Is Rice Gluten-Free? Safe Rice Types and What to Avoid

Can you always trust rice when you're following the gluten-free diet?

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In most cases, yes: rice is gluten-free. Plain rice—regardless of whether it's whole-grain brown rice, polished white rice, long-grained basmati rice, or even exotic black rice—is always considered gluten-free, assuming it's been protected from gluten cross-contamination in processing and cooking. 

Plain gluten-free rice types include:

  • white rice
  • brown rice
  • basmati rice
  • jasmine rice
  • black rice
  • red rice
  • sprouted rice

    Surprisingly, the type of rice called glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is gluten-free. Despite the name, it doesn't contain the form of gluten that's dangerous to those of us with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity; the term "glutinous" simply refers to the fact that glutinous rice gets glue-like or sticky when cooked.

    You need to beware of flavored rice mixes since these can (and often do) contain gluten ingredients. You also need to beware of rice dishes with additional ingredients, since they also can contain gluten.

    Safest Brands of Rice When Avoiding Gluten

    While plain rice from most any manufacturer will be fine for you if you're not particularly sensitive to trace gluten, those who do experience frequent glutenings due to cross-contamination may want to stick with certain brands or types.

    • Lundberg Family Farms markets plain rice in a wide variety of flavors, plus rice mixes. The company specializes in organic, gluten-free products, and prominently labels its products "gluten-free." Lundberg produces only rice products, which means there's no risk of gluten cross-contamination in food production. We use this brand of rice at home.
    • Alter Eco, which specializes in exotic sustainable foods, offers several types of rice that are certified gluten-free, which means special care has been taken to avoid any contact with gluten in farming and production. At this writing, Alter Eco listed Khao Deng Ruby Red Rice, Thai Sticky Purple Rice and Hom Mali Jasmine Rice as gluten-free options.
    • If you can't find Lundberg or Alter Eco in your area and don't want to order online, you might want to consider looking for rice that's grown and bagged in Thailand, where little wheat is grown. This seems to lessen the chances of cross-contamination. In fact, Alter Eco's rice is grown in Thailand.

    Flavored Rice Mixes: What to Buy

    You'd think something billed as "rice" would be gluten-free no matter what, but flavored rice products sold along with plain rice in supermarkets frequently contain gluten-based ingredients, generally in the form of a wheat-based thickener such as hydrolyzed wheat protein or a flavor enhancer like wheat-based soy sauce.

    Safe gluten-free rice mix options include:

    • Lundberg offers a wide variety of flavored rice mixes, including flavors such as organic Thai red curry sprouted rice and Southwestern rice. All are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, which requires testing to less than 10 parts per million of gluten.
    • Mahatma Rice lists most of its flavored rice varieties as gluten-free, including Spanish rice, broccoli and cheese, long grain and wild rice, black beans and rice, red beans and rice, saffron yellow rice and spicy yellow rice. Avoid chicken rice and classic pilaf rice, as they are not considered gluten-free. Be aware that gluten-free Mahatma flavors are manufactured in the same facility as gluten-containing products.

    • Zatarain's (which is owned by the spice manufacturer McCormick & Company, Inc.) produces about 20 flavored rice mixes that are certified gluten-free, meaning they contain less than half the legal limit of gluten. Be careful which package you pick up, though, because some Zatarain's flavors are not certified and still contain gluten ingredients.

    You should avoid flavored mixes from the following brands, all of which use gluten ingredients:

    • Uncle Ben's flavored rice
    • Knorr Rice Sides
    • Rice A Roni
    • Near East Rice Pilaf (contains wheat-based pasta)

    Always check for gluten on food labels when you're buying flavored rice (or anything else, for that matter) to make sure the product is safe.

    Sushi Rice: Not Always Safe

    One last rice pitfall: If you're sensitive to vinegar derived from gluten grains, you should watch out for the rice used in Japanese restaurants to prepare sushi—it almost always contains a grain-based vinegar. You can ask for plain rice and use other tricks like this when ordering sushi instead.

    If you can't find a prepared rice dish that's both gluten-free and tasty, you can try making your own. In addition, many forms of Spanish paella are naturally gluten-free—but you'll need to double-check the ingredients and make substitutions as necessary.

    A Word From Verywell

    When choosing rice, you can be confident that it's gluten-free if it's plain rice and if it comes from a safe brand name, such as Lundberg or Alter Eco. Those with celiac or gluten sensitivity who are particularly sensitive to trace gluten should stick with those brands, while others may do fine with other brands of plain rice. 

    Beware of rice mixes, as they frequently contain gluten ingredients—read labels carefully. And also beware of sushi rice, since it can be made with a grain-based vinegar that may cause reactions in people who are particularly sensitive.

    Source:

    Celiac Disease Foundation. What Should I Eat? Fact Sheet.

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