Menu
Search
Menu
Close

Gluten-Free Pasta (Spaghetti)

Tired of gluten-free spaghetti that turns gritty or mushy? So were we.

How We Tested

For people who are avoiding gluten in their diets, finding good wheat-free pasta with the right texture and flavor is a challenge, one which has been met in a variety of ways by pasta manufacturers. We first evaluated gluten-free pasta several years ago, and the results were grim. The majority were gritty and grainy or dissolved into a mushy, gummy mess. Only one product, Jovial Organic Brown Rice Spaghetti, offered chewy yet tender noodles with a pleasant, neutral flavor.

We hoped that, given the number of new companies jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon recently, we might have better luck this time around. To find out, we pitted our top two scorers against six new products, tasting them cooked in salted water and tossed with canola oil, and a second time served with our favorite tomato sauce.

New Brands, Same Problems

To our dismay, the majority of the brands again failed to meet our expectations. As before, many products were unpleasantly “pasty” and “gummy” with “zero chew.” Even when we closely monitored their cooking time and strained them promptly, some of them practically disintegrated. But our old runner-up fell into the other end of the texture spectrum. Last time, we'd noticed a slight “rubbery” quality that we were willing to overlook due to its neutral flavor. But now that some brands are hitting the mark, our standards are higher. This time around, our tasters deemed it unacceptably “firm” and “chewy.”

Corn Worth Eating

A newcomer, made with a combination of corn and rice flours, joined our brown rice favorite at the top. When pasta is boiled, the starch granules absorb water and swell. If the protein network is not strong enough to hold those swollen granules in place, starch will leach out of the pasta as it cooks, resulting in soggy and sticky noodles (and very cloudy cooking water). The proteins in corn are more water-soluble than those in rice and therefore more likely to escape the pasta. We'd nixed corn flour pastas in our earlier testing because they had been especially clumpy and gummy, but this pasta remained “intact” and had an “al dente” texture. How had they done it?

We knew that the rice flour was helping, but we'd had poor results with a similar blend in our first tasting. A closer look revealed that this pasta also contains mono- and diglycerides. Corn pastas can be brittle, and these stabilizers help hold the starches together and keep the pasta tender.

The Right Ratio

For all types of pasta, protein is the most important factor in determining texture. More protein is generally better than less, but all of our spaghetti contained between 4 and 6 grams per serving, and those numbers didn't correlate with our rankings. However, gluten-free pastas don't behave in exactly the same ways as pastas made with white or whole-wheat flour. Most get their strength from rice flour—in fact, it's a primary ingredient in every brand we tasted—and it's much lower in protein than either white or whole-wheat flour. Although particles of fiber can interfere with the protein bonds in wheat pasta and cause it to weaken during cooking, rice fiber plays a helpful role in gluten-free pasta—to a point. The ideal combination turns out to be a relatively high amount of protein (at least 4 grams) and a fiber content that's less than half that amount. Our two favorite brands have a relatively high amount of protein that is at least double their amount of fiber; both remained intact but tender after cooking, earning praise for their ability to pass as “regular” pasta. The rest of the samples, all of which had been soft and mushy or gritty and grainy, had a near-equal ratio of protein and fiber.

The Bottom Line

Many products are still disappointing, but it is possible to find good-quality gluten-free spaghetti made entirely from brown rice flour or with a combination of corn and rice flour. In both, a relatively large amount of protein and very little fiber is the key to pasta that doesn't disintegrate during cooking.

Methodology

Our panel tasted each sample twice—cooked in salted water and tossed with canola oil, then again served with our favorite tomato sauce. The scores from the two tastings were averaged to determine overall rankings.

The following products were not recommended in our original tasting and have not been reformulated: Bionaturae Organic Gluten Free Spaghetti; Ancient Harvest, Gluten Free, Spaghetti Style; Tinkyada Pasta Joy Ready Brown Rice Pasta, Spaghetti Style; Rustichella d'Abruzzo Organic Corn Spaghetti; DeLallo Gluten Free Corn & Rice Spaghetti; DeBoles Gluten Free Rice Spaghetti Style Pasta.

Try CooksCountry.com FREE for 14 Days

START YOUR 14-DAY FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP

Every Recipe, Every Rating, Every Video from Every Magazine & Every Episode!

  • 10+ years of Cook's Country Foolproof Recipes
  • Complete Cook's Country TV Video Library
  • 3,800+ Equipment Reviews and Ingredient Taste Tests
  • Step-by-Step Technique Photos
  • Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists

Dear Home Cook,

If we were new to CooksCountry.com, we might think, “It’s easy to get free recipes on the Internet. What makes your recipes different?” Well, unlike recipes from blogs, message boards, and other recipe sites, our recipes are exhaustively tested by our team of full-time test cooks until they offer consistently great results. That means fried chicken with a crunchy coating and moist meat, a low-fat recipe makeover for macaroni and cheese that’s as creamy and cheesy as the full-fat version, and fork-tender slow cooker pot roast.

We’re obsessive in our quest to find and foolproof the best of American home cooking, from fuss-free weeknight dinners, to updated, simplified versions of regional specialties, to slow cooker and make ahead meals. CooksCountry.com is the only place you can find every foolproof recipe published in Cook’s Country magazine since 2005, plus objective ratings and test results from both Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated for cookware and supermarket ingredients.

Let us make a simple, no-nonsense offer. Try out our website FREE for a 14-Day, No-Hassle Trial Offer. We’re pretty confident that CooksCountry.com will quickly become an invaluable resource for everything from a quick Tuesday supper to your next get-together with family and friends.

Thanks for your consideration,

The Editors of Cook’s Country

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.