Is Sourdough Bread Gluten-Free?

Is Sourdough Bread Gluten-Free? Unravelling the Mystery

Is Sourdough Bread Gluten-Free?
Updated on
July 21, 2023
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

In recent years, the popularity of sourdough bread has surged, primarily due to its distinctive flavour and purported health benefits. However, the question arises for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease: Is sourdough bread gluten-free? 

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of sourdough bread, exploring its traditional fermentation process, the role of gluten, and whether sourdough bread can be safely enjoyed by those following a gluten-free diet.

Is there gluten in sourdough bread:

Despite gluten being a fundamental component of traditional bread-making, the fermentation process involved in sourdough production allows enzymes produced by the wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria to partially break down the gluten proteins.

Gluten still remains in Sourdough bread. However, enzymes, particularly proteases, hydrolyse gluten into smaller peptides, making sourdough bread more tolerable for individuals with gluten sensitivities.

Understanding sourdough bread

Sourdough bread is a unique type of bread that relies on natural fermentation to rise. It is made using a starter, which consists of a mixture of flour and water that has been allowed to ferment over time.

The fermentation process is facilitated by wild yeast and bacteria cultivated from the environment or the flour itself. This fermentation creates a symbiotic relationship between the yeast and bacteria, resulting in a flavourful, airy loaf of bread.

The role of gluten

Stretching gluten

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is crucial in bread-making.

When flour is mixed with water, gluten proteins form a network that provides structure and elasticity to the dough. This network traps carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, enabling the dough to rise and giving sourdough bread its characteristic texture.

Research on gluten content in sourdough bread

Studies have investigated the gluten content of sourdough bread, aiming to determine its safety for those on a gluten-free diet. One study published by Bradauskiene, Vijole & Vaiciulyte-Funk, Lina & Mazoniene, Edita & Cernauskas, and Darius shows that gluten degrades during fermentation. However, gluten content varied considerably between batches.

Some sourdough loaves contained levels below the threshold considered safe for individuals with celiac disease, while others exceeded the limit.

The fermentation process significantly reduced the amount of detectable gluten in all samples, but traces of gluten remain.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten consumption triggers an immune response and damages the small intestine. Even tiny amounts of gluten can cause severe symptoms and long-term health complications for individuals with celiac disease.

Gluten sensitivity, conversely, refers to a non-celiac condition in which gluten consumption leads to symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and fatigue. While less severe than celiac disease, gluten sensitivity can still significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Sourdough bread and gluten-free options

Sourdough bread is not gluten free

Given the variation in gluten content observed in sourdough bread, it is essential to consider other factors when determining if it is a suitable option for those on a gluten-free diet.

Cross-contamination during the production, handling, and storage of sourdough bread in bakeries often occurs, leading to unintended gluten exposure.

To ensure safety, individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should look for certified gluten-free sourdough bread or consider making it at home using gluten-free flour and a gluten-free starter.

Gluten-free sourdough bread is made from alternative grains to wheat flour, such as rice flour or buckwheat. Using a blend of flours is popular to provide a lighter-textured loaf.

A natural thickener (such as guar gum or xantham gum) is also commonly used when making gluten-free bread. Thickeners bind the ingredients together to support the capturing of carbon dioxide gas.


While sourdough bread is a compelling choice for bread enthusiasts, it is not inherently gluten-free. The fermentation process of sourdough can reduce the gluten content, making it more tolerable for individuals with mild gluten sensitivities.

However, sourdough bread is rarely suitable for those with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivities. If you follow a gluten-free diet, consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before including sourdough bread.

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