Are Eggs Gluten Free?
You’ve heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If that’s true, then it’s a good thing eggs are gluten free! Or are they? If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, you may find yourself questioning the safety of foods you never gave a second though to before.
Fortunately, eggs are one of the many foods that are naturally gluten free. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that commercial egg products and all foods made with eggs are gluten free. You still need to be careful when shopping at the grocery store or cooking at home.
Here’s what you need to know about eggs and how to use them safely in gluten free cooking and baking.
Are There Different Kinds of Eggs?
You may think that an egg is an egg, but that isn’t necessarily true. The eggs you’re most familiar with come from chickens but you may notice that they come in different colors and sizes. You may be surprised that eggs come in different grades as well.
The USDA labels eggs according to three different grades:
- Grade AA – The highest grade, these eggs have the best appearance with firm, thick whites and round yolks – they have little to no visible defect.
- Grade A – These eggs are the same as AA eggs, but the whites may only be “reasonably firm.”
- Grade B – This grade is typically used in liquid egg products because they don’t look as presentable. They may have stained shells, less round yolks, and the whites aren’t as firm.
Though you may not pay too much attention to the grade of the eggs you buy at the store, you probably consider the size. Egg sizes range from small to jumbo and the size typically refers to the amount of liquid the egg contains. A small egg contains about 1.5 ounces of liquid while a jumbo egg contains about 2.5 ounces. It may not make much of a difference if you use a large egg in place of a medium egg in a recipe, but if the dish calls for multiple eggs it might.
When it comes to egg color, it generally depends on the type of chicken. Eggs can range in color from white to brown and some have cream, pink, or even bluish tones. Many people assume brown eggs are organic or somehow healthier, but that isn’t always the case. Brown eggs simply come from a different type of chicken and a higher price may be a reflection of the chicken’s size and the expense to raise it.
Here’s what you need to know about terms relating to the way hens are raised:
- Cage-Free – Eggs labeled cage-free come from hens that are given space to roam – about 140 square feet per hen. They may have access to the outdoors, but not necessarily.
- Free-Range – These hens are typically kept outdoors and are generally allowed to forage freely, versus being fed from automated feeders.
- Organic – Hens given organic feed produce organic eggs. The USDA also requires that the hens have access to the outdoors and cannot be raised in cages.
- Conventional – If the egg carton doesn’t have one of the labels, the hens were probably raised conventionally which means indoors in climate-controlled barns with 6 to 7 hens per cage.
Most people buy eggs by the carton in quantities ranging from 6 to 18, sometimes more. You can also find liquid egg products as well as powdered eggs. Processed egg varieties typically consist of eggs that have been peeled and packaged (sometimes separated by yolk and white), with or without the addition of water and other ingredients.
Are All Eggs Gluten Free?
Real eggs, no matter their grade, size or color, are naturally gluten free. Whether the egg comes from a chicken, duck, or another bird doesn’t make a difference. Even egg products like liquid egg whites are often gluten free, though it’s a good idea to check the label to be sure.
Though eggs themselves are gluten free, you do need to be concerned about cross-contact when ordering egg dishes at a restaurant. In many restaurants, eggs are cooked on large, commercial griddles or in pans that are also used to prepare gluten-containing foods. Spatulas and other utensils are likely to be shared as well. Some restaurants even add pancake batter to make their scrambled eggs extra-fluffy.
When ordering eggs at a restaurant, be aware of the risk of cross-contact and ask questions about how the eggs will be prepared. If you’re not confident the restaurant understands your concerns and is taking them seriously, it’s best not to risk it.
Tips for Gluten Free Cooking with Eggs
If you’ve ever baked a cake – or baked anything, really – you’ve probably used eggs. Eggs are a baking staple used in everything from cookies and cakes to brownies, cupcakes, muffins, and more. They’re also a key component in many breakfast favorites like quiches, casseroles, frittatas, and omelets. In most cases, eggs are a pretty straightforward ingredient but there are some things to consider when using them in gluten free cooking.
Here are some tips for gluten free cooking with eggs:
- Remember that eggs are a liquid ingredient – if you’re converting a recipe and want to use an absorbent gluten free flour (like coconut flour), you may need to increase the number of eggs.
- To make your baked goods lighter, separate the eggs and blend the yolks with the flour then beat the whites and fold them into the batter.
- When frying eggs, use low heat to avoid browning the edges and making the egg tough (unless you like the browned edges, of course).
- Nonstick pans are the best for cooking eggs and consider switching to a metal fish spatula to make it easier to flip the egg without breaking the yolk.
- Remove eggs from the heat right before they’re fully cooked to prevent overcooking them – the residual heat from the pan will finish them off.
- To test the freshness of an egg, place it in a bowl of cold water – if it sinks to the bottom or lays on its side, the egg is still fresh.
Be mindful of using egg substitutes in gluten free baking – some recipes work better than others, especially when replacing more than one egg. If you’re trying to avoid eggs, it may be a better idea to start with a vegan gluten free recipe than to try making substitutions.
Gluten Free Recipes for Eggs
Eggs are a versatile ingredient used in everything from breakfast dishes to dessert. If you’re looking for some tasty ways to prepare eggs, here are a few gluten free recipes to try!
1. Ham and Broccoli Quiche
- 1 unbaked gluten free pie crust
- 1 cup diced ham
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ cups diced broccoli
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 5 large eggs
- ½ cup water
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and par-bake the pie crust for 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle the ham in the par-baked pie crust then add the broccoli mixture.
- Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, broccoli, and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.
- Beat the eggs with the water, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
- Pour in the egg mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the eggs are just set.
- Cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
2. Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs
- 6 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch dried dill
- 4 ounces smoked salmon, finely diced
- Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
- Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat.
- Drain and rinse with cold water then peel the eggs and slice them in half.
- Remove the yolks into a bowl then add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard.
- Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and dill then add half the diced salmon.
- Blend until smooth then pipe into the egg halves.
- Place the deviled eggs on a serving plate and top with the remaining salmon.
3. Shakshuka Skillet
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red pepper, diced
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- Pinch cayenne
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon harissa
- Salt and pepper
- 6 large eggs
- Fresh chopped chives
- Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, red pepper, and garlic and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is translucent.
- Stir in the seasonings along with the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and harissa.
- Simmer for 6 to 7 minutes to reduce the sauce then season with salt and pepper.
- Crack the eggs into the sauce then cover and cook for 5 minutes more.
- Remove from heat once the egg whites are just set then garnish with chives to serve.
It’s always worth keeping a carton of fresh eggs in your fridge, just in case. You never know when you’ll have the urge to whip up a batch of cookies and an omelet always makes for a quick but satisfying meal. Try out one of the recipes above to expand your repertoire of gluten free egg dishes!