Gluten allergies can be a real pain. There are so many foods that you can’t eat if you have ciliac disease. On top of that, a lot of gluten free food on the market just isn’t that great. Some of it is palatable enough, but many products that are designed to emulate the taste and texture of glutinous foods fall short of the mark and end up tasting more like cardboard than cookies. So why bother trying to imitate gluten when there are so many tasty options available that were never meant to contain wheat in the first place? Here are six delicious, naturally gluten free foods that will leave you wondering what you ever saw in spaghetti.
6) Zucchini Noodles
The spiralizer craze is sweeping kitchens across the globe right now and zucchini noodles are the flagship dish of this kitchen contraption. Zucchini noodles are easy to make and actually take less time to prepare than regular pasta. In about a minute you can spiralize a whole Zucchini. After that just sauté the noodles and serve them with your favourite pasta sauce. Not quite like Mama used to make but dare I say it, maybe better.
Pasta may be the most famous of Italian starches, but corn-based polenta is just as tasty and versatile. You can make it yourself or buy it at the grocery store. Polenta is most often served fried in rounds and topped with just about anything you can think of. The chewy, mealy texture is a lot like pasta, with the added sweetness of corn. Polenta is generally made using only corn, but double check the label to be sure you’re choosing a brand without added gluten.
Not just for hummus! Chickpeas (also known as garbonzo beans) are a delightful addition to chili, soups, and most famously curries. You can buy them dry and soak them overnight or get them from a can for a quick dinner. Chickpeas have a nutty quality that makes them great for roasting too. Try them pan-cooked in coconut milk with onions and red peppers.
If you don’t know what parsnips are, they’re those things in the grocery store that look like white carrots. But the flavour couldn’t be farther off. Parsnips have a woody flavour that makes for a great addition to roasts. Parboil a few parsnips and add them to your next roast beef or make parsnips the main attraction by roasting them solo with garlic and herbs. The distinct flavour of parsnips goes well with their starchy texture and makes them great for mashing and mixing with other root vegetables like turnips.
2) Rice Noodles
Remember when I said that pasta is the most famous of Italian starches? Well the idea didn’t originate in Italy. Asian cultures were making noodles out of rice hundreds of years before trading brought the practice to Europe where it was tweaked to include different types of grain. Most noodles that are advertised as gluten free are made from rice flour, but the original rice noodle that started it all has a much different texture than anything with “gluten free” printed on the box. While the idea of eating rice noodles with bolonagse or alfredo sauce may seem strange, they pair very nicely with thinner sauces like teriyaki or honey garlic and even cheddar cheese sauce.
1) Glutinous Rice
Don’t let the name confuse you, glutinous rice does not actually contain gluten. True gluten as it is defined scientifically is only found in wheat, but the word “glutinous” has become a coloquialism that just means “sticky” and glutinous rice products are no exception. These products will list “rice gluten” as an ingredient but again, this is not the same as wheat gluten and is safe for people with celiac disease. Glutinous rice balls, also known as tangyuan, are especially versatile and can be cooked with any sauce or seasoning. They are used in both savory and sweet recipes because they’re so chewy and sticky and just fun to eat!
There are lots of gluten-free options outside of your grocer’s “gluten-free” section. By reading labels and experimenting with new vegetables you can open up a whole new universe of flavour. Happy cooking!