It's tricky to be a gluten-free cereal fan. While many cereal brands are made with gluten-free grains like oats, rice, or corn, this isn't a guarantee that the final product will be completely gluten-free, according to Meaningful Eats. If the product is being made on the same production line as gluten-containing cereals, it can become cross-contaminated, which spells trouble for anyone avoiding gluten for health reasons.
Fortunately, there is now an abundance of certified gluten-free brands to choose from at most grocery stores. If the manufacturer has taken the care to make a truly gluten-free product, it will most likely proclaim that fact on the box to take the guesswork away from consumers. We selected 13 different cereals that advertise themselves as completely gluten-free and taste-tested them to see which ones reigned supreme. While there were a few duds, on the whole, we were impressed with how tasty these cereals were — even some of our classic childhood favorites are now certified gluten-free. Rest assured that, with the help of this guide, you'll be able to find the perfect gluten-free cereal to suit your tastes.
How We Picked And Rated The Cereals
We tried to get the most variety in our taste test as possible. That meant seeking out many different flavor profiles, including chocolate, peanut butter, maple, cinnamon, and fruit. We also selected cereals at a variety of price points to see if spending more gets you a better product. Finally, we wanted to represent many different types of brands — as you'd expect, many of the companies on this list reside in the health food sphere, but there are also mass-market brands that you might be surprised to find are gluten-free (we're looking at you, Lucky Charms).
Our number one criterion for ranking the cereals was their overall flavor. Beyond that, we looked at how tasty they were when eaten as a dry snack, how crispy they stayed in milk, and whether or not they infused the milk with flavor. We also factored price into our rankings — if a cereal was very expensive without providing added value, it lost points.
13. Magic Spoon Grain-Free Cinnamon Roll Cereal
Magic Spoon cereal sounds too good to be true. It comes in sugary, dessert-inspired flavors just like your favorite childhood cereals, but contains no sugar. Even better, since it's made with milk protein instead of grain, it has 12-14 grams of protein per serving (depending on the flavor), very few carbs, and is naturally gluten-free.
Sadly, the promises this cereal makes are, in fact, too good to be true. Our alarm bells first started ringing when we opened the bag and were greeted with an intense low-calorie sweetener smell. The fake sweetener overwhelmed even the scent of cinnamon. The taste was exactly what we expected based on the aroma — a big hit of fake sweetener bitterness with a bit of Hot Tamale-style cinnamon candy in the aftertaste. Even worse, the texture was disturbingly soft, even when eating the cereal dry as a snack.
Adding milk did not help things. It amplified the flavors we found objectionable and made the cereal even softer. We're not exaggerating when we say this tasted like something that should not be consumed by people. At $8.99 for a small 7-ounce box when purchased from Fry's, this was also one of the worst cereals we tried in terms of value for your money.
12. Three Wishes Vanilla Frosted Grain Free Cereal
Maybe protein and cereal just aren't meant to go together. Three Wishes, like Magic Spoon, makes cereals that pride themselves on being sweet and craveable while delivering more protein and less sugar and carbs than classic brands. Rather than the milk protein utilized by Magic Spoon, Three Wishes bases its cereal on a blend of chickpeas, tapioca, and pea protein.
First, the good. Three Wishes didn't have the same assertive artificial sweetener flavor as Magic Spoon. That's probably because Three Wishes is made with a small amount of real sugar in addition to monkfruit sweetener. This cereal was also crunchy, both when snacked on dry and after being submerged in milk. This brand is also slightly less expensive than its high-protein competitor — $6.99 for an 8.6-ounce box at Sprouts.
That's where the positives end. Three Wishes tasted really weird; it had an intense umami savoriness that buried the vanilla, especially when eaten out of hand. Milk helped bring out the vanilla flavor a bit, but the savoriness never left entirely — it reminded us of Indian food, probably because of the chickpeas. The leftover cereal milk tasted better than the cereal itself; it retained a hint of vanilla flavor but didn't have any of the bean-y taste of the cereal.
11. Lovebird Unsweetened Grain-Free Cereal
Lovebird is the final cereal that we straight-up did not like. Things get much better from here on out. We have to commend the brand's commitment to health — this was the only cereal we tried that contained no sweeteners at all, not even of the low-calorie variety (Lovebird does offer flavored cereals that are sweetened with a small amount of coconut sugar).
The lack of sweetness made this cereal tough to get through without milk. The flavor of the cassava flour (which is made with the same plant as tapioca but is less refined) was quite prominent. It had a taste somewhat similar to whole grain, but with more of a bitter edge. Honestly, it reminded us of cardboard. The only other noticeable flavor was coconut — Lovebird is made with both coconut flour and oil. With no sugar, the coconut taste seemed bizarre and out of place.
Adding milk improved this cereal quite a bit. The natural sweetness of milk made the cassava and coconut make a lot more sense on our palates. However, the inherent savoriness of the Lovebird still shined thorough, and not in a way we found enjoyable. The cereal even made the milk taste a bit like cassava, which was pretty strange.
10. OffLimits Fluf N Puf
OffLimits' branding is so similar to Magic Spoon's (cartoon characters drawn with thin lines, flat design aesthetic, bright colors), that we actually checked to see if the two companies are related (they're not). OffLimitss cereal is blessedly not grain-free; its no-gluten formula includes ingredients like rice flour, pea fiber, and cane sugar.
Fluf N Puf is ostensibly pancake and maple syrup flavored. Eaten dry, the fake maple taste (no real maple syrup in these) was too potent — the marshmallows were way too sweet. The cereal puffs had a toastiness that reminded us of coffee.
Once we added milk, Fluf N Puf really started tasting like syrup-drenched pancakes. The fake maple became more muted, while the bready taste of the cereal came to the fore. Everything stayed crunchy in the milk, even the marshmallows, which was a little bizarre. We wanted the soft texture of Lucky Charms marshmallows, but these were more like little bits of hard candy. Despite the fact that Fluf N Puf was a flavor bomb, it did not change the taste of the milk very much.
9. Corn Chex
We have much more experience eating Corn Chex as an ingredient in Chex Mix than as a breakfast cereal. There's a reason for that — although Corn Chex tasted just fine by themselves, they seemed more suited as a blank slate for other flavors than as the star of the show.
Opening the bag released the aroma of toasted corn. The best thing about this cereal was its texture, especially as a snack sans milk. Chex combine crunch with lightness in a way that makes you want to eat them by the handful. Flavor-wise, the cereal was underwhelming. Although it is sweetened, it didn't taste sugary to us; it was in the gray zone between sweet and savory. We picked up some mild notes of cornbread and polenta.
Adding milk didn't transform the flavor as it did with some of the other cereals we tried. The Chex did stay impressively crispy in the milk, more than we expected given how light they are. They just seemed to be missing something — perhaps Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and little pretzels? You do get a lot of bang for your buck with Chex; at Walmart, the cereal costs just over $3 for a 12-ounce package.
8. Nature's Path Organic Sunrise Crunchy Maple
You'd expect this cereal to be on the expensive side, given its prominent organic branding, but it was only $3.49 when we picked it up from Fry's. You might also think cereal from a company called Nature's Path would taste healthy, but Sunrise Crunchy Maple did not — the sugar was strong with this one. Each cereal piece was coated in a maple-forward sugar glaze; happily, Nature's Path uses real maple syrup, unlike OffLimits.
Sunrise Crunchy Maple is really three cereals in one: it contains crisp puffed rice, corn puffs, and mixed-grain flakes. The small rice pieces made it annoying to eat without milk or a spoon. Adding milk helped bring out the roasty notes of the grains while suppressing their bitter aftertaste. Texturally, this cereal was strange. The rice crispies sogged out almost immediately, while the corn puffs and grain flakes stayed super crunchy until we finished the bowl. We can't say we were into the combination of soft and crispy, but some people might like it. The maple syrup flavor did mix with the milk, making the sips at the bottom of the bowl quite tasty.
7. Fruity Pebbles
Both Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles are gluten-free; we opted for Fruity Pebbles as we already had a chocolate-flavored puffed-rice cereal in our lineup. Nothing tastes (or smells) like Fruity Pebbles — the second you open the package, your olfactory passages are overwhelmed with a mixed fake fruit aroma. It's so artificial that it's more reminiscent of fruit-scented lip gloss than actual food. Pebbles, like other puffed rice cereals, aren't great for out-of-hand snacking since they're so small.
Eaten with milk, they tasted just like the smell told us they would. They were almost comically sweet, and their flavor was unlike any fruit you could find in nature. Nevertheless, they satisfied a primal, nostalgic urge from childhood. If you grew up eating these, you'll probably still like them as an adult.
Fruity Pebbles go soft almost the second they touch milk, so people who need their cereal to be crunchy should avoid them. We did notice in our taste test that the cereals that went soggy quickly tended to flavor their milk more strongly. This was definitely true for Fruity Pebbles, which transformed the milk into a delicious sugary sludge that tasted like Strawberry Nesquik.
6. Seven Sundays Real Cocoa
Seven Sundays shows the potential of cassava as a cereal ingredient if it's mixed with the proper flavorings and sweeteners. Although this product advertises itself as a sunflower cereal (and is even shaped like little sunflowers), cassava is the first listed ingredient, with sunflower protein coming up second. However, unlike the similarly cassava-based Lovebird, Seven Sundays is sweetened with dates and coconut sugar. The sweetness, combined with the cocoa flavor in the variety we tried, helped mask the bitterness of the cassava — though we still noticed the bitter aftertaste a bit when eating this cereal by itself. We also picked up a nuttiness from the sunflower protein, which was quite nice.
We didn't notice any bitterness once we added milk to the bowl. The cocoa powder taste of this cereal was quite strong; it was kind of like eating a bowl of less-sweet Oreos. Seven Sundays stayed super-crunchy in milk — if anything, it was slightly too crunchy. We prefer our cereal to be lightly crisp rather than full-on crunchy. Even though this cereal stained the milk brown, it didn't impart much chocolate flavor to the dairy, which was mildly disappointing.
5. Cascadian Farm Berry Vanilla Puffs
We selected Berry Vanilla Puffs as Cascadian Farm's entry in this ranking because we wanted to include a fruit-flavored cereal from a slightly more boutique company to compare with Fruity Pebbles. The fruit flavoring in this organic cereal was just as fake as the one used in Fruity Pebbles, but it was a lot more muted, which we preferred — it didn't hit you over the head with artificial fruit. We also liked the corn puff base of this cereal more than the puffed rice used for Fruity Pebbles — although this cereal didn't have much of a sugar crust on it, it was still crispy with or without milk.
Think of this cereal as a less ridiculous version of Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries. It delivered a similar mix of toasted grain, vanilla, and berry flavor, but with a less heinous amount of sugar. The white, non-berry-flavored pieces reminded us of Corn Pops. The one negative aspect of this cereal was that it did start to soften more quickly than other corn puff-based cereals we tasted; without a crust of sugar on the outside, it's easier for milk to penetrate the cereal pieces.
4. Mom's Best Crispy Cocoa Rice
Mom's Best manufactures an extensive line of cereals, many of which are copycats of mass-market brands like Frosted Mini-Wheats, Cheerios, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Crispy Cocoa Rice is a dupe for Cocoa Krispies/Cocoa Pebbles. It's certainly not low in sugar, with 18 grams a serving, but it is made without artificial ingredients, which some parents may find appealing.
The small puffed rice pieces that make up this cereal are too small for snacking, but we won't hold that against it because its flavor is quite good. Crispy Cocoa Rice has a powerful cocoa powder smell and is quite sweet — it verged on being too sweet for breakfast. Its taste reminded us of cheap chocolate candy; think Tootsie Rolls, but light and crispy. Like the other rice cereals, it softened quickly in milk.
The reason this cereal ranks so high is that it made the best cereal milk. By the time we finished the cereal, the liquid left in the bowl had transformed into sweet, delicious chocolate milk. Drinking the cocoa-flavored milk straight from the bowl threw us straight back into childhood in the best way.
3. Nature's Path EnviroKidz Panda Puffs
In addition to its line of cereals for adults like Sunrise Crunchy Maple, Nature's Path also makes a variety of organic, kid-oriented cereals named after animals under its EnviroKidz brand. Like Mom's Best cereals, most of them are clearly patterned on supermarket favorites like Corn Pops, Cocoa Krispies, and Frosted Flakes. Panda Puffs are sort of like Reese's Puffs without the chocolate. We always found the peanut butter in Reese's Puffs to be the dominant flavor, so we didn't miss the chocolate much when we ate Panda Puffs.
This cereal was delicious both with and without milk. The puffs were incredibly light on the inside but had an outer shell of hardened sugar that protected them from getting soggy in the bowl. The peanut butter flavor was rather mild when the cereal was dry, but became markedly stronger when mixed with milk. Peanut butter is a great flavor for sweet cereals because it has an inherent savoriness that contrasts beautifully with the sugar.
The one area where Panda Puffs didn't hold a candle to Reese's was cereal milk. While Reese's Puffs transform the milk they're submerged in, Panda Puffs only released a small amount of peanut flavor into the milk.
2. Lucky Charms
Yes, even people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy sweet, whimsical, marshmallowy Lucky Charms when they feel like being a kid again. The cereal portion of Lucky Charms is made from oats and tastes like lightly-sweetened Cheerios. This is no coincidence — the original prototype for Lucky Charms was Cheerios mixed with bits of Circus Peanuts marshmallow candy. We're certainly glad that the marshmallows in modern Lucky Charms lack the gross fake banana flavor of Circus Peanuts. Instead, they taste like pure sugar, and they provide the sweetness that the cereal bits mostly lack.
Lucky Charms is a fine snacking cereal, though the texture of the dried marshmallows is a bit odd; since they're dehydrated, they feel a bit like astronaut food. Once we added milk, the marshmallows became easily the best part of the Lucky Charms experience. The milk rehydrated them, making them tender-crisp; at first, they had a light crunch, and then they started to melt on our tongues. The marshmallows turned the milk blue and gave it a sugary vanilla flavor. Lucky Charms only lost points because cereal is supposed to be a breakfast food, and it feels mildly irresponsible to make marshmallows a part of your breakfast routine. As a dessert cereal, however, Lucky Charms is unmatched.
1. Honey Nut Cheerios
Honey Nut Cheerios are an all-time great cereal, whether you need to eat gluten-free or not. There's a reason they've been a staple in the General Mills lineup since 1979, and Cheerios are a top-trusted food brand in the U.S. This is one of the best snacking cereals — the rings are small, but not so small they're annoying to eat with your hands out of a zipper-lock bag. The flavor combines oats with a surprising amount of real honey taste; honey is the fourth listed ingredient, and it makes its presence known. In the absence of milk, the texture is crisp and airy. Cheerios aren't full-on crunchy, but they're still satisfying to bite through.
As great as Honey Nut Cheerios are by themselves, they're even better with milk. Both the honey and oat flavors infused into the milk quickly, creating a harmonious taste experience. There was enough sweetness to make this cereal feel like a treat, but not so much that it felt wrong to eat for breakfast. The one minor issue was that they didn't stay crisp very long. You have a few minutes after you pour the milk, but then they start getting soft pretty quickly. They still tasted great when they were soft, though, so we didn't mind this very much. As an added bonus, you get this divine cereal experience for less than $4 for a 10.8-ounce box at Walmart — dramatically less money than most of the boutique cereal brands we tasted.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.