Gluten-free pizza demand has grown from a small community of gluten-intolerant people to millions more who are limiting gluten in their diets.
These days, you don’t have to look too far to find gluten-free pizza options; they’re everywhere as most pizza places offer them as part of their regular menu.
But despite the massive increase in gluten-free pizzas’ popularity, the common knowledge about them has not kept pace.
Questions such as “What is gluten-free pizza?” or “What are GF pizzas made of?” and many more similar questions are still being asked every day.
So, in this post, I’d like to address these basic questions as simply as possible so that everyone understands the answers, and clear up some of the misconceptions that are out there.
Let’s start with the fundamental question: what is a gluten-free pizza?
What is a Gluten-Free Pizza?
A gluten-free pizza is a pizza that’s made of non-gluten-containing flour(s) and ingredients.
This means that the raw ingredients used to make the pizza crust or the toppings are either (1) naturally gluten-free, like veggies, or (2) have been processed in a way that removes the Gluten in them as much as possible.
Though it’s still possible for processed ingredients to have some traces of Gluten in them, for the finished food product, aka “the pizza”, to be considered gluten-free, it has to have less than 20 ppm of gluten in it, which is a standard set by the FDA.
What is 20 ppm and How Much Gluten is that?
20 ppm stands for 20 parts per million. This means that if a pizza is made of one million parts, only less than 20 of the million parts can be gluten for it to be certified gluten-free.
To put this in perspective in terms of quantity, think of it this way: less than 20 pennies in a pool of one million pennies is less than 20 ppm of Gluten.
This is a very tiny amount, which is why certified and uncontaminated gluten-free pizzas are considered to be safe for people with gluten sensitivity or intolerance.
But wait, what the heck is Gluten anyway?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. These proteins are part of the natural compounds of these grains, but they can be extracted when the grains are processed into flour and other food products.
This group of proteins (aka Gluten) is found in many foods, including breads and baked goods, pasta, cereals, soups, sauces and even condiments. They make the food more elastic and give it a chewy texture.
So Why Do People Avoid Gluten?
The main reason some people have to avoid gluten is that they have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance that causes them unpleasant allergic reactions. This group of people has a condition called celiac disease.
For people with the celiac condition, even a tiny amount of Gluten can trigger unpleasant symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, as well as more serious complications such as allergic reactions.
In other cases, people choose to avoid gluten because they feel it causes them digestive discomfort even though they may not have a diagnosed medical condition.
Some say that eating gluten-free pizzas make them feel less bloated and sluggish, and others say they simply feel better.
Whatever the reason, more and more people are turning to gluten-free pizzas as an alternative to traditional pizza with wheat-based crusts.
What Are Gluten Free Pizzas Made Of?
Let’s break this into two parts: crusts and toppings.
GF pizza crusts are made with mixes of many non-gluten-containing grains like rice, potatoes, tapioca, corn and etc. Some are even made with vegetables, like cauliflower or zucchini.
These grains and veggies are processed into flour and with the help of binding ingredients like eggs and xanthan gum, they are mixed together to form the dough of the pizza crust.
A good example of a gluten-free pizza crust made with a mix of these ingredients is Trader Joe’s gluten-free crust. It’s a cauliflower crust, but it also contains rice flour and xanthan gum, making it taste very similar to wheat-based crusts.
In toppings’ case, most of them are already naturally gluten-free. However, some processed toppings like pepperoni, sausage, cheese, or even the sauce may contain gluten because they may have been processed with wheat.
But, in most cases, even these processed toppings are gluten-free; you just have to check the allergen chart to be sure.
Does Gluten Free Pizza Taste Any Different?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Different people have different opinions about the taste of gluten-free pizzas.
However, if any taste difference is sensed, it’s usually from the crust. This is because some GF crusts are made with different grains and vegetables, while others are made with just one type of flour or with no veggies at all.
Overall, though, with GF pizzas, you won’t get that “typical” doughy taste you get with wheat-based pizzas, but some will get you really close to the same taste experience.
All in all, the taste of GF pizzas are getting better over time, and more people are enjoying them.
Is Gluten Free Pizza Good for Weight Loss?
This is one of the misconceptions about gluten-free pizzas that needs to be debunked.
There’s always questions and discussions about the number of carbs and calories in gluten-free pizzas, and for some reason, people tend to associate GF pizzas with weight loss.
I’m no weight-loss expert, but I have a lot of experience with gluten-free pizzas. So let me clarify this issue in a short sentence: Gluten-free pizza is not a weight-loss food.
Gluten-free foods, in general, pizza included, have more of a digestive/allergy focus than a weight-loss purpose. So between the nutrients, carbs and calories in a typical pizza and the gluten-free version, there’s not going to be any substantial difference.
Eat your gluten-free pizza to ditch the gluten and feel better, but don’t eat it with the sole purpose of losing weight.
Where to Find Gluten Free Pizzas?
Are Gluten Free Pizzas More Expensive than Wheat-Based Pizzas?
The short answer is yes. For gluten-free pizzas, restaurants typically charge an add-on fee, ranging from $1 to $5, depending on the restaurant.
In case you’re interested in finding out why I’ve explained the reasons behind the higher prices for GF pizzas in our Why GF Pizzas Cost More article.
Can Gluten Free Pizza Make You Sick?
Gluten-free pizzas are pretty safe to eat for everyone. However, some people have complained of bloating and discomfort after eating a GF pizza.
This is due mainly to the different grains and veggies used in Gluten-free pizza crusts. If you’re new to gluten-free foods, it’s a good idea to start with smaller portions and see how your body reacts.
At the end of the day, gluten-free pizzas can be a great option for anyone who needs or want to avoid gluten.
Taste and texture-wise, GF pizzas have significantly improved in recent years, and there are many options available from different pizza chains and restaurants.
Just remember, GF pizzas are made for pizza fans who need or wish to eliminate or limit gluten in their diets. They’re not for anything else, so don’t expect them to help you lose weight or improve your overall health.