Find out what vermicelli is, what it’s made of, and if it is gluten-free. Plus find out some gluten-free substitutions for this ingredient.
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Have you ever picked up a boxed mix of rice pilaf or other rice dish and it says “with vermicelli”? Have you wondered what vermicelli is and what it’s actually made of?
If so, you’re not alone. Vermicelli sounds like some unknown ingredient that must be fancy if it gets its own line on a box of rice pilaf.
But the truth is, this ingredient is very simple – and we’re going to talk about how it fits into a gluten-free diet in this post.
If you enjoy rice pilaf or other dishes with vermicelli and also are trying to get started or stick with a gluten-free diet for health or other reasons, this post is for you.
In this post, we’re going to cover what vermicelli is, what it’s made of, and if it’s gluten-free. We’ll also talk about if you can eat those boxed mixes with vermicelli, and what some gluten-free vermicelli noodle substitutes are for adding to your favorite dishes.
Let’s get started!
What is vermicelli?
Vermicelli is a type of semolina pasta that is similar to spaghetti, but thinner. It looks like broken spaghetti noodles in that the noodles are short and thin. It can easily be added to rice dishes, because the size and shape are similar.
This type of pasta is used in vermicelli rice, rice pilaf, and noodle bowls. In rice pilaf dishes, the vermicelli is toasted, turning the pasta brown before liquid is added, creating a unique texture and flavor.
In some cultures, the term vermicelli is used for thin rice noodles or cellophane noodles.
Read on: Is semolina gluten-free?
What are vermicelli made of?
In the United States, most vermicelli is made of semolina pasta, which includes flour, water, and salt.
Since some cultures use the term vermicelli to describe thin rice noodles or cellophane noodles, it’s a good idea to review ingredient lists of the noodles you’re looking to buy to find out exactly what’s used.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
You can find gluten in whole grains, but also in many processed foods as well. If you purchase wheat bread, there will be gluten in it, because wheat by nature has gluten.
Many processed foods have hidden gluten in them in the form of gluten or wheat derivatives. These are also in the form of flavorings, binders to keep ingredients together, or other additives.
Are vermicelli gluten-free?
In the United States, vermicelli is generally not gluten-free. When we talk about vermicelli, it’s often to reference the pasta noodles that are thin and short, almost like broken spaghetti noodles.
If you are looking at a type of rice noodle or cellophane noodles that say “vermicelli” on the package, it’s a good idea to review the ingredients for flour or wheat references, as these will indicate the presence of gluten in the product.
Can I eat rice pilaf with vermicelli on a gluten-free diet?
Many boxed rice pilaf mixes contain vermicelli as an ingredient. Since most vermicelli contains flour, these will not be safe for a gluten-free diet and it’s a good idea to make your own rice pilaf at home using one of the gluten-free vermicelli noodle substitutes below instead of using the boxed mixes.
Gluten-free vermicelli noodle substitutes
If you love using vermicelli in some of your favorite rice pilaf or rice vermicelli dishes at home, you don’t need to worry! Here are a few options for some gluten-free substitutions.
Vermicelli made with buckwheat or rice
An Asian style of vermicelli made with buckwheat or rice is safe for a gluten-free diet. You can find these in the International food section at your grocery store or online.
Gluten-free spaghetti or angel hair pasta
For a pilaf or other dish calling for vermicelli noodles, you can use a box of gluten-free spaghetti or angel hair pasta and break it up into small pieces.
Since vermicelli looks like broken spaghetti noodles, simply breaking up spaghetti noodles will be a fine substitute in many recipes.
Read on: Is semolina gluten-free?
If you love vermicelli in your favorite rice pilaf dishes or other dishes, I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to replace this ingredient in your gluten-free diet.
It’s a good idea to skip most recipes that contain vermicelli unless you can verify that it is made with buckwheat, rice, or another gluten-free grain.