Gluten-free appetizers are perfect to serve you gluten intolerance and celiac friends. Whether you want to buy or make them, I’ll share with you options your gluten-free loved ones will enjoy.
We’ll also talk about how to make sure the appetizers you serve are safe from cross-contact. Because chances are one of your gluten-free friends has celiac or needs to be as careful as a celiac and will need you to keep their food safe from touching gluten.
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 get into gluten-free appetizers to make or buy, 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.
When talking about gluten-free appetizers, we need to know what appetizers are. Appetizers are small food and drinks enjoyed before a meal. Often they are used to stimulate appetite or keep guests busy while they wait for the main dish to be served.
That said appetizers don’t have to be served just before a meal. They often are offered now throughout parties and other events. And sometimes, they are enjoyed as a meal rather than a before-meal dish.
Now that we know what appetizers and gluten are, can appetizers be gluten-free? There are many naturally gluten-free appetizers however, many appetizers usually contain gluten.
Things like wings, egg rolls, fried cheese sticks, etc. characterize many appetizer menus. And many of these foods, unless intentionally made gluten-free, will contain gluten or be at high risk for cross-contact.
Because not all appetizers are gluten-free, you’ll want to talk to your gluten-free guest about their needs to make sure you’re serving them safe food. Of course, you’ll want to select appetizers that don’t contain gluten but you’ll also want to see if your guest requires cross-contact precautions to be taken.
Not all appetizers are gluten-free. Many appetizers commonly contain gluten. Below are some of the common appetizers that may be unsafe for gluten-free guests.
On top of many appetizers containing gluten, the risk of cross-contact when they are served or prepared might also make them no longer gluten-free.
As I mentioned above, cross-contact with gluten can make a gluten-free appetizer no longer safe for gluten-free guests. It’s important you talk to your guest to see if they care about cross-contact. If they have celiac, they absolutely will, if they have another gluten-related disorder they might not.
Cross-contact is when a food that does not contain an allergenic protein comes into contact with an allergenic protein and is no longer free from that allergen. With gluten this can look like gluten-free hummus having gluten-filled pita chips dipped in it, making the hummus no longer gluten-free.
It can also look like guests grabbing a few pretzels and then placing the hands that just grabbed pretzels into the gluten-free bowl of peanuts. Or a couple of gluten-containing crackers falling off a plate as it is lifted over the dish of gluten-free veggie dip.
In order to avoid these situations, it is wise to keep gluten-free appetizers separate (and if you want brownie points, covered) when feeding gluten-free guests. This might look like:
And remember, everyone is going to have different comfort and knowledge levels with cross-contact and celiac, so be sure to check in with your gluten-free guest about what they need you to do in order to keep the food safe.
And preventing cross-contact when serving food isn’t the only time you need to worry about it. You also need to make sure while you’re cooking that you’re avoiding cross-contact too. If you want guidance on how to prevent cross-contact when cooking from a celiac dietitian who’s been living with celiac for over 10 years, you can sign up for my Gluten-Free Cookie Cross-Contact Cooking Demo. There I teach you how to prevent cross-contact while baking gluten-free cookies for friends and family.
Speaking of preventing cross-contact when cooking appetizers, this is the perfect segway for gluten-free appetizer recipes. Use these for inspiration!
One of my favorite gluten-free appetizers is chocolate-covered strawberries. It’s a simple recipe that can be assembled quickly (and yes, Strawberries are gluten-free).
All you’ll need is 2 tbsp of fat (think oil, peanut butter) per 1 cup of chocolate. Combine those two things in a bowl and microwave for 15-second increments (being sure to stir after every 15 seconds) until melty. Adding the oil helps make sure the chocolate doesn’t get stuck to the bowl or burn.
Once the chocolate is melty, dip your strawberries in it and set it on a parchment-lined baking tray to cool. Then enjoy!
These Chicken Wings from the Nomadic Fitzpatricks are a gluten-free appetizer ready to serve guests in just 75 minutes! This is a classic appetizer for game day parties and beyond.
All you’ll need are chicken wings, oil, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and butter. No one will even know they are gluten-free!
My Brazilian Cheese Bread recipe is another perfect gluten-free appetizer to make if you’re in the mood to wow your guests. This recipe takes 50 minutes total to make.
All you’ll need is almond flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum (yes it’s gluten-free), baking powder, butter, heavy cream, apple cider vinegar, eggs, and shredded cheese.
These Gluten-Free Pigs in a Blanket from the Nomadic Fitzpatricks are a must-make gluten-free appetizer! Pigs in a blanket are one of my old favorites and easier to make than you’d think.
To make this recipe all you’ll need are 4 ingredients: gluten-free puff pastry, hot dogs, eggs, and water. I told you it was simple!
Another fun recipe to serve as a gluten-free appetizer are Cucumber Sushi Cups. It’s a creative spin on Maki which traditionally has seaweed and sushi rice.
All you’ll need is a cucumber, canned salmon or tuna, GF rice vinegar, GF fish sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Essentially, you’ll slice the cucumbers into “sushi” like slices. Scoop out the center of each slice and fill it with a mashed chickpea/tuna mixture.
Another gluten-free appetizer to serve are Sweet Potato Bites with Marshmallows and Pecans by Averie Cooks! Perfect to serve as an appetizer for gluten-free thanksgiving or all year-round.
This recipe takes about 30 minutes and only requires 7 ingredients. All you’ll need are sweet potatoes, butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, gluten-free marshmallows, pecans, and salt.
I love to enjoy and serve hummus with vegetables as a gluten-free appetizer (and sometimes even lunch). Unfortunately, not all hummus is gluten-free. On rare occasions, hummus can have gluten added to it (usually in the form of flavoring).
You can easily make your own. I’ve got a sesame-free version on my website that even the strictest celiacs can enjoy. You could also do the same with guacamole. Try my fresh guacamole recipe that even the most strict celiacs can enjoy.
One of my FAVORITE gluten-free appetizers is Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts. This recipe is by Dinner at the Zoo and only takes 1 hour and 35 minutes and I promise you it’s worth all that time. The crunch from both the bacon and water chestnuts is perfection.
All you’ll need are canned water chestnuts, gluten-free soy sauce, garlic powder, brown sugar, bacon, ketchup, gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (affiliate link), chopped parsley, and cooking spray.
Another favorite gluten-free appetizer because it’s absolutely delicious and keeps the hanger at bay is Buffalo Chicken Dip. This one is by The Forked Spoon and only takes 45 minutes to make.
All you’ll need is chicken breasts, cream cheese, gluten-free ranch dressing, gluten-free hot sauce, pepper, garlic powder, green onions, and shredded cheese. Serve with baby carrots, celery, or gluten-free corn chips.
Lastly, another gluten-free appetizer to serve are Deviled Eggs (these are by Recipes Worth Repeating). I don’t know why but these are again, yet another favorite of mine. They just remind me of Spring and BBQ season.
All you’ll need are eggs, mayo, gluten-free mustard, pickles, paprika, salt/pepper, and just 30 minutes of your time. These are perfect for Gluten-Free Easter and really any other holiday!
For more gluten-free appetizers, check out my guide on What to Feed Gluten-Free Guests where I share even more recipes.
Now that we have a solid list of gluten-free appetizers to make, let’s talk about gluten-free appetizers to buy! Pre-made appetizers can make your gluten-free hosting life easier, so here are some of my favorite options:
Vegetable and Chicken Egg Rolls by Feel Good Foods make for delicious gluten-free appetizers you can buy and serve. At around ~$9 for a box of 3, they are perfect to take with you to gluten-free events and enjoy by yourself.
Mozzarella Sticks by Feel Good Foods are another one of my favorite gluten-free appetizers to buy. With ~10 sticks per ~$8 box, they are perfect for those missing this classic appetizer.
Vegetable Potstickers by Feel Good Foods is the last gluten-free appetizer that I’ll share from this brand. With 2 servings per ~$9 box, these are perfect to bring when everyone is ordering Chinese. (For more on ordering gluten-free Chinese food, check out this post).
Another gluten-free appetizer you can buy is gluten-free sushi. Now not all sushi will be gluten-free but some that you can buy in stores are. For example, if you have a Wegman’s near you, all of their store-brand sushi is gluten-free. For more on buying gluten-free sushi, check out this blog post.
While I have yet to find pre-made wings to serve as a gluten-free appetizer, an easy substitute are gluten-free chicken tenders. I usually can find Applegate or Perdue gluten-free chicken tenders near me. Serve them with your favorite gluten-free sauce and enjoy!
I feel like I say every gluten-free appetizer is my favorite, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for finger foods because another fave of mine is Proscuitto and Mozzarella Rolls. Honestly, any cheese stick wrapped in gluten-free lunch meat is a favorite. For my friends who love a crunch, sometimes I’ll serve prosciutto or gluten-free salami wrapped around baby carrots (secured with a toothpick) too.
Don’t want to make your own Brazilia Cheese Bread from scratch, then serve Brazi Bites Cheese Bread as your gluten-free appetizer. Just pop them in the oven and serve! Perfect for all the cheese lovers out there who don’t like to bake.
Last but not least on the list of gluten-free appetizers to buy are Snow Days Gluten-Free Pizza Rolls. These are probably the best gluten-free pizza rolls I’ve ever had. They are super flavorful and quick to make. 10/10 recommend for appetizers or even for quick meals.
Serving gluten-free appetizers that are delicious is possible whether you’re making them yourself or buying them pre-made. I hope this guide to serving celiac-safe appetizers inspired you. Now it’s your turn to inspire others, comment below with your favorite gluten-free appetizer to make!
And if you need help knowing what ingredients or appetizers are gluten-free based on the label, don’t forget I’ve got a totally free label-reading class that will teach you the basics of identifying safe gluten-free food in the USA in just 4-simple steps.