Orzo is a versatile pasta used in many recipes, but is orzo gluten-free? Find the answer in this short article as well as substitutes for this rice-shaped pasta, including gluten-free orzo brands.
What is Orzo?
Orzo, also called risoni, is a small Italian pasta similar in shape to a large grain of rice. It is a form of short-cut pasta called pastina, or "little pasta", in Italy. Its versatile shape can be used in a variety of ways such as comforting soups, cold pasta salads, and grain bowls.
While orzo originated in Italy, it is now used world-wide in a variety of ways, including Italian dishes like wedding soup, the traditional Greek giouvetsi, a one-pot recipe made with beef and spices in a rich tomato sauce, and 'birds tongue soup', which uses chicken stock, green chillies, and orzo to make a soup traditionally served during Ramadan across West Africa and the Middle East.
Fun fact: The name orzo actually comes from the Italian word for barley. It was given this name due to its barley-like shape.
Is Orzo Gluten-Free?
Traditional orzo is not gluten-free. Orzo is a type of pasta typically made from wheat semolina flour, which comes from durum wheat. It can also be made from regular all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour, depending on the variety.
All wheat flour contains gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten causes health issues and must be strictly avoided for those living with celiac disease or other gluten intolerance.
While traditional orzo cannot be consumed on a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of gluten-free pasta alternatives, including some for orzo!
What are the Best Gluten-Free Alternatives to Orzo?
There are several gluten-free options for substituting regular orzo in a recipe. Below are the best alternatives, listed in order of similarity to regular orzo.
- Gluten-free Orzo. You can easily find gluten-free orzo online and possibly some grocery stores in larger markets. Delallo and Jovial foods are the two major brands currently making gluten-free orzo. (Read more about these two options below!)
- Arborio rice. Arborio rice is a high starch, short grain rice. Its starchiness and shape is most similar to regular orzo, especially compared to other forms of rice.
While the options below aren't necessarily exact dupes for traditional orzo, their form and function may work for you depending on the recipe you're creating or your dietary needs.
- Gluten-free spaghetti broken into small pieces is a decent option. Wrap the spaghetti in a clean kitchen towel and strike it on the counter a few times to break up the pasta into small pieces.
- Other short gluten-free pastas. Any small pasta such as macaroni or penne, may be a decent substitute depending on the recipe.
- Grains such as Long-Grain White Rice, Brown Rice, Quinoa, or Millet.
- Cauliflower rice is a great option for those looking for lower carbs or grain free options.
Delallo Gluten-Free Orzo
As far as an exact gluten-free orzo substitute, I think this is the best option. I have used Dellao gluten-free orzo many times and I personally enjoy it a lot!
It is similar in texture and flavor to the Barilla gluten-free line of pastas. Like Barilla, it is also made with a combination of rice and corn flour.
This gluten-free orzo cooks up nicely and doesn't stick together. It holds its shape for that perfect al dente bite!
Jovial Grain Free Orzo
Jovial gluten-free orzo may be a better choice for you, especially if you are looking for a grain-free alternative to traditional orzo. This particular Jovial pasta is made from cassava flour.
Favorite Recipes Made with Gluten-Free Orzo
Now that you know all about gluten-free orzo, check out some of my favorite orzo recipes!
- Gluten-Free Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup is similar to chicken noodle soup but with a bright finish from lemon and dill.
- Gluten-Free Broccoli and Cheese Casserole, made with a homemade cheese sauce, is the perfect comfort food meal.
- Gluten-Free Orzo Pasta Salad, made with red onion, olives, tomatoes, and broccoli tossed in a homemade dressing, makes a perfect side dish.
- Gluten-Free Orzo Fried "Rice" is a twist on a classic dish made with rice.
Gluten-Free Orzo FAQ
No, orzo is not gluten-free. Traditional orzo is made from wheat flour, either semolina, all-purpose, or whole wheat depending on the variety.
Yes, Delallo and Jovial Foods are currently making gluten-free orzo pasta made from rice and corn flour or cassava flour, respectively.
Yes, because wheat flour is the main ingredient used to make orzo pasta.
Check online retailers, such as amazon. Major supermarkets or specialty gluten-free stores may also carry gluten-free orzo.
While it's rice-like shape can be confusing, traditional orzo is made from wheat.
No, Barilla orzo is made from wheat flour. Currently, Barilla does not offer a gluten-free orzo pasta.
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is the personal opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. This is not medical or nutritional advice. Please consult a doctor or medical professional before making changes to your diet or regarding any health related decisions. Ingredient information was accurate at the time of posting but should always be verified by the consumer by checking the product ingredient label for the most up to date information.
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