Food storage guidelines for gluten-free foods are similar to those for gluten-containing foods. The main difference is some gluten-free foods have shorter shelf lives, and cross contamination is a concern when you store gluten-free foods near those with gluten.
Breads and Baked Goods
Due to shorter shelf lives, gluten-free breads and baked goods are often kept frozen to prevent spoiling. Some of these foods can remain stable in the freezer up to two years. However, once breads and baked goods are thawed, they must be used within a several days to a week, depending on the product.
- Gluten-free breads, buns, muffins, biscuits, and scones thawed to room temperature generally have shelf lives of three to four days. Thawed gluten-free cupcakes, cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts often stay fresh at room temperature for five to seven days.
- Gluten-free pie shells should be kept refrigerated after thawing and can generally be kept up to five days.
Store gluten-free breads and baked goods in tightly sealed food storage containers to preserve freshness and prevent spoiling.
Store gluten-free whole grains in tightly sealed containers, especially after they've been opened from original packaging. Gluten-free grains include amaranth, corn, millet, buckwheat, oats not processed with gluten-containing foods, rice, sorghum, quinoa, and teff. Store sealed gluten-free grains in the pantry for two to six months, or in the freezer for four to 12 months (depending on the type of grain), suggests the Whole Grains Council. After you've cooked gluten-free grains, store leftovers in sealed containers in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to four months, suggests the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As with gluten-free whole grains, store gluten-free flours in tightly sealed containers -- whether it's a glass or plastic food storage container, a glass jar with a lid, or a sealed zipper bag. According to the Whole Grains Council, it's safe to store gluten-free flour in the pantry for one to three months, or in the freezer for two to six months, depending on the type of flour.
Gluten-free bakers often use gums, like xanthan or guar gum, in gluten-free recipes. Store gluten-free gums in sealed airtight containers (such as Tupperware containers) in a cool dry place. To maximize shelf life, place gums in the refrigerator or freezer away from gluten-containing foods. Make sure to label each container with a use by date (noted on the package) so you know when it's time to toss the gum. If you notice xanthan or guar gum starts to smell bad, it's time to throw it out.
Other Gluten-Free Foods
Several other commonly eaten foods are naturally gluten-free. These include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Meat, eggs, and tofu
- Dairy foods
Use your best judgment to determine how long to keep fruits and veggies; when they turn brown, become slimy, have visible mold, or smell funny, throw it out. Canned foods can often be stored at room temperature for up to a year, or longer in some cases. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln provides an extensive food safety chart that shows how long you can safely store foods in the freezer or refrigerator. Leftovers are generally safe to eat for up to four days when stored in the refrigerator.
Avoid Cross Contamination
Store gluten-free products away from gluten-containing foods to prevent cross contamination. If space allows, dedicate certain cupboards, cabinets, shelves, or drawers in the fridge as gluten-free areas, where you can store gluten-free foods separately from gluten-containing foods. Certain storage containers should be labeled gluten-free and only be used to store gluten-free foods. Be sure to choose tightly sealed containers, such as food storage containers with sealed lids, or sealed zipper bags. For best results, leave as little air as possible in each container. You can even use a separate sponge for washing gluten-free storage containers (and utensils or dishes used for gluten-free eating) to further avoid cross contamination.
Maintain a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Knowing how to store gluten-free foods properly brings you one step close to maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle and lowers your risk for foodborne illness. Such knowledge also helps reduce food waste, which is a time and money saver.