Is wheat dextrin gluten free?

Is wheat dextrin gluten free?

Dextrin is a starch-derived ingredient that’s used in processed foods, fiber supplements, adhesives, glues, and even in textile processing applications. Dextrin can be obtained from different starches, including wheat starch. In this article we’ll investigate which types of foods commonly contain wheat-based dextrin, and will let you know if it’s safe for Celiacs.


Dextrin is obtained from a starch via hydrolysis. This process uses water and acid to break down a starch into smaller molecules. To obtain wheat dextrin, the first step is separating the gluten from the wheat starch. The wheat starch is then further refined by being sprayed with acids or enzymes, then suspended in water and continuously stirred. This allows the starch to be broken down into smaller components. After this, the solution is dried and heated to further break it down into dextrin.


Image from Dylann Hendricks via Unsplash

Because it’s been processed so much, wheat dextrin is generally considered gluten free, although it’s slightly more risky to consume than maltodextrin, which is refined further. Competitive ELISA testing regularly shows results of <20 ppm, even for products that are solely made of wheat dextrin, like Benefiber.

That said, if you know that you have reactions to gluten levels below 20 ppm, it’s best to avoid wheat dextrin entirely. In the US, most dextrin used in food products is made from corn or other naturally gluten free grains, so it won’t be too difficult to avoid wheat-based dextrin. If wheat dextrin is used in any processed food product in the US, it must have a ‘contains wheat’ warning on the label. Note that these labeling rules do not apply to meat, dairy, or egg products.

Why is dextrin used in food?

There are a two main types of dextrins: yellow and white. Yellow dextrins are used in water-soluble adhesives, glues, and dye resist treatments. White dextrins are used in food products, pharmaceutical thickeners, and as textile finishing treatments.


Image from Mustafa Bashari via Unsplash

Dextrin is a prebiotic fiber composed of glucose units that are not digested in the small intestine, but are instead fermented by bacteria in the colon. This promotes beneficial bacteria growth in the gut and has been shown to help with digestion problems and improve immune system response. For this reason, it’s a common ingredient in fiber supplements.

Dextrin is often added to foods to replace some of the fat, while creating a creamier texture due to its thickening properties. It also provides extra crispiness to fried foods, which helps achieve a crunchier and more flaky crust.

Gluten Free Foods That Contain Dextrin

* Title image courtesy of Bayne Solutions.

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