Milky Way candy bars are a sweet indulgence. But are they gluten-free? The answer may surprise you.
Milky Way bars were designed by Frank C. Mars in 1923, inspired by the flavor of malted milk shakes. Original Milky Ways are a tasty combo of chocolate malt-flavored nougat, caramel, and milk chocolate. This creamy candy bar has been an American and international hit for the last 100 years, but is it safe to eat as part of a gluten-free diet?
No, unfortunately, Milky Way bars are not gluten-free. The barley malt extract used to flavor the nougat in Milky Way bars is made from gluten-containing grains.
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Are Milky Ways Gluten Free?
What’s in an original Milky Way candy bar? Milky Ways contain the following ingredients:
- Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Skim Milk, Chocolate, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin)
- Corn Syrup
- Palm Oil
- Skim Milk
- Cocoa Powder (processed with alkali)
- Barley Malt Extract
- Egg Whites
- Artificial Flavor
The allergen statement on original Milky Ways reads, “Contains milk, egg and soy. May contain peanuts.”
While the allergen statement does does not mention wheat, it is important to note that Milky Way bars do contain barley malt extract, which is problematic for anyone following a strict gluten-free diet.
What Is Barley Malt?
Barley malt extract- one of the ingredients found in Milky Way bars- comes from barley grains, which are a natural source of gluten.
Malt is made from grains- most often barley- by soaking the grains in water, which causes them to germinate. Germination is then paused by “malting,” drying the grains with hot air. The resulting malt is used in beer, whiskey, malt vinegar, and malt-flavored candies and beverages.
Barley is a gluten-containing grain, so malt made from barley is also a source of gluten. Barley malt should be avoided by anyone following a strict gluten-free diet because of celiac disease or for other health reasons.
Are Milky Way Minis Gluten Free?
Milky Way Minis in original Milky Way chocolate bar flavor are not gluten-free. Milky Ways contain barley malt extract, which is a source of gluten.
Milky Way Minis in the Midnight flavor do not contain barley malt extract or any other gluten-containing ingredients. However, Milky Way Midnight does not carry a gluten-free label, so it’s possible that cross-contamination is an issue.
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- Are Skittles Gluten-Free?
- Are Swedish Fish Gluten-Free?
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You also might like this comprehensive gluten-free candy list.
Are Milky Way Midnight Gluten Free?
Milky Way Midnight does not include any gluten-containing ingredients. Because Milky Way Midnight candy bars feature vanilla nougat rather than chocolate malt nougat, they do not contain the barley malt extract found in original Milky Way bars.
However, Milky Way Midnight labels do not claim that they are gluten-free, so cross-contamination is a possibility. If they are produced in the same space, or using the same machinery, as candies that do contain gluten, they could pick up trace amounts of gluten that would be unhealthy for someone with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Yes, Milky Way chocolate bars do contain gluten. The barley malt extract used to flavor the nougat in Milky Way bars comes from barley, which is a natural source of gluten.
People with celiac disease, gluten sensitivities, or gluten intolerance should avoid eating Milky Way candy bars.
Milky Way “Simply Caramel” candy bars appear to be out of production these days, but if you can get your hands on one, rest assured that they do not contain any gluten ingredients.
Milky Way caramel bars, like Milky Way Midnight, do not carry a gluten-free claim on the label. This could mean that there is a risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing.
Nestle Milkybar is a white chocolate candy bar popular in the UK. According to the ingredient list, it contains whole and skim milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter, vegetable fat, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), and natural flavoring.
While Milkybar’s product label appears to list only gluten-free ingredients, the label does say that it “may contain gluten,” so Milkybars should not be eaten by celiacs.
Many chocolate bars are safe for celiacs to eat. Popular brands offering gluten-free chocolate include Dove, Lindt, Hershey’s, Snickers bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups (not the holiday varieties), Nestle, and 3 Musketeers. It’s important to always check the ingredients list, though! Specialty varieties could include gluten grains.
In addition, any chocolate bar that does not specifically claim to be gluten-free could carry traces of gluten because of cross-contamination. To be on the safe side, celiacs may want to stick to candies that are specifically labeled gluten-free.
The Bottom Line
These days, Mars, Inc. produces three varieties of Milky Way candy bars: Original, Midnight, and Cookie Dough. (The Milky Way caramel bar has been discontinued.) Milky Way Original and Milky Way Cookie Dough both contain barley malt extract, which has gluten because barley is a gluten grain.
Milky Way Midnight dark chocolate bar does not contain any gluten ingredients, but it does not claim to be gluten-free, so there may be risk of cross-contamination.
For more information about which candies are gluten-free, check out these posts before you hit the candy aisle: