Orzo is a type of pasta. It’s shaped like rice and used in a variety of dishes.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, you may wonder if you can eat orzo. Or, maybe you stumbled upon a delicious recipe that uses orzo and want to know if you can make it for a friend or family member who doesn’t eat gluten.
This post tells you if orzo is gluten-free and provides some culinary tips on recipes and substitutions.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and a few other grains.
Orzo is an Italian type of pasta. It’s often made from semolina flour, a type of flour that comes from durum wheat. It can also be made from all-purpose or whole wheat flour. None of these are gluten-free, so neither is orzo (
Because orzo is a small, short-cut pasta, some people confuse it with rice, a gluten-free grain. In fact, orzo is the Italian word for barley, a grain that resembles rice (
Thankfully, even though traditional orzo is not gluten-free, there are many gluten-free varieties available.
Gluten-free orzo may be made from grains other than wheat, including rice, corn, or quinoa. You can also find orzo made from cassava, a root vegetable that doesn’t contain gluten.
Orzo is typically made from wheat flour and is not gluten-free. However, there are gluten-free varieties available.
Like other types of wheat pasta, orzo provides carbohydrates. It may also have added vitamins and minerals.
A 2-ounce (1/4-cup or 56-gram) serving of dry orzo contains (
- Calories: 210
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 44 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Iron: 10% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 30% of the DV
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 10% of the DV
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 15% of the DV
As you can see, orzo can be a source of iron and B vitamins. This is because many types of pasta sold in the United States are made with enriched flour containing added vitamins and minerals (4).
Although orzo is sometimes mistaken for rice due to their similar appearances, they have different nutrition profiles.
Orzo is a good source of carbohydrates and provides some protein. If it’s made with enriched flour, it also contains iron and B vitamins.
If you follow a gluten-free diet and can’t have traditional orzo, consider purchasing a gluten-free variety or using gluten-free grains.
You can swap these gluten-free grains for orzo in a recipe:
- arborio rice
- short grain brown rice
In particular, arborio and short-grain brown rice have a starchy consistency when cooked that is closer to the texture of orzo than quinoa or millet.
Some brands also make gluten-free orzo that is available for purchase online and at some grocery stores.
Keep in mind that the nutrition profile of the substitute you choose will differ from that of regular orzo. Gluten-free orzo or other grains may also be more expensive.
If you need a gluten-free substitute for orzo, you can purchase a gluten-free brand or use grains like rice or quinoa.
Orzo is used in many delicious recipes, including salads, soups, and main dishes.
Since it’s a type of Italian pasta, it often shows up in Mediterranean-style recipes. For example, many orzo dishes feature seafood, tomatoes, bell peppers, fresh herbs, feta cheese, olives, lemon, or garlic.
One of my favorite ways to eat orzo is in a pasta salad. This type of recipe tastes delicious warm or cold. Here’s what you need to make a portion for four people:
- 2 cups (280 grams) cooked orzo
- 20 sliced or wedge grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup (15 grams) chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp. (30 mL) lemon juice
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp. (16 grams) capers
First, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and capers for a dressing. Then, stir through the orzo, tomatoes, feta cheese, and parsley. You can, of course, amend the recipe to taste, adding extra vegetables or mixing up the dressing as you like.
To make an orzo recipe gluten-free, substitute with gluten-free orzo or one of the above recommended gluten-free grains in a 1-to-1 ratio.
Follow the directions on the package for how to cook the item you’re using, since it’ll likely differ from the cooking instructions for regular orzo.
Use orzo in soups, salads, seafood dishes, and more. Gluten-free orzo or a gluten-free grain that resembles orzo can be swapped for regular orzo in a 1-to-1 ratio, although the cooking method may change as a result.
Orzo made from wheat isn’t gluten-free, but there are gluten-free brands available made from other ingredients.
You can also substitute with gluten-free grains like arborio rice, quinoa, and millet at a 1-to-1 ratio in your recipes. Keep in mind, though, that the cooking instructions may differ.
If you’re interested in cooking with orzo — gluten-free or regular — it tastes delicious in soups and salads. Many recipes also pair it with seafood.
Just one thing
Try this today: If you’re cooking a recipe with orzo that you need to be gluten-free, use a gluten-free grain like rice or quinoa as a substitute. You can also opt to purchase a gluten-free orzo instead.