The 8 Best Grain Free Dog Foods

By Kevin Myers | 2021 Update

This updated guide lists all of the best grain free dog foods this year.

I have reviewed the 15 bestselling and highest quality grain free dog foods after spending weeks on research, ingredient analysis, Consumer reviews and more…

(here’s my 40 point inspection list)

These are my top picks.

See the remaining top grain free dog food options later in the post.

Let’s dive in…

The 8 Best Grain Free Dog Foods

Best Grain Free Dog FoodsRatingTop Ingredients
1. Wellness CORE Ocean Recipe Dry Dog Food4.7Whitefish, Herring Meal, Salmon Meal
2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
(Editor’s Choice)
4.7Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal
3. ORIJEN Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Dog Food4.8Atlantic Mackerel, Herring, Sunflower Oil
4. Farmina N&D Ocean Herring & Orange Dog Food4.6Herring, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Carrots
5. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE LID Dog Food4.7Lamb, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes
6. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Dog Food4.6Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Peas
7. Wysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken Dog Food3.8Organic Chicken, Chicken Fat, Coconut Oil
8. Nulo Freestyle Beef Recipe Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food4.6Beef, Apples, Sweet Potato

How to Switch Dog Food Without Getting Your Pup Sick


Grain Free Dog Food Reviews

1. Wellness CORE Ocean Whitefish, Herring & Salmon Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Whitefish, 2. Herring Meal, 3. Salmon Meal, 4. Peas, 5. Lentils

Wellness Core Ocean Dog Food is a perfect choice for dogs that are sensitive to grains and poultry. The protein in this seafood-sourced recipe comes from premium-quality whitefish, salmon, and herring meat. It also contains various fruits and vegetables that act as sources of essential micronutrients.

The omega fatty acids present in this food promote the growth of healthy skin and coat. The formula contains probiotics to encourage better digestion and glucosamine to support healthy joints. Because it’s designed for dogs that suffer from sensitivities and allergies, it is also free of by-products, fillers, corn, soy, and artificial additives.


2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Buffalo, 2. Lamb Meal, 3. Chicken Meal, 4. Sweet Potatoes, 5. Peas

If you’re looking for a high protein, grain-free diet for your pup, this is a great option. Taste of the Wild has established itself as a top-of-the-line brand and manufactures its foods in the USA under expert supervision. As for this option, the formula offers the highest protein ratios with an ideal balance of other nutrients to ensure your super active tail-wagger gets the best available nutrition.

This recipe is formulated with an additional dose of antioxidants and vitamins to offer maximum benefits and helps to optimize the absorption of nutrients. The novel protein sources are great for helping your dog maintain strong, lean muscles and good overall health. This complete and highly nutritious food is made with sustainable ingredients from trusted sources. Exactly what your little guy deserves!


3. ORIJEN Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Whole Atlantic Mackerel, 2. Whole Atlantic Herring, 3. Whole Silver Hake, 4. Sunflower Oil, 5. Whole Red Lentils

Orijen puts a lot of focus on creating a biologically appropriate diet that only contains essential nutrients. Their Six Fish Dog Food is an optimal diet for dogs that frequently suffer from grain allergies or a sensitive stomach. Almost 85% of the food’s protein comes from whole fish meat, which digests easily and helps keep your dog in lean shape.

Instead of grains, the dog food sources carbs from lentils, peas, and beans, all of which have a low GI and digest much quicker than grains. Apart from the base recipe, this dog food also contains wholesome fruits and vegetables that deliver various micronutrients. Each kibble is coated with freeze-dried liver for a delicious taste that will appeal to your dog.


4. Farmina N&D Ocean Herring & Orange Medium & Maxi Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Herring, 2. Sweet Potatoes, 3. Herring Oil, 4. Dried Carrots, 5. Dried Sweet Orange

Farmina N&D formulas feature a 70:30 ratio of protein to produce, and this Ocean Herring & Orange Dog Food is no different. It sources protein from herring meat to support your dog’s muscle growth needs and uses sweet potatoes instead of grains to offer your dog a delicious and easily digestible meal.

Aside from that, the formula is also rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids to strengthen your dog’s immunity and improve their coat health. The micronutrients come from orange, carrots, apples, pomegranate, and other wholesome fruits and vegetables. The food contains zero grains, peas, and legumes so that your dog receives a diet they deserve. 


5. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Lamb & Pea Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Lamb, 2. Turkey Meal, 3. Sweet Potatoes, 4. Garbanzo Beans, 5. Chicken Fat

If your dog suffers from poor appearance and low energy due to stomach issues, replace their food with Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Formula. This special diet features wholesome ingredients like lamb, sweet potatoes, chicken fat, and peas. With high protein levels and simple carbs, this dog food encourages muscle development and keeps your dog active throughout the day.

Micronutrients like antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and probiotics are also plentiful. The formula uses omega fatty acids to promote coat and skin health. This limited ingredient diet is free of corn, wheat, soy, and other artificial additives. 


6. American Journey — Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Deboned Salmon, 2. Chicken Meal, 3. Turkey Meal, 4. Peas, 5. Sweet Potatoes

With 32% protein content, this highly nutritious formula by American Journey is an ideal option for fueling your dog’s daily adventures. The special grain-free recipe is expertly crafted using the best sources of meat and wholesome fruits and vegetables. Instead of grains, the formula uses sweet potatoes and peas that keep your dog active and energetic.

It contains antioxidants, probiotics, fibers, and other micronutrients mostly sourced from real fruits and vegetables. The formula is also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which improve your dog’s coat health and lead to healthy brain development in growing dogs. Like all great dog foods, the Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula is also free from grains, wheat, corn, and soy.


7. Wysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog & Cat Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Organic Chicken, 2. Chicken Fat, 3. Dried Plain Beet Pulp, 4. Coconut Oil, 5. Dried Kelp

Muscular breeds and active dogs need more protein. That’s where Wysong’s Epigen Chicken Formula truly shines. Unlike other dry foods, it consists of almost 60% protein and 15% fat, far above any formula out there. Most of this protein is poultry-based and offers dogs a diet that closely resembles that of wolves.

It’s also worth noting that the dog food is both starch-free and grain-free, which brings it even closer to the ancestral diet of canines. Aside from that, the formula is loaded with micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also features probiotics that improve gut health and omega fatty acids that drastically improve your dog’s coat appearance.


8. Nulo Freestyle Beef Recipe with Apples Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Beef, 2. Beef Heart, 3. Apples, 4. Sweet Potato, 5. Apple Cider Vinegar

The main nutritional benefits of Nulo Freestyle Beef Freeze-Dried Dog Food lie in its raw nature. Since the food is freeze-dried, it contains minimal artificial ingredients and mostly consists of raw foods like beef, sweet potatoes, and apples. Beef provides essential amino acids that encourage muscle growth, while fruits and vegetables offer carbs and various micronutrients.

Besides that, the formula features GanedanBC30 probiotics that allow your dog to digest their meals quicker and absorb more nutrients. Because the food is freeze-dried, it is minimally processed, which prevents it from losing its raw nutritional value. Each batch of this dog food is prepared in USDA-approved facilities without corn, wheat, and artificial additives.


9. Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Sweet Potatoes, 3. Peas, 4. Chicken Fat, 5. Salmon Oil

Made from a blend of superfoods, Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Dog Food offers premium-quality nutrition to dogs in a tasty and easily digestible package. The two most important ingredients in the formula are chicken meat and sweet potatoes, two highly nutritious sources of protein and carbohydrates that will keep your dog lean and energetic.

In addition to this, the recipe also includes a range of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Blueberries, raspberries, and chicory root act as sources of vitamins and probiotics to strengthen your dog’s digestive system. The food is also rich in omega fatty acids that nourish your dog’s coat and greatly enhance its appearance.


10. AvoDerm Advanced Sensitive Support Lamb & Sweet Potato Formula Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Lamb, 2. Peas, 3. Garbanzo Beans, 4. Canola Oil, 5. Sweet Potato

Whatever a sensitive dog needs to live a healthy life, AvoDerm’s Advanced Sensitive Support Dog Food has it. The base recipe uses lamb meat, a light protein source full of amino acids, and sweet potato, a non-allergenic and easily digestible carbohydrate. It contains zero grains, wheat, corn, soy, or artificial additives, making the dog food an excellent pick for sensitive dogs.

Thanks to sweet potatoes, the food is also rich in fibers that further improve digestive health. The formula is also enriched with a range of vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids so your dog can both look and feel healthy.


11. ACANA Wild Atlantic Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Whole Mackerel, 2. Whole Herring, 3. Sunflower Oil, 4. Whole Pinto Beans, 5. Whole Pumpkin

Featuring a range of wholesome seafood proteins, Acana Wild Atlantic Dog Food is the perfect choice for allergic pups that love fish. Almost 70% of the recipe comes from animal ingredients, including five different types of fish that offer high protein levels.

The remaining 30% consists of whole fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin, apples, carrots, and squash. This wholesome produce delivers vitamins, antioxidants, and other essential micronutrients that aid multiple functions throughout your dog’s body. Each kibble is covered in freeze-dried cod liver, which enhances its taste and boosts its protein content. 


12. Health Extension Grain-Free Salmon Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Deboned Salmon, 2. Menhaden Fish meal, 3. Lentils, 4. Salmon Oil, 5. Whole Sweet Potatoes

One of the most nutritionally diverse dog foods out there, Health Extension Salmon Dog Food is the perfect choice for owners that want to provide their pup with a balanced and wholesome diet. It’s primarily made from deboned salmon meat that delivers muscle-repairing amino acids and omega fatty acids to improve your dog’s coat health.

Apart from that, the recipe contains low-GI carbs and a range of fruits and vegetables. Quite interestingly, this food also contains apple cider vinegar and other unique ingredients that strengthen immunity and benefit your dog’s overall health. It’s also one of the most minimalistic formulas out there. The recipe consists of zero by-products, rendered fats, hormones, gluten, or artificial additives that frequently become a cause of digestive upsets.


13. Sport Dog Food Elite Series Sled Dog Grain-Free Buffalo & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Buffalo Meal, 2. Dried Sweet Potato, 3. Coconut Oil, 4. Cassava Root, 5. Salmon Oil

Athletic breeds have different nutritional requirements, and Sports Dog Food Elite Formula meets those needs. The recipe consists of buffalo meat that encourages muscle nourishment and helps your dog stay lean. It’s also filled with easily digestible carbs like sweet potatoes that constantly fuel your dog’s energy reserves.

But probably the best part of this formula is that it’s also grain-free and contains zero fillers, preservatives, or by-products. Sensitive and allergic dogs can specifically benefit from this and consume the food without worries of digestive problems. 


14. Merrick — Grain-Free Duck + Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Deboned Duck, 2. Chicken Meal, 3. Sweet Potatoes, 4. Chicken Fat, 5. Sunflower Oil

Maintain your furry buddy’s shiny coat and healthy skin by offering him a diet that caters not only to his nutritional needs but also ensures a perfect exterior. Rich in high-quality ingredients, the grain-free formula includes deboned duck and sweet potatoes as primary sources of nutrition. 

Duck meat promotes muscle nourishment and repair, while sweet potatoes in the food keep your dog on its toes. The complete and balanced formula also includes glucosamine and chondroitin for improved mobility and health maintenance. It’s also filled with fibers that promote digestion and omega fatty acids that make your dog’s coat softer and lustrous. 


15. Purina Beneful — Grain Free with Real Farm-Raised Chicken Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Cassava Root Flour, 3. Chicken Meal, 4. Beef Fat, 5. Dried Beet Pulp

Your little darling deserves goodness in a bowl. And if you want to offer a diet that’s nutritionally sound without breaking the bank, then this grain-free option by Purina fits the bill. With farm-raised chicken as a primary ingredient, the kibble uses an array of wholesome ingredients, including spinach, pumpkin, and blueberries, all of which contribute to an excellent nutrient profile. 

Each kibble contains 23 vitamins and tons of protein that promote muscle growth and overall nourishment. The food is free from allergy-causing grains, empty and low-quality fillers, gluten, wheat, and corn.


16. Whole Earth Farms — Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Chicken Meal, 2. Turkey Meal, 3. Potatoes, 4. Peas, 5. Apples

With several premium sources for protein, minerals, and vitamins, this blend by Whole Earth Farms is a great option with naturally nutritious ingredients. The special recipe, crafted under expert supervision, has a combination of high-quality ingredients that deliver complete and balanced nutrition. 

It’s free from all kinds of fillers, artificial preservatives, and grains, making it an excellent choice for sensitive and allergic dogs. Vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and omega fatty acids are plentiful in dog food and can nourish your dog’s coat to improve its appearance.

Related:

Grain-Free Dog Food FAQs

Is grain-free food a better option for my dog?

Most grain-free food options contain high-level protein content, moderate-levels of animal fat, and fewer carbohydrates as compared to a grain-inclusive diet, which makes grain-free food easier for dogs to digest. While both grain-free and grain-inclusive diets have their own sets of pros and cons, a grain-free diet is useful for dogs with a sensitive digestive system and grain allergies.

How do I find out if I need to feed a grain-free diet to my dog?

You need to watch out for symptoms in your dog to see if your pooch is allergic to certain ingredients. If your dog’s grain-inclusive diet doesn’t settle well with them, and they are showing signs like diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach-ache, they may be sensitive or even allergic to certain grains. Switch to a grain-free formula to see if the health improves.

What should I look for in a good grain-free diet for my dog?

Even if a diet claims to be grain-free, it is very important to check the ingredients yourself. Read the nutrition profile to see if the formulation balances the essential nutrients as per your dog’s requirement.

Should puppies be fed grain-free food?

While grain-free foods can be heavier on your pocket as compared to traditional foods, it has great health benefits and can be particularly beneficial for puppies with food allergies and intolerance to grains.

Can my dog digest grains if he has a sensitive digestive system?

Grains are difficult for dogs to digest. It is mainly because of the presence of gluten that’s commonly present in barley, wheat, and rye and can be hard on a sensitive digestive system. Grains also contain lectins, which can also be problematic for dogs to break down if they have grain-intolerance.

What are the common ingredients to replace grains in a dog’s diet?

Often, peas, beans, and sweet potatoes replace grains such as barley, rye, wheat, and oats. You’ll see them listed often in high-quality grain-free diets.

Does grain-free food help dogs with better stool?

Most dogs tend to produce less waste if they only consume grain-free food. Grain-free options have less indigestible material and include potatoes or sweet potatoes to transit the food through intestines smoothly.

How do I find out if my dog is sensitive to grains?

If your dog is presenting any of these symptoms, it could be an indication to switch to a grain-free diet. In case the problem persists, speak to your vet for proper guidance. The symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Skin irritations and rash
  • Diarrhea or loose stool
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Chronic licking, biting or chewing to relieve itch
  • Coughing, wheezing and sneezing
  • Hair loss
  • Poor growth in young pups

Is a grain-free diet better for lactating and pregnant dogs?

Lactating and pregnant dogs have specific demands when it comes to nutrition. In addition to obtaining enough food for sustaining themselves, they also need more energy to support their growing puppies as well. Calcium and phosphorus are essential nutrients for pregnant dogs. In such a case, vets often recommend giving protein-rich diets to lactating and pregnant dogs. Since grain-free food options have higher protein content, they can be helpful in this case. However, make sure you check out the nutrient profile and list of ingredients to ensure you are only giving the best to your dog.

What breeds are at a higher risk of developing grain-related allergies?

According to some studies, the following dog breeds can be at a higher risk of developing food allergies:

  • Boxer
  • Retriever
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Collie
  • Dalmatian
  • Miniature schnauzer
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Dachshund
  • Wheaton Terrier
  • White Terrier
  • Springer Spaniel

Buyer’s Guide to The Best Grain-Free Dog Food

A simple ‘grain-free’ label on the package isn’t enough. When you’re looking for the best grain-free dog food, you cannot only rely on what the food does not include. You will need to be more careful about what’s in the food that you will be feeding your adorable little tail-wagger.

While high-protein content is pretty much a prerequisite of preparing a grain-free option, you cannot ignore the rest of the nutrients. Some ingredients can affect the nutrient balance of the finished recipe – and that’s something you cannot ignore.

Instead of getting into the debate of whether a grain-free diet can be harmful to your dog or not, we will only be highlighting the important aspects of feeding a grain-free diet to your pooch and its health benefits. Moreover, we will also be discussing the features of a great grain-free diet for dogs to help you pick the right option.

Before jumping onto that detail, let’s first talk about the most common ingredients that are added to the blend to replace major grains in recipes, including corn, wheat, barley, rye, rice, and other cereal grains. These are:

  • Potatoes – both sweet and white
  • Legumes – chickpea, peas, soybeans, lentils, etc.

These are the acceptable form of grain substitutes that are present in high-quality diet options. Legumes are also rich in protein. But this doesn’t mean that you can rely on legumes or plant-based proteins. In any case, I will always recommend a food option based on animal protein since it is also rich in other nutrients and essential amino acids.

Keeping the nutrient profile of a finished recipe in mind, I have reviewed the 25 best grain-free dog foods in this article to help you narrow down your options and make this overwhelming task of picking the best food for your pooch simpler.

Keep reading!

Why Do Dogs Need a Grain-Free Diet?

Do you need to switch to a grain-free option for your dog?

Wheat grains can cause food allergies in canines. This could be the ultimate deciding factor. Studies show how wheat grains can be a common reason why canines experience food allergies and sensitivities. While some non-grain options can be the culprit too, if your dog is extremely intolerant, picking up a grain-free option that also features a limited-ingredient diet can be the solution.

Pay attention to the overall list of labels, and especially the top five ingredients, before you make up your mind.

Is It Common for Canines to Have Grain Allergies?

Is It Common for Canines to Have Grain Allergies?

Food allergies in dogs can be a little complicated. In most cases, protein is the culprit in most common allergen in canines. However, not all food proteins have the potential of triggering sensitivities and allergies.

According to studies, the most common food allergens are:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Grains are major allergens that could trouble your pooch if fed regularly. However, dogs can also be allergic to animal-based protein. So it’s not right to limit your concerns related to allergies to grains only. The key is to try different combinations of ingredients to see which one works best. If your dog is allergic to grains, switching to a grain-free option will make all the difference in their health and activity.

It is also a good point to understand that not all grains are equal. The wholesome grains may not have allergenic potentials. Some healthy ones include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown and white rice
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Millet

That is why you must read the label. After you check the ‘grain-free’ tag on the package, turn it around and thoroughly check the specifically stated grains and the nutrient balance and formulation of the kibble.

How to Figure Out Grain-Related Allergies in Dogs

Even though these wild animals have evolved to becoming internet celebrities, the digestive system of dogs is still quite primitive. They have only limited support for metabolizing and breaking down cereal grains and complex carbs. Therefore, if they show signs of intolerance and digestive sensitivity, it is best to avoid grains and fibers that are hard on their tummies.

With time, they can show symptoms in the form of disorders and allergies. Here are the most common signs you need to watch out for to determine if you need to switch your pooch’s diet to a grain-free option.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or loose stool
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Chronic licking
  • Biting or chewing to relieve itch
  • Skin irritations and rash
  • Frequent ear infections

While these signs could occur due to other health issues, they are more commonly associated with a sensitive digestive system and food-related allergies. It is best to check with your vet if switching to a grain-free option does not show results.

Specific Benefits of Grain-Free Food Options

First and foremost, the best grain-free formulation usually contains a higher level of protein content as compared to traditional food. However, there can be more diet-specific benefits you can offer your dog by feeding them grain-free food. Here’s the list of most common benefits:

  • Helps reduce canine food allergies
  • Helps with improved satiation
  • Great energy
  • Shinier coat
  • Healthier skin
  • Smaller and fewer stools
  • Less shedding
  • Reduced flatulence
  • Better breath

In short, the food will not trigger sensitivity in your pooch or mess up their digestive system.

What to Look For In a Good Grain-Free Dog Food

One thing is clear now that the best grain-free dog food is much more than just the absence of grains. It is more about the wholesomeness of ingredients, the balance of nutrients, and the formulation of the recipe that is equally important.

Here are some things you need to make sure the product that you are choosing includes.

  • Opt for Real Animal-Based Protein

The primary ingredient of the blend should contain real animal-based protein. These easy-to-digest ingredients are absorbed in our dog’s body and are utilized by different organs and tissues without extensive processing.

If your dog is also allergic to protein ingredients such as beef and chicken, you still have tons of options from which to choose. Salmon, menhaden fish, lamb, duck, and turkey are some common alternatives for natural protein sources. Pick wisely.

  • Stick to wholesome carbs only

If you want to go grain-free, look for products that include wholesome fruits and vegetables in the recipe. These are not only packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants but hold great health benefits for your pooch.

  • Don’t Entertain Harmful or Artificial Ingredients

Fillers and flavor enhancers are commonly used by manufacturers to increase the palatability of the food. Even if the blend includes flavor enhancers, make sure they are made from natural ingredients only. Anything that’s labeled ‘artificial’ is harmful to your dog. So skip an option that contains these synthesized ingredients.

Final Words

If your dog’s health and wellbeing are important to you, then you need to pay specific attention to their diet. And if your dog has allergies or a sensitive stomach, it may mean feeding them grain-free food. You should choose a wholesome diet that’s not only grain-free but also features high-quality animal protein, healthy carbs, and is free from unnecessary and harmful ingredients.

We created this list so you won’t have to scratch your head over the tons of options available. Carefully read through the information we’ve provided for you here and choose the food that best fits your dog’s needs and is flavorful to them.

If you have any further concerns, check out with your vet and pick the best grain-free dog food for your pooch.

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