Gluten and lupin: allergen advice for caterers

In the latest of the series, we look at one of the most well-known allergens and one of the lesser known


Gluten is the name for the proteins found in wheat that help it maintain its shape. As many as 13% of the population avoid this well-known allergen. For some, it’s because of a diagnosed allergy, while others choose to avoid gluten for lifestyle reasons.

Reactions to gluten can be immediate or delayed. The most common effects are bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea but can also include headaches, fatigue, depression and weight loss over time.

The body’s response to gluten proteins can cause coeliac disease, a condition where the immune system attacks the tissues, damaging the gut and making it impossible to take in nutrients.

Look out for:

  • Some frozen chips contain gluten
  • Oats are not always gluten-free due to the way they are processed. Always check
  • Avoid grains and wheat-based ingredients such as couscous, bulghur wheat, barley, semolina and rye
  • Crisps are one to double check. Salt and vinegar flavour, in particular, may use barley malt flavouring
  • Look out for sausages and burgers that are bulked out with breadcrumbs, and battered meat or fish
  • Warn your regulars that beer, ale, stout and lager may contain gluten. Some people with gluten allergies won’t drink vodka as it’s disputed whether it contains the allergen or not
  • Common ingredients such as soy sauce, stock cubes and mustard can have gluten in them. Also be cautious about ready-made gravies and sauces as these too may contain gluten.
Noodle stir fry

Gluten substitutions

The gluten-free market is huge with substitutions for almost any foods you can think of:

  • There are tasty pasta alternatives made from rice, corn, tapioca or buckwheat
  • Cornflour can make a good substitute to wheat flour in sauces such as gravy
  • Breads such as pitta, croissants, naans, bagels and wraps can be switched for good quality gluten-free breads. Try rice, corn and buckwheat-made crackers and crispbreads, too – great for a cheeseboard
  • Replace wheat-based breakfast bowls and bars with gluten-free oat-based porridge and granola
  • There is now a multitude of flour substitutes, from chestnut to rice to coconut. They react differently to wheat flour and you often need to add a ‘gluing’ agent such as xanthan gum to obtain the desired texture, especially in baking
  • Try replacing couscous with quinoa. It is super healthy and gives a similar look and texture
  • Tamari is the perfect substitute for soy sauce. The salt levels can differ so always taste to check seasoning.
Download and print the fourth part of our allergen guide
“Around 1 in 100 people worldwide have coeliac disease while the numbers suffering with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may be significantly higher. The majority of people with gluten-related disorders remain undiagnosed”


It is the least well-known allergen, however, it can provoke a serious reaction – so what exactly is lupin? Best known as a tall, colourful garden flower, the seeds from certain lupin species are crushed to make flour, pastries, pancakes and pasta.

These seeds are one of the world’s richest known sources of combined plant protein (around 40%) and dietary fibre (30%).

It’s most often used in Mediterranean cuisine in mainland Europe. However, lupin is growing in popularity among pastry chefs because of its earthy flavour and it is also a good source of plant protein for the gluten-intolerant.

Although it is far less common than some of the other allergies, it can be potentially as serious as a peanut allergy. In fact, some research suggests there is a link between lupin and peanut allergies as there is a similar protein in both and they’re from the legume family.

Symptoms of a lupin allergy can show rapidly and range from mild hives on the body to the less common breathing problems or anaphylactic shock.

Look out for:

  • Lupin can be found in salad dressings, breads, pizzas, pastries and pancakes.

Always refer to the Food Standard Agency’s website for the most up-to-date allergen information.

Stack of pancakes with fruit
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