Is Cranberry Sauce Gluten-Free?

gluten-free cranberry sauce
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In many cases, cranberry sauce is gluten-free, making it one of the easier ingredients to source for a holiday meal. In fact, there are multiple store-bought options and great recipes for gluten-free cranberry sauce.

Fresh cranberries—the kind you find in the grocery store produce section around holiday time—don't contain any gluten unless they've been subjected to gluten cross-contamination in processing or handling (extremely unlikely in this case). Therefore, it's pretty simple to make an excellent homemade gluten-free cranberry sauce using fresh berries, plus other safe ingredients.

In addition, some store-bought cranberry sauces—especially "pure" ones with no added ingredients beyond cranberries and sugar—are considered gluten-free. If you don't have time (or inclination) to make your own cranberry sauce, these brands can represent a safe fallback for your holiday meal.

Gluten-Free Cranberry Sauce Brands

Although most cranberry sauces appear gluten-free by ingredients, there are relatively few that appear on stores' gluten-free lists. That doesn't mean the sauces in question actually contain gluten; instead, they may be processed on shared equipment or in a shared facility.

It's quite possible, too, that the cranberry sauce for sale under your local store brand is perfectly safe—check ingredients carefully, and if in doubt, call the toll-free number for the store's customer service.

Here's a list of gluten-free cranberry sauce brands available in the U.S:

  • Ocean Spray. When many people think of cranberry sauce, they think of Ocean Spray. The company makes two different types of cranberry sauce: whole berry and jellied. Both are considered gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million, according to Ocean Spray's Frequently Asked Questions. Since Ocean Spray products are readily available nationally, especially around holiday time, I frequently advise people following the gluten-free diet to plan on purchasing Ocean Spray when they need safe cranberry sauce and don't want to make it themselves.
  • Safeway cranberry sauce. This store brand, found at Safeway stores along with sister grocery store chains Carrs, Dominick's, Genuardi's, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, and Vons, appears on Safeway's gluten-free list.
  • Publix whole cranberry sauce. Publix, a grocery store chain prevalent in the southeast U.S., has an extensive gluten-free list, and that list includes the Publix store brand whole cranberry sauce.

Note that cranberry sauce does not appear on Trader Joe's gluten-free list or on Whole Foods' gluten-free list for the 365 house brand, so in each case, it may be smart to choose another option. (Again, Ocean Spray products are ubiquitous and likely represent your best bet.)

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipes

Although our family tradition generally calls for a can of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, many people enjoy the homemade sauce. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to make, too.

If you follow a low-carb diet in addition to eating gluten-free, you might want to check out this recipe, which uses honey in the place of sugar.

Homemade Recipes to Avoid

When it comes to cranberry sauce and gluten, your biggest risk actually is a homemade sauce... not one you make in your own gluten-free kitchen, but one a friend or relative makes in their not-so-gluten-free kitchen. Ingredients and cooking aids are likely to promote cross-contamination.

The cross-contamination is likely to come from the sugar. If the bin of sugar used for the cranberry sauce also was used in baking, it may have been contaminated (think: spoon shared between flour and sugar). As a result, the sauce also can get cross-contaminated from plastic bowls, Teflon pots, wooden spoons and other cooking supplies and utensils previously used with gluten-containing foods.

Believe it or not, you're also at risk (although less of a risk) for a glutening from canned sauce served in someone else's kitchen. There, the potential problem is a cross-contaminated can opener.

Safety Tip

Experts often advise that you avoid eating any cranberry sauce that a friend or loved one makes, unless you are certain that their entire kitchen is gluten-free. The risk of cross-contamination is substantial.

A Word From Verywell

Regardless of the source of that possible gluten, it's just not worth taking a chance, especially on a holiday.

And, for the details on how you can make a completely safe holiday meal, take a look at a rundown in Traditional Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu.

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