Kombucha has gained quite a bit of popularity over the last decade and for good reason! Whether you are a kombucha lover or not, you may find yourself asking “Is kombucha gluten free?”.
In general, yes, but it’s not quite that cut and dry. Let’s take a look at the nitty gritty details to find out more.
What Exactly is Kombucha?
Simply put, Kombucha is a non-alcoholic, fermented tea beverage with gut health properties and other health promoting benefits (1). While Kombucha is generally gluten free, there are some variations in recipes and processing to look for to ensure you are drinking a gluten free beverage.
How is Kombucha Made?
Let’s break down how Kombucha is made at the most basic level. All Kombucha starts as a mixture of sugar, tea, and starter. The starter, which is made up of bacteria and yeast, is often referred to as SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (2).
Generally, sweetened black or green teas, which are naturally gluten-free, are fermented to make kombucha. At the risk of sounding too “sciency”, I will just say that this mixture goes through a fermentation process that gives Kombucha many of its health benefits, as well as it’s refreshing, tart taste (1).
Kombucha’s fermentation process can last anywhere from 7 to 61 days, however a 2006 study suggests that the best results can be obtained at an average of 15 days (1).
While we won’t dive any further into the fermentation process in this post, it’s important to recognize that much more goes into making kombucha, such as ingredient quality, pH, and temperature.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
This likely won’t come as a surprise to you, but kombucha has gained popularity over the last decade. This is largely due to its health benefits and consumer preference leaning toward products with minimal processing, fewer additives, and a high nutritional value (1).
Kombucha’s functional properties in combination with greater evidence on the role of the microbiome on human health has even further brought kombucha into the spotlight. Let’s dive a little deeper into some of kombucha’s health benefits.
Kombucha is rich in functional compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids, organic acids, saponins, and vitamins that give it amazing antioxidant properties (3). These qualities make it quite clear that kombucha is in fact a superfood. Superfoods have positive health benefits, beyond just the nutritional value of the food itself.
Due to its fermentation process, kombucha is a probiotic-containing beverage. Probiotics, the healthy “good” bacteria in the gut, play an essential role in human health (4). For example, some of the most profound effects include normalizing and optimizing gut function and boosting immune function (4).
Is Kombucha Gluten Free?
Let’s just cut to the chase here. Yes, 99.999 times out of 10 kombucha is gluten free. BUT, on the rare occasion, you may come across a kombucha that’s not gluten free. Keep reading to find out a few things to look for when trying to decide which kombucha is gluten free.
- Type of Tea
Most teas are gluten free, however according to the National Celiac Association (NCA), some teas contain barley and therefore are not gluten free.
The NCA reinforces the importance of reading labels and advises that the following teas may contain gluten:
- Flavored tea (ingredients containing gluten may be present in flavorings)
- Chai tea (may contain ingredients with gluten or grains)
- Herbal tea (may contain ingredients with gluten or grains)
- Matcha tea (matcha powder may have wheat added to it)
- Sprouted tea (sprouts may be from gluten-containing grains)
- Added flavors
As stated above, some teas with added flavors may be flavored with flavoring agents that contain gluten or grain-based ingredients. Additionally, with kombucha being a tea-based beverage, it’s important to know the base tea product that your favorite kombucha is made from.
From my experience, most kombucha’s are flavored with natural ingredients, such as berries, other fruits, and gluten-free herbs.
- Cross contamination
While it’s unlikely, it is entirely possible that cross contamination may occur in facilities that make kombucha. Some kombucha breweries are very diligent to avoid cross contamination, but for other smaller, family-owned breweries, it’s not possible to have separate facilities for only brewing kombucha. In these cases, cross contamination may occur.
- Certified Gluten Free
If you see the certified gluten free label on your kombucha, you can be confident that it is a gluten free kombucha. Importantly, not all gluten free kombuchas hold the certified gluten free credential.
- Kombucha Beer
Kombucha beer may not be gluten free. It’s important to ask your brewer or read the ingredient label to see if grains and/or barley are used to make the kombucha beer.
When is Gluten Free Actually Necessary?
This question may sound a little harsh, but does it really matter if your kombucha is gluten free? For most of us, no, it’s not super important. A preference, maybe, but not necessary.
But there are some individuals that have severe, maybe even life-threatening reactions to gluten exposure. Individuals with gluten intolerance or sensitivity, a gluten allergy, or Celiac disease should avoid gluten containing products.
Gluten Free Kombucha
At the time of this publication, the following brands have gluten-free Kombucha. As always, please read labels carefully to ensure no added ingredients are present that could make your product of choice gluten-containing.
This is especially true for seasonal and specialty flavors that may require additional ingredients to reach a desired outcome or taste. Additionally, if you are extremely sensitive to gluten, you’ll need to consider the chance of cross-contamination.
*Items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. If you purchase through this link, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Use code 32844 for $10 off Amare Global products*
6 Gluten-Free Kombucha Brands
While some of these brands are available nationwide, others may be available only via shipping or locally. This is not an all-inclusive list of gluten-free kombucha brands, but highlights some of the best I’ve run across.
Buddha’s Brew, Austin, TX
All of Buddha’s Brew Kombucha’s are gluten free. Buddha’s Brew employees are not allowed to bring food into the brewery to further avoid any chance of cross-contamination.
GT’s Living Foods (Synergy), Los Angeles, California
GT’s Synergy Kombucha is gluten-free, peanut-free, sesame seed-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, egg-free and free of GMO’s and artificial colors. Their Kombucha brewing facility is solely for making Kombucha so there is no chance of cross contamination.
Health-Ade Kombucha, Torrance, CA
Health-Ade Kombucha is certified organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free and *Kosher (*except for the Limeade)
Humm Kombucha, Bend Oregon
According to Humm’s website, all of their core Kombucha flavors are USDA certified organic, Non-GMO, Vegan, Keto-friendly, and gluten free.
Panacea Brewing Company, Wilmington, NC
Panacea states that their Kombucha is gluten-free. However, the brewing process takes place in a brewery that has grain, so there is a very slight chance of cross contamination. Panacea recommends anyone with severe celiac avoid their kombucha.
Amare Global, Irvine, CA
Amare’s new *GBX Pep organic live kombucha is sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Non-GMO and Vegan. GBX Pep contains probiotics, prebiotics, and sun theanine to support healthy, digestion, gut health, and mental wellness.
My Favorite Gluten Free Kombucha
I know this has all been a lot to take in, but I must tell you about my personal favorite Kombucha! Hands down, the best Kombucha that I have ever had is from a local brewery, Panacea Brewing Company in Wilmington, North Carolina. Panacea Brewing Company
Why it’s my favorite
Trust me when I tell you that I’ve tried many types, brands, and varieties of Kombucha. I love the Kombucha from Panacea for several reasons; for one, it’s local and oh so fresh! Beyond that, it’s crisp and easy on the palate.
From my experience, a lot of Kombucha’s have a very apple cider vinegary taste and Panacea’s Kombucha does not. It’s light and doesn’t sit heavy on the stomach, which is super important to me. Finally, I personally know one of the owners and know that they only use the finest ingredients in their products.
I can’t fail to mention that Panacea has a killer 100% Vegan restaurant as well! If you are ever in the area, it’s a MUST TRY.
As you can see, most but not all kombucha’s are gluten free. It’s important to be an informed consumer to protect yourself from gluten containing products if you have a sensitivity, intolerance, allergy, or condition such as celiac disease.
If you have a favorite gluten free kombucha, please feel free to share in the comments! Happy kombucha drinking, friends!
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
Angela Lago is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is passionate about researching the connection between gut health and mental wellness. Learn more about Angela’s journey from being depressed, anxious, and sleep deprived to being happy, healthy, and thriving!