Rice Alternatives to Bread for the Gluten-free Gourmet

Looking for festive party food? There is no need to panic when you are told to cut out all wheat. Your favourite holiday dishes and family meals can be adapted. There are many replacements for wheat and other forms of gluten that are also present in rye and barley. In some cases oats also need to be excluded. I know most people will not want to be bothered and will try to cheat their way through the next holiday or festive season, thinking it will “come right” sometime in the future. No it won’t. It is your responsibility and here is a quick pep talk for people who have to cut out certain foods.

Mix rice with amarynth

If you are already an experienced gluten-free guru – skip this section

After a lot of blood tests and examinations you find that a wheat or gluten (or corn) intolerance is causing your inflammation and hence a load of discomfort. It makes no sense to take medications to treat adverse reactions to these foods, especially if you have Celiac's disease. So we are told to stop eating them to ease the nasty ailments that develop into full-blown chronic diseases. Get to the cause – quit the gluten then you don’t need to take expensive drugs and medications that in turn, have unpleasant side effects.

But it takes time and commitment to kick the wheat or gluten habit because one becomes addicted to the stuff. There is no sudden relief and the first few weeks are the hardest. Just like a drug addict or an alcoholic one has to overcome the cravings and the wheat habit. Ask your therapist to recommend suitable supplements to take. For instance, tyrosine helps to get you over the wheat fixation. (I didn’t say addiction!) A well-balanced vitamin B complex replaces any of the vitamins that you may lack.

Vitamin B 5, also known as Pantothenic acid makes a big difference to digestion and helps you to assimilate fats, carbohydrates and protein. Taking 400 mg twice a day helps to support flagging adrenal glands and boost your own cortisone production. After all, the more you get out of your food, the less you will crave “empty” food that you have been eating as a habit. But you do not have to feel deprived in any way.  Remember that once you start, any gluten you eat has a severe backlash – even as much as 5 grams (a taste.) Rather play safe and make creative and tasty dishes from rice.

Rice is the best all-rounder for gluten-free dummies

Keep it simple. Get a cheap packet of rice – any rice will do and cook it. Most packets give instructions. All the recipes I have on offer use the following procedure.

  • Heat up a little olive or rice bran oil in a pot and stir the rice till it sizzles. I never rinse the rice because the quick bit of frying seems to improve the texture.
  • Add the cold water all at once and some salt. Cover the pot with a lid and bring it to the boil.
  • Turn down to very low and simmer until the rice is well-drained and tastes good.
  • The usual ratio is 1 part rice to 2 parts of water. Brown rice requires more water and takes longer to cook. Sushi rice must be cooked at a very low temperature. Turn off the heat for the last 10 minutes.
  • If rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pot the temperature is too high or there is too little water. Quickly pour in a little more water and turn off the heat. This usually helps to restore the hard layer.

Have a look at these ideas and watch the movie to get an idea of how to whip up a tasty and satisfying meal or snack. Cook a lot of rice and enjoy it in different dishes, either hot or cold.

Watch those portions!Prepare a wrice paper wrap

Explore the different types of rice

Basmati rice is traditionally the best rice for an Indian curry. It is a long thin grain and is matured for many months before it is packed to produce a lighter, fluffy grain that is not sticky. Adding a little turmeric to the rice pot and a few raisins makes a nice change. In South Africa this is known as funeral rice.

Basmati rice and turmericBasmati rice

Fragrant or jasmine rice is a shorter grain with a pleasant fragrance – not that any rice smells bad. It is basically denatured white starch so as with all carbohydrates; remember to cut down on starch portions. One way is to add raw grated carrot, shredded lettuce or lentil sprouts to your serving of cooked rice. Let the rest of the family load up on plain rice if they don’t have a weight problem.

sushi riceMake sushi style snacks

Sushi rice is a rounder fatter grain. The rice produces a sticky, starchy residue and is used to mould into balls and rice rolls that are served cold. You can follow the cooking instructions and add sugar and rice vinegar to prepare rice for making sushi. Although known as glutinous rice, it is gluten-free!

Brown rice has more of the original rice membrane on it, so it is more nutritious and not just a load of denatured starch. Some varieties take longer to cook and are quite chewy. The cold leftover rice is a popular salad ingredient. It is more satisfying and can be frozen in smaller packs. The harder you chew it, the more it satisfies.

Risotto rice comes from Italy. The result after a lot of fussing and stirring is a pile of mushy rice with chewy hard bits in the middle of each grain. If you like this, follow Grandma’s recipe. For a quicker alternative, take some of your leftover frozen rice. Add seasoning, milk, parmesan cheese and cook it for an extra length of time. Then stir in pesto sauce, garnish it and you can fool me!

Rice pudding is also cooked with milk. It eventually becomes a slushy pot of rice to which eggs and cream are added to make the custard. You can cheat with leftover rice and a carton of ready-made custard. Rice pudding is a traditional dish of Trabson, near the coast of the Black Sea. They make a delicious pud with crushed walnuts, honey, spices and lots of cream. It is their pride and joy and they even sell the earthenware dishes. Don't tell them how I make it!

Easy rice puddingAdd custard to rice

Parboiled rice is said to be more nutritious than some of the other varieties. Some people only use parboiled rice, known in our family as “fantastic plastic.” The grains are separate, really separate. It is usually the cheapest rice to buy for a large family. Add some of the other varieties of rice and grains to parboiled rice. Adding 20% sushi rice and some white quinoa makes it a bit stickier and thus better for people who enjoy eating with their hands.

Mix and match the rice varieties for different effects

If you are cooking 2 cups of your normal plain rice with 4 cups of water you can experiment with the different rice varieties and grains like quinoa, amaranth and millet. This increases the protein content. It makes a gluten-free dish that suits all blood types. Use these grains as your staple food base. In other words serve cooked rice mixtures instead of all the bread to make a big improvement to the family diet. You are going to have to get used to not grabbing sandwiches. The Chinese people eat rice they can buy or bring from home, packed in a cardboard box. It is taken to work and school.

Add milletcook a mixture of rice and grains

Millet and quinoa are high in protein. It is said that quinoa and amaranth are complete proteins, so they provide the essential amino acid ratios similar to those found in meat. For vegetarians and vegans this is good to know. Cooking your regular rice with such nutritious grain makes a complete meal in one. All you need to do is add other vegetables and olive oil, herbs and spices for a nourishing meal.

Quinoa is a complete protein

Cook rice in bulk, enjoy leftovers and freeze it for convenience

Expand your range of easy and satisfying meals by giving leftover rice a work over. Mix in other bits and pieces like pumpkin seeds, grated cheese, raisins or anything you find in the pantry. Pack it into a lunch box and have it at work instead of sandwiches. In a second box, pack up some lettuce, tomato wedges and chunks of carrot and cucumber. People will think you are crazy, but your body will be in a happier, less inflamed and easier space!

Pack and keep leftover riceAdd fresh sprouts to cooked rice serve warm

You can pack the cooked rice into a plastic bag and freeze it. This is convenient for quick meals. It is best to flatten out the rice evenly so you can break off a chunk of the frozen rice and defrost it in the microwave oven. Add it to a dish with chopped mushrooms, tomato slices and baby spinach, for instance. Cover the dish and blitz it for a few minutes for some fast food. Now get creative with sauces and flavouring. Yes, even ketchup!

Mix veg into cooked grainsEat a rice pack for lunch

The banana leaf (or paper) rice bundle

A posh way to serve leftover rice is to make a banana leaf wrap. If you don’t have the real thing, then use baking paper. Place a mound of rice in the centre. Add a spoon of left over curry and cover it with rice. Wrap it up in paper and freeze it. Now you have a quick meal that is ready when you need it. Enjoy the bundles with chutney, lime pickle or grated mango pickle. These can be added to the rice bundle before you wrap it up, making a convenient “grab and go” package.

Add these items to your rice pot to save time, electricity and washing up

The next time you cook rice think about adding other items to the same pot. Here are some suggestions that cook at the same time as the average pot of rice. You add them as soon as the water begins to boil and you are about to turn down the temperature.

Butternut with rice

Add whole peeled carrots and small potatoes or sweet potatoes. Once they are cooked, transfer them to a separate vegetable dish. You can fry the rice with chopped leeks for more flavour.

Add chunks of peeled butternut or pumpkin. The Chinese call this “baby rice”. They add milk or water and feed it to babies. Not a bad idea! But this colourful variant makes a nice base for Chinese food or a hot Indian curry. Sprinkle on some fresh coriander leaves, slivers of red pepper and so on.

Fake risotto

Add fresh whole green beans and baby button mushrooms. These items need less cooking, so place them on top of the rice during the last fifteen minutes of cooking. This makes a complete meal if you add strips of omelette and some grated cheese. It is also nice as a cold dish.

Add eggs to the pot. An easy way to make hard-boiled eggs for tomorrow’s lunch. Add potato halves as well, if you need a potato salad the next day.

Now watch the movie - relax and soak in all the inspiration.

Do this often enough and soon rice will be your best friend - so will your body. After a few weeks on a strict avoidance diet you should see improvement. But cheating will only undermine all that yo do. The movie provides a comprehensive look into products that are made out of rice such as rice cakes and crackers, rice pasta and the amazing rice paper. More recipes are provided in other "gluten-free" contributions. There are also some fabulous places to visit other Gluten-free Gurus at Info Barrel. They too, know that this is the way to go!

Gluten free vegan snacks

Terrific snacks for gluten-free but not vegetarian

Fran is a very experienced gluten-free Guru.


Use Rice as your Gluten-free base

Fun food and loads of inspiration

Healing Foods: Cooking for Celiacs, Colitis, Crohn's and IBS
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