Is Farina Gluten-Free? Or Does It Contain Gluten?

This is farina ... otherwise known as cream of wheat. Steve Cohen/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Question: Is farina gluten-free, or does it contain gluten?

Answer: Farina, a popular hot breakfast cereal, usually is made from semolina — the hard, coarse grains that are left over after milling wheat flour. Therefore (since wheat is the most popular gluten-containing grain), farina most definitely isn't gluten-free. If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you need to strictly avoid farina.

Of course, avoiding farina can be somewhat tricky since it masquerades under a couple of different names. In the case of one popular name — cream of wheat — it's pretty easy to spot the gluten. Another, malt-o-meal, isn't quite as obvious, although many people who follow the gluten-free diet know to be especially wary of foods and ingredients containing the word "malt."

Other alternative names for farina include semolina pudding (which actually is a dish made from farina) and harina del negrito (a form of farina popular as a breakfast cereal in the Dominican Republic. In India and Pakistan, cooks use sooji and rawa, close relatives of farina, in breakfast dishes, desserts, and batters.

Very occasionally, cooks might mix some farina into hot cereal billed as porridge, even though traditional porridge is made with oatmeal, so it always pays to ask what's actually in your porridge.

But What If Farina Is (Okay, Was) My Favorite Cereal?

Although many people focus on wheat-based foods for breakfast, especially when it comes to cereal, there are actually some great gluten-free alternatives.

Grits, for example, are similar in texture to hot cream of wheat, and taste only a little cornier. Many brands of grits are safe on the gluten-free diet.

Oatmeal represents another option. Not everyone with celiac or gluten sensitivity can eat oatmeal without distress (more about this in Should Someone Who Can't Have Gluten Eat Oats?

), but if you're fine with oats, then you can come close to duplicating both the taste and feel of farina with oatmeal.

Plus, gluten-free food manufacturers have created a plethora of safe options that include more exotic gluten-free grains and grain alternatives, such as quinoa and brown rice. Note that Bob's Red Mill, a popular maker of gluten-free grain products, bills two of its rice-based hot cereals as "farina" — yes, those are considered gluten-free (just make sure not to pick up the wrong package!).

So even if you started most days with a hot bowl of farina prior to going gluten-free, you should be able to find a replacement that's both satisfying and safely free of gluten. Just make sure to keep an eye out for the various alternative names used for the grain product, and avoid those, too.

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