Does Vietnamese vermicelli have gluten?

Vietnamese vermicelli, also known as bún, is a popular noodle dish in Vietnamese cuisine. Vermicelli noodles are made from rice flour and water. Unlike traditional wheat pasta, rice vermicelli does not contain gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headache, and more. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also benefit from avoiding gluten.

Gluten content of common noodles and pasta

Since gluten is found in wheat and some other grains, traditional pasta and noodles made from wheat flour contain gluten. Below is a table summarizing the gluten content of common types of pasta and noodles:

Noodle/Pasta Type Main Ingredient(s) Contains Gluten?
Fresh wheat pasta Wheat flour, eggs Yes
Dried wheat pasta Wheat flour, water Yes
Soba noodles Buckwheat flour No*
Rice noodles Rice flour, water No
Bean thread noodles Mung bean starch No

*Soba noodles are typically made only with buckwheat flour and do not contain gluten. However, some commercially sold soba noodles add wheat flour, so check the label to be sure.

Rice vermicelli is gluten-free

Unlike wheat-based noodles, rice vermicelli is made solely from rice flour and water. Sometimes other ingredients like salt, vegetable oil, or food coloring may be added, but the main ingredients are rice flour and water.

Rice does not contain gluten. Therefore, noodles made from rice flour, like Vietnamese bún and other Asian rice vermicelli, are naturally gluten-free.

Other gluten-free Vietnamese noodle dishes

In addition to bún, other common Vietnamese noodle dishes are also gluten-free since they are made from rice flour:

  • Bánh canh – Thick noodles made from a mixture of rice and tapioca flours
  • Bánh phở – Flat rice noodles used in the popular phở noodle soup
  • Bánh hỏi – Extremely thin rice vermicelli

So dishes using these rice noodles, such as phở, hủ tiếu, and bún riêu, are gluten-free.

Potential sources of gluten in Vietnamese vermicelli dishes

Although the vermicelli noodles themselves do not contain gluten, some ingredients added to the noodles may introduce gluten:

  • Sauces and seasonings: Soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili sauce, and other prepared sauces commonly added to vermicelli may contain wheat. Check labels carefully.
  • Meat: Meatballs and other meat products served with vermicelli are sometimes made with breadcrumbs or other wheat-based fillers.
  • Toppings: Fried onions, fried shallots, and croutons added on top of vermicelli dishes are usually made from wheat flour. Opt for gluten-free garnishes.
  • Cross-contamination: Even gluten-free noodles could potentially be contaminated with gluten if they are produced in facilities that also handle wheat. Look for vermicelli that is certified gluten-free.

Tips for a gluten-free Vietnamese noodle dish

Here are some tips for enjoying traditional Vietnamese noodle dishes gluten-free:

  • Use rice vermicelli and other gluten-free noodles like those made from mung bean or tapioca
  • Prepare dishes like phở and bún riêu with gluten-free broth
  • Choose gluten-free ingredients like shrimp, chicken, lean pork, eggs, and fresh vegetables for toppings
  • Avoid meatballs, fried toppings, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and other ingredients that may contain gluten
  • Use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce for gluten-free soy flavor
  • Flavor dishes with gluten-free fish sauce, lime juice, chili sauce, and fresh herbs
  • Check labels and call restaurants to request gluten-free preparation

Are there gluten-free substitutes for vermicelli?

For people following a gluten-free diet, there are several tasty alternatives to wheat-based noodles that can stand in for vermicelli:

1. Cellophane noodles

Also known as bean thread noodles, cellophane noodles are made from mung bean starch. They have a translucent appearance similar to glass noodles. Cellophane noodles become soft and gelatinous when cooked. Their texture makes them ideal for soups, stir-fries, and spring rolls.

2. Kelp noodles

Kelp noodles are made from seaweed and do not contain any grains. They have an almost crunchy texture even after cooking. Kelp noodles are low in calories and carbohydrates compared to traditional pasta. They work well paired with peanut sauce or sesame dressing.

3. Spiralized vegetables

Using a spiralizer, vegetables like zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes can be cut into long noodle shapes. Vegetable noodles have a pleasant texture while being lower in carbohydrates than grain noodles. They can be easily incorporated into soups and stir-fries in place of vermicelli.

4. Shirataki noodles

Shirataki noodles are made from the konjac plant. They are almost zero calories and low in carbohydrates. Shirataki noodles absorb flavors well but have a more gelatinous, “chewy” texture than rice or wheat noodles. They work best in Asian-style dishes with flavorful sauces.

Are there any health benefits to rice vermicelli compared to wheat pasta?

Rice vermicelli offers some potential health advantages compared to traditional wheat pasta:

  • Gluten-free: Safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity
  • Lower net carbs: About 3 grams of fiber per serving, compared to 2 grams in wheat pasta
  • Lower glycemic index: Around 35 compared to 45-65 for various types of wheat pasta
  • No added fats or cholesterol: Rice noodles do not contain egg yolk like some wheat pastas
  • Additional nutrients: Higher in certain B vitamins like thiamine and folate compared to wheat

However, wheat pasta provides more protein, iron, and other nutrients than rice vermicelli. For most healthy people, both can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a varied diet.


Vietnamese vermicelli noodles made from rice flour do not contain gluten. This makes dishes like bún and phở safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, gluten may be present in sauces, toppings, and other ingredients added to the noodle dishes. With some modifications, traditional Vietnamese noodle soups and stir-fries can be prepared gluten-free. Alternatives like cellophane noodles, vegetable noodles, and shirataki can also substitute well for rice vermicelli.

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