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11 Best Grain-Free Puppy Foods in 2024: Reviews & Top Picks

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Dogster Team

11 Best Grain-Free Puppy Foods in 2024: Reviews & Top Picks

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

a Maltipoo puppy eats from a metal bowl

To help your puppy get the best possible start in life, you must feed them an appropriate diet. Puppies grow incredibly quickly compared to humans and the food they eat is designed to provide them with all the nutrients they need to develop properly. All commercial puppy foods must meet minimum nutrition requirements, but many puppy owners prefer to make their choices even more specialized.

Grain-free diets are increasingly popular among many pet owners, leading to an explosion of food options to choose from, even among puppy diets. Note that this is not usually the best option for dogs without a specific allergy to grains, so be sure to ask your vet whether feeding your pup grain-free food is the best option for their health.

If you find your pup needs to go grain-free but you don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve collected reviews of our top 10 picks for grain-free puppy food this year to help you make your decision. Read our thoughts on specific diets and then check out our handy buyer’s guide to find just the right food for your growing baby dog!divider-dog

A Glance at Our Top Picks (2024 Update)

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Nom Nom Fresh Dog Food Nom Nom Fresh Dog Food
  • Real, whole-food ingredients
  • Tailored to your puppy
  • Delivered to your doorstep
  • Budget Buy
    Second place
    American Journey Puppy Chicken American Journey Puppy Chicken
  • Lower priced grain-free food
  • High in fatty acids
  • High in protein
  • Third place
    Orijen Puppy Grain-free Orijen Puppy Grain-free
  • Uses premium protein sources
  • 85% animal ingredients
  • Very high in protein
  • Purina ProPlan Development Purina ProPlan Development
  • Most dogs love the taste
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Suitable for small and large breed pups
  • Wellness Core Grain-free Chicken Wellness Core Grain-free Chicken
  • Calorie-dense diet
  • Contains antioxidants, fatty acids, glucosamine
  • No by-products or fillers
  • The 11 Best Grain-Free Puppy Foods

    1. Nom Nom Fresh Dog Food Subscription – Best Overall

    Nom Nom Subscription Dog Food - nom nom fresh food

    Protein: 7-10%
    Fat: 4-6 %
    Calories: 177-206 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Real Meat (pork, chicken or beef ), vegetables

    Our pick for the best overall grain-free puppy food is Nom Nom these delicious recipes are prepared using fresh and human-grade ingredients. These nutritious and healthy meals come in a variety of recipes, the pork, beef, and chicken recipes are grain-free. Nom nom creates fresh dog food using human-quality ingredients that are catered to your dog’s age, taste, and needs.

    These fresh recipes 75-77% moisture to keep your puppy healthy and hydrated. The recipes have between 7% and 8.5% protein content from real meat sources to support your puppy’s development and build muscles. The healthy vegetables included provide a source of carbohydrates, fiber, and micronutrients. For your convenience, the food comes individually packaged into single servings.

    We recommend trying the variety pack that they offer with no subscription necessary, this will allow you to discover your puppy’s favorite!  For sure your dog will absolutely love it and they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on their recipes! If your puppy doesn’t like it, you’ll get your money back.

    This superb food is subscription-based and conveniently delivered to your doorstep! And while it is more expensive than most commercially available dog food brands out there if your start feeding your puppy for health now, you will definitively save on future vet bills!

    Pros
    • Tailored to your puppy
    • Real, whole-food ingredients
    • Delivered to your doorstep
    Cons
    • Might not be available in your area

    2. American Journey Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato Grain-Free – Budget Buy

     American Journey Grain-Free Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 30%
    Fat: 12%
    Calories: 380 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal

    Our pick of best grain-free puppy food for the money is American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Grain-free dry food. This diet is high in protein, utilizing both real chicken and high-quality energy sources like sweet potato and chickpeas. It’s also enhanced with fatty acids to keep your pup’s skin and coat healthy and aid in brain development. Because American Journey is lower-priced, it does contain meat meal, an approved but lower quality ingredient.

    Some owners report that their puppies didn’t care for the taste of this food, while small breed owners reported the kibble was too big for their dogs.

    Pros
    • Lower priced grain-free food
    • High in fatty acids
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • Kibble too large for some small dogs
    • Contains some lower quality ingredients

    3. Orijen Puppy Grain-free Dry Food

    Orijen Puppy Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food

    Protein: 38%
    Fat: 20%
    Calories: 475 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, turkey, turkey giblets

    Packed with real meat and fish ingredients (and with the price point to prove it!) Orijen Grain-free puppy food is extra high in protein, made with 85% animal ingredients. The non-meat ingredients are also jammed with protein, including lentils and beans. Orijen is the choice for puppy owners willing to pay more for food made only with ingredients they can easily recognize. It is higher in fat and calories than many diets on our list, which is less of a concern for puppies.

    This food doesn’t agree with every dog, so keep an eye on your pup’s poop while they eat it. Always make a gradual transition when you change your pup’s food.

    Pros
    • Uses premium protein sources
    • 85% animal ingredients
    • Very high in protein
    Cons
    • Some dogs’ reported upset stomachs
    • Expensive
    • High in fat and calories

    4. Purina ProPlan Development Grain-free Turkey Canned Food

    Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy Classic Turkey Entree Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

    Protein: 10%
    Fat: 7%
    Calories: 460 kcal/can
    Top 3 Ingredients: Turkey, liver, meat by-products

    If you’re looking for a grain-free canned option, Purina Pro Plan Grain-free Turkey is a reasonably-priced option. Purina focuses on creating good-tasting food and most users report their pups do enjoy the flavor of this diet. Although real turkey is the main ingredient, this food does contain meat by-products and liver without specifying the species, which some owners prefer to avoid. It contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and is enhanced with fatty acids and DHA for skin and brain health. Purina ProPlan Turkey is suitable for small or large-breed pups. As a canned food, it is a bit more expensive overall than many dry diets. Reviews for this food are overwhelmingly positive, with some owners concerned with the presence of by-products.

    Pros
    • Most dogs love the taste
    • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
    • Suitable for small and large breed pups
    Cons
    • Contains generic ingredients
    • A little more expensive than dry diets

    5. Wellness Core Grain-free Chicken and Turkey Puppy Food

    Wellness CORE Grain-Free Puppy Chicken & Turkey Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 36%
    Fat: 18%
    Calories: 491 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal

    A very calorie-dense diet, Wellness Core is made with real meat, fruits, and vegetables to give your pup a high-energy, high-protein source of fuel. Full of healthy additives like antioxidants, fatty acids, and glucosamine, Wellness Core supports your puppy’s entire body development. The food is formulated for puppies of all sizes.

    Owners generally give this food positive marks but some reported their dogs didn’t care for the taste. The kibble is also strong-smelling for dry food, which mostly seemed like a negative for owners rather than dogs. Free of by-products and fillers, this diet is a bit more expensive, as is common for most grain-free diets.

    Pros
    • Calorie-dense diet
    • Contains antioxidants, fatty acids, glucosamine
    • No by-products or fillers
    Cons
    • Strong smelling kibble
    • Some dogs don’t like the taste

    6. Nulo Freestyle Limited Puppy Grain-free Salmon Dry Food

    Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Puppy & Adult Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 30%
    Fat: 18%
    Calories: 438 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Deboned salmon, salmon meal, chickpeas

    Made with limited ingredients, Nulo Freestyle Grain-free Salmon is the choice for those pups getting an early start on developing food sensitivities. Utilizing a single protein source, this food is free of other common allergens like chicken, wheat, and soy. The added probiotics are another bonus for pups with sensitive stomachs. Because of its real, wild-caught salmon ingredients, this food definitely checks in at a higher price point.

    Although the formula is suitable for pups of all sizes, the kibble may be a bit large for smaller mouths. The food also has a strong fish smell that may not appeal to all dogs (or owners!).

    Pros
    • Limited ingredient
    • Added probiotics
    • Single protein source
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Strong smelling
    • Kibble may be too big for small dogs

    7. Taste Of The Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food

    Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food with Roasted Bison and Venison for Puppies

    Protein: 28%
    Fat: 17%
    Calories: 415 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Water buffalo, lamb meal, sweet potatoes

    Another great pick of grain-free puppy food is Taste Of The Wild High Prairie Grain-free dry food. This diet uses real, whole food ingredients including meat, fruits, vegetables, and egg to provide all the essential nutrients a growing puppy needs. The food is formulated to be highly digestible, allowing your puppy to utilize as much nutrition as possible. Made in the USA, Taste of the Wild High Prairie contains antioxidants to support your pup’s still-developing immune system and contains no artificial colors or flavors. More reasonably priced than other foods that use similar premium ingredients, this diet is also available in three different size bags to accommodate puppies with all types of appetites.

    Owners of large breed pups report that their dogs didn’t care for the small kibble size of this food, however.

    Pros
    • Highly digestible
    • Real, whole-food ingredients
    • Available in three bag sizes
    Cons
    • Kibble too small for some large dogs

    8. Canidae Grain-free Pure Chicken, Lentil, Whole Egg Puppy Dry Food

    Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Premium Puppy Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 30%
    Fat: 12%
    Calories: 521 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, lentils

    Made from just nine, easily recognizable ingredients, Canidae Grain-free is a high-quality food that contains nothing unnecessary to meet nutritional standards. This diet caters to dogs with sensitive stomachs or budding food sensitivities. Made in the USA, Canidae is a higher-priced food, which is to be expected based on the ingredient list. Full of healthy additives like antioxidants, fatty acids, and probiotics, this food provides plenty of support for your growing puppy.

    The kibble size and texture can be inconsistent based on the ingredients in each batch. Some owners reported finding an excessive amount of dog food “dust” in their bags.

    Pros
    • Only 9 ingredients
    • Made in the USA by a small, family-owned company
    Cons
    • Inconsistent kibble size
    • Food can be dusty

    9. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Duck & Potato Grain-free Puppy

    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Reserve Grain-Free Duck & Potato Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 25%
    Fat: 12%
    Calories: 395 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Duck, duck meal, potato

    Made from a novel protein source, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Duck And Potato is an excellent choice for pups with suspected food sensitivities. Easily digestible, this diet is formulated by nutritionists, vets, and researchers. This food is not only grain-free but doesn’t contain peas or beans either. With added DHA, Natural Balance provides nutritional support for your pup’s nervous system development. The kibble is designed to be easy for small dogs to eat.

    Some owners report their dogs found the taste of this food a bit bland. It is also lower in protein than many of the foods on our list.

    Pros
    • Novel protein source
    • Formulated by nutritionists and vets
    • Easy to eat kibble
    Cons
    • Lower in protein
    • Some dogs dislike the taste

    10. Holistic Select Adult+Puppy Grain-free Salmon, Anchovy, Sardine

    Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Salmon Anchovy & Sardine Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 29%
    Fat: 14%
    Calories: 448 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Salmon, anchovy and sardine meal, potatoes

    Holistic Select is full of fish protein and other all-natural ingredients such as pumpkin and berries. This diet is also formulated with probiotics to help your puppy digest and absorb as much nutrition as possible. Thanks to all that fish, this food is also high in fatty acids for skin and coat health. Holistic Select is designed to be fed to both puppies and adult dogs, so your pup won’t need to change diets as they grow into adulthood.

    Be warned, your puppy kisses may come with a strong whiff of fishy breath if you feed this diet. Like many of the stronger-smelling foods, this one won’t appeal to the tastes of all dogs. It is also a higher-priced diet.

    Pros
    • Easily digested and absorbed nutrition
    • Can be fed to adult dogs too
    Cons
    • Causes fishy smelling breath
    • More expensive food

    11. Instinct Raw Boost Puppy Grain-free

    Instinct Raw Boost Puppy Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Protein: 34%
    Fat: 5%
    Calories: 504 kcal/cup
    Top 3 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal

    Instinct Raw Boost is made from real, cage-free chicken and contains not only high-quality kibble but freeze-dried raw chicken pieces as well. Packed with animal-based protein, Instinct also contains DHA from real eggs to support brain development. Raw food diets are not without controversy, which is something to keep in mind when feeding this diet. Instinct only comes in small and medium bag sizes, making it not cost-effective for large and giant dog breeds.

    The kibbles themselves are very hard and some pups—especially small ones—may have trouble eating them. Some owners report consistency issues with this food, which may be related to its natural ingredients.

    Pros
    • Contains real, freeze-dried chicken pieces
    • High in animal protein
    • Made with cage-free chicken and eggs
    Cons
    • Only available in small and medium bags
    • Hard kibble
    • Some consistency issues

    divider-dog

    Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Grain-Free Puppy Foods

    Now that you have a better idea of the grain-free puppy foods available to you, here are some points to consider as you narrow down your choice.

    Does Your Pup Need a Grain-Free Diet?

    With the amount of money American pet owners spend on dog food, competition for your dollars is fierce. The dog food industry is not immune from fads and trends, similar to human diet crazes. Grain-free food may be popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier for your pup.

    Dogs with true grain sensitivities can benefit from these diets but the average dog probably doesn’t truly need to avoid them.

    In addition, research is ongoing to determine whether there’s a link between ingredients used in many grain-free (and some regular) dog foods and the development of a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

    All things considered, it is certainly worth consulting your veterinarian before putting your pup on a grain-free diet.

    Nutritional Profile Of The Food

    More important than whether your selected diet contains grain or not is that it meets the recommended nutritional profile to help your pup grow at an optimal rate. Protein should be between 22%-32%, fat 10%-25%, and calcium 0.7%-1.7%.

    Your pup’s recommended daily calories will vary based on their size, age, and activity level. The foods on our list displayed a fairly wide range of kcal/cup measurements. With the cost of many grain-free diets, it may be worth doing some math to determine how long a bag will last based on the amount your dog needs to eat.

    Limited Ingredients Or Not?

    Puppies generally are too young to start showing signs of food allergies and sensitivities but it’s not out of the question. Many grain-free diets are also made with limited ingredients and novel proteins, suitable for pets with allergies. If your pup regularly has digestive issues, don’t assume the cause is food-related without ruling out other medical conditions like parasites or infectious diseases first.

    If your vet does suggest a limited ingredient diet for your puppy, you’ll have several to choose from on our list.

    divider-dog

    Final Thoughts

    As our best overall grain-free puppy food, the chicken, beef and pork recipes of Nom Nom are your best option of quality, real food ingredients, and superior digestibility. Our best value pick, American Journey Chicken And Sweet Potato, offers good quality for the money with nutritious, high-energy ingredients. Choosing a puppy food can be overwhelming and we hope our reviews helped make your decision a more enlightened one. Not every food will agree with every pup, no matter how strong the reviews are, so be sure to monitor your dog’s health whichever diet you decide on.

    See also:


    Featured Image Credit: marketlan, Shutterstock

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