It seems barely a decade ago that pasta was but a dream for those allergic to, intolerant of, or altogether avoiding gluten. Now, the U.S. gluten-free product industry is a market powerhouse, seeing exponential growth in the last five years and projected to hit as high as $18 billion by 2025. Stats aside, the short story is, it just ain’t that hard to find gluten-free pasta anymore. And not only can you simply find it in conventional retailers, but you even have options. Options not only for shapes from elbow pasta to penne pasta to linguini, but options for dried and fresh, and options for the starch-supplying ingredient as well.
Gluten-free pastas aren’t just for routine spaghetti, either, nor are they just for those suffering from celiac disease. In fact, because of the subtle flavors that varying wheat-alternative pastas impart, I’d go ahead and say that they are especially suited to summertime pasta salads, since their flavors can easily be mimicked in the myriad ingredients that can be invited to mingle in cold-pasta preparations. And so I give you eight gluten-free pastas to try, with specific pasta salad recipes especially suited to their flavors and textures, whether you are seriously celiac, or just a seriously good summertime host.
Like the grain itself, quinoa pasta can produce a slightly granular texture and gently nutty taste. So lean into it with bold flavors and lots of crunch. Grilled veggies, and especially peppers, impart a little smoke and attitude, and sharp, tangy feta is likely to be the over-ruling flavor anyhow. Get our Grilled Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad recipe.
Brown rice-based pasta is likely the easiest to come by, and has the best track record, tasting-wise, among wheat-alternative pastas with its toothsomeness and neutrality. You can certainly use it in any pasta recipe, but why not highlight its natural Asian tendencies with a bright ginger-dressed salad whose vegetables also include protein-rich edamame? Get the Asian Pasta Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing recipe.
Palmini is the new zucchini noodle, that is, a pure vegetable that can be made to resemble a noodle without flour of any kind. The taste is gentle and the natural texture and bite of hearts of palm lend themselves well to linguine-shaped noodles. Get the Cold Thai Noodle Salad recipe.
Chickpeas on chickpeas: no brainer. Sometimes starch on starch can feel redundant, but the natural bite of chickpeas gives such an excellent texture to any pasta salad, it’s hard to argue with their inclusion in a chickpea-pasta version. Plus think of all that protein and fiber. Dill and feta are also on the scene to brighten things up a bit when the chickpeas get too serious. Get our Dill, Chickpea, and Feta Pasta Salad recipe.
Corn and corn flour have been in the gluten-free game longer than basically anyone. The thing is, it’s hard for corn to not taste like corn. So celebrate its a-maize-ing-ness with the highest possible expression, where pasta salad meets Mexican street corn, complete with queso fresco, lime, spice, and—just because you can—bacon. Get the Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad recipe.
Nevermind the syllable “wheat,” buckwheat is an ancient grain that more closely resembles barley than anything else glutinous bearing the wheat title. Soba noodles are not a new trend in gluten free dining; they’ve been kicking around for a good long time. So treat yourself to some old-school, cold sesame noodles that hardly feel like you have make gluten-free substitutions at all. Get our Sesame Noodle Salad with Tofu recipe.
Here’s another instance to demonstrate that you can’t have enough of a good thing. Red lentil pasta is reportedly pretty flavor-neutral on the gluten-free pasta spectrum, and is becoming more and more popular by the minute. Its saturated color hardly detracts from any recipe, especially one bright with cherry tomatoes, herbs, and olives. Get the Mediterranean Lentil Pasta Salad recipe.
Amaranth is an ancient and tiny cereal grain with a nutty or malty character. Legend has it that the Aztecs used to utilize amaranth in religious ceremonies, so the best way to honor that kind of spiritual pedigree is to give it an easy match up with tomatoes and mozzarella balls. Get our Pasta Salad with Spinach, Olives, and Mozzarella recipe.