We’re going to come straight out and say it…
Sourdough is usually made from wheat flour, which contains gluten. So no, most sourdough bread is not gluten-free. That’s not to say that gluten-free sourdough doesn’t exist! But we’ll get to that in a bit.
In today’s BReD blog, we’re going to talk all about gluten, whether celiacs (and others affected by gluten intolerant conditions) can eat sourdough, how fermentation affects gluten, and how to find and bake your own gluten-free sourdough.
Let’s dive in!
Well…yes and no.
For those with celiac disease, eating gluten triggers the immune system to attack the body’s own cells. Not only does this damage the gut, but it also prevents the uptake of nutrients. Those who are diagnosed with celiac disease are recommended to follow a gluten-free diet.
People who suffer from other conditions, such as a wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity, autoimmune disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can also benefit from eating gluten-free.
But for the rest of us, gluten doesn’t actually cause any health risks. In fact, going gluten-free can have the complete opposite effect; several studies have found that followers of a gluten-free diet often manifest a range of nutritional deficiencies. Furthermore, since gluten-free diets exclude popular sources of fibre (e.g. sourdough, other types of bread, and any wheat-based foods), many people experience constipation…not pleasant!
Nutritional deficiencies and constipation can be avoided with careful planning and the consumption of a healthy, balanced diet. But the point is, why exclude gluten unless you have to? To help you decide whether or not going gluten-free is the right choice for you, we recommend reading this article for more information about gluten.
If a glutenous flour is used to create the sourdough starter, then yes, there’s gluten. These glutenous flours are widely used in starters because gluten is responsible for the quality and structure of sourdough bread.
However, it is possible to use gluten-free flour in what is known as a boosted starter. Learn more by reading our blog on which flour to use for sourdough or keep reading for our advice on how to bake your own gluten-free sourdough from scratch!
Sourdough is different from most commercially available bread since it is naturally leavened using wild microbes instead of chemical leavening agents and baker’s yeast. These bacteria and yeasts cause fermentation of the dough and give sourdough bread its distinctive sour taste and beautifully spongy texture.
What’s more, during the fermentation process, the Lactobacilli and fungal proteases found in sourdough starters have demonstrated the ability to degrade proteins, including gluten. This, alongside sourdough’s prebiotic content and probiotic properties, means that sourdough bread may be easier to digest.
In a small trial conducted in 2010, celiac patients showed no sign of toxicity after a 60-day diet of sourdough baked goods (made from wheat flour fermented with Lactobacilli and fungal proteases).
These results have led some to speculate that sourdough is safe for celiacs. However, these baked goods were created in a lab and the fermentation process was carefully controlled so that only residual amounts of gluten remained!
Therefore, although the study has given us insights into biotechnology that could be used to reduce gluten content without affecting the workability of the dough, store-bought and homemade sourdough bread are NOT suitable for those with celiac disease.
Instead, we recommend eating gluten-free sourdough!
The sourdough fermentation process can do wonders for the taste and texture of gluten-free bread. So you never have to eat stodgy and dense gluten-free bread ever again, here are some of the best gluten-free sourdough brands available to buy online:
Available to buy for free delivery in the US, Simple Kneads bake 3 tasty varieties of top 9 allergen-free and gluten-free sourdough bread: Sourdough, Quinoa Power Grains, and Pumpkinickel.
Another American brand, Bread SRSLY sell a range of top 8 allergen-free and gluten-free sourdough loaves, sandwich rolls, and dinner rolls. They deliver for free all over the US.
For those of you in the UK, Knife & Fork Bakery bake a delicious gluten-free sourdough loaf made from their own unique flour blend, salt, water, seeds, and wild microbes. Founded by a celiac and baked and dispatched on the same day for next day delivery!
Whilst we don’t usually advocate the use of starter cultures (wild bacteria and yeasts do a fine job on their own), gluten-free starters sometimes need an extra leg up! So, if you’re looking to bake gluten-free sourdough at home, Cultures for Health sell an excellent starter culture – just add water and gluten-free flour. And it’s available for shipping in the US and Canada.
Other gluten-free bread
BReD – Mountain Loaf
We have our very own gluten-free Mountain Loaf available to purchase online for in-store pick up at our plant-based bakery in Whistler, BC.
Please note, whilst we do make gluten-free products in our bakery, we can’t guarantee that they are suitable for celiacs as they are produced in the same space as our gluten-based products.
How to make gluten-free sourdough
Gluten-free sourdough starters can take time to cultivate and require more maintenance than glutenous starters. But the resulting sourdough is totally worth it!
Alternatively, if you’re using a starter culture like Cultures for Health, check out this video for more instructions on how to bake gluten-free sourdough: