The Definitive Ranking Of All The Gluten Free Stuff In The Supermarket
The Debrief: Sorting the wheat-free wheat from the wheat-free chaff
STOP PRESS! Hold the Phone! Guys guys guys you'll never guess what's happened!
Since going to print, Tesco have now launched Carl the Caterpillar, brother to Curly the Caterpillar (and therefore sort of estranged cousin to the original M&S Colin the Caterpillar). He's £6 and serves 12, and blows my suggestion that you get your work colleague a carrot cake for their birthday out of the water. What was I thinking?!
The fondant is a bit much, but the sponge and the buttercream is delicious. Is the sugar content outrageous? Yes. Is it a good idea to check the sugar content? No. It's a birthday! Come on in Carl, you are most welcome here.
Should I ever become the recipient of a heavy windfall, the very first thing I will do will be to employ a chef who follows me everywhere giving me lovely healthy snacks and saying things like ‘hey your hair looks really nice today’.
I love the sound of activated cashew balls and chia butter, but I have neither the time, the money or the inclination to learn what they are. I want easy and simple and your bone broth be damned.
I am gluten-intolerant and a dreadful cook. I do not miss the gluten especially, but By Jove I find the whole feeding myself every day thing exhausting. I mean, it’s Every Day. And the easy stuff - the pasta, the toast, the sandwiches, the biscuits - they are no more.
Well. All those food stuffs are still there available to me, but in a weird corner of the supermarket where everything is quite badly packaged and priced by crazy people and I never buy any of it because I suspect it’s going to be awful.
You can’t take that risk and spend £3.50 on Mrs Crimble’s Deliciously Simple Rocky Road Bar, because if it is awful then now you’re hungry and poor and openly crying in the supermarket again.
So I have taken that risk for you, for us all. In the spirit of this investigation I have just eaten a lemon cupcake that was 49% of my daily fat allowance, and I am ready to cut the wheat-free wheat from the wheat-free chaff...
Important discoveries before we begin
Bought and then discluded from this list include gluten-free tortilla chips, because it turns out Doritos Cool Original are already gluten-free! And the gluten-free rice cakes and gluten-free coconut macaroons that I bought like a chump before discovering neither of those things have gluten in them normally. As you were everyone.
Dove’s Farm £2 - available from Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s Corn Fusili - £1.50
Waitrose Brown Rice penne - £1.89
Tesco Fusili pasta £1.26
If pasta is your Crisis Meal staple then gluten-free pasta is a beautiful gift. No amount of very thin courgette is ever going to make you feel alright about the world in the same way as eating pesto pasta heavy-on-the-cheese straight out of the pan in your pajamas.
If you’ve nailed the sauce, you can’t really tell GF pasta isn’t the real deal. The texture is a bit more chewy, and if you don’t take it off the heat at exactly the right moment it dissolves into a baffling yellow soup, but otherwise you’re onto a winner.
I cooked all four pastas on the hob at the same time and put them on the table in matching white bowls like that bit in Runaway Bride where Julia Roberts cooks all the different types of eggs, tries them all and decides her favourite egg is Richard Gere.
Dove’s Farm (£2) comes in a solid winner despite being an extraordinary shade of orange. It’s maize and rice flour and just tastes nicer than Sainsbury’s corn flour fusilli (£1.50).
Waitrose comes third for what I described as ‘tasting a bit worthy, like brown rice’, before realising it was literally made of brown rice. It’s pasta-shaped brown rice. It’s brown rice guys.
Tesco’s Free From Fusilli (£1.26) comes in last for containing Mono- and Di-glycerides of Fatty Acids, which websites like stopkillingmykids.com (real website) will tell you are the devil. They’re essentially trans fats, and they’re in lots of things, but crucially not the other three pastas on this list. Sorry Tesco..
Let’s cut our losses here. Don’t eat the bread.
Don’t buy the sliced bread. Don’t buy the stuff in the weird vacuum plastic that looks like you’re having a ciabatta in space. Don’t buy the wraps. Don’t buy the bagels. Don’t buy Udis. Don’t buy Genius. Don’t buy the bread.
I’m telling you, I’ve tried every single one. Forget bread.
If you’ve gone gluten-free for health reasons, swapping to GF bread is madness. It’s filled with gum and emulsifier and, and this is correct nutritional term here, ‘other shit’. It’s so bad for you. And it doesn’t burn in the toaster which I find extremely suspicious. How have you made an energy source flame retardant hmm Mr Genius?
If you’re here because you have to be, avoid GF bread like the plague, it is a dusty reminder of all that was once ours. It will look like bread, and smell like bread, and then turn to ashes in your mouth. Like some kind of gluten-free purgatory.
The bread is inexplicably small, like a tiny stamp, and frail, like a piece of crepe paper. Have you ever tried to butter a piece of crepe paper? Have you ever tried to eat a piece of crepe paper for that matter, because, that is exactly what gluten free bread is like. And also, if you have actually done that, you know, do seek help.
And Oh Mama it is expensive. £3.50 for what is essentially just a vessel for getting butter into your mouth. As an alternative I thoroughly recommend a spoon.
Don’t buy the bread.
Tesco Finest All Butter cookies (£1.80)
Tesco Free From Digestive Biscuits
Prewett’s chewy oatmeal and raisins (£2.25)
In the biscuit-cum-cookie category Number One with a bullet is these guys. The Tesco Finest All Butter cookies (£1.80). There’s Double Chocolate, Oat & Raisin and Cranberry & White Chocolate. They are excellent and delicious and terribly bad for you and delicious.
The Tesco Free From Digestive Biscuits are surprisingly pleasant, and the chocolate chip cookies I would rate at average to fine.
Prewett’s chewy oatmeal and raisins promised big and couldn’t deliver. Nil point.
These things are absolutely awful.
I once stole a plastic crumpet from the kitchen unit at playgroup during a brief foray into kleptomania. You know that bit in Blow where he walks out of the airport with the suitcase full of drugs; that was me, age three, walking out of play group with half a Fisher Price crumpet down my tights.
I regale this life-affirming event to you now, because I suspect that crumpet would have been more pleasant to eat than this crumpet.
Tesco Finest Free From Carrot Cake (£3)
Tesco Finest Free From Chocolate Cake (£3)
Genius Lemon Cup Cake (£2.25)
Well done Tesco for answering the last-minute cake gathering scenario for a gluten-free colleague’s birthday. These are a great shout; the carrot cake is moist, the chocolate cake is choclatey. They’re not as good as, say, actual cake. But they will 100% serve the purpose of hosting a solitary candle and being ceremoniously presented to a desk. I guarantee everyone will say ‘oh gosh, and this is gluten-free?’ and you’ll all have a lovely laugh.
Go crazy and throw in these Genius Lemon Cup Cakes too. Alarmingly pleasant (because they are pure sugar)
Brownies and flapjacks
Waitrose LoveLife Chocolate Brownies (£2.19)
Waitrose LoveLife 4 Flapjacks (£2.19)
Sainsbury's Freefrom Chocolate Brownies (£2.00)
Sainsbury's Freefrom Blueberry Muffins (£1.50)
Sainsbury's Freefrom Oaty Flapjack Slices (£2.00)
Tesco Finest Free From Belgian Chocolate Brownie (£2.75)
Waitrose absolutely nails the brownie. Top marks. And then falls tragically by the way side with its flapjack. No Marks.
Avoid all the Sainsbury’s Free From Treats range at all cost. Brownie, horrible. Flapjack, worse. Blueberry muffin, pure sadness.
The Tescos brownies are fine, but no one wants to eat a fine brownie. Better no brownie than a fine brownie I say. Wisely.
Breadsticks, cream crackers and crispbread
Schär Italian Breadsticks (£2.62)
Schär Cream Crackers (£3.21)
Schär Crispbread (£1.50)
Well these are all genuinely excellent. I’m a huge fan of Schär, except for the aforementioned custard cream issue, and it’s always nice to have an excuse to use an umlaut. The crispbread I would buy even if I didn’t have to. It tastes all European, like a holiday and is a frankly excellent vessel for butter. Same goes for those breadsticks. The cream crackers are very palatable and the perfect answer to those cheeseboard based worries that keep you awake at night.
We’ve got breadsticks, we’ve got brownies, we’ve got cookies, we’ve got European crispbread. We can do this guys, we’re going to be okay.
Don’t buy the bread.
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