Everything you need to know about orzo pasta from its ingredients to gluten-free orzo alternatives. Orzo is used in everything from salads to side dishes. Don't throw out your favorite recipes. There are so many gluten-free replacements for orzo, let's find the best option for your next kitchen adventure.
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What is Orzo?
Orzo is a small pasta shaped like a grain of rice. It is an Italian pasta or pastina (literally meaning little pasta). Long and thin in shape, it is often confused for rice, especially when used in creamy dishes. Then it begins to resemble the arborio rice used in risotto.
Orzo is a traditional type of pasta found in all types of Italian cuisine including light soups, cold salads, and creamy side dishes.
Is Orzo Gluten-Free?
No, traditional orzo is not gluten-free. Maybe because it is shaped like rice it is often thought to be gluten-free, a similar issue to couscous. But orzo pasta is made with wheat, traditionally semolina flour made from durum wheat flour.
As with just about all pasta shapes, gluten-free orzo does exist. It can be hard to find but I have found two winners that are readily available at large supermarkets and amazon.com.
And if you can't get your hands on any, we have a list of the best substitutes for orzo listed below.
Gluten-Free Orzo Brands
When developing my lemon orzo salad recipe I tested several brands of gluten-free pasta and there are only two that I recommend, Jovial Foods Grain Free Cassava Orzo and Delallo Gluten-Free Orzo. As someone with Celiac, I develop all my recipes for a gluten-free diet.
Jovial Foods Orzo Review
Jovial Foods is known for its outstanding gluten-free pasta options.
- Easy to cook, no sticking meant it didn't need to be constantly stirred.
- Grain-free (not low carb) and allergy-friendly (dairy, nut, soy, etc) meaning more people can enjoy it.
- An excellent, nutty flavor and, when cooked properly, a nice firm texture.
- More expensive at $0.81 per ounce.
- The cooking time was significantly less than the package stated. The first batch was mushy but the second batch was perfect.
- The color resembles brown rice and doesn't have the same color as orzo.
Delallo Gluten-Free Orzo Review
Delallo specializes in Italian food staples. But they aren't as known in the GF community. This corn-based pasta is a good substitute for the real thing. If I could only pick one, this would be the winner based on taste and texture.
- This option was more affordable, coming in at $0.60 per ounce.
- Great taste and texture.
- Looks beautiful in a dish. Visually it looks exactly like a traditional orzo.
- Leftovers lasted for days in the fridge without getting mushy.
- The pasta is very sticky and clumps up when cooking. You need to constantly stir the boiling water to keep it separated.
Like with all gluten-free pastas, GF orzo is more expensive than wheat-based orzo. But no worries. There are many options for orzo, but here are the best replacements.
Best Gluten-Free Substitutes for Orzo
The best gluten-free alternatives to orzo are short-grain rice, arborio rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, broken angel hair, or other small shapes of gluten-free pasta. Gluten-free whole grains like millet can also be used, but are not as practical or as accessible as our recommended options. The best alternative depends on the recipe you are making.
Regardless of your choice these options can be used at a 1:1 ratio but check the packaging as the cooking directions may vary.
Quinoa can be served warm or cold. It is a healthy substitute for both orzo salads and rice-type side dishes. However, it is not recommended for creamy orzo dishes or soups.
There are so many types of rice that can be used. You can use long-grain rice but short-grain rice and arborio rice are the best alternatives.
Arborio rice is the best orzo substitute for cream-based dishes. While short-grain brown rice is recommended for other room temperature and warm orzo dishes. Short grain rice is also recommended for soups.
You can also use long-grain brown or white rice, but the look of the final dish won't be the same. Glutinous rice (which actually doesn't contain gluten) and short-grain sushi rice are not recommended as they are too sticky for orzo recipes.
When making orzo pasta salad or creamy orzo dishes any small shaped GF pasta will work. But my absolute favorite is broken angel hair pasta. Using no more than ¼ of the box at a time, wrap the uncooked pasta in a clean towel. Pull over the edge of the counter to break it into tiny pieces.
This video shows exactly how to do it!
If you planning on serving in a cold pasta salad be sure to coat the pasta with a little olive oil as soon as you finish draining so the pasta doesn't stick.
Cauliflower rice and broccoli rice are the best alternatives to orzo when on a low-carb or keto diet. They can be used in any dish but warm, non-cream-based side dish recipes work best.