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The world appears to have gone made for orzo pasta lately and it's left a lot of gluten free folk wondering - is orzo gluten free? Here I look at what orzo is, if there are any gluten free orzo pasta brands out there, and ideas for substitutions...
Orzo pasta has taken social media by storm. 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 over 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.
Orzo is made from durum wheat and contains gluten. This is the same as other mainstream pastas.
Orzo pasta has a similar shape and texture (apparently) to arborio rice, found in risotto.
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.
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.
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.
Through my research I have only ever found one brand of gluten free orzo pasta which is available in the States.
The Delallo orzo is the only one I have found but sadly this is not available in the UK.
So until one of the fabulous brands that create gluten free pasta for the UK market can come up with something, we're set to live an orzo-less life for now.
What is an alternative 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 substitutions 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. Mainly because it comes in at about £14 a bag, which is simply ridiculous.
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!
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.
Basmati rice or long grain rice would also work as good gluten free replacements for orzo pasta too.
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.
I've never been a massive fan of the cauliflower rice movement but if you like it or want a lower-carb alternative you could try this.
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?
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