Best Grain-Free Dog Food: Reviewed by Us for You

Written by Judie Sigdel
Updated: November 15, 2022
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Key Points:

  • The #1 Best Overall grain-free dog food is CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dog Food.
  • Grain-free dog food is made without using any corn, wheat, rice, or other grains, and replaces these with pea flour or potatoes. In some cases, it can be a great alternative for your pup if they have allergies or food sensitivities.
  • It is important to consult with your veterinarian before switching your dog to a grain-free diet, as it is not a healthy option for many dogs.
  • There are many options of grain-free dog food on the market today. To help narrow your search, we’ve collected the best grain-free dog foods based on ingredients, type of food, and cost.

When you’re serious about grain-free dog food for your dog, you need to first consult with your vet. If you both agree that grain-free dog food is what’s best for your pup, then it’s important to know what your best options are. If you’re looking for options for large breeds, puppies, or for senior dogs, grain-free food may be just what you need. There are so many grain-free options that, regardless of whether you feed wet food or dry food, you have excellent chances of finding something your dog will just love, down to the very last bite.

Since there are so many great options that you can take advantage of, we’ve put together a list that we’re sure will help you in your search. Hopefully, our reviews will help you find the perfect grain-free food, regardless of whether you’re looking for the most affordable option or to splurge. In addition to finding the best overall choice, we’ll also answer some questions you might have.

Limited ingredient diets for canines, especially grain-free, can be tricky but may be needed for several varying reasons, whether it be an allergy or sensitivity. When switching to a grain-free diet for your dog, it is crucial to consult with your veterinarian as to whether or not this is truly the best option. While grain-free diets do exist on the market, they can have adverse effects on your pet, especially if they are not required.

Unfortunately, many dog owners are choosing these foods based on whims or fad-driven ideas. The primary reasons for switching a dog to a grain-free diet should be due to the extensively researched stomach or skin issues from food ingredients. Do not simply switch to grain-free food because it seems popular on the internet or because your friend did so for their dog. Each dog is different and their individual dietary requirements are unique. Veterinary or nutritionist advice is absolutely necessary and should be sought when dealing with health issues and diet.

  1. Crave High Protein Adult Grain Free Dry Dog Food
  2. Crave High Protein Adult Grain Free Dry Dog Food

    •Delicious, high-protein grain-free recipe

    •Quality ingredients

    •Options for dogs of differing sizes

    •Various protein options

    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  3. Ziwi Peak Beef Grain-Free Air-Dried Dog Food
  4. Ziwi Peak Beef Grain-Free Air-Dried Dog Food

    •Grain-free, limited-ingredient dog food

    •Free-range, wild-caught protein options (various)

    •For dogs of all life stages

    •No added carbohydrates

    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  5. Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Classic Ground with Real Turkey & Venison Canned Dog Food
  6. Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Classic Ground with Real Turkey & Venison Canned Dog Food

    •High-quality, grain free wet food for dogs

    •Easily digestible

    •Immune support formula

    •Appealing flavor options

    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  7. Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Puppy Dry Dog Food
  8. Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Puppy Dry Dog Food

    •Real protein, grain free puppy food

    •Combination of protein & healthy fats

    •Glucosamine & chondroitin for joint health

    •Omega fatty acids for skin & coat nutrition

    Check Chewy Check Amazon

Top Picks: The Best Grain-Free Dog Food Today

#1 Best Overall: CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dog Food

CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dog Food is our pick for the best overall grain-free dog food.

Do you want food with a flavor that dogs just love? Prefer to avoid ingredients your dog doesn’t enjoy? This grain-free food is a flavor that your dog is certain to love! It also has ingredients that are closest to what your dog’s wolf ancestors would have eaten and contains 34% protein to keep your dog healthy and strong. And besides being grain-free, this food is free from artificial flavors and colors, as well as preservatives, while offering complete nutrition for dogs of all sizes

Grain-free dog food with real meat as an ingredient is often more satisfying for dogs. Dogs will have varying food needs as they age, and various life circumstances or health issues may impact how much your dog eats. This is why we recommend CRAVE Grain Free High Protein.

CRAVE Grain Free High Protein has some of the healthier ingredients available in dry dog food. These ingredients include:

  • White Fish
  • Salmon Meal
  • Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • Pea Starch

CRAVE Grain Free High Protein is free of grains that many prefer not to have in dog food, including:

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Soy

CRAVE products also use sustainable packaging that with a more efficient shape, less water, and less air inside the bag. They also have fewer carbon emissions because the packaging helps make the company more responsible.

Pros and Cons of CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dog Food

ProsCons
The CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dog Food is made with high-quality ingredients, including salmon and white fish.While the majority of dogs love the flavor, there are some that are more finicky and may not like this food.
It has a high protein content that meets your dog’s nutritional needs.Since it is so high in protein, this food may not be a good choice for certain dogs and health conditions.
It is nutritionally well-rounded to meet the needs of dogs of different sizes.
It is free from grains like corn, soy, and wheat.
It is suitable for large breeds, puppies, and senior dogs.
Best Overall
Crave High Protein Adult Grain Free Dry Dog Food

•Delicious, high-protein grain-free recipe

•Quality ingredients

•Options for dogs of differing sizes

•Various protein options

Check Chewy Check Amazon

2. Best for Allergies: ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food

Our top pick for dogs with allergies is ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food.

You won’t find many things for dog allergies that beat ZIWI Peak. The ingredients include New Zealand beef that is 96% free-range, New Zealand green mussels, bone, and organ meat. Organic kelp and green tripe, along with the New Zealand green mussels, give dogs a superfood boost of 10 percent. Dogs will enjoy better brain and heart health, less inflammation, better digestion, and improved joint, skin, and coat health.

This affordable dry food has limited ingredients that never include added carbohydrates. There are no fillers that are considered harmful to dogs living with allergies, such as peas, potatoes, or grains.

One of the advantages of this food is that it is versatile enough for complete nutrition, and it can also be used as a topper for wet food. In addition to being an excellent high-protein choice for large breeds, it is ideal for puppies as well as for senior dogs.

A significant point that appealed to us was that it uses grass-fed, free-range meat, and wild-caught seafood. The meat is free of antibiotics, growth agents, and hormones.

However, some customers have reported problems with the bag not being as fresh as they preferred, especially the larger bags of dog food. In addition, a few dogs have gotten ill with digestive upsets after eating the food.

Pros and Cons of ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food

ProsCons
ZIWI’s dog food uses a high-protein formula that is dense in nutrients, including free-range beef.It is more expensive than some of the other options of grain-free dog food.
It uses a limited range of ingredients, making it perfect for many dogs with sensitivities.Customers have reported that in some cases the larger bags of dog food are stale compared to the smaller bags.
It contains superfoods that reduce inflammation and boost overall dog health.
The food is perfect for dogs of all ages, from puppies to seniors and all stages in between.
It is crafted using ethical and sustainable methods.
Best for Allergies
Ziwi Peak Beef Grain-Free Air-Dried Dog Food

•Grain-free, limited-ingredient dog food

•Free-range, wild-caught protein options (various)

•For dogs of all life stages

•No added carbohydrates

Check Chewy Check Amazon

3, Best Wet Food: Purina ONE Grain Free Natural Pate Wet Dog Food

If you’re in search of wet food to meet the requirements for your dog’s grain-free diet, we recommend Purina ONE Grain-Free Natural Pate Wet Dog Food.

This food is an excellent value for the price because of the turkey and venison formula. Besides including real venison, the food is also free of poultry by-products. We appreciate that this food is antioxidant-rich. One of the things that can impact your dog’s overall health is their immune system. Whether you’re choosing the affordable path or looking to splurge, you can be sure that an antioxidant-rich food will benefit your pet’s immune health.

Some dogs have sensitive stomachs that are unable to manage kibble well or have dental issues. Wet food can quickly fix this problem by allowing for easier digestion and less wear on the teeth.

A few have reported finding small pieces of bone in the food, which can be a severe safety hazard for puppies or smaller dogs. Others have also reported dogs vomiting after eating this food.

Pros and Cons of Purina ONE Grain-Free Natural Pate Wet Dog Food

ProsCons
The formula is appealing to dogs of all ages, with turkey and venison.Some have reported finding small pieces of bone in the food, which can be a severe safety hazard for puppies and small dogs.
It features only high-quality ingredients with no by-products.Some dogs had stomach sensitivities and eating this food caused vomiting.
The food contains four antioxidant ingredients to give your dog a healthier immune system.
As a wet food, it is easier to consume and digest than dry food.
Best Wet Food
Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Classic Ground with Real Turkey & Venison Canned Dog Food

•High-quality, grain free wet food for dogs

•Easily digestible

•Immune support formula

•Appealing flavor options

Check Chewy Check Amazon

4. Best for Puppies: Merrick Lil’ Plates Puppy Food

Look no further for the best grain-free puppy food; we have decided that Merrick Lil’ Plates Puppy Food is the one.

The chicken & sweet potato recipe features real, deboned chicken as its first ingredient, followed by sweet potato and other delicious potatoes. Protein and healthy fats are combined to create the ideal formula for your growing pup. However, the formula is free from any grain products, making it great for grain-free diets.

Probiotics and prebiotics are also added to the food to aid in digestion and overall digestive health. For joint support and health, glucosamine and chondroitin are added along with omega fatty acids to maintain skin and coat shine and nourishment. Bags come in two different sizes — 4 pounds or 12 pounds.

The kibble pieces are smaller than many other types, so they are easier on puppies’ small digestive systems. However, some customers reported that their more finicky dogs either refused to eat the food or got bored of the food over time.

Pros and Cons of Merrick Lil’ Plates Puppy Food

ProsCons
The recipe features real, deboned chicken and sweet potatoes as its first two ingredients.Picky eaters may not like the taste of this food or may become bored with the food over time.
The formula is great for grain-free diets since it is free from any grain products.
There are probiotics and prebiotics added to aid in digestion and digestive health.
It has glucosamine and chondroitin to aid with joint support and health.
It has omega fatty acids to help maintain skin and coat nourishment.
Best for Puppies
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Puppy Dry Dog Food

•Real protein, grain free puppy food

•Combination of protein & healthy fats

•Glucosamine & chondroitin for joint health

•Omega fatty acids for skin & coat nutrition

Check Chewy Check Amazon

What to Look For in Grain-Free Dog Food

Not every dog should be fed a grain-free diet, so you should first discuss your dog’s nutritional needs with your veterinarian before making a purchase. If they do recommend going grain-free for your dog, there are a few important factors to consider before making a purchase:

  • Ingredients
  • Type of food
  • Cost

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Ingredients

Before purchasing any type of dog food, always check the ingredients. If your dog has allergies, there’s a good chance there may be something in the recipe that may make them sick. Talking to your vet can help in determining which ingredients your dog needs, and which ingredients you should avoid.

Type of Food

Now that you’re ready to buy grain-free dog food, which type should you choose? Most grain-free dog foods on the market are dry, but there are also a few companies that make wet food as well. You can talk to your vet about which is best, but ultimately your choice here will most likely depend on what your dog prefers eating.

Cost

In general, switching to grain-free dog food is a lifetime commitment for your dog, so you’re going to want to factor it into your monthly budget. Many brands can be rather expensive, so it may be tempting to just opt for the cheapest option. However, be sure that whichever food you choose still contains the proper nutrients and high-quality ingredients. There are many options that can help you find a balance for your budget.

Is Grain-Free Food Best for My Dog?

Whether a grain-free diet is best for your dog will depend on several factors. Some dogs are very sensitive or allergic to grains like corn, wheat, or soy. When this is the case, you want to choose a food that is free from these common irritants.

Although commonly chosen for allergies, there are other reasons owners may decide grain-free food is the best option for the money. Many owners prefer to avoid ingredients that their dog may not digest very well. Others may feel that grains are not natural for dogs to eat.

Deciding whether you want to splurge on high-quality grain-free food or even a more affordable option is always a good choice if you want to try out a new food for your dog.

Why Ingredients Make a Difference in Grain-Free Dog Food

Although grain-free foods avoid grain-based ingredients, they are not free from carbohydrates. Sometimes, the alternatives that are used are higher in carbohydrates than the products that have grains. Reading the nutritional information is always helpful.

Some breeds have higher protein requirements than others. Checking the nutritional information to see the balance of carbohydrates and protein will help you determine if the food meets your dog’s needs.

The DCM Issue and Grain-Free Food

There has been a concern in recent years that grain-free dog food has been linked to dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM. Although there have been cases of dogs on grain-free diets developing DCM, there has been no definitive link found. Experts suggest ensuring that dogs get food nutritionally complete for their breed and life stage.

People opting to switch their dog to a grain-free diet should feel optimistic about the food’s safety. Most dogs will take to one of these diets very quickly. One of the things that you can expect is better overall health.

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About the Author

My passion is writing about animals. I’ve published articles on pet parrots, birds, and small animal care and reviews about pet food and products. I have an ever-evolving aviary and menagerie that has included cockatiels, parakeets, conures, European starlings, a chukar partridge, guinea pigs, dogs, and cats. I’m also the author of Faith without Labels: a Guide to Eclectic Spirituality.

Best Grain-Free Dog Food: Reviewed by Us for You FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the best grain-free dog food?

In our humble opinion, the best grain-free dog food is CRAVE Grain Free High Protein, which uses ingredients closest to what wolves consume in the wild.

What is the best dry grain-free dog food?

The best dry grain-free dog food is ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Dog Food, which is also one of the top foods for dogs with allergies and in a convenient dry formula.

What is the best grain-free dog food for puppies?

The best grain-free dog foods for puppies are ZIWI Peak and Purina ONE Grain Free Natural Pate Wet Dog Food, both of which can easily meet the nutritional needs of puppies.

Why do dogs need grain free dog food?

Dogs may need grain-free dog food if they have skin allergies or sensitivities to certain grain ingredients found in food that contains grain.

Is grain-free food a better option for dogs?

Grain-free food may not necessarily be healthier, depending on what carbohydrates are substituted for other ingredients. In addition, you should only switch your dog to a grain-free diet after consulting with your veterinarian.

Why is grain-free bad for dogs?

Some relatively isolated incidents have resulted in dogs on grain-free diets developing dilated cardiomyopathy, a severe heart condition.

What are some cons of grain-free food?

Less active dogs may gain weight eating grain-free foods, the carbohydrate amount might be high, and these foods are more expensive overall.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.