The first epitope-independent procedure for rapidly quantifying gluten gliadins in food by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI/TOF-MS) based on the direct observation of the characteristic gliadin mass pattern is presented. This pattern was identified in both processed and unprocessed gluten-containing food samples. The procedure allows the micro-quantification of gluten in food samples below levels toxic for coeliac patients, with a linear response in the 0.4-10 mg per 100 g range and a high detection sensitivity similar to that of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) systems. Food samples simultaneously analyzed by MALDI/TOF-MS and a highly sensitive laboratory-made sandwich ELISA revealed a good correlation between the two techniques. In addition, MALDI/TOF-MS provides a rapid screening system to determine the presence of gliadins in food samples by directly monitoring the occurrence of the protonated gliadin mass pattern. The procedure also permits the study of the alteration of gliadins in food during the baking process, providing data on the heart effect by changes in protein mass signals.