Vegan? Or Gluten Free? Can you be both? Don’t they cancel each other out? Can a vegan go gluten free?
You’re vegan. That means you already follow a diet that eliminates things that other people eat. You might be an old hat at it and not find it restrictive at all. But now a trusted medical professional has advised you to go gluten free.
Can You Be Both Vegan and Gluten Free?
Popular culture today makes it seem like it’s a choice, vegan or gluten free. Gluten free is seen as Paleo, Keto, Whole 30. All low-carb meat-based diets. (Whole 30 does have a vegetarian plan, but vegan is harder for it to accommodate).
Vegan, on the other hand, is full of bread, pasta, tortillas, and cake. How do you bring the two of them together? How can a vegan follow a gluten free diet?
I’ve Been There
Don’t worry. I got ya. I actually did the reverse three years ago when after following a gluten free diet for almost 20 years, I also went vegan.
I’m not going to say it wasn’t a struggle. It was! It took me a full year before I was comfortable knowing what to eat. In the early days I went on vacation and pretty much lived on plain rice and fruit. Not fun. This post will help you be vegan and start a gluten free diet so you don’t have to go through that.
What is Gluten?
Your first step is to learn about gluten. What exactly is gluten? You’ve probably heard it for years, “oh, I could never go gluten free, there’s gluten in everything!”
What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. It’s like glue! It’s the stuff that makes flour based baked goods stick together. That’s why it’s called GLUten. Because it is in wheat flour, it is in a lot of foods that many North Americans eat. But thankfully, it’s not in “everything.”
This article will help you find the Other Names for Gluten when you’re reading ingredients.
Avoid Gluten Based Food
Start with avoiding those things that you know are made with wheat or white flour. Like traditional cookies, cakes, bread, and pasta. Don’t panic!! Even if you follow a pasta based diet there will still be lots to eat! Keep reading!
This post contains affiliate links for helpful brands I hope you enjoy. If you buy one of the products offered through a link on this site, I earn a commission.
Think About What You Already Eat
Remember when you first went vegan and someone would tell you they had never had vegan food? Remember thinking, “Wait, so you’ve never had an apple?” Going gluten free is like that. Lots of food is already naturally gluten free.
Neal Barnard has a tip for people going vegan. Look at the food you already eat, and see if you can make it vegan.
You can do that with gluten free food. Look at the food you already eat. It might already be gluten free! If not, there is probably a great gluten free alternative.
Eat Naturally Gluten Free Food
Look for things that are naturally gluten free. These are all the whole, one ingredient foods that aren’t wheat, rye, barley, or spelt, or made with ingredients from these grains.
That means that you can still have that apple. And French fries, rice, and tofu!! They’re all naturally gluten free! In fact there are so many foods that you can still eat, you won’t feel deprived for long.
If you need some inspiration, I’ve created a list of Gluten Free Foods You Can Eat. It’s a good starting point.
Find a Favorite Vegan Gluten Free Pasta
Yup, you do have to give up regular pasta. It’s made out of wheat and contains gluten. I am sorry. I love pasta too. But don’t worry, gluten free pasta has come a long way.
Not all brands of gluten free pasta are created equal. For a pasta that tastes the most like the regular kind look for one that is made with a corn and rice blend, like Barilla or Schar. They’re gluten free and vegan and taste like actual pasta.
Some Pasta is Better Than Others
Honestly, unless you already eat it and love it, I would avoid brands made with chickpeas or lentils because they don’t cook up like “real” pasta. I find they get mushy on the outside before they cook all the way through.
Asian Rice Noodles are my very favorite vegan gluten free pasta substitute. You can get them in a regular grocery store, but they are much cheaper in an Asian Grocery. I also really like bean vermicelli. Because it cooks up quickly and is perfect to throw in soup or noodle bowls.
If you’re craving lasagna, Amy’s makes a gluten free vegan frozen lasagna that’s really good. You’ll probably have to ask your grocery store manager to get it in. I’ve only seen it in one store in one state I was visiting.
Embrace Other Starches
I would live on pasta but there are lots of other starches out there that are naturally gluten free. Rice contains no gluten! None! And it’s easy to make and just as cheap as pasta. Brown rice, polenta, and grits are all naturally gluten free.
Potatoes too! I’m counting them as a starch here. Most frozen french fries are vegan and gluten free. Look for the ones without seasoning.
My favorite polenta recipe is here. I eat it as a side or put a veggie loaded pasta sauce on it for a main dish.
I also make a super fast potato taco recipe with frozen french fries. Because they’re awesome, and I’m occasionally lazy.
Beans are Magical (Musical?)
If you don’t eat a lot already, consider adding more beans and lentils to your diet. They’re both vegan and gluten free and they’re cheap! You can buy them dried to save a few more pennies, or buy them canned to save some time. (The canned ones are still pretty cheap).
This article has more budget stretching tips for a gluten free diet.
Find Vegan Products That Are Also Gluten Free
They’re out there! A wander down the aisles of Trader Joe’s can be frustrating at first. It seems like a product can be either gluten free or vegan. But there are great products that are both!
For a meat substitute, I like Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Ground as a quick add in. Or you can try some of the new brands like Impossible or Beyond. Dr Praeger’s makes a number of “burgers” that are gluten free and vegan. Most of these brands put “gluten free” right on the label of these products.
I have a Breakfast Sandwich recipe that I love that uses Dr Praeger burgers.
Buy yourself a Treat!
Companies have realized that there’s a market for treats that are gluten free and vegan. Nabisco just (finally) came out with a gluten free oreo! It’s vegan just like the gluten original. And Ben and Jerry’s now makes several varieties of vegan ice cream, some of them are also gluten free
Try Some Gluten Free Vegan Frozen Entrees
You might find it easiest to rely on frozen entrees at least at first. I haven’t had any trouble finding vegan gluten free meals in the freezer section. Amy’s has several meals, like pad thai, red curry, veggie loaf, and some burritos. Daiya Pizza is gluten free and vegan. And many grocery stores have a whole freezer dedicated to “healthy” meals. Look there for gluten free vegan pre-packaged food.
My very favorite frozen entrees are Amy’s Pad Thai and Red Curry, Vegan GF Vegetable Lasagna, and their Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap. Daiya’s Meatless Meat Lover’s Pizza, and evol.’s Butternut Squash Curry Bowl.
Avoid Seitan and Breading!
Read labels when shopping, though! Seitan is gluten! And a lot of vegan meat substitutes, especially sausages, are held together with seitan or vital wheat gluten. The breading on many vegan nuggets is made from wheat based bread crumbs so they also have gluten.
Don’t forget my list for Other Names for Gluten!
Learn to Cook Something New!
When I first went vegan, cooking was so hard! I had been gluten free for 15 years, but I had no idea how to make all that food vegan. Luckily, there’s help!
Mail Order Meals
There are a few meal kits out there that offer gluten free vegan meals. Purple Carrot seems to have the largest selection. They’re a vegan meal kit company and you can choose “gluten free” as an option when you order.
I was actually so impressed with Purple Carrot that I became an affiliate. That means if you end up ordering a subscription to them using a link on this site, I get a commission. You can check them out by clicking here,
Using a meal kit is great, even if it’s just a temporary situation, because you’ll learn to cook new gluten free meals.
Learn to Make Some Gluten Free Vegan Treats
Speaking of learning to cook, find some dessert recipes that are gluten free and vegan. There’s nothing like making your own Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake. I have a few recipes on this site on my Vegan page, and the internet is full of them.
These chocolate chip cookies are my very favorite.
Dining Out? Use the Internet for Help!
You can’t eat at home all the time! But when you’re dealing with two dietary restrictions, it might take a bit of research. There are great resources out there for finding restaurants that serve vegan and gluten free dishes. And you’ll find that many of your go-to restaurants for vegan meals, like Indian or Vietnamese, have lots of gluten free options.
Join Some Facebook Groups
I belong to my local vegan group and my local gluten free group. Then I cross reference the restaurants that people mention. A few of the restaurants participate in the Facebook groups, which I find super helpful because I can ask questions or read the answers they’ve given to others.
Check Out Find Me Gluten Free
Find Me Gluten Free is a crowd sourced restaurant review website and phone app where people can rate restaurants for their gluten free experience. There are options to list whether a restaurant accommodates other diets like vegetarian or vegan. I always check it out before I eat somewhere new.
Cross Reference with Happy Cow
You probably already know about Happy Cow, another restaurant review site for vegetarians and vegans. If you find a restaurant that interests you on Find Me Gluten Free, see how they do with vegan meals.
Contact the Restaurant
I usually contact a restaurant on Facebook to ask them about their options. Everyone I’ve asked has been helpful and welcoming. Don’t be shy. Most businesses love getting new customers.
Make Sides Your Meal
Stuck going to a steakhouse? Check out the menu ahead of time and see if you can make a meal of sides. One of my favorite steakhouse meals is a plain baked potato with sauteed mushrooms and steamed broccoli.
You Can Do It!
Here are your next steps! Subscribe to this blog so you’re notified any time a new tip or recipe comes out. I’m vegan now, so many of the new recipes are vegan
Next, check out my Gluten Free Quick Start Guide with links to all my top tips for going gluten free.
And last, but certainly not least, head over to my vegan recipes section. There are a few meals and desserts to get you started on your gluten free journey and more being added every day.
Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you back!!