Whether you're gluten-free full time or just occasionally sample the odd gluten-free product, you know how hard it can sometimes be to find food (whether it's baked goods or dried pasta) that doesn't taste like total cardboard.
Luckily, over the past few years, brands have started to cater to those who can't eat gluten or have gluten sensitivities—and still, you know, want to eat something delicious. Take Aldi, for example. The discount supermarket chain has a whole in-house line (think: frozen foods, snacks, pantry staples, and more) devoted to gluten-free products.
Called liveGfree, these products are reasonably priced (everything on this list is under $5), and the line also seems to be growing to meet the market demand. But, do they actually taste any good?
To find out, we got a variety of Aldi's gluten-free products sent to the office—from frozen pizza and stovetop macaroni and cheese to bagels and crackers—and gave them a taste test. Here are the ones we liked the best:
We're big on snacks here at the office, and these gluten-free sea salt snack crackers made with brown and white rice flour were a hit. "I didn't know I needed these Wheat-Thin-copycat-crackers in my life until I tasted one," says Coral Lee, an associate editor. "They're very crisp (already thinking about applying cheeses to their sturdy faces), and subtly nutty-sweet, thanks to the sesame seeds."
"Their size is snack-worthy (aka I don't feel like I'm having "dessert"), but the jury is still out on whether or not that's a good thing," says our food stylist, Anna Billingskog, who is no longer a member of the gluten club. "They packed a very classic snickerdoodle flavor, and the texture was reminiscent of childhood grocery store cookies—the soft and very sweet variety that sadly I no longer get to enjoy."
"These have a really nice, airy crispy-crunch to them," says Executive Editor Joanna Sciarrino. "The potato and rice flours definitely come through, but in a way that makes them extra light." They make a perfectly good snack all on their own, she adds, but could also happily be dunked in peanut butter, Nutella, or added to this sweet-and-spicy snack mix.
These gluten-free wraps have a nice, mild flavor and soft texture, making them a good fit for quesadillas, burritos, bread-less sandwiches, and more. I also really liked the spinach-flavored version, which had a vegetal flavor that would work nicely with chicken salad, grilled steak with crunchy veggies, or a medley of Italian sliced meats and mozzarella.
“This had a much fluffier texture and more buttery flavor than I would’ve expected," said our managing editor, Brinda Ayer. "Gluten-free flours and baking mixes can often be gummy and dense, but this was the opposite." Above all, it passed her most important test for approval: "I would definitely buy and bake again.”
I enjoyed this brown rice and quinoa pasta much more than I was expecting to—the trick is to heavily salt the water and keep tasting it as it boils so that the noodles are cooked al dente— and not a second longer (it even says in all-caps on the back of the bag: DO NOT OVERCOOK).
Our senior retoucher, Liz, eats gluten-free full time and was a big fan of Aldi's liveGFree plain bagels. "I really like them, actually," she said. "They lack denseness and give just the right amount of squeeze, which I personally love in a bagel. Also, you can't pinpoint any of the grains or binders, which I feel is sometimes an issue with alternatives." She toasted hers, which is definitely the way to go (I ate the cinnamon-raisin version un-toasted and it was a bit soggy at first bite).
These reminded me of Hot Pockets in a very nice way, which is probably why I can picture myself eating them as a filling after-work snack. The flavors are on point (with all that cheese, what could go wrong?), though the texture of the bread can get just a touch chewy in the microwave—heating them up in the oven is your best bet if you want something crispier.
Even though this stovetop mac and cheese may not totally live up to its lofty "deluxe" expectations, our social media manager, Patrick Moynihan, was an overall fan. "While the pasta took a bit longer to cook than other gluten-ized versions, the end result was nicely al dente, creamy, and cheesy," he said. "The leftovers (cold, straight from fridge) were not as good," he added. But really, is there any mac and cheese from a box that tastes good the next day?
"These taste a lot like Doritos, only less greasy, which is why they were my favorite of the bunch," says Eric Kim, a senior editor. With hints of onion, garlic, and spices, these brown rice crisps have a very light kick that makes them almost impossible to put down—it doesn't hurt that they're also incredibly crispy. Important note: These were the first bag of crackers to be emptied.
A frozen cheese pizza can come in handy on so many occasions, most importantly, the occasion when you're too lazy to actually cook anything. I'm happy to report that Aldi's gluten-free frozen pizza is crispy on the bottom, appropriately cheesy, and most importantly, doesn't taste like cardboard. They also sell one with pepperoni, if you're so inclined.