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Cocktail sauce is the perfect condiment to pair with seafood. It can even add an extra kick to your omelet or Bloody Mary. But first, you have to find out whether it’s safe for celiacs to use.

Cocktail sauce is gluten-free in most cases. The main ingredients, ketchup, horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice do not contain gluten. However, some brands use additional ingredients, like malt vinegar, which are dangerous for celiacs. So be sure to choose safe brands or make homemade sauces.

Read on to find out which brands are gluten-free, how to make your cocktail sauce at home, and where to buy safe gluten-free ingredients.

what makes cocktail sauce gluten free

What Makes Cocktail Sauce Gluten-Free?

If all of the various ingredients included in the cocktail sauce are gluten-free then the sauce itself will be safe for celiacs as well. The basic ingredients used are ketchup, horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice.

Ketchup is normally gluten-free, as long as it is made using distilled vinegar and not malt vinegar. Another factor to consider is the stabilizing agents included in the formula to thicken the ketchup. These may contain trace amounts of gluten, especially if the manufacturers use the same facility to produce other gluten-based products.

Prepared horseradish is a mixture of the plant’s root, along with vinegar and salt. The horseradish plant comes from the same family as mustard and wasabi. It is not only gluten-free but also has anti-inflammatory properties because of a compound called sinigrin. Overall, horseradish is safe for celiacs to use and shouldn’t pose a problem.

Similarly, lemon juice is a gluten-free ingredient. Hot sauce is not gluten-free if it contains rice vinegar, soy sauces, or malt vinegar. These ingredients are used by some brands. Hot sauces that use a basic recipe of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, and spices are gluten-free. This means that finding the right products from safe brands is extremely important for celiacs.

Worcestershire sauce is often the problem ingredient in cocktail sauces because it is made using a plethora of ingredients. These include items like anchovies, onions, and spices, but may also include dangerous items like barley or malt vinegar.

Companies like Heinz, Red Duck, and Market Naturals sell delicious gluten-free cocktail sauces that are completely safe for celiacs to use. Alternatively, making homemade sauce is always the best option and you can source gluten-free ingredients from reputable companies like Gold’s and Heinz.

ingredients to look out for when making gluten-free cocktail sauce

[Also read The Secret of Gluten-Free Cocktails]

Ingredients To Look Out For

Worcestershire sauce is the main troublemaker within cocktail sauces. Moreover, this fact is made additionally complicated as there are various formulations of Worcestershire sauce out there.

Some formulations do not contain barley or malt vinegar and hence are gluten-free. Thus, some cocktail sauces can include this ingredient and remain gluten-free. Other times, the Worcestershire sauce will contain barley malt vinegar and be unsuitable.

Keep in mind that although the ingredients list on the packaging of cocktail sauce may mention Worcestershire sauce, it is unlikely that the ingredients contained within the Worcestershire sauce will be included.

Due to this, there is an additional layer of complexity when it comes to independently ensuring that the cocktail sauce is gluten-free. Fortunately, this article goes over some of the most commonly consumed brands of cocktail sauce and details whether or not these are gluten-free.

Which Cocktail Sauce Brands Are Gluten-Free?

When it comes to shopping for a cocktail sauce, you won’t always have time to research the entire ingredient list. That’s why we’ve compiled this helpful guide of sauces that are safe for celiacs, followed by some unsafe products that you should avoid.


  • Heinz

A rich consistency and flavorful taste is not the only thing on offer from Heinz’s cocktail sauce. A quick look at the ingredients list will reveal that this formulation contains all the standard ingredients apart while remaining gluten-free. This makes it an excellent option!

bottle of heinz cocktail sauce
  • Red Duck

Thanks to the use of all organic and vegan-friendly ingredients, Red Duck’s offering stands out as the freshest tasting of the bunch. Moreover, the fact that it is completely gluten-free means that everyone can enjoy this treat.

bottle of red duck cocktail sauce
  • Bookbinder’s

One of the most important ingredients within a cocktail sauce is the included lemon juice, which adds a zesty tang to each bite. Bookbinder’s offering does not lack on this front whatsoever. Additionally, it is gluten-free.

bookbinders bottle of cocktail sauce
  • Market Naturals

This cocktail sauce formulation emphasizes the spice that consumers have come to expect. With 140 years of experience, Market Naturals has perfected the recipe for a delicate yet flavorful cocktail sauce. In addition to this, it is also completely free of gluten.

bottle of pike pier fishman cocktail sauce
  • Old Bay

This brand markets itself as more than just a dipping sauce. Instead, they claim to be a shrimp’s best friend. This is due to their special recipe made with one purpose: to complement the flavor of shrimp better than any of their competitors. Whether or not Old Bay accomplishes this feat is up to you to decide. Thanks to their gluten-free certification, you can judge and find out for yourself!

bottle of old bay cocktail sauce
  • Kraft

One of the most famous brands in the industry, Kraft does not disappoint with its cocktail sauce. With its creamy and thick texture, this dip is sure to thoroughly cover every corner of whatever is being dipped. Best of all is that it has a gluten-free certification making it open to all who want to try.

bottle of kraft cocktail sauce


These popular brands sell delicious cocktail sauces, unfortunately, their products are not gluten-free.

  • McCormick

This brand offers the classic gentle sweetness consumers have come to expect with their cocktail sauce as well as a strong hit of horseradish. Making it an option that purists will love. Unfortunately, McCormick’s cocktail sauce does include gluten, making it unsuitable for those on a gluten-free diet.

  • Crosse & Blackwell

This company has been in business for over 300 years for a good reason. Their formulation of cocktail sauce is not only an excellent complement to seafood but even pairs well with sides like fries and onion rings. However, Crosse & Blackwell cocktail sauce is not free from gluten.

how to make gluten-free cocktail sauce at home

How To Make Gluten-Free Cocktail Sauce At Home?

The best way to ensure that your cocktail sauce is gluten-free is by making it yourself. That way you know exactly what’s going into your dip! Plus, you also avoid the risk of potential preservatives and other harmful additives.

The first step is to gather all the ingredients you will require. For pre-prepared or pre-packaged ingredients, it is important to check that these component ingredients are also gluten-free.

The following is a suggested recipe to use for making a homemade cocktail sauce:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • 2-4 Teaspoons of hot sauce (depending on desired spice level)
  • Quarter Cup Prepared Horseradish
  • Two-Thirds Cup of Tomato Ketchup

Once you have all these ingredients ready, preparing the cocktail sauce is as simple as adding everything to a bowl and mixing it. The sauce should be consumed within a day or two for the freshest taste. However, it will store in the fridge for a few weeks provided that it is in a covered container.

You can pair your cocktail sauce with vegan dishes as well. Certain recipes for Worcestershire sauce do use anchovies, which may be a gray area for many vegans. However, brands like Heinz make cruelty-free sauces that would go great with your vegan shrimp. Here are some other vegan recipes to fuel your day.

finding gluten-free ingredients for your homemade sauce

[Also read Counting Your Calories? Make A Vegetarian Full English Breakfast Under 500 Calories]

Finding Gluten-Free Ingredients For Your Homemade Sauce

While homemade sauce is the safest option, you need to make sure you’re buying your ingredients from reputable companies. For horseradish, try Gold’s line of fresh produce and natural products. Alternatively, you can even grow your own. There’s a huge case to be made for why you should grow your food.

Much like their cocktail sauce, Heinz’s ketchup is also gluten-free, making it a suitable choice for this homemade recipe. For gluten-free Worcestershire, we recommend the Lea & Perrins sauce, but only if you’re in the US.

The American version uses distilled vinegar, molasses, sugar, water, salt, onion, chili peppers, and spices. The bottle is also marked gluten-free. However, Canadian and European versions of the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce use malt vinegar, which contains gluten. Other safe products include French’s Classic Worcestershire or the Wizard’s Worcestershire Sauce.

Related Questions

Can Celiacs Eat Cocktail Sauce?

All in all, celiacs can eat cocktail sauces that are made using safe gluten-free ingredients. These include horseradish, lemon juice, hot sauce, and ketchup made using distilled vinegar, and certain safe brands of Worcestershire sauce. Hence, celiacs should buy cocktail sauces from reputable companies like Heinz, Red Duck, Bookbinder’s, Marker Naturals, Old Bay, and Kraft that make certified gluten-free sauces.

Is Cocktail Sauce Dairy-Free?

Cocktail sauce recipes do not include any dairy or cheese products. While some cocktail sauce recipes may not be gluten-free, all sauces are egg-free and dairy-free. A sensitivity to dairy may go hand-in-hand with gluten intolerance. Celiac disease increases lactose intolerance, and, if you continue eating gluten, you may develop symptoms like dairy sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome.

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