For the first few years I lived in New York, my go-to breakfast was a piece of springy Tuscan bread from the bakery below my apartment. I rotated toppings—sometimes pesto and an egg over easy, sometimes avocado and red pepper flakes, sometimes almond butter and little slices of strawberry. I loved the chewy crust of the bread, and the perfect, slightly sourdough-y taste. But thanks to my non-celiac wheat sensitivity, I haven’t had a piece of my beloved Tuscan bread in almost five years.
Gluten—a family of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and a hybrid grain called triticale—is what gives good bread that stretchy, almost bouncy texture and a little bit of chew. You know when you pull the layers of a croissant apart and the bread seems almost elastic? That’s because of gluten, the good stuff. Gluten also helps bread retain moisture, which improves taste and shelf stability.
While my initial transition from a gluten-packed diet to totally gluten-free was a pain (giving up bread, beer, and whole wheat pasta was…emotional), seeking out naturally gluten-free staples like quinoa, rice, beans, legumes, and corn is second-nature to me now. But sometimes, I just want a sandwich.
So, I valiantly taste-tasted tons of gluten-free breads, usually found in the frozen section of the grocery store. Here’s the thing, though: Gluten-free breads can be very crumbly (since they don’t contain the gluten that would hold them together) and the slices are typically super small. In some brands, the nutrition content isn’t wonderful either, with lots of added sugar or a low fiber content. “Breads have a short shelf life without adding preservatives and added sugars, and that’s why you see these ingredients in many of the national brands,” says Rachel Begun M.S., R.D.N., a culinary nutritionist and gluten-free lifestyle expert.
Gluten-free breads can also be prohibitively expensive. That’s because they contain many more ingredients than just flour, yeast, water, and salt. The flours in gluten-free bread might be made of millet, rice, chia, potato, almond, buckwheat, quinoa, corn, or other things more expensive than wheat. Many companies use dedicated gluten-free facilities, or create only small batches of their products, contributing to higher prices.
The good news is that there are tons of gluten-free bread options out there—and many of them really do not suck. Here are seven worth trying.
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