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Orzo pasta is everywhere and it’s left a lot of gluten free folk wondering – is orzo gluten free? Here I look at what orzo is, the gluten free orzo pasta brands out there, and what to substitute orzo for…

A bowl of orzo pasta.
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It would be fair to say the world is having a love affair with orzo pasta. From orzo pasta salads to ‘orzotto’ recipes, it’s all I’ve seen all over my feeds.

But as someone with coeliac disease, seeing all this pasta everywhere is giving me an intense feeling of FOMO. That’s Fear Of Missing Out for those not in the know.

I have no idea what I’m even missing out on because I was diagnosed with coeliac disease 20+ years ago. Orzo has never been on my radar.

But still, I decided to do some research into orzo. I wanted to see whether there are any gluten free orzo brands out there, and what I can use instead.

Here’s my guide to orzo pasta for fellow confused coeliacs.

What is Orzo?

Orzo is a type of small pasta, which looks similar in shape and size to rice. It is often made from semolina – which comes from durum wheat.

Durum wheat is what a lot of traditional pasta is made from, and it does contain gluten.

Orzo pasta has a similar shape and texture (apparently) to arborio rice, found in risotto. But the short pasta shapes are a little larger than rice.

This is probably is why ‘orzotto’ has become a thing. And why, much like rice, orzo is so commonly used in dishes such as soups or cold salads.

An orzo salad made with olive and peppers.

Is orzo gluten free?

No, orzo pasta is not gluten free. This is because it is made from either semolina, white or wholegrain flour – all of which are a product of wheat.

Wheat is one of the main grains containing gluten. Meaning orzo is definitely not safe for people with coeliac disease or who are intolerant to gluten.

The fact it looks so similar to rice can be confusing. Another reason why people who are gluten free should always double check when eating.

I always find people also ask if couscous is gluten free too as both products are similar – and neither are coeliac-safe.

For example, risotto is often gluten free and made with rice. Whereas ‘orzotto’ is made with wheat-containing orzo, and not gluten free.

Is there gluten free orzo pasta?

We’re pretty lucky that you can buy a gluten free version of most pasta shapes nowadays.

But despite being able to get everything from fusilli to freshly-filled ravioli, gluten free orzo is not readily available in the shops in the UK.

gluten free chickpea orzo and gluten free red lentil orzo by biona

Excitingly, I have now found a brand of gluten free orzo in the UK! Health food brand Biona has a new red lentil orzo and chickpea orzo, both of which are gluten free.

These are £3.09 and £3.39 a bag at the time of writing, available on their website – but there currently is quite a high delivery fee.

A bag of gluten free orzo by Jovial.

I have also found a grain-free cassava orzo by Jovial which is gluten free. I’ve not tried this but would be intrigued to know what the texture is like.

It is also £4.42 a bag but I believe this is an American import – so worth trying to find if you are in the States.

A pack of Delallo gluten free orzo

In the US you can also buy Delallo gluten free orzo, which is made in a dedicated gluten free facility, but at this time they don’t ship to the UK.

I’ve heard really great things about this Delallo orzo pasta so hopefully their gluten free orzo will make its way to the UK one day.

In the meantime I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that one of the UK pasta brands here will create their own gluten free orzo – and using my alternatives below.

What is a substitute to orzo pasta?

If you’re gluten free there are alternatives you can use in recipes which require orzo to make them coeliac-safe and gluten free.

There are lots of common gluten free substitutes for orzo including rice, other gluten free pasta shapes, quinoa and even cauliflower rice.

Here are some examples of gluten free orzo pasta alternatives:

Garofalo Gluten Free Anellini

If you want a small pasta shape to use in your salad or dish instead or orzo, this would be my top choice.

The Garofalo Gluten Free Anellini are tiny little pasta hoops. They’re probably the closest thing in size to an orzo pasta.

These would work really well in a soup or salad dish.

Gallo Gluten Free Fideos

I’ve not tried this Gluten Free Fideos Pasta yet but it looks like it would be a good substitute for orzo.

However, the shape of this pasta makes me also think you could use broken up spaghetti in a similar way to orzo.

I’ve not tried it myself. But if anyone is feeling adventurous please let me know in the comments how it goes!

Arborio Rice

If you’ve found an orzotto recipe you like the look of, you could simple turn it into a risotto instead using arborio rice.

Rice is completely gluten free so can be substituted in any recipe which requires orzo.

You may not get the exact same texture as you would using orzo pasta but you’d still get a relatively similar dish at the end.

It’s what I use in all my risotto recipes, such as my prawn and chorizo risotto or my courgette and lemon risotto.

Basmati rice or long grain rice would also work as good gluten free replacements for orzo pasta too.

gluten free orzo pasta

Quinoa

I always use quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) as an alternative to couscous and I think it would work just as well to replace orzo.

I use it in a lot of salad dishes and it’s one of my favourite gluten free alternatives.

Despite looking like a grain and being used like one, quinoa is actually a seed.

It would be best in a salad-based dish and the quinoa would add a lovely, nutty flavour to the dish as well as extra protein.

Cauliflower Rice

If you want a low carb alternative to orzo you could try using cauliflower rice. You can buy it in packs or make your own by blending up cauliflower in a food processor.

I would imagine this would need less cooking time than normal rice or orzo otherwise you’d end up with more of a mash.

Other gluten free pastas

Ok, so the novelty of orzo is definitely having tiny pasta shapes in a dish which are similar to the size of rice.

But if you’ve seen a recipe you like and want to try it anyway, you could just use another gluten free pasta shape.

The cooking times may vary slightly but I imagine the general outcome of the dish would be a similar taste.

There are lots of varieties of gluten free pasta out there so pick your favourite shape for dishes like orzo-based soups and salads instead.

Liked this post on gluten free orzo pasta?

Have you spotted any gluten free orzo out there, or want to share your favourite gluten free substitution for orzo?

Leave a comment below and let me know! Plus make sure you pin this post for later so you can share it with other gluten free folk.

Check out my Coeliac Tips section or comment below with your questions.

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About Sarah Howells

Hi, I'm Sarah! Diagnosed with coeliac disease 20 years ago, I'm on a mission to create the best gluten free recipes since sliced bread. No fruit salads or dry brownies here.

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7 Comments

  1. Garofalo Gluten Free Gnocchi Sardi
    This also looks like it might work, I think the annellini are a little too small, they are good for soups but I don’t think they would be good as risotto or pasta salad.

  2. Hi, thanks for the useful information re Orzo.
    Just to be aware, for anyone travelling to Turkey on holiday, Orzo is frequently translated on restaurant menus as “Special Rice” and is added to lots of diches, especially Mediterranean type stews and casseroles. I nearly got caught out by this when I was working in Ankara. Fortunately one of my Turkish colleagues took the trouble to explain exactly what it was.

    1. I should have added that accompanying rice dishes – sometimes referred to as “Pilav” will be rice but also include Orzo!

  3. there is a company named Jovial that has tiny gluten free pasta called stelline that can be used like orzo. it’s a product of Italy

  4. Sarah, I purchase gluten free Orzo here in Oregon, USA from Amazon. It is the Dallalo brand and is Excellent!! I live in a small town and do not have access to many gluten free products.
    Thanks for all you do!
    Sharon