If you've never eaten gluten-free crackers, you might be imagining cardboard. But because most of them are made with rice, they have the crispiness and slick sheen of the rice crackers you find in those Asian snack mixes (we're going with a general point of reference here for the uninitiated).
There is, of course, a ton of variation. Much of the gluten-free aisle is in fact filled with packages labeled rice crackers—thin little disks in every flavor imaginable. Since we were pretty familiar with those, we picked crackers that were a bit more complex, meant to be snacked on like potato chips, used on a cheese plate, or topped with an appetizer.
Here are the types we tasted:
• Blue Diamond Nut Thins, Barbecue flavor (on top, round with orange flecks)
• Mary's Gone Crackers, Herb flavor (next one down, ragged edge with seeds)
• Back to Nature Gluten Free Multi-Seed (square, pale tan color)
• Natural Nectar Cracklebred in Sundried Tomato & Oregano (on the bottom, orange rectangles)
We liked three of these very much and one not quite. Since they are all very different crackers with unique qualities, we won't rank them 1 to 4. Instead, here's a little high school yearbook-style evaluation.
Most Snackable on Their Own: Blue Diamond Barbecue Nut-Thins ($2.99)
If you like barbecue-flavored potato chips, this is your cracker. The seasoning is dusted on, but it's powerful. The cracker itself is crunchy and light—it's easy to pop one after another into your mouth. A little artificial tasting, but still tangy and spicy.
Most Versatile: Back to Nature ($3.19)
We really liked the taste of these on their own (although not as zingy as the barbecue crackers); they're toasty, slightly salty, and nutty, with no aftertaste. But because they have a nice, square shape and a hearty-but-not-overwhelming flavor, they'd be great on a cheese plate.
Most Attractive: Mary's Gone Crackers ($4)
These are lovely to look at, filled with seeds, deep brown, ruffled on the edges. They're rustic and crunchy, kind of like Raincoast Crisps. As far as flavor, they fell a bit flat compared to the Back to Nature crackers, but they do make a nice presentation. And they're sturdy, so they could hold a hefty appetizer.
Most in Need of a Topping: Natural Nectar Cracklebred ($3.50)
Ok, we weren't big fans of these. For starters, they look like these sponges to us. The texture is puffy and airy, which was pleasant (although we think they'd crumble when you tried to spread anything on them), but the sun dried tomato flavor tasted stale. We think the plain version would be even more bland. They also left a plasticky aftertaste. However: If you like this light, almost-melt-in-your-mouth texture, these could be a good vehicle for a slice of meat or spoonful of tuna.
We'd love to know your favorite brands of gluten-free crackers. Faith mentioned that she likes Byron Bay. What about you? Which do you buy?
(Image: Elizabeth Passarella)