Rice, in its pure form, is gluten-free. The problem you can run into with rice is the way it’s cooked, or rather what it’s cooked in. Many restaurants use chicken stock to cook their rice. Some chicken stocks contain gluten, so any rice cooked in such stocks is not gluten-free. Always ask about how rice is cooked when dining out, unless you are ordering rice off a gluten-free menu. I’ve run into rice cooked in gluten containing stocks when dining out more times than I can count. Since I always ask about rice before ordering, I’ve never unknowingly ordered any that contain gluten.
Another way to find gluten in rice in restaurants is in sauce that is added to it. Some times it is possible to order safe, plain rice with no sauce and some times it’s not. It depends on whether the rice comes in a bag already in the sauce or if sauce is made in house and added to plain rice. Even when the latter happens, all the rice and sauce might be mixed up before each shift, so there is still no way to order plain gluten-free rice. It is quite annoying not to be able to have something as simple as rice when dining out, but it’s often a problem. Never assume anything is gluten-free when dining out.
Several rice products available at the grocery store contain gluten. At last check, every Rice-A-Roni product contained wheat. Don’t ask me why – the amount of products that companies add wheat to is mind boggling. Lundberg Farms makes many wonderful gluten-free rice meals. Our house favorite is Creamy Parmesan Risotto. Tasty Bites makes several rice products that are gluten-free. They even make microwavable rice pouches that are ready in only 90 seconds. Both Lundberg and Tasty Bites gluten-free products are marked as such. Most of the Publix rice products are gluten-free, but are not marked as such. Many Uncle Ben’s rice products are gluten-free, but they were not labeled that way the last time I checked them at the store. As always, if the products are not marked gluten-free, label reading is required.
Other brands that make some gluten-free rice products include (but are not limited to) Mahatma, Minute Rice, Thai Kitchen, Rice Select and Ortega. Most of the gluten-free products from these lines are not labeled gluten-free so you have to read the labels to make sure you get a gluten-free product. When gluten is used in a rice product, it is generally in the form of wheat, which is legally required to be listed on the label. Therefore, hidden gluten is usually not a problem in rice products. There are a couple of items that list malt in the ingredients. The malt in these items is almost always barley malt, which should be avoided.
Labels on rice are some of the easiest to read and understand, in terms of what is and is not gluten-free. Rice pastas and rice noodles are also generally gluten-free and the ingredients in those are usually rice, rice bran and water. Again, the labels for these are typically very easy to read and understand. Enjoy your rice, rice meals and rice pasta. Luckily, these days there are plenty of safe options to choose from!