Alisa Fleming ~ Let me set the record straight from the get-go. At this point in my life, I eat gluten. I never say never on the journey through life, but to date, all of the gluten-free products that I have trialed for you here on Go Dairy Free have been from gluten-loving taste buds. That said, I have tasted literally hundreds of gluten-free products over the years, and appreciate the different flavors and textures they have to offer as much as wheat. I like to think that my split-gluten-personality gives me a solid perspective for viewers ranging from “gluten-free is a life necessity” to “what’s gluten?”
Admittedly, gluten-free bread is a tricky beast, and I have only tasted a few that were impressive, but cereal is a different animal. Since the grains are baked to a crisp, and served up in a small flaked, puffed, or toasted format, the binding power of gluten isn’t all that important. Where the differences arise are in the texture (many gluten-free flours tend to be lighter than wheat or spelt) and the flavor (every type of grain tastes unique!). Of course, millions upon millions of consumers have been enjoying rice krispies and corn flakes for decades without a second thought to their wheat-free nature, a testament to the fact that gluten-free cereals really aren’t “weird.”
So now that we have cleared the air, and it is evident that everyone (whether gluten-free or not) can enjoy gluten-free cereals, I’ve decided to assess some of the most popular all-natural cereal brands on the market to compare (three brands, five varieties in total) …
All of these are dairy-free, and many have other free-from and organic features to boast of, which I will note. Yes, not all cereals are milk-free. Whey in particular is used a lot in commercial cereals, but other milk-based ingredients can be lurking inside. So always read the ingredients if like me, truly non-dairy is a high priority.
I actually picked this cereal as one of my favorite finds at the Gluten-Free Allergen-Free Expo, and was elated when Enjoy Life saw my post and sent me an entire bag! Granted, this is not something I eat as a cereal. There three other granola flavors (Cranapple, Cinnamon, and Very Berry) are what I consider occasional morning material, but the Chocolate Crunch is one that I reserved for afternoon snacking (see the pile of it I had on my desk below), or even topping dairy-free ice cream! It has crunchy little chocolate clusters, and most importantly (in my opinion), this granola is loaded with Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips. Love it.
Some of you may be wondering if this cereal has that wonderful chocolate milk affect. Honestly, when I did eat it in cereal format, it didn’t last long enough in the milk alternative to test.
Allergen Note: Enjoy Life maintains an allergen-free production facility, so all of their cereals are dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, and vegan.
It is no secret that Erewhon Strawberry Crisp Cereal has been my favorite “treat” cereal for years, and that I frequently buy the Erewhon Organic Crispy Brown Rice Cereal for recipes. But, when I had the opportunity to work with Attune Foods (the makers of Erewhon) at the recent Celiac Disease Foundation Conference, I thought it was time that I try some of their other cereals. Unlike their regular crispy brown rice cereal, the Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice with Mixed Berries is lightly sweetened with honey and brown rice syrup, and it contains a generous helping of freeze-dried blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. I really liked it, but find it best for cereal rather than recipes, since the berries taste best when rehydrated by some milk alternative.
I also sampled their Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, which was quite literally a hit of the show. This one definitely turns your milk alternative into chocolate “milk.” It was a bit less sweet than Cocoa Krispies, but had a more genuine chocolate taste … and all of the kids who stopped by loved it. I witnessed many elated people that day thanks to this mostly organic cereal.
Allergen Note: These Erewhon cereals are certified gluten-free, made in a dairy-free, peanut-free, and tree nut-free facility, and are also made without soy or egg ingredients. The Cocoa Crispy cereal is also vegan, but as you can see in the ingredients below, the Mixed Berries variety does use honey.
I loved the textural differences in this cereal (pictured below and above at the beginning of the article). Crispy “wheaty” flakes, amaranth nibbles, light rice crisps, and corn puffs combined for a breakfast that was anything but dull. The Crunchy Maple variety had a warm, rich, and almost fall-like appeal that I felt was well-suited to breakfast. The Crunchy Vanilla had a very strong, but brighter taste, so I tended to snack on it more in the afternoon.
Since I usually eat sugar-free in the mornings, all of the cereals I tasted were a bit sweet for my early day taste buds, but at just 7 grams of sugar per serving, the Sunrise cereals do pack in a nice wallop of flavor. To note, this cereal is low in fat and protein, so it isn’t something that I was able to rely on to keep me going for several hours. However, true to name, it was a good sunrise wake-up for the stomach and as an afternoon treat.
Allergen Note: Theses cereals are labeled as gluten-free and dairy-free. In terms of ingredients they do not contain any peanuts, tree nuts, and soy, but are produced in a facility that uses these ingredients. Though not labeled as such, this does appear to be a vegan cereal.
Article and photos by Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org, blogger at Alisa Cooks, and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a freelance writer for several publications, with an emphasis on creating recipes for various types of special diets.