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!

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