Is Farina Safe to Eat When You're Gluten-Free?

Farina nutrition facts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Is farina gluten-free, or does it contain gluten? What is it made from and what other products may be of concern? What tasty alternative is available?

What Is Farina and Is It Gluten-Free?

Farina is a popular hot breakfast cereal that is usually made from semolina. Semolina is the hard, coarse grains that are left over after milling wheat flour.

Therefore (since wheat is the most popular gluten-containing grain), farina most definitely isn't gluten-free. If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you need to strictly avoid farina. If this is disappointing, keep on reading both to know what else you should avoid, and what you can substitute if you really enjoyed your Farina.

What Else Contains Farina or Semolina?

Avoiding farina can be somewhat tricky since it masquerades under a couple of different names. In the case of one popular name—Cream of Wheat—it's pretty easy to spot the gluten. Another, Malt-o-Meal, isn't quite as obvious, although many people who follow the gluten-free diet know to be especially wary of foods and ingredients containing the word "malt."

Other alternative names for farina include semolina pudding (which actually is a dish made from farina) and harina del negrito (a form of farina popular as a breakfast cereal in the Dominican Republic.) In India and Pakistan, cooks use sooji and rawa, close relatives of farina, in breakfast dishes, desserts, and batters.

Infrequently, cooks might mix some farina into hot cereal billed as porridge, even though traditional porridge is made with oatmeal, so it always pays to ask what's actually in your porridge.

But What If Farina Is My Favorite Cereal?

Although many people focus on wheat-based foods for breakfast, especially when it comes to cereal, there are actually some great gluten-free alternatives. What are your options?

  • Grits: Grits, for example, are similar in texture to hot cream of wheat, and taste only a little cornier. Many brands of grits are safe on the gluten-free diet.
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal represents another option. Not everyone with celiac or gluten sensitivity can eat oatmeal without distress. If you are fine with oats, then you can come close to duplicating both the taste and feel of farina with oatmeal.
  • Gluten-free manufactured foods: Gluten-free food manufacturers have created a plethora of safe options that include more exotic gluten-free grains and grain alternatives, such as quinoa and brown rice. Note that Bob's Red Mill, a popular maker of gluten-free grain products, bills two of its rice-based hot cereals as "farina"—and yes, those are considered gluten-free (just make sure not to pick up the wrong package!).

Explore Your Gluten-Free Cereal Options

When you first go gluten-free, you may be simply trying to find products similar to what you had previously enjoyed, but gluten-free instead. As you spend more time gluten-free, however, the number of food choices available to you will seem to rise fairly rapidly. Part of this is the new move for grocery stores to carry gluten-free options, but another part may be your own interest in exploring new, and possibly even healthier food choices. What is out there?

If you are trying to increase the fiber in your diet, which is sometimes a challenge when you first go gluten-free, you should learn about some of the high-fiber, fruit flavored cereal options. You may even join in with many others with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity who have found that cereal shouldn't be limited to breakfast, but can make a quick dinnertime food option as well. And if dessert is really what you want, and rice krispies bars were what you once loved, learn about these gluten-free rice krispies cereals and treats that will make you forget you need a special diet.

Bottom Line

Farina, being wheat, and therefore the most popular gluten-containing grain, is not gluten-free. And while it's fairly easy to swear off the farina, it's important to know that farina, or semolina, is an ingredient in a number of other products.

If you were someone who started most days with a hot bowl of farina prior to going gluten-free, you should be able to find a replacement that's both satisfying and safely free of gluten. Most grocery stores now provide a number of gluten-free options, and most packaging, at least for products which are truly gluten-free, is clearly marked.

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.