Finding good gluten-free substitutes for your favorite foods and ingredients can be a difficult task. It can be hard to duplicate the familiar texture of foods like cake, bread and—most especially—pasta. Good, gluten-free pasta is hard to come by, and many of my friends have reported trying too many bad ones to count. So to help them end their hunt for the best gluten-free pasta out there, I grabbed seven brands and a handful of pasta fans (those who eat gluten-free and some who do not) and gave them a try.
Here are the brands of gluten-free penne we tested:
- Ancient Harvest Gluten-Free Penne (a blend of corn and quinoa)
- Banza Chickpea Penne
- Dakota Growers Organic Penne (a corn-based pasta)
- Jovial Gluten-Free Penne (a brown rice pasta)
- POW! Green Lentil Penne
- Ronzoni Gluten-Free Penne
- Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Pasta
Runner-Up: Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Pasta
Taste of Home
Based on appearances, testers were uncertain about the Tinkyada pasta. It looked a little gray, and despite the label’s claims, it looked a bit mushy. But looks proved to be deceiving! This gluten-free pasta was one of our favorites. It had a traditional pasta texture, unlike many other competitors which we found to be crumbly. The flavor of this pasta was mild, but in our opinion, that just gives your sauces a chance to shine.
Try this pasta—which also comes in macaroni—with these best-ever mac and cheese recipes.
$18.12 for three 12-ounce packages; available on Amazon.
Best in Show: Jovial Gluten-Free Penne
Taste of Home
Our favorite pasta in this test with a near perfect score came from Jovial. This penne could have fooled us—even the folks who eat gluten. This pasta looked delicious and had a taste that had us believing that it was a typical whole grain pasta. Texture-wise, we loved these noodles. They ate just like your standard pasta with a little bit of al dente bite.
What was most impressive, according to our gluten-free samplers, was that this pasta had some real structure and integrity. Unlike most other gluten-free noodles, these testers thought that these noodles could hold up as leftovers (very uncommon!). Also, that perfect pasta-like structure is just the ticket for grabbing all your favorite sauces—like homemade marinara or pesto—or for using in all kinds of baked pasta. These are our favorite picks for pasta al forno.
$4.39 for a 12-ounce box; available at select retailers, like Walmart, nationwide.
The Bottom Line
In this test, we came to a pretty obvious conclusion: Brown rice pasta is the best tasting gluten-free pasta (it’s also a nice, healthy side on its own). No other type—corn, chickpea or lentil—was able to touch Tinkyada or Jovial’s brown rice penne pasta. Both of these brands offered a noodle with a texture most similar to traditional pasta and overall the best taste.
As much as we wanted to like the protein-packed versions made with chickpea and lentil, they just didn’t have a very pleasant flavor. And the corn-based options just were too gritty and fell apart very easily. So when you’re out shopping for a GF option for your next pasta party, look for a brown rice-based pasta. We liked Jovial and Tinkyada, but we bet other brown rice options would be good, too!