Is orzo gluten free? When you or a loved one first switch to a gluten-free diet, you’re going to have a lot of questions. Simple ingredients and recipes you used to enjoy automatically become questionable. Some ingredients become particularly confusing because they’re hard to recognize, like orzo for example.
Orzo is confusing because it looks like rice and it tastes like rice too. So many people mistake orzo for rice and eat it thinking that it’s gluten free. Orzo tends to look like rice when it’s in soups, salads and especially in creamy risotto dishes. Arborio rice which is naturally gluten free looks just like cooked orzo.
I get so many questions from my readers about orzo. People often ask questions like, “Is orzo rice?” “Is orzo pasta?” Readers even ask me if orzo is gluten free.
In this post you’ll learn exactly what orzo is. Why it is not gluten free. How to tell the difference between rice and orzo and the best gluten free orzo brands and gf substitutes.
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What is Orzo?
Orzo is a small form of pasta usually made from semolina flour which is derived from durum wheat. Orzo is a delicate thin pasta that’s cut into short pieces that make it look like a fat grain of rice. This rice like pasta originated in Italy and it’s commonly used in soups and pasta salads.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is glue like protein found in wheat that gives bread it’s structure. In the body gluten’s paste like texture makes it hard to digest. For people who don’t have a gluten allergy will notice that eating gluten can make them feel bloated or constipated. This is because gluten slows down the transit time in the intestine.
On the flip side for people with a literal gluten allergy have a disease called Celiac disease. If you have celiac disease when you eat gluten it triggers an allergic response by your immune system.
What is Orzo Made Of?
Orzo is usually made from semolina flour which is derived from durum wheat. Some orzo is made with whole grains or even other types of flour including rice flour in attempt to make a gluten free version. Some brands of gluten free orzo that I’ll be discussing later on in this post are made from cassava flour. Cassava flour comes from a root vegetable which is similar to a potato.
Is Orzo Gluten Free?
No, unfortunately traditional orzo isn’t gluten free. This is why it’s important to be able to tell the difference between rice (which is naturally gluten-free) and orzo. Since traditional Italian orzo is made from semolina flour, it contains gluten.
Is Semolina Gluten Free?
No semolina flour isn’t gluten free because it’s made from wheat. Wheat is the main source of natural gluten.
Is Rice Or Orzo Better For You?
If you aren’t gluten free or sensitive to wheat due to autoimmune disorders, inflammation or digestive disorders then orzo pasta isn’t going to be bad for you.
However, if we’re just drawing up a simple comparison. All types of rice are healthier than traditional orzo pasta.
- Rice has more nutrients and lower calories and fat than orzo.
- Pasta is slightly higher in protein than rice.
- Rice has naturally occurring vitamins and minerals while pasta does not. Unless it’s fortified.
- Rice has iron, zinc, folate and b vitamins. Granted in small quantities.
- Rice is always gluten free while pasta is usually not gluten free unless otherwise specified. Making rice the better option for those who have celiac disease.
Benefits of Orzo vs. Rice
- Pasta is easier to prepare.
- There are more carbs in pasta making it a great choice for extreme athletes who are fueling up for a big race.
Which is Healthier Orzo or Pasta?
This is a bit of a redundant question since pasta and orzo are essentially the same thing. Pasta is the general term while orzo is a specific type of pasta. Both orzo and pasta in general are made from semolina flour which is derived from wheat.
Gluten Free Orzo Brands To Try?
- Andean Quinoa Based Gluten-Free Orzo Pasta
- Banza Chickpea Rice Orzo made from chickpea flour.
- Delallo Gluten Free Orzo Pasta has a soft authentic taste from corn and rice flour.
- Garafolo Gluten-Free Orzo Pasta made from brown rice, corn and quinoa flour.
- Jovial Gluten-Free Orzo Pasta made from cassava flour
- Pastamore Lemon Garlic Orzo
- Wholesome Provisions Protein Orzo (Keto friendly option made from sunflowers and lupin)
- Viviana Gluten-Free Orzo Pasta
Naturally Gluten-Free Alternatives to Orzo
If you want to substitute orzo in any recipe here are a few great gluten free alternatives to orzo pasta.
Amaranth is an ancient grain that’s naturally gluten free.
Cauliflower rice is a great gluten-free replacement for orzo for people who are avoiding grains all together. Cauliflower rice is naturally gluten-free, low carb and keto friendly. Cauliflower rice tends to get wet if it’s pre-frozen so it’s better used for soups and pasta salads served with sauce.
The best substitute for orzo is rice. Both orzo and rice have the same shape and work well in hot or cold pasta salads and soups. There are tons of kinds of rice from sushi rice, white rice, black rice, brown rice, basmati rice, forbidden rice and more. But of all the types of rice out there arborio rice is the best substitute.
Arborio rice is commonly used in risotto which is naturally gluten free. This amazing rice tends to get creamy just like pasta! Most people cannot tell the difference between arborio rice and orzo pasta.
Most risotto is gluten free by default since rice is a naturally gluten free grain. The other ingredients we use most often to make risotto are also naturally gluten free. These ingredients include:
- aromatics like garlic and onion
- herbs and spices like salt and pepper
- dairy like parmesan cheese and butter.
- Stock or Broth like chicken or vegetable stock.
Of course, every recipe for risotto is different. If you’re eating risotto at a restaurant you should always check with your server to make sure that the risotto is gluten free.
If you want to make gluten-free risotto with arborio rice feel free to try my recipe here. I love this risotto recipe because you bake the risotto instead of stirring it. Baking risotto takes all the work out. So instead of standing over a hot stove stirring for 30 minutes. You just pop a cast iron pot into the oven and 40 minutes later you have creamy risotto.
Similar to quinoa, millet is a great naturally gluten-free substitute for orzo because it’s
Quinoa is a good substitute for orzo because it’s similar in size and can be served cold or hot. Quinoa works well as a gluten-free orzo replacement for pasta salads and in soups. The main difference between quinoa and orzo is that orzo is shaped like rice (short and flat) while quinoa is small and round.
Gluten Free Cous Cous Pasta
In a pinch you can use any brand of gluten free couscous to get the same texture and taste as orzo.
f you’re craving some orzo but you are on a gluten free diet or have celiac disease, fear not! Here are some amazing gluten-free orzo recipes to inspire you. In this post I’ll also discuss what orzo is and which is healthier, orzo or rice!