Don’t Buy These 10 Gluten-Free Products

Don’t Buy These 10 Gluten-Free Products

We can’t pick all of the food we eat directly off a tree, and we can’t make everything ourselves. I always think I want to raise my own chickens, and then I catch of whiff of what raising chickens actually smells like, & I think the closest I’m going to come is to befriend a farmer.

When I first started writing Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy, I figured I was gunning for the job of The Gluten-Free Sandra Lee. After all, there are so many new gluten-free packaged products available now. Shouldn’t we be able to eat like everyone else in America does – or like I read that everyone else does? Semi-homemade gluten-free food could go together like Fred & Ginger, right?

Does “no” go with “way”? I quickly learned that “gluten-free quick & easy,” for me, means devising smart kitchen shortcuts and techniques, and adding the occasional top-notch packaged gluten-free product where it really matters. Not putting Cool Whip on canned pumpkin and calling it pie. Every recipe gets you where you wanted to go in the first place (real food, real fast) without sacrificing your dignity (and your family’s health) in the process.

In the new book, I list the gluten-free prepared products that I really like and use in my own kitchen, my own bad self, most every week.  It’s the truth, ’cause I do not lie. But there are also plenty of things I ran into along the way that are serious Don’ts. I learned them the hard way. Why should you have to walk a mile in my moccasins? Often, my “don’t” is based on the fact that a product is ridiculously expensive and simply plain not good. And I say we don’t buy them unless and until they come UP in quality and go DOWN in price.

Vote with your wallet! Here’s my list of don’ts. As in Don’t Waste Your Hard-Earned Money:

1. Those ridiculous single-ingredient “tortillas.” I don’t even know who makes them, but it absolutely doesn’t matter. They sell one brand at Trader Joe’s, and they are an affront to the word Tortilla. They peel and crumble if you so much as dare to take them out of the package. For shame!

2. Gluten-free bagel-shaped bread, sold as a bagel. Look, it could be because I’m from New York, home of The Bagel, but there’s a certain huge gluten-free company that makes a certain gluten-free “bagel” that used to be at least passable, and now I find it personally offensive that they are getting away with charging what they charge for that dry, crumbly mess.

3. Gluten-free hot dog buns. C’mon. I dare the corporate representative of this company to eat a hot dog on one of these things and get more than 50% of the bun itself into his or her mouth. Dare.

4. Gluten-free breadcrumbs. Maybe you know of a gluten-free breadcrumb that is worthwhile, but I haven’t seen it. They’re either wildly expensive, or they are, essentially, ground cornmeal, except they cost nearly $5 for 12 ounces.

5. Gluten-free readymade pizza crusts made with rice flour and tapioca starch as the only grains. They are crackers. Super expensive crackers that make me so very sad when I think about people who are spending their hard-earned money on them and thinking that this is all they have to look forward to. Cracker pizza.

6. Gluten-free pie crust mix. It’s basically just something of a premium-priced all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. You still have to add fat and you still have to add liquid.

7. Gluten-free powdered frosting mixes. Similar to the pie crust mix. It’s basically just confectioners’ sugar with some flavoring and salt. Have mercy.

8. Don’t freak out, but Chebe Cheese Bread Mix is just tapioca flour/starch and dry milk with salt, at north of 50¢ per ounce. And that’s just the dry mix! You still have to add the cheese and eggs. I will give you a recipe for Brazilian Cheese Bread that will knock your socks off—at the proper shoestring price.

9. Gluten-Free Pancake Mix. There are plenty of companies that sell gluten-free pancake mix these days, and it breaks my poor cheap heart every time I roll on by them in the grocery store or online. The first four ingredients of my gluten-free pancake recipe can be your mix.

10. Speaking of mixes, let’s talk Gluten-Free Cake Mix while we’re at it. You know how you pay more money per pound for chicken when it’s more processed? Like a whole chicken costs less than skin-on, bone-in breasts costs less than boneless skinless costs less than tenders? It’s like that. If you pay someone else to put together 4 dry ingredients for you, you’re going to pay a huge premium. Chapter 8 of My New Cookbook has 13 recipes for Make-Your-Own Gluten-Free Baking Mixes. Use a digital kitchen scale and you’ll have the same consistent results that led you to buy that mix in the first place.

What’s on your Don’t Buy List? Teach me!


P.S. If you haven’t yet, please pick up a copy of My Cookbooks! I can’t keep the blog going without your support! Book 2 will be out in just a few weeks!!

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  • Karlie
    October 24, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    Actually the Kinnikinnick “Soft” bread and bun line the just released this year is pretty darned good, especially if you have a baby and no time to bake!  It’s a lot better than Udi’s, and costs only $5 for a loaf that pretty much standard sized in length (the height is a bit shorter than a standard gluten loaf).  I live in the city where it’s made though, so I get their fresh pie dough too!

  • Anneke
    October 23, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    I think, as a blogger, it would be inappropriate for Nicole to mention brands by name in a negative way.  I also believe she was asking for people’s opinions without trying to sway them by being brand specific.  Depending on personal background, people have different taste tolerances.  I know that for me, since my mother baked everything from scratch growing up (I never ate any “store-bought” bread), it has been very difficult to find tasty GF pre-made foods.  There are definitely some mixes out there that work well, I use KA sometimes, but you pay a premium for them, and have to add additional, expensive ingredients.
    As to the Udi’s bagel discussion — Udi’s bagels are simply bagel shaped bread, not a true, New York style bagel.  Doesn’t mean they don’t taste okay and work in a pinch, but it also doesn’t make them a bagel.  For New Yorkers, I imagine it is like me trying to find a good Philly Cheesesteak in the Midwest, just not what they are looking for.
    There are some decent GF pre-made choices out there, I choose not to use them because they are inconsistent, expensive and not as tasty as what I can make at home from Nicole’s recipes.  I will be the first to admit that I have not always had success the first time around with a Nicole recipe, but that is always my fault for not following the directions!  When cooking GF for six people (numerous hungry teenagers!), I need to look at what is most cost effective, and pre-made GF is rarely that!

    Everyone has to go with what works for them, and a discussion like this is a great opportunity for all of us to share information and experiences.  And, really?  Powdered frosting mix?  Now, that is crazy!

  • Kristin
    October 22, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    We’ve been breadless for a while because I got so frustrated with the holes in Udi’s bread :(  I will buy their hot dog buns, but only for camping trips!  My kids get excited and it seems like a treat then.  I think the difference, really, is that some people are the only gf members of their families.  I’m keeping a gf  house for five of us.  I can’t afford to buy that many pizza crusts or packages of bread crumbs.  We love your chocolate chip cookie recipe and have been using the biscuit recipe to top a gf version of cheeseburger pie.  I truly appreciate the cost savings and the delicious taste!

  • salsaman
    October 21, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    I’m VERY happy that there are GF options and that there seem to be more (and more BETTER) products all the time.

    Let’s not condemn a product category because some products are terrible– let’s be specific and criticize bad ones by name!

    And of course it’s important to call attention to good products and especially to great recipes and cookbooks because (almost) everything is better homemade :)

    1. Single-ingredient tortillas like from corn?  That’s what they’re supposed to be made from.  But I imagine you mean something else.  The rice tortillas they sell at TJ’s near me are very good and hold up to abuse and keep well in the fridge.  What have you tried that’s not good?

    2. Gluten free bagels can be not so hot but the Udi’s are good.  Which ones are not bad?

    3. But what will you put your hot dog in?!  Again, the Udi’s buns are good, but it sounds like you’ve had some bad ones.  Like, what brands?

    4. There are plenty of gluten-free breadcrumbs that are worthwhile, like Kinnikinnick and Schar (your advertiser).

    5.  That’s very specific!  Get Udi’s or do it yourself but jeeeez it’s VERY HARD to make excellent gluten free pizza without buying a pre-made crust.  You can’t have everything!  The best I’ve had at Risotteria in New York is made with a complex process and it’s basically a cracker, it’s just very very good.

    6.  Yes, but there are some good frozen pie crusts.

    7.  Anybody who would consider buying a gluten free powdered frosting mix is a beginner getting ripped off– you’re right, this product makes no sense at all!

    8.  Don’t knock the Chebe!  That’s tasty stuff.   Try Almojabana if you can find it– real deal.

    9.  Gluten free pancakes mixes can be awesome.  GF Bisquik is awesome and belongs in every GF pantry, though I’ve made everything /except/ pancakes with it.  Their donut hole recipe is epic if you’re ready to deep fry.  TJ’s mix is not very good, I agree.

    10.  I’m sure your recipe is great, but there are some good excellent boxed gluten free cake mixes now, especially those by King Arthur Flour.

  • October 21, 2012 at 12:18 AM


  • October 21, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    LOVE IT!!!  I am such a huge fan of yours, your first cookbook has literally changed my life. As a Mom with celiac sprue with a kiddo on the autism spectrum, we keep a gluten free house. Also as the mom with a kiddo on the autism spectrum, money is INCREDIBLY tight with how much we spend on his medical care. Your book empowered me to try making everything from scratch – and for the past four months I have been! My favorite on this list is the tortillas – storebought tortillas are HORRID. And they are ridiculously expensive. I make the tortillas from your first cookbook and add some pepper and oregano too. And they are fantastic – I literally almost cried when I made them the first time. Flour tortillas were the hardest thing for me to give up.

    You are amazing Nicole, thank you so much for all that you do!!!

  • October 19, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Great list Nicole! I love it and agree with you, pretty much entirely, even if I am an offender of a few :) Those tortillas are horrific! Sadly, it was one of the first GF things I bought and I seriously almost gagged when I tried to eat my “wrap” which also completely fell apart. The pizza thing cracked up me (ha!! no pun intended) b/c I totally buy Udi’s pizza crusts and you are RIGHT it is so much like a cracker. But I have such little time with 2 active and crazy (and sleepless, sigh) kids. I used to make my own crust (when I had one kid, ha) and hopefully will get back on it soon. The bagel thing, also sad but true. Can I just call them out? Udi’s, in my opinion, dropped the ball on bagels. They used to taste better, but now they are a dry, crumbly mess. I will say that I use Udi’s regular bread and it works for my family – however, the giant holes that sometimes appear like a rabid mouse has been at it, are NOT cool. Especially for the price. Maybe I’ll add bread baking to my enormous to-do list :) I know I can do it… one of these days.

  • Traceldel
    October 19, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    I don’t bake, so I do buy GF products, but there are a lot of tasteless breads and buns out there. The ONLY GF bread I will buy is either the white or whole grain Canyon Bakehouse bread. You can’t really tell the difference between regular decent quality commercial. Bread and their bread. The secret to ANY GF bread/buns is to toast them. Since going GF I eat a lot less processed grain products anyway, but I do have a few favorites.

  • October 19, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    My need to make-my-own stems not only from my dissatisfaction with so many of the pre-made products and mixes and that I want to save money, but also a desire to be not merely gluten-free, but healthy, avoid starches, especially in large quantity, and the fact that I am a diabetic as well. Thank you for your site!

  • Rebecca T
    October 19, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Don’t buy Julian’s GF Carb Free Bread.  It tastes like packing foam might taste.  I had to spit out the first bite I took.  I gave the two loaves that I bought and shipping to my house for about $25 to my chickens.  They wouldn’t eat it either.  Then I put it in my compost pile.  After 6 months it has not broken down!

  • Rebecca T
    October 19, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Don’t buy Julian’s GF Carb Free Bread.  It tastes like packing foam might taste.  I had to spit out the first bite I took.  I gave the two loaves that I bought and shipping to my house for about $25 to my chickens.  They wouldn’t eat it either.  Then I put it in my compost pile.  After 6 months it has not broken down!

  • Michelle
    October 19, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    I mostly agree with you too, especially about the “bagels”.  I have yet to taste a GF bagel that tastes like a real bagel.  I do however think that King Arthur’s GF chocolate cake mix is the best.  I haven’t found a  recipe that tastes at all similar.  Oh and Trader’s Joe’s GF waffles are good enough for us, not to mention they are only $1.99 a box!

  • Michelle
    October 19, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    I mostly agree with you too, especially about the “bagels”.  I have yet to taste a GF bagel that tastes like a real bagel.  I do however think that King Arthur’s GF chocolate cake mix is the best.  I haven’t found a  recipe that tastes at all similar.  Oh and Trader’s Joe’s GF waffles are good enough for us, not to mention they are only $1.99 a box!

    • October 19, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      My need to make-my-own stems not only from my dissatisfaction with so many of the pre-made products and mixes and that I want to save money, but also a desire to be not merely gluten-free, but healthy, avoid starches, especially in large quantity, and the fact that I am a diabetic as well. Thank you for your site!

  • Lroloson
    October 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    I make lots of your recipes, including bread , but we do have a new bread, called Good Bye Gluten that has shown up recently in our Giant Eagle stores.  It is fresh, not frozen, recommended to be stored at room temp, 90 calories a slice, I paid $ 4.89 for a 1 lb loaf, out of curiosity.  One week in, still soft and fresh, very tasty, plain or toasted, sturdy, not crumbly, comes in white and multi grain! I have used it for a sandwich, toast, toasted and processed a couple slices for bread crumbs in my meatball recipe.

  • Elisabeth
    October 19, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    I buy the hot dog buns and bread, but that is about it. When the bread gets too stale to eat I make breadcrumbs out of it. I have found that Glutino’s round crackers are, for the most part, inedible, although their table crackers are a good substitute for water crackers. Yesterday I tried my hand at making a GF version of Raincoast Crisps (those insanely expensive nut-and-dried-fruit-laden crackers from Vancouver), and it turned out so much better than I had hoped for a first attempt that I will keep working on those.

  • MaryAnn
    October 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    I also agree with the majority of your list – though I (and the rest of my family, who are not GF), LOVE Pamela’s baking mix for pancakes, chocolate chip cookies and muffins. It’s just a really convenient thing to have on hand to whip things up. And, the Better Batter chocolate cake and brownie mixes are delicious – yes, all of these things are expensive, but they are not something I use very often. I love baking, but I work full time and have two little ones, so there just isn’t a lot of time to do it unfortunately. I have tried making bread with Better Batter a couple times and they have been epic fails, so I honestly have given up – I don’t want to waste my expensive flour on failures, so I pretty much don’t eat bread. I don’t like Udis bread, but Canyon Bakehouse is really good – they are tiny loaves and expensive, but it is yummy, even un-toasted – particularly the 7-grain and the cinnamon raisin – so I keep them in the freezer and eat them occasionally. I picked apples a couple weeks ago and made pie using the frozen GF pie crust from Whole Foods and it was really good – yes, expensive, but quick and easy (and not an everyday item, so I was ok with paying a premium). I would like to make everything my self, but if there’s no time, I think it’s awesome that there are some good, conveient options out there.

    • October 20, 2012 at 1:17 PM

       I really like the GF pie crusts from Whole Foods, also. I can’t tell them apart from my buttery, flaky homemade crusts. They are expensive, but I only use them at Thanksgiving and Christmas when all the other gf cooking is so time consuming. I really DO like Udi’s bread, reminds me of my mom’s homemade bread when I was a child, but I only eat it occasionally. I’m not really a sandwich person. I feel like other GF breads either have texture issues or leave a very chemical or metallic aftertaste in my mouth. The first bite is okay, the 2nd iffy, and by the 3rd I’m gagging and feeding very expensive bread crumbs to the birds. I find that Udi’s doesn’t have that aftertaste. I keep hearing good things about Rudi’s, but after so many negative experiences I’m afraid to try it.

  • Whimzee26
    October 18, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    ok, you convinced me.  I pre ordered your cookbook on Amazon.  Afterall, I have been lurking and enjoying your recipes for some time now.

  • Marymccl
    October 18, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    Ooh, and I forgot good tip for breadcrumbs since.they’re outrageously priced in grocery store. Save ends leftover from gf bread, throw in food processor with some seasonings and poof!

  • Marymccl
    October 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Lol! Love the hot dog bun comment. So true!! I pretty much don’t buy any processed gluten free ‘food’ anymore. The only thing I buy is Rudis bread. Cookies are the worst. You could break windows with those things. Breakfast bars = gag. Every once in awhile, I’ll treat myself to against the grain pizza, (amen!) Doesn’t taste like a cracker with cheese. Everything else, I make from your cookbook. Can’t even tell its.gluten free. Amen to you!! I’m spoiled now!

  • October 18, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    In defense of chickens, I am one of those farmers you should make friends with.  While a large quantity of chickens who are caged might stink, free range chickens, and or chickens that are cleaned up after don’t.  I have about 40 chickens out in the front pasture with the goats (who do stink!) and until you need to recycle those kitchen scraps you would never know they are there.  Now, I won’t even go into how funny they are to watch, or how nice it is to have one on your lap, or to watch riding a goat.  

    I do recommend buying farm fresh eggs for baking though.  They are usually only a day or two out of the chicken so the proteins are fresh, and if they are grass fed/free range they have more vitamin D, and omega fatty acids, as well as containing less cholesterol.

    • Peggy Ford0518
      October 19, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      Do you sell your eggs?  If so, where are you located?

      • October 19, 2012 at 8:51 PM

        We are outside of Raleigh NC, and we do sell them.  Right now we have all the sales we can handle because without artificial light the chickens reduce their laying as there is less daylight.  Some of our customers actually freeze eggs for winter.

  • Mimi Johns
    October 18, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    One product I like is GF Cornbread mix from Bob’s Red Mill. But the rest of the stuff you list – yuck!

  • Cheeto74
    October 18, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    trader joes used to have the best pancake mix and it was reasonably priced… I miss it so much, but if enough people e-mail them, they might bring it back

  • October 18, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    I started having tummy problems and found out I am sensitive to wheat. I have been wheat free for about 3 months and I feel so much better. All of my tummy and digestion problems are gone.  I follow your blog and have tried some of your recipes which my husband and I both loved. He is mainly gluten free at home but eats what he wants away from home. I just ordered both of your cookbooks. I can’t wait to get them. I like Udi’s buns and bagels both. I toast them before I eat whatever they are being used for. The same with the hot dog buns. But, I did order some Better Batter and I am going to bake some bread. I love this flour. So glad I was directed to your blog. It was hard in the beginning but oh so easy now. I will always be gluten free. No slip ups here.

  • Tricia
    October 18, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    The hot dog and hamburger buns are much tastier if you wrap them in a paper towel, sprinkle with a little water and microwave for 10 – 30 seconds. If they are frozen, just wrap and mic, no need for water. Here in North Texas, Subway offers gluten free rolls and that’s what they do, which caused a “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment.

  • October 18, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    My family actually loves the Udi’s bagels, toasted. I have to warn the gluten eaters in my family that they are mine, mine, mine, and my son’s (who is GF like me). When toasted, they are thick and crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Yes, they remind me more of my mother’s homemade bread that she baked when I was a child than a New York style bagel, but I never really liked the super dense, chewy NY bagel. I’ve never eaten an Udi’s bagel not toasted or baked as a mini pizza, so I don’t know if I’d like it as much. I always buy them when they are on sale and I have an Udi’s coupon (which I get often since I’m registered with the Udi’s site). They are so big that I can make a package of 4 last a long time because I only eat one-half at a time.

  • Cindy
    October 18, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    My do not buy list is the same as yours! How disappointing to finally find hot dog and hamburger buns  only to find they are more like a styrofoam cup than a soft bun!! I love your site and your recipes, Nicole, thanks so  much for all that you do to educate us and keep us fed well :)

  • October 18, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    you ARE  brilliant.  and your cookbook has a place of honor next to my le creuset (navy goes SO well with cassis) on my bookcase (pic promised in future) .  after 12 plus years gluten free, i have migrated towards paleo.  but (hear it,.. BUT),  when i choose to cheat it is with PIZZA.  the GF crust i have come to love is Against the Grain.  which co$t$ – well, LOT$.  i thought i got a brazilion cheese bread recipe from you before.   …tangent:  i love my USA pan that’s from KAF for gf bread and came across a 2nd’s clearance mini usa muffin tin for $12.70 :)  and thought once again of making a pizza crust from brazilan bread cooked in a usa pan and of course of YOU.  tangent end….  so. what i am asking of you (the gf wizard) is a recipe for pizza crust that’s based on brazilian bread.  so i don’t have to buy the expensive pre-made frozen version.   right now it seems i might as well be asking for you to hand over a winning lottery ticket but i thought i’d try.  love you any which way your whim or energy goes!

  • Melissa
    October 18, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    You are my eternal GF hero Nicole!!! My whole GF life changed when I found GF on a Shoestring – I recommend it to every newly GF person I come across. Totally agree with your list, but would also add to my own list any other GF flour but Better Batter. Your books + that flour = yummy gf food at a reasonable price.

    Love you!

  • Melissa
    October 18, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    You are my eternal GF hero Nicole!!! My whole GF life changed when I found GF on a Shoestring – I recommend it to every newly GF person I come across. Totally agree with your list, but would also add to my own list any other GF flour but Better Batter. Your books + that flour = yummy gf food at a reasonable price.

    Love you!

  • Christina
    October 18, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    ANYTHING  and I mean Anything made by Cherrybrook Farms. Their dessert mixes are weird and nasty. Some brands are pretty good, but not this brand.

  • j_bell84
    October 18, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    I live in Australia and the prices here for Gluten free food are out of this world. My fiancee is American and we visited a few months ago and I couldn’t believe how cheap everything was and just how much variety you actually have….I found it pretty amazing! 
    I am new to the whole gluten free thing and I’m still learning what I can and can’t eat. My mum recently bought me a bag of Gluten free microwave popcorn at $5 a bag, while her heart is in the right place, I guess she doesn’t realise that the generic brand popcorns here are all gluten free anyway and she could have bought one of those for under $2. I have made the same mistake with a lot of foods, buying them at inflated prices because it says gluten free, only to discover that a “regular” product actually contains no gluten anyway.
    Thanks for sharing all your recipes, it sure is a big help!

  • Reedyme-commerce
    October 18, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    I fell for those big unsliced bagel looking hamburger buns once! Nope not a bagel. I have your book and just got my first batch of bettet batter flour. Will be trying to make my own soon!

  • Angelyz924
    October 18, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    The only prepared gf food I buy is bread and I only buy rudi’s multi grain. I gave up on making my own cuz it never turns out BUT all the yummy things I make out of your first book has inspired me to try again!

  • GypsyMama
    October 18, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Omg, I couldn’t agree more with everything you said! I think it is just plain wrong to charge the prices that company’s do for some of these products!!! RIDICULOUS! …. I make up my own seasoning mixes, make my own broth…and mix my own egg replacer. I think the biggest thing I have found that it is important to invest in good kitchen equipment…like my mixer, blender, and food processor…these are must have’s for me and make fast work of any recipe. I don’t buy frozen potato anything either…those get diced in the food processor… for fries, hashbrowns, or skillet potatoes.

  • Gwen
    October 18, 2012 at 2:59 PM

     Right on…. I can not get my husband to stop spending money on some of this junk  LOL  actually I have found some almond crackers that are good but $$$$.  I would like to make my own breads etc but can not find all the ingredients for the breads… any help would be appreciated

  • Jennifer
    October 18, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Wow, I had come to most of the same conclusions awhile back. The one that got me was the Chebe mix. My daughter loves the stuff, so I’ll buy your book just to find out how it can be topped. Plus, I just love, love, love your recipes anyway. :)

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