Which type of pasta contains no gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause adverse health effects. As a result, following a gluten-free diet is essential for managing these conditions. Luckily, there are many tasty gluten-free pasta options available.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It helps foods maintain their shape and gives elasticity to dough. The two main proteins that make up gluten are glutenin and gliadin. When flour and water are mixed together and kneaded, these proteins form elastic strands and give dough its stretchy and chewy texture.

For most people, gluten does not cause any issues or adverse health effects. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can trigger the immune system and cause damage to the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, and fatigue.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. With celiac disease, the body mounts an immune response that attacks the villi, which are the small fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi are crucial for nutrient absorption. When they are damaged, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed into the body.

Celiac disease affects around 1% of the population worldwide. It can develop at any age, although symptoms may first appear in infancy after gluten is introduced to the diet. The condition is genetic, so having a first-degree relative with celiac increases your risk.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be effectively managed by adhering to a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. Even small amounts of gluten can trigger symptoms and damage the intestinal villi in those with celiac.

What is non-celiac gluten sensitivity?

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition where gluten triggers symptoms, but celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out. It is estimated to affect around 6% of the population.

The symptoms of NCGS may include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog

These symptoms typically improve when following a gluten-free diet. However, the underlying mechanisms behind NCGS are not well understood. There are no diagnostic tests for NCGS – it is typically diagnosed by ruling out other potential causes.

Why follow a gluten-free diet?

For those with celiac disease or NCGS, following a strict gluten-free diet is the most effective way to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and feel better overall.

After being diagnosed with celiac disease, doctors recommend adhering to a gluten-free diet for life. Even small amounts of gluten can trigger the immune system to attack the small intestine. Over time, continuing to eat gluten increases the risk of complications like osteoporosis, infertility, neurological issues, and certain cancers.

With NCGS, some individuals need to remove gluten completely as well to see symptom relief, while others may be able to tolerate small or moderate amounts. Following a gluten-free diet can greatly improve gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms.

Common gluten-containing foods to avoid

Here are some of the main foods and ingredients that contain gluten that should be avoided on a gluten-free diet:

  • Bread, pasta, and other baked goods made with wheat, barley, or rye
  • Beer and other malted beverages
  • Breads, baked goods, and pasta made with all-purpose flour, wheat flour, barley flour, etc.
  • Breaded foods like fried shrimp, chicken nuggets, etc.
  • Broth or soup bases made with barley, wheat, rye, or malt
  • Cereals containing wheat, barley, rye, or malt flavoring
  • Couscous
  • Croutons and stuffing
  • Malt vinegar
  • Oats, unless certified gluten-free (oats are often contaminated)
  • Sauces thickened with wheat flour, like gravy
  • Seitan
  • Soy sauce or teriyaki sauce containing wheat
  • Wheat germ or bran

It’s important to carefully read ingredient labels, as gluten can be found in many unexpected products. When in doubt, look for a gluten-free certification or contact the manufacturer.

Naturally gluten-free grains

While you need to avoid gluten-containing grains, there are many delicious whole grains that are naturally gluten-free:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Oats labeled gluten-free
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Teff

These gluten-free whole grains can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes. Oats are inherently gluten-free but are often contaminated with wheat during growing and processing, so it’s important to choose oats labeled gluten-free.

Types of gluten-free pasta

Fortunately, there are many delicious options when it comes to gluten-free pasta. Here are some of the most common types:

Rice pasta

Rice pasta is made from rice flour or a blend of rice flours. It comes in spaghetti, penne, fusilli and other classic pasta shapes. Rice pasta has a light texture and mild flavor. It tends to be firmer than wheat pasta when cooked al dente. Brown rice pasta contains more nutrients than those made with white rice flour.

Quinoa pasta

Quinoa pasta is made from quinoa flour, which is ground from quinoa seeds. It has a hearty, nutty flavor and springy texture. Quinoa pasta contains more protein and nutrients than traditional pasta. It can work especially well in cold pasta salads or tossed with chunky sauces.

Chickpea pasta

Chickpea pasta, sometimes called pulse pasta, is made from chickpea flour. It has a higher protein and fiber content than wheat pasta. Chickpea pasta has an earthy, nutty taste that can stand up to bold sauces. The texture is quite firm when cooked al dente. Fun shapes include fusilli, shells, elbows and more.

Buckwheat pasta

Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free and not related to wheat. Buckwheat pasta has an assertive, earthy flavor. The dark color gives it visual appeal. Buckwheat pasta can have a slightly brittle texture when al dente, so be careful not to overcook.

Corn pasta

Corn pasta is made from corn flour and often has visible specks of corn kernel. It has a gritty texture and pronounced corn flavor that works well in hearty dishes. Corn pasta is best served with thicker sauces that cling to the noodles.

Wild rice pasta

Wild rice pasta contains wild rice flour blended with other gluten-free flours like brown rice. It has flecks of dark brown rice that add visual interest. Wild rice pasta has a unique, nutty flavor and chewy bite. Its distinctive taste pairs well with creamy or mushroom sauces.

Legume pasta

Legume pastas are made by blending flours from beans, lentils, or peas. They contain a high amount of protein and fiber. Different legume pastas will have distinctive flavors depending on the flour blend. Red lentil pasta has an earthy taste, while black bean pasta is more robust.

Mixed grain pasta

Mixed grain pastas combine gluten-free flours like brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, and amaranth. They provide texture and flavor variety. Each brand will have a unique mix, so taste is difficult to generalize. However, they work well in a range of dishes.

Tapioca pasta

Tapioca pasta is made from cassava flour, also known as tapioca flour. It has a mild, neutral taste that takes on the flavors of sauces. The texture of tapioca pasta is soft and smooth. When overcooked it can become sticky, so careful cooking is needed.

Tips for cooking gluten-free pasta

Gluten-free pasta requires some special care when cooking to ensure the best flavor and texture:

  • Bring water to a rolling boil before adding the pasta – the high temperature helps prevent sticking
  • Use a large pot and stir frequently while cooking
  • Add plenty of salt to the cooking water
  • Test doneness early and often – gluten-free pasta gets mushy if overcooked
  • Drain well when finished cooking and avoid rinsing
  • Sauce the pasta lightly while hot to coat noodles and prevent sticking

In general, gluten-free pasta takes less time to cook than traditional wheat pastas. Refer to package instructions for specific cooking times.

Delicious gluten-free pasta recipes

Gluten-free pasta can be used to make so many flavorful dishes. Here are some tasty recipes to try:

1. Shrimp scampi with rice pasta

This classic dish is quick, easy and delicious with rice noodles. Sauté shrimp in garlic butter sauce and serve over rice fettuccine or linguine.

2. Pesto chicken pasta with quinoa penne

Toss quinoa pasta in pesto sauce with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan. The quinoa penne holds up well to the thick pesto.

3. Thai peanut sauce with rice noodles

Pad thai at home! Rice noodles, shredded chicken, peanuts, and cilantro taste amazing in a Thai peanut sauce. Add some veggies too.

4. Fusilli with sausage, kale and chickpeas

Chickpea fusilli stands up to the hearty flavors of sausage, kale, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Quick to make and packed with protein.

5. Mac and cheese with corn pasta

Corn pasta shells bring great texture and visual appeal to creamy, cheesy mac and cheese. Just add your favorite melty cheese sauce.

6. Lentil bolognese with legume penne

For a vegan pasta bolognese, lentils make a perfect, protein-packed substitute for ground meat. Serve over legume-based penne for extra plant power.

The possibilities are endless with gluten-free pasta! Experiment with different shapes and sauce combinations to find new favorite recipes.

Where to buy gluten-free pasta

Gluten-free pasta used to be difficult to find, but it is becoming widely available at most major grocery stores. Here are some places to find a good selection of gluten-free pasta varieties:

  • Large supermarkets – Many have dedicated gluten-free sections now with pasta choices.
  • Natural food stores – Stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts carry many specialty gluten-free products.
  • Online retailers – Amazon and gluten-free specialty sites have huge selections available to order.
  • Big box stores – Major retailers like Target and Walmart now stock gluten-free pasta options.
  • Co-ops and farmers markets – Local artisans may offer unique handmade gluten-free pasta.

When shopping, look for pastas made in dedicated gluten-free facilities to avoid cross-contamination. Price ranges tend to be $3-$5 per package.


Following a gluten-free diet opens up a world of tasty pasta possibilities. Rice, quinoa, legume, corn, and nut-based pastas let you enjoy classic noodle dishes gluten-free. With so many types and flavors to choose from, you can find the perfect gluten-free pasta for any meal.

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