Healthy Living

How to Bake for a Celiac (when you’re not one)

Having celiac disease is a big deal. It affects your health and social life. This can lead to social anxiety and added stress. You can help support those around you manage this challenging autoimmune disease.

What is celiac disease?

As little as one crumb is enough to trigger the autoimmune response. This causes intestinal damage and triggers unpleasant symptoms. Depending on the person, these symptoms can take days-weeks to subside.

The impacts of cross contamination are often not apparent to others. Damage from gluten exposure can take weeks-months to heal. Ongoing exposure increases the risk of serious, even fatal, long-term health problems. #nocrumbsplease

Baking for gluten free family or friends is possible and can be a lot of fun. It’s also delicious! To ensure their safety, some simple preparation and planning is needed.

Step 1: Know where gluten is found.

Sources of Gluten:

  • Wheat
  • Varieties and derivatives of wheat including wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT khorasan wheat, einkorn wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale 
  • Malt
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Wheat Starch
  • Oats (if not labeled “Gluten Free”)

Step 2: Get educated on cross contamination.

Common sources of cross contamination at home:

  • Utensils and baking/cooking tools that have been used for gluten-containing foods, such as muffin tins, flour sifters, silicon baking trays, mesh cooling racks, etc.
  • Slot toaster (this cannot be cleaned and will always be contaminated once it is used with wheat bread or other gluten-containing foods) 
  • Dish clothes, sponges, tea towels (if not freshly laundered)
  • Butter/margarine if it has been used for gluten-containing foods, such as wheat bread
  • Baking powder, baking soda, spices/dried herbs, and sugar if you used the same measuring spoons for gluten-containing ingredients without thoroughly washing it prior

How to Prevent Cross Contamination: 

  1. Read all labels when purchasing ingredients. (see notes below)
  2. Take out freshly laundered dish cloth/sponge and tea towels.
  3. Thoroughly wash with dish soap and water all utensils, baking/cooking tools, countertops, and serving/storage containers needed for your gluten free food. Disinfectant sprays/wipe do no remove gluten.
  4. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water prior to preparing gluten free foods.
  5. Do not use wooden or plastic baking tools. They can easily become scored and trap gluten, making them a potential source for cross contamination. Metal or ceramic baking utensils, tools, and dishes that can be fully cleaned are safest. 
  6. Use unopened packages of commonly shared food items like butter/margarine, baking soda, and baking powder. 
  7. Line your cookie sheet or cake/bread pan with parchment paper. If making cupcakes/muffins, use cupcake liners.
  8. Store finished gluten free foods in a sealed container, Ziploc bag, or wrapped completely in plastic wrap so that they cannot accidentally be cross contaminated by others.
  9. Label gluten free foods so that others know not to mix/share them!

Why is cross contamination such a big deal?

Step 3: Be diligent about reading food labels.

When buying packaged or premade food items, look for a “Gluten Free” label. This label may be printed on the front of the package, the back, or both.

Remember, even if a product is labeled “Wheat Free,” it may still contain barley or rye. Always read the ingredients list and look for a “Gluten Free” label.

If it is not marked “Gluten Free” and you’re not sure about the ingredients, then it is safest to assume that it not gluten free.

Most single ingredient foods (brown sugar, dried basil, cow’s milk, etc.) may not be labeled gluten free as these are naturally gluten free foods. Unless they state, “wheat may be present” or “processed in the same facility as wheat” on the label, it is safe to assume they are gluten free.

Step 4: Leave your feelings out of their health needs.

Social anxiety is common in people with celiac disease. This is particularly true for those recently diagnosed. It can be very stressful and socially uncomfortable to question your hosts, especially when you know they were trying to do something nice for you.

You can help alleviate any concerns by informing your gluten free friends/family (before they ask) about all the steps you have taken to prevent cross contamination. 

“I did everything I was supposed to, and my friends/family STILL won’t eat my gluten free food!”

Feel familiar?

Try not to be offended if they choose not to eat your food. They simply may not be willing to take any risk. And that’s ok! Their physical and mental health is more important than your time and effort.


Ask your gluten free friends/family. They will appreciate you trying to learn more. For more information, resources, and recipes, contact Layered Living.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This blog post is general information only and is not to be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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