Rice is a wonderful grain that has many uses and applications aside from it being a fabulous accompaniment to food. But, when you’re engaging in a gluten-free existence, you have to be careful about what you eat, including things like rice.
However, newcomers to this way of eating should know the answer to, “Is rice gluten-free?” The answer is a resounding YES! All natural forms of rice have absolutely no gluten in them whatsoever. The only exceptions are what mixes in or tops the rice.
So, there are some safeguards and you will still have to inspect ingredient lists. But rice is generally a worry-free food for those with celiac disease or an intense gluten intolerance.
Types ; Varieties of Rice
There is a cornucopia of rice varieties and types from all corners of the world. Whether wild, white or brown, none of them contains naturally occurring gluten. They each cook different, provide various textures and have their own unique flavor.
|Whole: has the least amount of milling and polishing, which contains the hull, bran, germ and endosperm (often referred to as “brown”)||Basmati: Famous in Indian cuisine, basmati is long grain rice that separates and becomes fluffy after rinsing with subsequent cooking. It comes as white or brown.|
|Long: 4x longer than wide, it becomes very light and fluffy when cooked||Jasmine: Popular in many Asian dishes, this is a very fragrant rice that’s quite long. It’s soft and slightly sticky after cooking.|
|Medium: more stout than wide, it’s somewhat sticky and very tender when cooked||Sweet: A short grain rice that comes in brown and white, the kernel is an opaque chalk-like white. This easily loses its shape and becomes mushy after cooking. This is ideal for deserts and puddings.|
|Short: 2x longer than wide, with a sticky texture when cooked||Arborio: A medium kernel in both brown and white, this is the start of risotto dishes and some rice puddings. It has a heavy amount of starch, which releases upon cooking. It provides creaminess to foods without being mushy.|
|Refined, Enriched or Fortified: Highly refined, milled and polished (often called “white”)||Black, Purple or Red: Often found in places like Africa and South America, these are high in anthocyanins as indicated by their pigment. These have an earthy taste and take much longer to cook than others. The cooked result is somewhat firm.|
|Glutinous: Some Thai rice is glutinous, but it doesn’t have gluten. This is very sticky after cooking and can come in white or brown.|
|Wild: This mostly comes from North America, with one variety from China. It has a hard, chewy outer sheath that splits open when fully cooked. It has a dark exterior with a white and soft interior.|
Rice Facts ; Safety
Even though rice is perfectly safe for gluten-free diets, there are some precautions. While there are bigger concerns for a gluten-free diet, note that the more processed rice is the less nutrients it has.
In some cases, manufacturers replace these nutrients and label their product as “fortified” or “enriched.” But, there’s only a fraction of the original nutrients lost. These are mostly empty in calories, minerals and vitamins. So, you’re getting all the carbohydrates without the benefits.
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Watch Out for Rice Dishes
The main concern of gluten in terms of rice, though, is the fact that certain rice may contain it. This is because they comprise or cross contaminate with other gluten-filled products in some way. For instance:
- Sauces: While the rice itself won’t have things like wheat, rye or barley, the sauce slathering it might. This includes most soy sauce unless it specifically indicates being “gluten-free.” This is true of store-bought packages too, where manufacturers get away with including gluten by saying things like “natural” or “smoke” flavoring.
- Rice Pilaf: Comprising wild rice and seasonings, rice pilaf also contains orzo. This is a Greek pasta made to look like rice but it usually contains wheat flour. However, there are some gluten-free ones available.
- Prepackaged Rice: Rice blends and mixes that come with a seasoning packet will likely use wheat, rye or barley. These usually go into the seasoning mix unless it indicates being gluten-free.
- Crispy Rice: There are many products containing crispy rice like candy and cereals. But, they aren’t pure rice as they often have malt extracted from barley to make them puffy. So, these aren’t safe enough for those with celiac disease or a severe gluten sensitivity.
Also, there may be times when rice should perfectly be gluten-free. But, gluten-filled products can sometimes cross contaminate the rice. This can include processing in the same facilities as things like rye, wheat or barley. In other cases, it could mean avoiding bulk bins at the grocery store.
There are times when people in a rush will use the same scoop for their rice as they did for the barley and spelt they grabbed. Plus, there’s no guarantee the store cleans their scoops on a daily basis or ensures their bulk bins as a gluten-free friendly environment. So, it’s best to avoid this.
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When purchasing rice at the store or a restaurant, you should keep this basic checklist in mind:
- Avoid bulk bin rice at the grocery store
- Don’t just grab a package of rice because it says something like “Gluten-Free Certified.” Always inspect the ingredient list for hidden terminology and euphemisms
- Call or email a company if their labeling is unclear about their ingredients being gluten-free
- Don’t buy rice packages indicating “natural flavoring,” “artificial flavoring” or “smoke flavoring” on their ingredient list.There’s no way to know if it’s going to be safe enough to eat
- Always order plain rice with no seasonings when dining out
- Before going to a restaurant, call ahead or look at their online menu for gluten-free options
- If at any time you think the rice in front of you is questionably glutenized, don’t eat it