So I went to a restaurant last week with a friend and ordered a Caesar salad with chicken.  I advised them that I was gluten intolerant so no croutons.  I also asked if the chicken was marinated in anything and they told me that it was just plain chicken cooked on the grill.  So far so good.

Then they came back and said that they were cooking me a new piece of chicken because it had some Italian dressing on it.  I asked why they felt that the Italian dressing was suspect and they told me that it contained yeast extract.  I thought to myself, I don’t think yeast extract contains gluten but I had that hint of doubt so I let them cook me a new piece of chicken.  Again, ok so far I guess.

Then they came back out again to tell me something.  Now, remember, I ordered a chicken Caesar salad.  They came out to tell me that, just to be safe, and out of a concern for my health, they will not be serving me my Caesar salad with Caesar dressing because it too contained yeast extract.  Now the Caesar salad is something I’ve had many, many times.  I’ve even looked into the ingredients of a lot of Caesar dressings like Marzetti’s Original Caesar dressing as well as their light version and their website indicates that they are gluten free.   Just as a side note, all of their dressings listed are gluten free except the Asian Sesame dressing.  And, additionally, the light Caesar dressing does contain yeast extract in the ingredients.

I still was thinking that yeast extract was ok but I couldn’t remember for sure.  They offered me some balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a safe substitute for the Caesar dressing.

They also asked if I could eat dairy and I said that I could.  But the salad came out (after quite a bit of time) looking a bit lacking.  It turns out it was just a whole bunch of lettuce and 4 tiny strips of plain chicken breast – no cheese.  I wanted to eat and I didn’t want to bother with the elusive waitress so I went ahead and put some balsamic vinegar and olive oil on it and proceeded to eat it without the cheese.

Needless to say I was a bit disappointed with the salad.  But as soon as I got home I looked up yeast extract to see what the story was there.  Someone must have told the management staff that yeast extract contained gluten, right?  Well, according to the website, yeast was on the OK list – no mention of yeast extract though so on with my search.  When I searched for yeast extract to see if it was gluten free, the moderator of the website,, said that both yeast and yeast extract were gluten free.

It also states that autolyzed yeast extract is also gluten free.

I guess in this instance I was better off eliminating it because I wasn’t 100% certain but it just goes to show you that you really have to be a detective with some food items and ingredients.  When I go back to the restaurant I will bring this to their attention.  I missed you, Caesar salad!  I think I’ll have one tonight!

23 Comments on Yeast Extract – Hidden gluten?

  1. Jerry says:

    If a restaurant went to the length mentioned above to read ingredient labels , alert me to any ingredients they were not sure of , attempt to assure my safety , ask questions re . my food allergy specifics ,offer alternatives and in general go out of their way to give excellent customer service ,I would think myself pompous and under appreciative to even consider complaining . I found this website to learn if , indeed ,yeast extract was acceptable in my g.f. diet . Since I have been on a g.f. diet for years and have abstained from foods containing yeast extract , I think it ludicrous to expect all cooks or even chefs to know more about my condition than myself .

  2. sgoodma02 says:

    Hi Jerry, Thanks for your comment. It is nice that some restaurants seem genuinely concerned about our gluten-free health. I will keep patronizing those types of restaurants. Glad you found your answer to the yeast extract question on! This gluten free living is an ongoing learning process for sure.


  3. Georgina says:

    I was googling autolyzed yeast extract to find out if it was okay and came across this forum. I know it’s a bit old, but I thought I would respond. While I just confirmed today that autolyzed yeast extra appears to be safe, what the restaurant may have been concerned about with the Caesar dressing is BARLEY yeast extract – which does tend to be in nearly EVERY Caesar dressing unless you’re making it yourself. This is due to the addition of Worchestershire sauce in most Caesars (including the drink!), which contains Barley Yeast. And as you know, Barley contains gluten. I hope this helps you – now avoid Caesars at every restaurant, as they can not confirm what’s in the dressing, and better to be safe then sorry. I just make my own at home with my gluten free Worchestershire!

    • Shelley says:

      Thanks Georgina for the comment. Good to know. We use Marzetti’s caeser dressing – it doesn’t contain any yeast extract at all. Check it out! But I will be on guard at restaurants from now on! Thanks.

  4. Liz says:

    I have read all the comments with interest regarding the issue of Yeast Extract, as I come across this ‘grey area’ regularly. My 4 year old daughter has coeliac disease and although the Coeliac Society says yeast extract is ok, it is derived from Barley and because of this I choose to avoid it.
    Most ‘Gluten Free’ labelled crackers/chips, with any hint of flavour, will contain yeast extract.
    As people with coeliac disease cannot eat oats, due to the issue of cross contamination, I cannot see how yeast extract is ok. Oats do not contain gluten but cannot be eaten due to the proximity in which they are grown to wheat crops. Obviously, coeliac disease is on the severe end of the spectrum and I would imagine a person’s level of intolerance would be taken into consideration. However, for me yeast extract is another ingredient to be avoided.
    With regards the restaurant incident; I think you are very fortunate that the restaurant you visited went to so much trouble to make sure they were supporting your intolerance. We had an issue recently where a restaurant we visited served beer battered chips with their GF – Gluten Free labelled meals! When I complained that their menu was misleading, I was told by the chef that it was my fault, as I should have requested potatoes. Apparently, everybody knows that chips are covered in flour!! As you can imagine, I was not impressed and we will not be returning!

    • Shelley says:

      Thanks for the comment on yeast extract Liz! It certainly is a grey area isn’t it! I wonder why the Coeliac Society would say it’s safe if it’s derived from barley? Weird. I guess some are derived from barley and some aren’t.
      Terrible about the beer battered chips – I can’t believe the chef blamed you! I wouldn’t go back there either.

    • Scarlett says:

      All their products contain oats. All products are gluten free.
      This is the first oat products I have found that are gluten free.
      Have had no problems with their bars or granola. And some even have dark chocolate. Also, all Lays/Frito Corn chips are also gluten free. Hope this helps. Something sweet and corn chips, I love it……….

  5. Carrie says:

    Some yeast extract comes from barley and some does not. In some cases the yeast extract is a leftover from the brewing process.If the product is labeled gluten free, then it is not barley derived. One of these days labeling will catch up completely.

    As a former restaurant chef, what that restaurant did regarding the chips is inexcusable! The customer is ALWAYS right!

  6. T Teague says:

    No the customer is not always right, there just never wrong.

  7. Maurice Browning says:

    Livestrong dot com article on Autolyzed yeast extract will help

  8. Virginia says:

    Hi, a couple things:
    1) I have learned from personal experience that the moderator of does not publish user responses that contradict his own assertions. (Yet he almost never backs his assertions with any explanations or citations, and I’m not sure what his credentials are, especially given how much scientific uncertainty remains about the causes and effects of celiac disease). Too bad because the threads on that site are often very informative… when the moderator isn’t inclined to suppress dissenting views.

    2) Many yeasts have been discovered to have an identical protein structure to gluten, causing gluten-intolerant people (perhaps only some people?) to suffer the same autoimmune response to yeasts as to gluten. The bad news is that most fermented foods have some yeast; the good news– at least what I found for myself– is that once I stopped consuming major yeast foods such as g.f. breads, pizza, and beer, I no longer experienced what I’d long thought were inexplicable glutenings when dining out. It turns out that I wasn’t being glutened by mysterious trace amounts of gluten; rather, I had yeast build-up in my system (since yeast lives in your digestive tract) which produced frequent celiac symptoms. Now all gone. I am still very careful about not eating gluten, but I’m no longer haunted by the paranoia which used to engulf me at every restaurant. I suspect that many people who think they are being glutened by trace amounts on frying pans and such, are in fact just consuming too much yeast, which a celiac’s immune system registers as gluten. So all those delicious Udi’s products…. alas!

  9. Virginia says:

    p.s. It is generally believed that one of the best ways to combat yeast build-up is eating yogurt with probiotics. And cutting down on sugar and other simple carbs. Also, some studies have shown that celiac sufferers can even tolerate wheat when baked with probiotic cultures and lactic acids(as are some sourdoughs). I’m not about to rush out and eat sourdough bread, but maybe within our lifetimes….? (See: Much of this research is being done outside the United States and is in its preliminary phases, so not so well-known.

  10. anita says:

    I have just entered the world of gluten free due to the fact that my new bf is has celiac disease, so I have been researching the foods I regularly cook with, and worchestire is one ingredient i use a lot of…there is one brand that is gluten free, lea and perrins, however, the formula that is made for Canada does have malt vinegar made from barley but the one formulated for the US uses regular vinegar(which is on his safe list), not malt vinegar which is made from barley…just wanted to put that out there in case other people want the option to use this ingediant

  11. Ed Davis says:

    Greetings fellow Coeliacs,

    For those of you who are not sure whether yeast extract is gluten free or not, I am here to set the record straight. Yeast extract is a BIG RED FLAG if you are a Celiac as yeast extract is in fact made from fermented wheat. There is much misinformation made out there on the internet and I have commented in past to only the significant websites when there is incorrect info with regard to what is safe for a celiac or not..

    Allow me to also make clear that many of the websites that claim to have information on what a celiac can and can not eat they’re

    they’ve based their information on what a (gluten intolerant person can consumes) vs a (CELIAC). Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are two entirely different conditions.

    A person who is gluten intolerant can eat gluten with mild to medium I’ll effects, but a person with celiac disease may experience severe results of a gluten exposure (eg) neurological effects such as temporary amnesia, severe clinical level-depression and anxiety, severe nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy), or with permanent nerve damage, nonspecific dermatitis, dystonic, apraxic, temporary or permanent or parkinsonism symptoms and the list goes on.

    If you have celiac disease; please, please, please do not believe everything you read on the WWW and I am so sorry to tell you this, but there is so little info out there; often, even your good doctor doesn’t have all the best knowledge of the right supplements you should be taking to replenish this strange autoimmune disorder.

    Remember we are many among over 3milion in the US alone. Remember, as a celiac YOU CAN NOT EVEN HAVE 1 MOLECULE OF GLUTEN IN YOUR DIET.

    I am a lymphatic practitioner, practicing electromedicine, homeopathy and Chinese medicine and also have severe Coeliac Spru Disease.

    If you have questions, please email me.

    • Shelley says:

      Hi Ed,

      Thanks for your comment on yeast extract. Before I had posted that blog I checked on and they were saying that if it’s made from corn then it would be OK for celiac’s and those with gluten intolerance. I’m acknowledging that you need to be really careful because some yeast extract is made from wheat and some is made from barley. I’m hoping the companies that use yeast extract really do know what it’s made from and indicate so on their products.

      As for your comment on a gluten intolerant person vs. a celiac person, I will have to disagree with your statement that gluten intolerant people only have mild to medium ill effects. I was diagnosed allergic to wheat and then tested as gluten intolerant. I had symptoms that included malnutrition (even though I eat fresh, clean foods that are organic, etc.), severe abdominal and intestinal issues, cardio markers were extremely high, etc. The doctor said that I could be celiac but since I had to be gluten free anyways, why go through the invasive biopsy to confirm. I had to be gluten free so I decided not to go for the biopsy. What is the difference? I can’t go around saying that I’m celiac but the issues and outcomes are the same. It’s funny how some celiacs are banding together against those that have tested positive for gluten intolerance. We both can’t have a speck of gluten. Just as a side note, I do know someone who is celiac and has no outwards symptoms if she accidentally is glutened.

      Check out my blog post about this here:



  12. Glenda Lee says:

    1-18-16. Gluten symptoms after eating Prego Italian sauce w/meat. Maybe the yeast extract???

    • Shelley says:

      Hi Glenda,

      Absolutely could be from the yeast extract if it was made from wheat or barley like some are. The label should indicate if wheat was used though.
      Sorry you had a reaction – never fun.


  13. Debbie says:

    My daughter is gluten and corn intolerant. We asked for French fries at Red Robin with salt only. They brought it with the seasoning. We decided to let her eat it. Only ingredient that was suspicious was yeast extract. Mistake. Her symptoms are hyperactivity, anxiety and geographic tongue. The yeast extract definitely had wheat or corn in it.

    • Shelley says:

      Thanks Debbie, It definitely could have been made from corn as well.

    • Tom says:

      Unless it was fried in a dedicated oil fryer it likely was contaminated by other including breaded items that were also fried in the same oil. This is very common in most restaurants and many will know about it and warn their gluten free customers but not all.

  14. Tom says:

    A few years ago Campbell’s chicken listed yeast extract as an ingredient but otherwise seemed OK. At the time I had some EZ Gluten, which claims it could sense as low as 10 ppm gluten, to test it with and it came out negative. A while later I noticed the labeling changed to “barley yeast extract” and contacted Campbell’s to find out if it was safe or not for a person with celiac. the person I spoke to did not know but said their dietician would call me back. No reply even after second call. I then went ahead and bought one and again tested with the EZ Gluten kit and got a weak positive result. Yeast itself being a fungal microorganism is itself gluten free. What determines if extracts contain gluten or not is whether the yeast was grown in a gluten containing ingredient like wheat flour or the barley used in brewing or some non gluten containing ingredient like corn.

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