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Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

Published November 2015

How we tested

When you’re avoiding gluten, it’s tough to give up toast and sandwiches—and if a recipe calls for bread slices or crumbs, you’re really out of luck. That’s where gluten-free supermarket bread can step in. While fresh loaves are scarce, the freezer section of most supermarkets is usually packed with many gluten-free options for both white and multigrain or whole-grain breads. A few years ago, we tasted eight brands of white sandwich bread and found only one to recommend. This time around, we wanted to revisit the world of white sandwich breads and also try to find out if any of the multigrain/whole-grain options would fare any better.

GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS

Among the new brands of white sandwich bread, two were subpar in every application. Even toasting and buttering them could not make these samples palatable. The other three breads were acceptable, though tasters still had quibbles with texture or flavor. Our previous winner (Udi’s Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread), which has been reformulated since our last tasting, dropped to second place. On the multigrain front, we were pleasantly surprised by the positive response from tasters; two brands received high praise and were deemed “actually really good!” while three more fell into our Recommended with Reservations category.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

At first glance you might assume the multigrain breads fared so much better because they had an abundance of hearty grains and fiber. But in most instances, these breads looked like their gluten-free white bread counterparts (with the exception of those with a smattering of seeds or grains that were visible in the crust or floating within the mostly white interiors). To be labeled “multigrain,” breads only have to contain more than one type of grain—and that can be in the form of refined flours, which lack the fibrous bran and nutrient-rich germ. In fact, our favorite “multigrain” gluten-free bread, Glutino Gluten Free Multigrain Bread, contains no fiber or protein at all, a sign that it contains no whole grains. By contrast, the second-place bread, Three Bakers 7 Ancient Grains Whole Grain Bread, Gluten-Free contains 4 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber in a 100-gram serving (equivalent to about 3 slices). These two breads are our favorites from both tastings; despite being labeled as multigrain and whole-grain, in our opinion these breads are so much like white bread that they are interchangeable whether you are simply making a sandwich or using them as part of a recipe such as when making bread crumbs or a breakfast casserole.

BROWN RICE IS NICE

What was clear across both tastings was that brown rice flour, with its flavorful germ and fibrous bran, made better breads. Among the white sandwich breads, our top three breads all used brown rice flour, while the bottom-ranking breads used white rice flour, which has no fiber to help create structure, and far less flavor. All the multigrain breads we tested used brown rice flour.

WORTH ITS SALT AND FAT

Another common theme was that salt goes a long way toward enhancing flavor. Our top-ranked white sandwich bread had the second-highest level of salt; our winning multigrain bread also had plenty of salt, while the lowest-ranked breads had the least sodium. The amount of fat in these breads also mattered: more fat means more flavor (and with these gluten-free breads, it helped create an interior crumb that was fluffy and moist). Glutino Gluten Free Multigrain Bread, the winner, has 12 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, or 3.5 grams per slice.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Gluten-free breads labeled multigrain or whole-grain are a better bet than white breads. For gluten-free bread with the best flavor and texture, we recommend you reach for the breads ranked the highest in our multigrain sandwich bread tasting.

Methodology

Our tasting panel tasted each white sandwich bread sample three times: plain, then toasted with butter, and finally baked with eggs in our recipe for strata. The multigrain samples were tasted plain, as well as toasted with butter. The scores from the tastings were averaged to determine overall rankings.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*
Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB