Are Blue Cheeses Gluten Free?

Not too long ago I wrote a post about eating at Bonefish Grill.  I chose one of the specialty items that evening which was topped with Gorgonzola cheese.  A reader questioned the gluten-free status of Gorgonzola and I had not come up with a sufficient answer until today.

I have subscribed to Gluten-Free Living magazine for many years, and it has been a valuable source of information.  Today I came across my back issues and decided to flip through them.  I’m glad I did because the Jan./Feb. 2001 issue had the cheese answer I was looking for!  In response to a reader’s question about cheeses, Jacqueline Mallorca quoted the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins, one of the foremost cheese experts in the country.

“Originally the blueing of Gorgonzola (and other blue cheeses) occurred naturally.  The instigator was a mold that lurked on the walls of the damp, drafty Valsassin caves…These days, the demand for Gorgonzola has propelled its production into the modern age of cheese making.  For the last 40 years, the cheeses have been pierced with copper or stainless steel needles and the resulting fissures allow oxygen to enter and nourish a commercially manufactured mold-producing bacteria called Pennicillium gorgonzola.  In fact, virtually all commercial blue cheeses are made in this way.”

Mallorca then goes on to say that celiacs can eat all blue cheeses except Roquefort which has mold introduced on moldy rye bread.

I hope this information is helpful to some of you.  If you are not familiar with Gluten-Free Living magazine, you will find some useful information at their web site and even more in their magazine.




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Comments

  1. Serene says:

    Thanks for this. I am just tagging all my relevant blog posts with a "gluten-free" tag, and I was wondering if the pumpkin-gorgonzola flans were gluten-free. You're a great help! :-)

  2. Corinne Abt says:

    Wow. Thank you very much for the post on blue/gorgonzola cheese and the reference to Gluten Free Living Magazine. My college age daughter was just diagnosed with celiacs and we are trying to find as many resources as possible and get as many questions answered as we can prior to her leaving us next month.

    She loves blue/gorgonzola cheese and is pleased she can continue to eat it.

  3. I always thought that all blue cheeses except for Roquefort were gluten free, but what about cheeses that are made with “Pennicillium roqueforti” (as opposed to, for example, “Pennicillium gorgonzola”?)? I am still unsure about that and usually stay away from those because, to me, it means that they are made with mold raised on gluten bread. Any ideas?

    • Sorry, I somehow missed this comment and question. I don’t have an answer for you though. I haven’t looked into the issue any more since I am dairy free now. If you do find out, I’d love to hear the answer.

    • Another commenter said, “To answer Blue – Roquefort cheese is made from Pennicillium roqueforti… That is why it is called Roquefort…”

      • I will let you know when I know more. I was just asking because I have seen cheese sold as “blue cheese” that was made with Pennicillium roqueforti. Maybe that “blue cheese” was really Roquefort.

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for this article! It clears up my confusion about not being allowed to eat Roquefort. I need to say, though – Pennicillium is a fungus, not a bacterium. There is a HUGE difference.

    To answer Blue – Roquefort cheese is made from Pennicillium roqueforti… That is why it is called Roquefort…

    • Thanks, Demi. You are right about pennicillium, but since that part of the post is a quote, I won’t change it. Thanks for your input and the information about roquefort.

  5. Yeah, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to imply that it was your post. :) I knew it was a quote from the magazine. I wouldn’t care so much if it was your quote, but people that write for magazines, report news, or are interviewed as experts often make these strange errors and lose all credibility when they do. I do appreciate your posting the research, though. I just finished doing some research of my own and I see that it is common for some Roquefort-making companies to culture the mold in a lab now. Do you know if this is true across the board (as in with all Roquefort companies), or whether the gluten is somehow transferred via the spores during the culturing process? I can’t find a clear answer, though Societe advertises a “bread cheese”. So, I have to wonder, is that different from their regular Roquefort cheese? Just trying to get to the bottom of this. Roquefort is my favorite cheese and I was just told by my doctor, who has all but diagnosed me with celiacs (still waiting biopsy), that I should not eat Roquefrot. :(

  6. Aha!

    I found these two articles that should clear up and questions about newer inoculating methods (and the questions I have posted above):

    http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=glutenfreecooking&cdn=food&tm=147&f=10&tt=12&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.glutenfreediet.ca/img/bluecheese.pdf

    and

    http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/45340-the-bleus/

    The following is a relevant quote from the latter article.

    “Several cheeses are legally allowed to be called Roquefort. The criteria is the sheep must be grazed in a certain area and the cheese matured in the same area but the area is reasonably large.
    Within this area several manufacturers use different methods of infection. Roquefort Societe uses a natural infection with no gluten based host. Roquefort Carles uses a rye based host which is placed in the cave and the mold injected into the cheese. (Hence CC)
    Baragnaudes (owned by Societe too) is also naturally infected but with a different strain of P. Roquforti native to a specific cave system.”

  7. Kathie M. says:

    Well, it’s good to know that it’s all mostly gluten free. But since I am allergic to pennicillin that still leaves me out. I get an awful reaction to these cheeses. Darn! And they taste soooo good.

    • murray says:

      Blue cheese, brie and camembert each have a penicillium bacteria, which is unrelated to penicillin.

  8. Melanie says:

    Thank you for this! I seriously was just thinking in the past week about scouring your website to see if you had any insight on this subject, but you just made that a whole heck of a lot easier for me.

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