July 4th the Gluten-free Way - Celiac Disease
Jun 30 2011

July 4th the Gluten-free Way

With July 4th just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about what a typical Independence Day meal looks like for most Americans.  It dawned on me that there is really nothing on the traditional menu for the holiday that can’t be made to be gluten-free – if it isn’t naturally that way.

These days there are more hot dogs that are gluten-free than those that contain gluten.  At least, that is true in my local supermarkets.  Even most of Nathan’s dogs are labeled gluten-free!  Most hot dog condiments like onions, relish, ketchup and mustard are gluten-free as well.  The biggest challenge for this meal is definitely the bun and even that is easier to find than ever.  Rudi’s, Udi’s and Katz Gluten-free have all recently launched – or are about to launch – gluten-free hamburger and hot dog buns.   Several other brands have offered such items for a while now.

Side dishes like chips and potato salad tend to be naturally gluten-free.  Many brands of canned baked beans are gluten-free, including some products that previously contained wheat.  For a healthy nosh platter on the big day, consider serving fresh cut up veggies with homemade ranch or dill dips.  Just remember not to let cold dips sit out too long in the sun.

When I was growing up in the panhandle of Florida, we always had watermelon in the summertime.  To this day, it’s hard for me to pass up watermelon in the summer and like most good Southerners, I prefer mine with salt!  Thankfully, both salt and watermelon are naturally gluten-free.  There have been extremely odd incidents of gluten containing specialty salts in some restaurants, but those are very rare exceptions.

Even though watermelon or grilled pineapple both make for lovely, naturally gluten-free desserts during any summer weekend or holiday, I’ve always been partial to the U.S. flag cake on July 4th.  All you need to make one is a gluten-free white or yellow cake mix, some frosting (homemade or canned) and fresh fruit.  It’s as easy as pie – or maybe I should say cake!  Those super duper gluten-free bakers out there that make gluten-free cakes from scratch don’t even need the cake mix.

Anyone can make a flag cake and kids love to help with this one!  For anyone who needs a refresher course on how to put one together, follow the easy steps below and you’ll be set for the holiday.

  • Bake a gluten-free white (or yellow cake) in a 9” x 13” baking dish and let it cool.   (you’ll need two mixes of most brands to make this size cake)
  • Frost the cake with a vanilla or whipped cream icing (we used Cool Whip when I was a kid).
  • Decorate with fresh blueberries (for the stars) and sliced strawberries for the stripes.

If you’re taking this cake to a picnic or party, it’s easier to leave the cake in the baking dish until every bite is devoured.  If you’re in need of a gluten-free cake mix, I’ve had success with the versions from Pamela’s Products, Gluten Free Naturals and Betty Crocker.  To ensure the cakes come out moist, I add ¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce to the batter of each 8” layer.  If you prefer making a pound cake, try the version from 123 Gluten Free.  If you use the flour from Jules Gluten Free, try this killer birthday cake recipe.  For pie lovers, this Lemon Meringue pie recipe on GlutenFreely.com might be the ticket.

Whatever you do on July 4th this year, remember to cherish the the time spent with friends or family.  Enjoy some great gluten-free food and if they’re legal in your state, be sure to pick up some sparklers to celebrate the holiday in true old fashioned style!


*Above photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com.

Article Written by:

Kyle Eslick is the founder of Gluten Free Media, as well as the creator of the popular Celiac Support Groups page. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+!


  1. Jules says:

    Tiffany – love the July 4 recipe summary! My mom and I always used to make that flag cake you’re talking about … except we made Flag Cheesecake! (If there’s a way to make it more decadent, that’s it!). Thanks for reminding me of that great memory. I think I’ll have to make it again this year, but maybe I’ll use my cake recipe instead!!!

  2. sciotoceliac says:

    You might want to be vigilant about potato salad if purchasing store-bought. I’ve seen too many varieties that list wheat as an ingredient. They use it in the dressing. To be sure, it’s best to make it yourself.

  3. Tiffany Janes says:

    I hope everyone knows to be vigilant about checking the labels of everything they buy – not just potato salad. I’ve not seen wheat or any gluten in the ready-made versions in our area, but I was shocked to see wheat listed in the Trader Joe’s egg salad…it’s crazy what all you can find gluten in. For two people, it’s definitely easiest to buy ready made potato salad as long as you can find a gluten-free version which thankfully, we can.

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