Mix with milk for a symphony of snap, crackle and pop. Or, coat with marshmallow for a sweet-and-sticky treat. There are plenty of ways to enjoy Rice Krispies cereal. But if you're intolerant to gluten, your go-to method of eating Rice Krispies should be, well, not at all.
Yes, Rice Krispies are made of rice, a gluten-free grain. But all the Rice Krispies cereal varieties (including the chocolate and strawberry flavors) are not actually gluten-free. Rice Krispies can be risky for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
Gluten-Free Crispy Rice Cereals:
Why Rice Krispies Are Not Gluten-Free
Rice Krispies cereal has a pretty short ingredient list and, as the name reveals, is mostly made of rice. And while rice is gluten-free, malt flavor, another key ingredient, is not. Malt is a barley-derived sweetening agent, which means it contains gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. (Quick refresher: Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye and wheat.)
In some cases, malt can be made from corn products, but in standard practice, malt comes from barley, so consider it a red flag if you're avoiding gluten, says Shena Jaramillo, RD.
If you're uncertain whether a product contains gluten, take a closer peek at the packaging. Where all processed foods are concerned, cereal included, look for either a Certified Gluten-Free seal or a "gluten-free" label on the product, Jaramillo says.
The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) independently verifies that the products you're consuming are free of gluten-containing ingredients. If your cereal has the group's stamp of approval — the Certified Gluten-Free seal — you're good to go.
If a product doesn't bear the seal but is labeled "gluten-free" and is regulated by the FDA — and most packaged foods are — it's generally safe to dig in, according to the GFCO.
Regardless of labels, it never hurts to double-check ingredients lists for any wheat-, rye- or barley-derived ingredients, Jaramillo says.
Gluten-Free Rice Krispies Alternatives
Just because you can't enjoy a bowl of Rice Krispies doesn't mean your cereal cravings need to go unquenched. Jaramillo recommends that you try these gluten-free alternatives.
Nature's Path Crispy Rice Cereal
Nature's Path Crispy Rice Cereal is certified gluten-free and has only four ingredients, with no preservatives or chemicals.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $33.36 for 6 boxes
Barbara's Bakery Brown Rice Crisps Cereal
Barbara's Bakery makes a gluten-free brown rice cereal that's also 100 percent whole grain.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $31.44 for 6 boxes
One Degree Brown Rice Cacao Crisps
If you prefer a little more taste to savor in your breakfast, One Degree makes a gluten-free chocolate-flavored rice cereal.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $4.99
But What About Rice Krispies Treats?
If you can't eat gluten, Rice Krispies Treats are also off the table. Like the cereal, Rice Krispies Treats or bars are made with malt flavor and are therefore not gluten-free.
But these desserts are super-easy to make right at home without the gluten. For starters, you'll want to choose gluten-free rice cereal as your base (like the brands above). But keep an eye on the marshmallows, too. Common marshmallow brands, like Jet-Puffed, are generally free of gluten ingredients, formulated with mostly corn syrup, sugar and cornstarch. Nevertheless, it's best to look for a brand that's labeled gluten-free, like Dandies All-Natural Vanilla Marshmallows.
DIY Gluten-Free Crispy Rice Treat
If you decide to make your own gluten-free treats, swap marshmallows for more nutritious sticking agents, like almond butter and honey. These 15-minute crispy rice squares are a more nutrient-dense alternative that can be made totally gluten-free — as long as you opt for a gluten-free rice cereal.
Packaged Rice Krispies Treats provide less than 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fiber and 1.5 grams of unsaturated fat for 90 calories. This at-home recipe will give you 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 8 grams of healthy, unsaturated fat for 227 calories. While the homemade version is higher in calories, the healthy fats and protein can help keep you feeling full for longer.
Get the Crispy Rice Treats recipe and nutrition info here.