FoodOctober 21, 2020

New Zealand’s gluten-free bread, reviewed and ranked


A definitive answer to a burning question: what is the best gluten-free bread of them all?

Outside of coeliac circles, not many people know that gluten-free bread is actually better than regular bread. It’s true.* After years of fastidious experimentation and perfecting, gluten-free bakers have now produced a product vastly superior to its wheat-filled counterpart. From the ingredients, to the texture, taste and packaging, many gluten-free loaves are packed with a certain quality and kindness that you’d never find in your mid-shelf Tip-Top or Molenberg.

(*Ed’s note: I call bullshit on this but imma let him finish)

That’s why gluten-free is considerably more expensive than the standard kind. You pay a premium for quality ingredients. And of course, people are typically prepared to fork out more money for foods that don’t provoke in them diarrhoea, skin rashes and a gradual erosion of the small intestine.

Eating gluten-free is one of those dietary preferences that’s met with a lot of eye rolling – even more than drinking soy milk or eating tofu. I’m not entirely sure why; maybe it’s because bread and pies are just some of those classic, middle-of-the-road Kiwi staples you don’t fuck with. Or maybe because gluten-free has become so popular it’s now an irritating symbol of new-age dietary fussiness.

Personally, I think it’s because you’re all secretly jealous of my awesome, abundantly seeded bread. But, most likely, it’s the fact that many people eat gluten-free even when they don’t need to.

Take me, for instance; I haven’t been diagnosed with coeliac disease (I haven’t had the test) and I know I won’t immediately die or have a seizure if I eat gluten. So really, I don’t need to eat gluten-free in the life-or-death sense of the word. I do, however, get rather debilitating and inconvenient headaches, which, through the careful process of elimination, I’ve attributed to foods containing gluten – or technically the proteins gliadin and glutenin found in wheat, rye and barley.

So after many years of tolerating my symptoms and popping a couple of Panadol everyday, I made the radical decision to avoid the offending food and switch to a tolerable alternative. As I result, I’ve eliminated the headaches and become quite the connoisseur of gluten-free bread in the process.

Which is why I’ve been able to craft this definitive ranking to satiate the inquisitive masses and answer the age-old question: which gluten-free bread is the best gluten-free bread of them all?

If you’re thinking surely there aren’t enough gluten-free breads to rank, you’d be wrong. There are dozens of different flavours and brands, all varying in taste, cost, nutritional value and stockist. These are the holy pillars on which I’ve built my list of the 10 greatest GF loaves, which can be found either at the supermarket or your local boutique, organic, high-end grocery store.

I hope that reading the list, ranked from worst to best, brings you as much enjoyment as you’ll surely get from eating the bread itself.

10) Home St Sliced Loaf Keto

We start the list of bread with the most expensive. When I first purchased this dark brown-crusted number, I hoped it would taste like chocolate. In reality, the flavour is the furthest thing from decadent. As a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, low-carb product, it tastes just like a big banal slab of nutrition. And while it might not tickle the taste buds as much as other breads, it’s a case study in the kind of quality ingredients found in GF breads: almond meal, chia, hemp flour and ground linseed. A steal at $11 a loaf from Countdown, New World etc.

9) Bürgen Gluten Free Sliced Bread Sunflower & Chia Seed

Coming in next is Bürgen’s gluten-free bread in sunflower and chia flavour. While it isn’t the tastiest, and becomes stiff with rigor mortis after a few days in the fridge, this bread makes the cut because of its pure ubiquity. Found in great quantities on shelves in virtually every supermarket in New Zealand, this was the first gluten-free bread (and only one available) I ate when I first switched over. It is, quite literally, the Bürgen of gluten-free bread.

8) Vogel’s Gluten Free Sliced Bread 6 Seed

It would be a crying shame to write a bread ranking without including the iconic Vogel’s. So its six seed variety comes in at eighth place. Another supermarket special, this one gets points for optimum crispiness after toasting and the liberal inclusion of seeds. But mostly, I’ve included it for nostalgia, because no matter how much I enjoy gluten-free bread, I desperately miss eating regular Vogel’s.

7) Venerdi Paleo Super Seeded Bread

The seventh spot goes to the nutritionally dense loaf made for the bulking lady or gentleman. Take a slice to the gym to chew between dead-lift sets – the 11g of protein per serving is bound to go straight to your biceps. But at $10.99 per loaf, it is not for the faint of heart, nor empty of wallet.

6) Dovedale Keto Hemp Bread

Untoasted gluten-free bread can have its charms, but mostly it just tastes like cardboard. But whack a slice of Dovedale’s Keto Hemp Bread in the toaster and slather some butter on it and suddenly it comes to life like a Flaming Moe. Once crisp and warm and covered in spread, it tastes almost like fruit toast or hot cross buns. But you won’t find any raisins in this loaf – it’s keto, whatever that means.

5) Bakeworks Liberté Gluten Free Bread Wholemeal Sliced Loaf

At the midway point, this one proves wrong the maxim that untoasted GF bread is inedible. Straight out of the toaster or the bag it goes down fairly well, making it ideal for sandwiches. My colleagues whom I persuaded to try the bread praised its doughiness – a rare quality in usually cracker-dry gluten free bread. Taster’s notes included: “It’s actually quite good,” and “it tastes like three-day old Tip Top!” $7 from Countdown.

4) Midnight Baker Buckwheat Freedom Loaf 

It’s dense, it’s nutritious, it’s quality, it’s $17! This bread should probably be higher on the list, but its price takes it beyond the budgets and bellies of many as a regular purchase. And yet there’s a reason why it fetches such a lofty sum in the marketplace; hand-baked from a boutique baker in Auckland, it’s packed with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, organic buckwheat flour and even comes in a paper bag.

3) Bread Kind Loaf Everyday Gluten Free 

A lot of the issue with gluten-free bread comes down to money. That’s why Bread Kind’s Everyday Loaf comes in at third place. At $5.50 from Countdown, it’s the cheapest one I could find. It’s actually very tasty and versatile too. The low-end gluten-free breads are typically critiqued because of the amount of refined carbohydrates they contain: modified tapioca starch and maize flour, for instance. So if you’re looking for a nutritionally dense option, this everyday bread may not be something to eat every day.

2) Venerdi Gluten Freedom Sourdough Sweet Potato 

The number two spot goes to the bread with the most interesting flavour. This one has a slightly sweet taste, courtesy of the kūmara flour that’s used in the baking. It’s soft, it’s light and it’s delectable. Good with just butter, or some scrambled eggs, or maybe some avocado. While it’s on the higher end of the price scale at $10, it’s a treat worth every cent.

1) Venerdi Organic Gluten Free Sourdough Six Seed 

Here’s the winner – the best gluten-free bread of them all. Venerdi Organic Gluten Free Sourdough Six Seed has all the makings of a champion: excellent taste and density, high nutritional value, and while it’s $10 at Countdown, if you’re in Auckland and have a Huckleberry in your neighbourhood, it’s only $7.49 a loaf.

But its best attribute, however, is that it looks and tastes identical to Vogel’s, as testified by my gluten-eating colleagues.

Best to keep a spare loaf in your parents’ freezer then. That way when you go over there for Sunday brunch, you can eat all the gluten-free bread you want and your family members will think it’s plain old Vogel’s, thereby reserving their disparaging scoffs and comments for another occasion.

It is, quite simply, the best bread to avoid the judgement and ridicule of your peers. Enjoy.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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