Gluten Free Desserts in Santa Cruz

gluten free desserts in santa cruz

Gluten-free does NOT mean flavor free in Santa Cruz County.

Whether you are avoiding gluten by choice or if you have an allergy, you do not have to miss out on all things delicious! From gluten-free bakeries to salt-water taffy to lavender-infused ice cream, here is a list of gluten-free treats found in Santa Cruz.

Mariposa Artisan Crafted Gluten-Free Cookies at Pacific Cookie Company

pacific cookie company gluten free cookiesgluten free cookieEach day, Pacific Cookie Company bakes fresh gluten-free cookies using dough from Mariposa Baking Company, a dedicated gluten-free bakery based in Oakland. Pacific Cookie Company takes precautions in their kitchen to prevent cross-contamination with gluten-filled cookies. With flavors like chocolate chip, double chocolate, and molasses, you do not have to be left out of the downtown cookie scene.

1203 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz

Melinda’s Gluten-Free Bakery

Melinda's Gluten Free Bakery

Melinda’s is THE place to go for all things gluten-free in Santa Cruz County. This bakery is 100% gluten-free and every day they are baking up sweet treats like donuts, cinnamon rolls, linzer cookies, graham crackers and so much more. You will never feel like you are missing gluten when you walk into Melinda’s Gluten-Free Bakery.

Gluten Free CupcakesOh, and be sure to stop in early on the weekends to try one of their famous gluten-free croissants. This is like the unicorn of the gluten-free world! Hurry, they sell out quickly.

You can also find Melinda’s gluten-free baked goods in places around Santa Cruz such as New Leaf Markets and Surf City Coffee.

1420 41st Ave, Capitola
Photos courtesy of Melinda’s Gluten-Free Bakery

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for (Gluten-Free) ICE CREAM*!

Penny Ice Creamery

Santa Cruz definitely does not have a shortage of ice cream. The Penny Ice Creamery is your go-to destination for delicious ice cream made from scratch. With a seasonal flavor menu and locally sourced ingredients, you can always try something new at TPIC. Bonus: Ask for a gluten-free cone!

Marianne's Ice Cream Flavors

marianne's ice cream allergiesLocals and tourists alike can be seen lining up for one of the over 100 flavors at Marianne’s. There is a menu on the counter which will indicate gluten-free flavors and there are even some sugar-free options. Leave with a single scoop, a sundae, or even a pint of your favorite ice cream. Gluten-free sugar cones available upon request.

“No hype, just great ice cream” is the tagline at Mission Hill Creamery and we couldn’t agree more. Serving up both ice cream and coffee drinks and even a combo of the two topped with chocolate espresso beans, Mission Hill Creamery is a sweet (and caffeinated) location that you should definitely visit.

*Keep in mind not all ice cream is always gluten-free, so be sure to ask the staff at any store for the exact ingredients of the flavors you choose.

Marini’s Candies

Marini's CandyIf you’ve eaten candy in Santa Cruz anytime in the past 100 years there’s a good chance it came from Marini’s. Marini’s Candies is the undisputed candy champ in town and best of all their famous salt water taffy is gluten-free. They have many other gluten-free treats in their shops including candy apples, chocolates, and fudge. If you have any concerns about ingredients don’t hesitate to ask. We’ve found that the staff is happy to assist in navigating what is gluten-free.

Multiple Locations

In the Breadbox

The entire kitchen at In the Breadbox is 100% gluten-free so there is no fear of cross-contamination with pesky gluten. Muffins, cakes, donuts, and other sweet desserts are baked daily at this bakery and kitchen. In the Breadbox also bakes up savory items such as breads, pizza, and rolls selling both retail and wholesale to local restaurants.

In the Breadbox also offer seasonal kids classes to teach the little ones all about gluten-free cooking and baking. Check their Facebook page for more information and upcoming events.

2890 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz

Buttercup Cakes

Buttercup CakesBig cupcakes, mini cupcakes, bundt cakes, oh my! Buttercup Cakes has their finger on the pulse of baking decadent desserts. They offer many flavors of regular cupcakes as well as three varieties of gluten-free cupcakes on a daily basis.

Buttercup Cakes understands the needs of those who are sensitive to gluten so they bake their gluten-free cupcakes first each morning. They also use designated “gluten-free” equipment such as measuring cups, baking pants, etc. Buttercup Cakes has worked hard on a top secret gluten-free flour mixture to get a great texture in their baked goods. No gritty cupcakes here! The gluten-free lemon bundt cake and the gluten-free (and vegan!) chocolate raspberry torte for all customers.

1411 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz, CA

Staff of Life Market

The bakery at Staff of Life has a wide variety of gluten-free products baked fresh daily. This is a shared kitchen, so if you have celiac disease or an allergy be cautious. Staff of Life gluten-free baked goods include cookies, donuts, scones, muffins, and so much more. Seasonally, they offer delicious pies such as pumpkin or cherry and even have mini options if you don’t want a whole pie. (But who doesn’t want a whole pie?!) The display cases are labeled for gluten-free options and the friendly counter staff is available to answer your questions about baking and ingredients. Check out the other aisles at Staff of Life for other packaged gluten-free treats.

1266 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz

See’s Candies

Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, fudge, toffee, lollypops, brittle, and so much more. This is just a sampling of what See’s Candies in Capitola can offer the gluten-free customer. With over 200 shops across the country, we are lucky to have a See’s Candy Shop in our very own backyard in Capitola The great news is that all of See’s Candies are gluten-free!

1601 41st Ave, Capitola

For the (gluten-free) chocolate lovers…

Mackenzies Chocolates

mackenzies chocolates

“Chocolates worth their calories” is the tagline at this Santa Cruz chocolate shop and we couldn’t agree more. Everything on the chocolate menu at Mackenzies is gluten-free except for the rice crispy clusters, rice crispy caramels and graham crackers. Mackenzies has hundreds of different molded chocolates in fun shapes such as animals, hearts, horoscope signs, and even chocolate “silverware.” They also have seasonal shapes for holidays and custom made shapes for your business or special occasion.

1492 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz

Mutari Chocolate

Mutari ChocolateMutari Chocolate, a craft chocolate shop on Front Street in Santa Cruz, has you covered in terms of drinkable desserts. They sell hot chocolate in flavors including Himalayan Pink Salt, Spicy Mexican, and Single Origin. Mutari also has extra dark sipping chocolates for the true chocolate connoisseur. Their products are available at their storefront as well as on their website. Gluten-free, vegan, organic, and direct trade, Mutari Chocolate also never adds fillers, cocoa butter, or preservatives to their products. Stop in and sip their indulgent treats.

504A Front Street, Santa Cruz
Photo courtesy of Mutari Chocolate

About Erin Smith

Erin Smith is a New York native who moved to Santa Cruz in 2016. She has been living with celiac disease since 1981 and eating gluten-free since way before it was cool.

  • Tannie says:

    Candy and cakes, great! How bout some places with real, nutrient-dense foods that are also served gluten free? Most restaurants are completely unaware of fryer contamination and other important precautions to take if you want to rep yourself as gluten-free.

    • Erin Smith says:

      Tannie, this is the first of hopefully many posts about gluten-free options in Santa Cruz. This post was focusing only on desserts. As someone living with celiac disease, I take dining out at restaurants very seriously. Cross contact, fryers, even garnishes, are all things someone with celiac must pay great attention to when dining out. This website is for a general population, but if you are looking for more celiac specific info feel free to contact me any time. I have started a local Santa Cruz Celiac support group on Facebook.

  • Jean says:

    Thank you Erin!

  • Joseph says:

    Hi Erin! Tha KS for all these great places! Check out my gluten free rice crispy treats! Made here in SC.

    • Erin Smith says:

      Thanks for the comment. I just sent you an email!

  • Ana says:

    Oh Erin, thanks for the tips. I’m a Celiac too and how annoying it’s to go on holiday and do not know safe places to eat. You just lighted up my next trip to California and Santa Cruz is definitely on the Map!

    Take Care


    • Erin says:

      Hi Ana! I definitely recommend you telling people that you have celiac disease when ordering. Some places provide gluten-free menus but you need to remind them to take extra precaution fr celiac preparation. I have more California recommendations on my website so feel free to message me any time!

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