Gluten Free Festive Drinks 2022: Coffee Shop Guide (dairy free too)

10th November 2020
Blog post

My Gluten Free Festive Drinks Guide was born a few years ago. I was stood in Costa, wanting to participate in the festive hot chocolate drinking…. black forest, gingerbread, Irish velvet. Yum!! But to be completely honest, I didn’t want the faff of being handed the allergen book so I just went for a boring black americano.

THAT SHOULDN’T BE THE CASE!! We should be able to have the festive drinks without a fuss. Hopefully my guide will help!!

NB: I have written where my info has come from in each of the sections so you can check it for yourself too. As always, please make sure the barista is aware you’re coeliac and keep an eye on what they’re up to whilst they make your drink as everyone makes mistakes – especially in a busy coffee shop at Christmas!

Caffe Nero

I AM SO HAPPY WITH CAFFE NERO!!! Not only is their allergen info on their website the clearest to read, but also EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of their festive drinks is gluten free. Even the “brownie” one!! Wahoooooooooo!! For that reason, they’re getting first spot on this guide.

One thing to note: Caffe Nero serves gluten-containing oat milk in some of its stores which could mean there’s a cross contamination risk. See the “Oat Debate” at the end of this blog for more info and my views on this. (Side note – I think this is only the case in some stores, strangely some seem to have a gf oat milk. If you work there, maybe you can help on this?)

Dairy free guys: A couple of other reasons why I love Caffe Nero… you can have vegan whipped cream, vegan marshmellows, chocolate chips and even the caramel sauce is dairy free (all gluten free too obviously :)). Also, do not miss the little chocolates by the till. “Gianduja Chocolates”… vegan but taste like bites of pure Nutella and they are the best dairy free chocolate I’ve ever eaten.

Their milk brand is Alpro and your choice for gluten, dairy free milks are soya and coconut.

Where is my information from?

  • Caffe Nero make it super duper easy. Festive drinks are here and the other hot drinks are here. Just click on the drink you want, change to the milk you want and it tells you in the bullet points underneath what allergens it contains.
  • If you want more info (or don’t believe it, like I did!), then their full allergen matrix is here. The drinks are on page 5 and extras (brownie bits, caramel sauce etc) are on page 6.


Warning on Costa’s milk

Before we get going, you should read this. Costa uses a dairy free milk brand called AdeZ. Their oat, coconut and soya milks all come with “may contain gluten” warnings. How does this affect you?

  1. If you’re just gluten free (ie. not dairy free)? There is a risk of cross contamination but I’d guess its tinyyyyy, especially as the dairy free milk should be in a separate jug/steamer etc to the regular milk anyway. Everyone handles this risk differently, but I would make the barista aware of the fact you’re coeliac and ask them to use a clean jug/steamer/cloths etc, just incase.
  2. If you’re gluten and dairy free?
    • The only dairy free option without a “may gluten contain warning” is almond milk.
    • As I understand it, all of their dairy free milk drinks are made using the same jug, steamer etc so your almond drink would be made using the same equipment as drinks made with a “may contain warning”. This means the risk is higher than with Costas regular milk.
    • Whilst this is the only coffee shop I know that has may contain on coconut and soya milks, LOADS have the warning on oat milk already (because they serve Oatly… grrr!!!) so its something I’ve previously shared my thoughts on. Scroll down to the bottom and read the “oat milk debate”.
    • …but if I had to add anything to that, I’d say because Costa now has 3 “may contain gluten” milks, I do avoid it where possible. I always pick Caffe Nero where I can (or independents that don’t serve gluten oat milk if I’m lucky enough to be near one!)

What Festive Drinks are gluten free at Costa? And dairy free?

Dairy free guys: Please note, the cappuccino dusting states “may contain milk” in their allergen guide. This year the “shimmer curls” are a may contain as well.

Where’s my information from?

  1. They’ve got a great, easy guide here where you can easily see if the drinks are gluten free
  2. That said, it only gives you info for the complete drink e.g. Terrys Choc Orange Hot Chocolate says its not gluten free. That’s because it includes a Terrys Choc Orange segment which is a may contain. The drink itself fine! How do I know that? Here’s their allergen guide. At the end of the guide, there is a “Drinks Ingredients” section. Based on the description of the Costa drinks here, you can work out what the components of each drink are and therefore work out if there’s bits you can leave out to make it gluten free.


What Festive Drinks are gluten free at Starbucks? And dairy free?

The really short version – gluten freers, from what I can see, the syrups and whipped creams are all fine but *most* of the toppings that go on the whipped creams (waffle pieces, wafer pieces & cookie crumb) all contain gluten. Gluten and dairy freers, same as gluten free but have to leave off the flavoured whipped creams too… so we’re just left with the syrup.

Where’s my information from?

Its all listed in either their Christmas Drinks guide or regular Drinks guide. Starbucks break their ingredients list down into each component of the drink so its easy to see how to make adaptations to make your drink gluten free.

Remember, Starbucks uses a gluten-containing oat milk. See the “Oat Milk Debate” below for more info on what that means.

The Oat Milk Debate

Many coffee shops use a gluten-containing oat milk and therefore there is a risk of cross-contamination from the steamer, jugs, wipes, etc.

The debate lies around how big that risk is. Could the level of gluten be over 20 parts per million and therefore making them unsafe for coeliacs?

Lots of people handle this situation differently and at the end of the day its a totally personal choice but I thought I’d share (1) Coeliac UKs thoughts and (2) how I approach the issue:

(1) Coeliac UK:

“As we do not know the level of cleaning between each drink being made and therefore the levels of gluten due to the chance of cross contamination of gluten, we cannot advise that the product will be 20ppm or less of gluten and therefore suitable for a gluten free diet.

We would advise customers to speak with a trained barista regarding possible cross contamination and also to be aware of the possible risk if making a purchase.”

(2) How I approach the issue:

  • I only go into stores that are relatively quiet so they barista has time to talk to me and isn’t pressured by the queue!
  • I know my drink order before I get there. I’ve already checked online that the drink I’m about to ask for is gluten free. Asking for the allergen folder makes it even more stressful!!
  • I explain the issue. “I have coeliac disease so I can’t have any risk of gluten in my drink. You guys serve a gluten-containing oat milk so I have to make sure there’s no chance any bit of that gets in my drink… just want to check its a clean jug, the steamer has been wiped down with a clean cloth etc”. If they look at me like I’m mad, I leave it and walk away.
  • If they do make you feel at all uncomfortable (which is all too common), remember you are not a burden!!!!!

(3) So you know what others do… Based on an Insta Poll in 2021, around 60% of coeliacs will drink at a coffee shop that sells gluten containing oat milk but just take the measures listed above to make themselves as safe as possible.


  • Claire Grant

    25th November 2021 at 11:08 pm

    I don’t know if this is all Caffè Nero but my local one in Southampton uses gluten free oat milk.

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