Is Rice Gluten-Free?

Learn these safe rice types, plus what rice to avoid

Brown rice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

In most cases, rice is gluten-free. Plain rice—regardless of whether it's whole-grain brown rice, polished white rice, long-grained basmati rice, or even exotic black rice—is always considered gluten-free, assuming it's been protected from gluten cross-contamination in processing and cooking. 

Plain gluten-free rice types include:

  • white rice
  • brown rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Jasmine rice
  • black rice
  • red rice
  • sprouted rice

Surprisingly, the type of rice called glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is gluten-free. Despite its name it doesn't contain gluten, which is dangerous to those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The term "glutinous" simply refers to the fact that glutinous rice gets glue-like or sticky when cooked. Glutinous rice is a mainstay in Thai cuisine. Whenever you see the popular dessert, "mango with sticky rice," on the menu of your favorite Thai eatery, it's likely naturally gluten-free.

However, you need to beware of flavored rice mixes since these can (and often do) contain gluten ingredients. You also need to watch out for rice dishes with additional ingredients, since they may also can contain gluten.

Safest Brands of Rice When Avoiding Gluten

While plain rice from most any manufacturer will be fine for you if you're not particularly sensitive to trace gluten, those who do experience frequent gluten reactions due to cross-contamination may want to stick with certain brands or types.

  • Lundberg Family Farms produces plain rice and a number of varietals, plus rice mixes and different styles of flavored rice The company specializes in organic, gluten-free, and whole grain rice products, and prominently labels its products gluten-free. Lundberg produces only rice products, which means there's no risk of gluten cross-contamination in food production. Make this brand of rice a staple in your pantry.
  • Alter Eco, which specializes in exotic sustainable foods, offers several types of rice that are certified gluten-free, which means special care has been taken to avoid any contact with gluten in farming and production. Alter Eco produces gluten-free heirloom rice varietals such as Khao Deng Ruby Red Rice, Thai Sticky Purple Rice, and a classic Hom Mali Jasmine Rice as gluten-free options.

Flavored Rice Mixes: What to Buy (and Avoid)

You'd think something billed as "rice" would be gluten-free no matter what, but flavored rice products sold along with plain rice in supermarkets often contain gluten-based ingredients, generally in the form of a wheat-based thickener such as hydrolyzed wheat protein or a flavor enhancer like wheat-based soy sauce.

Safe gluten-free rice mix options include:

  • Lundberg offers a wide variety of flavored rice mixes, including flavors such as Organic Sesame, Soy & Ginger Rice and Organic Turmeric Rice. These are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which requires testing to less than 10 parts per million of gluten.
  • Mahatma Rice lists most of its flavored rice varieties as gluten-free, including Spanish Rice, Long Grain & Wild Rice Mix, Cilantro Limón Jasmine Rice, Red Beans and Seasoned Rice, and Yellow Seasoned Rice. If there's ever any doubt about whether any of the brand's flavored rice may contain gluten, be sure to double check the label and ingredients first.
  • Zatarain's (which is owned by the food and spice manufacturer McCormick & Company) produces upwards of 20 flavored rice mixes that are formulated as gluten-free, meaning they contain less than the legal limit (20 ppm) of gluten. Be careful which package you pick up, though, because some Zatarain's flavors are not gluten-free and still contain gluten ingredients.

You should avoid flavored mixes from the following brands, all of which are likely to use gluten ingredients:

  • Uncle Ben's flavored rice
  • Knorr Rice Sides
  • Rice-A-Roni
  • Near East Rice Pilaf (contains wheat-based pasta)

Always check for gluten on food labels when you're buying flavored rice (or anything else, for that matter) to make sure the product is safe.

Sushi Rice: Not Always Safe

One last rice pitfall: If you're sensitive to vinegar derived from gluten grains, you should watch out for the rice used in Japanese restaurants to prepare sushi—there's a strong chance it will contain a grain-based vinegar made with corn or wheat. You can ask the restaurant for plain white rice (most will have it ready, especially if they also serve hot Japanese stir-fry dishes).

If you can't find a prepared rice dish that's gluten-free and still tasty, you can try making your own. In addition, many forms of Spanish paella are naturally gluten-free—but you'll need to double-check the ingredients and make substitutions as necessary.

A Word From Verywell

When choosing rice, you can be confident that it's gluten-free if it's plain rice and if it comes from a safe brand name, such as Lundberg or Alter Eco. Those with celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity who are particularly sensitive to trace gluten should stick with those brands, while others may do fine with other brands of plain rice. 

Be cautious with rice mixes, as they frequently contain gluten ingredients—always read labels carefully. And also beware of sushi rice, since it can be made with a grain-based vinegar that may cause reactions in people who are particularly sensitive.

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Article Sources
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  1. Gluten Intolerance Group. Is it safe to include glutinous rice in a gluten-free diet? What exactly is it?

  2. National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Gluten-Free and Flavor-Full! A Quick Guide to Eating Gluten-Free with Zatarain’s. 2011.

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