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.

http://www.marzetti.com/products/cardinis/salad-dressings/cardinis-salad-dressings/products.htm

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 celiac.com 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, celiac.com, said that both yeast and yeast extract were gluten free.

http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/88719-yeast-extract/

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!

13 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 liveglutenfree.com! This gluten free living is an ongoing learning process for sure.

    Shelley

  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 celiac.com 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: http://aem.asm.org/content/70/2/1088.short) 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

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