so if you notice a pattern of foods that should be safe making you sick, you can work with a dietitian to figure out what else is going.
And here’s the thing, none of my content should EVER substitute investing in celiac safety training and care from a dietitian. If your celiac-specialized dietitian told you to do something different, discuss any changes with them as they are more aware of your unique circumstances than I am.
AND please note, your comfort level matters. I share this not to tell you that you are wrong for not eating Doritos but to provide you with more information to help you make a choice out of informed caution rather than fear.
So ultimately, assess the risk and suitability for yourself. And don’t forget, I clarify how to read a food label in 4-simple steps to help you feel confident in your risk-assessment in this TOTALLY free class.
So most Doritos don’t contain gluten ingredients and are generally gluten-free but isn’t suspect that they aren’t marked gluten-free like the Simply Organic White Cheddar Flavored Tortilla Chips?
There are a lot of reasons why companies may not mark all of their products to be gluten-free when they really are gluten-free. If this makes you uncomfortable, I respect that however, just because a company isn’t designating everything that is gluten-free to be gluten-free doesn’t mean that products aren’t safe.
First, testing and maintaining the proper paperwork for gluten-free food can be expensive. This is part of the reason gluten-free food tends to be more expensive. It’s what is known as the “gluten tax”. If you want to pay more for that and it doesn’t feel like it negatively impacts your quality of life, more power to you! However, it’s not necessary.
Second, companies may not think it’s financially worth it. Who is their target audience for their products and will investing a gluten-free claim really pay off? In the case of Doritos, are people who are going gluten-free their target audience? I might argue that the pervasive diet culture and promotion for clean ingredients in the gluten-free space might be why they are marking their organic tortilla chips as gluten-free but not their “chemical filled” ones (as commenters so colorfully described these chips on my instagram post).
In other cases like perhaps with the Holiday Shaped Reese’s, is it worth it to invest in gluten-free testing for a candy that will be sold for only a few months of the year? Not saying this is why they are choosing not to test their gluten-free holiday shapes but a speculation as to one of the factors that might contribute to the decision.
Again, I’m not telling anyone to eat the gluten-free flavors of Doritos, but I’m trying to help people make an informed decision rather than a fear-based one. Of course, assess suitability and risk for yourself.
Now just because Doritos are usually gluten-free does not mean that all chips on the market are gluten-free. You’ll still want to check the food label of the products you’re buying to make sure no gluten appears.
Gluten can show up in multi-grain, tortilla, and pita chips as one of the grains used to make the chip.
It can also show up in the flavoring of chips in the form of barley malt extract, wheat starch, and more.
The bottom line, while many Dorito products are gluten-free, that doesn’t let you off the hook for checking the food label of all of the chips you want to buy for gluten.