Let’s face it: great gluten-free food is rare. Since we all grew up eating wheat flour, anything made without it won’t be the same. But just for you, I’ve compiled this list of the best, worst and okay gluten-free products (in my very professional opinion).
I think if you take the approach of not comparing gluten-free products to their original counterparts, you might be pleasantly surprised.
- All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour: So you can buy this in most grocery stores now. Lots of brands make it, but most should be good (I’ve tried a few different ones). Basically, it’s a combination of flours that aren’t made from wheat, like potato flour, rice flour, and cornstarch.
The best part about this combination flour? It can be substituted in any recipe for wheat flour. Do you even realize the total awesomeness of this? I made brownies with this stuff and no one could tell the difference. I’ve also made gluten-free apple crumble with this flour, pizza crust, sugar cookies, and will soon try making a real, live cake with it. Best. Thing. Ever.
- Gluten-Free Noodles: Most of these are actually made from rice, but check the label on the package to see what yours are made of. I’ve also tried noodles made from quinoa. They’re delicious and nutritious. If you don’t already know, quinoa is a sort-of grain. It has much higher protein and other healthy things than other grains, and is also naturally gluten-free.
Gluten-free noodles are available in the gluten-free section in most grocery stores, and you can get spaghetti noodles, lasagna noodles, elbow noodles – almost anything. So guess what? You can still eat pasta. These noodles don’t really have as much taste as wheat noodles, but I think they’re perfectly good substitutes. Cover them in sauce and you won’t be able to tell the difference.
- Gluten-Free Granola Bars: Stay away from these! Have you heard about gluten-free food tasting like cardboard? Well here it is. It’s not even good cardboard. It’s like … cardboard that’s been sitting on the wet, dirty ground for weeks at the dump. Okay, maybe not that bad. But not worth eating.
I only tried one of these, made by Glutino*. But it was apple cinnamon flavoured – according to the package. The bar was dry, crumbly, and literally had no taste. Maybe a hint of cinnamon. I took one bite and threw it out. Maybe it was just the brand, but it totally turned me off from ever trying gluten-free bars again. If you’ve found a brand that’s actually delicious, let me know!
*Glutino actually makes other products that aren’t bad – try their crackers. Eat them with dip and they taste pretty normal!
- Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns: All gluten-free bread might be bad, but I’ve only tried a hamburger bun when I was out at a restaurant. Bread is supposed to be fluffy and light, but this bun was dense and lacking flavour. It had texture like a pound cake, and overpowered the gluten-free veggie burger inside (which was actually quite tasty). Gluten-free bread and buns might be worth it for those of you who love bread and can’t live without it, but for me, I’m over it.Also with bread, Gluten-Free Croutons should be avoided, unless you really want some crunch in your salad. And I mean crunch. You could potentially break your teeth on these. They also lack flavour.
- Gluten-Free Beer: Okay, so I really don’t drink beer. A sip here and there but really, I’m an amaretto sour kind of a girl. So here’s a review on gluten-free beer from my brother James, a beer specialist. He makes his own beer and has reviewed and rated 150 beers on Beer Advocate. Basically, he really knows what he’s talking about!
BEER: Nickel Brook Gluten Free (American Blonde Ale)
Aroma: Straight up aloe vera. A little off-putting.
Taste: The flavor follows closely with the smell; aloe vera. But, surprisingly, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve never tasted sorghum before so I’m assuming that flavor is due to the use of this substitute malt. The palate is sweet overall with just a hint of bitterness (like maybe 10 IBUs which is nothing). It’s an interesting flavor for someone who’s used to that regular ‘beer’ taste. Soft finish and lingering sorghum flavor.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and decent effervescence. Pretty easy to drink but the flavor is just strange enough to make it a little difficult.
Final Thoughts: It makes me slightly uneasy drinking something that tastes how aloe vera smells. I’m not sure whether to drink it or rub it on a sun burn. Either way it’s not terrible and I don’t have much to judge it against since it’s the first gluten free beer I’ve tried. Would I drink it again? Perhaps. I think it falls into the ‘meh’ category.
Rating: 2.88 out of 5. Below average. This beer has been rated 66/100 on Beer Advocate by 11 reviewers. Anything rating under 70 should be avoided.
- Gluten-Free Pizza Crust: You can buy this in grocery stores (or Bulk Barn) as a powder mixture that you add water, oil, and yeast to. These are decent, no major complaints or raves. They’re not like real pizza since they don’t really rise and have that soft texture. But I think it’s a good substitute for real pizza, especially if you put on loads of toppings and tomato sauce so the crust doesn’t matter. I’ve also added things like garlic powder, dried basil, dried oregano, and onion powder to give the crust more taste.
- Gluten-Free Bakeries: Here’s my thing with these bakeries – I can make it myself! By using the gluten-free all-purpose flour, I’m fairly confident I can make most desserts. So I don’t really want to spend money on a couple of cookies or a fancy cake that I can do myself. But I have tried cookies from a gluten-free bakery, and they were pretty good. The texture was light and fluffy like a real cookie, but a little bit powdery. These bakeries are good if you’re desperate or can’t bake, but really, get yourself some gluten-free all-purpose flour and make it yourself!
So that’s all I’ve got for today. As I try more gluten-free products, I’ll either update this list or do another post. Check back if you’re searching for the best gluten-free food! If you disagree with me or have found a brand that’s actually good, let me know!
If you live in the Toronto area, here’s a gluten-free company that makes tons of products: Goodbye Gluten.