Learning to navigate the gluten-free aisle at your local grocery can be difficult, and the pasta section can be especially frustrating. Corn noodles? Quinoa? Brown rice? While the ever rising selection of gluten-free items is exciting, the number of options can often times be overwhelming.
You can either do what I did and try out each type until you figure out what’s what (not recommended!), or you can check out the guide below.
Not only will we give you a rundown of the types of gluten-free pasta out there but we’ll also clue you in regarding some of the most loved brands. Bon Appetit!
Is gluten-free pasta healthy?
Nutritionally speaking, gluten-free pasta is fairly similar to regular pasta. It’s low in fat and cholesterol and high in carbs. The only difference is that it may be lower in fiber than regular pasta, so make sure to choose a high fiber option or add some fiber to your dish. Cooking gluten-free pasta can be tricky and might take some practice before getting the texture you want. I’ve found that cooking for a little less time than is recommended on the package and immediately rinsing with cold water keeps the pasta from getting the dreaded mushy consistency and makes it easier to reheat.
While most seasoned gluten-free eaters have a favorite type of pasta, it’s also important to take into consideration that different types of pasta are better for different dishes. For example, rice pasta isn’t great reheated so it’s better to make smaller amounts and not a dish that you’ll want to last for leftovers.
Here’s a breakdown of the various types of gluten-free pasta:
Rice: Rice pasta can be made from either white or brown rice. Brown rice is a sturdy pasta and great if you’re going to use thick sauce, like a hearty meat sauce. It absorbs flavors and spices well and has a taste similar to whole wheat pasta. White rice pasta is a bit more flimsy and can easily be overcooked. As mentioned above, most rice pasta isn’t great reheated.
We recommend: Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta. My personal favorite, this pasta is the perfect texture al dente and comes in many different varieties allowing for more variety in cooking. Their pasta also holds up well in baking and reheating, which is unique for rice pasta. I especially like their grand shells and lasagna noodles. Tinkyada also makes a few white rice options and vegetable blends such as their spinach brown rice spaghetti.
Corn: Corn pasta has a more mild flavor and for this reason will go great with lighter sauces. It has a texture similar to white pasta, but can tend to break when in boiling water so it’s best to choose shorter noodles such as shells. Many say that corn pasta is the most similar in taste to traditional pasta.
We recommend: Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Pasta. Many rave that this pasta is less susceptible to over-cooking and also holds up well in thick sauces and dishes that require additional cooking of prepared pasta. Mrs. Leepers also makes boxed dinner kits which are absolutely delicious and super easy to prepare! My two favorites are the creamy tuna and the chicken alfredo.
Quinoa: Quinoa pasta has a nice, sturdy texture similar to semolina and a great taste. Even better, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it has all nine essential amino acids. In other words, quinoa is a super food! With 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving, it’s by far the healthiest option, and a favorite among many.
We recommend: Andean Dream Quinoa Pasta comes in spaghetti, fusilli, macaroni and shells. This pasta is loved for its great flavor and is perfect for macaroni and cheese!
Blend: Some of the most loved brands of gluten-free pasta are blends of different flours and starches. Be sure to check the protein and fiber content of these options to make sure you’re still getting the amount available in others such as brown rice and quinoa.
We recommend: Schar pasta. This favorite is a mix of corn flour, rice flour and pea protein and comes in six different varieties: penne rigate, tagliatelle, fusilli, spaghetti, penne and anellini. It is loved for its similarity to traditional pasta and firm texture.
A second great option is Ancient Harvest quinoa and corn blend. Ancient Harvest offers a variety of shapes, is high in protein and fiber and many traditional pasta lovers say they can’t even tell it’s gluten-free!
Asian Noodles: The most common type of Asian noodles are made with rice, but there are also options available made from tofu, buckwheat, tapioca, kelp and sweet potato. These noodles cook fast and are great for dishes such as stir-fry and pad thai. A favorite at my house (and great in a pinch!) is rice noodles thrown in a wok with some gluten-free soy sauce, peanut butter, green onions and chopped up grilled chicken.
I haven’t yet discovered a brand preference when cooking Asian noodles but find that out of all of the various options, rice noodles and soba noodles are the tastiest. It is important to always read the packaging and make sure the noodles are gluten-free, as there are many types of Asian style noodles, and it’s not uncommon for wheat flour to sneak into the recipe. You’ll also want to cook these noodles a bit differently than the above pastas, as they can turn to mush pretty quickly. I find that pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit for a few minutes does the trick!
I would love to hear about your favorite brands of gluten-free pasta and what you use for dishes such as baked macaroni, pasta salad and manicotti! Anyone make their own pasta?
Giliah Librach is a regular contributor to the CeliAct Blog. You can find Giliah on Google+.