With most sandwiches off the menu, finding quick and easy gluten-free lunches isn’t always easy – particularly when you’re on a budget. Thankfully, the new wave of ‘posh pot noodles’ are healthier and tastier than ever before. Here are the best (and worst) you need to know about.
Described as ‘the champagne of noodles’, each pot of Mr Lee’s instant noodles is entirely natural, gluten-free and 100% recyclable, while lower in calories, hydrogenated fat, sugar and salt. Using freeze-dried over dehydrated ingredients creates a fresher and more flavoursome broth, while retaining the shape and integrity of the meat, seafood and vegetables. It’s really more like a Vietnamese pho than your average instant noodle, and – unlike any other brand of instant noodles we’ve tried – when it says it’s hot, it’s actually hot.
Price: £16.94 (6 pack)
Kabuto is the original ‘posh pot noodle’, available in two gluten-free options: Vegetable Laksa & Chicken Pho (replacing previous gluten-free flavours Chicken and Miso). Each pot is made without additives or preservatives, sachets or plastic – just seriously fresh-tasting ingredients brought to life by boiling water. Both score full-marks on taste and texture: the flat rice noodles plumping up in the clean, fragrant and well-seasoned broth, while still retaining their shape and a slight, satisfying firmness. The only difficulty is actually finding one, with the majority of supermarkets only stocking the egg noodle variety. Buy one if you can find one.
oomi noodles are the latest gluten-free noodle to hit the market, but unlike other instant noodles these ones are made from fish. Yes, you heard it. Fish. Packing in 12g protein per portion, these high-protein, low-carb noodles combine the fishy, easily-digestible goodness of sustainable Alaskan Pollock, Pacific Whiting and Hoki for an entirely unusual and altogether exciting new take on your classic instant noodle. And all with 75% less carbs than regular chilled egg noodles. Give them a go!
Price: £2.50 for two portions
itsu Vegetable Festival Crystal Noodle Cup
Don’t be fooled by itsu’s clean, colourful packaging and high street reputation. This Vegetable Festival Crystal Noodle Cup combines the flavours of a cheap tomato cup-a-soup with a sticky clump of slimy, tasteless cellophane glass noodles, presented with a vibrant pink – but entirely useless – spork that makes the whole thing impossible to eat – even if you wanted to. Disappointing, if not altogether disgusting.
Tesco’s Free From Curry Noodle Pot
A decent serving of tender rice noodles is let down by the disappointingly bland sauce of this Curry Noodle Pot from Tesco’s, which, while not unpleasant, lacks any real oomph and curry-kick. Small strips of carrot maintain some crunch while the green flecks of flavourless spring onion do little to help the look of the dish. Not the best, not the worst. Would buy again – but probably not look forward to it.
Marks and Spencer Pho Noodle Pot
Costing 25p more than Tesco’s, the quality of Marks and Spencer’s instant noodle pots is noticeably superior and yet still offers one of the supermarket’s more affordable lunch options. Made from dried rice noodles, dried vegetables and Vietnamese-style pho soup paste, this gluten-free Pho Noodle Pot combines a decent flavoured broth with tender flat rice noodles and proper chunks of surprisingly fresh-tasting carrots, cabbage and spring onions. Give it a good stir to prevent the vegetables from congregating at the bottom, and don’t be put off by the sludgy brown appearance – it tastes better than it looks.
ilumi Rice Noodle Pots
Cooking up gluten- and milk-free foods for nearly a decade, out of ilumi’s four Asian-inspired Rice Noodle Pots three are vegan (Singapore, Sweet Chilli and Tom Yum) and all entirely gluten and milk free. The rich and lightly spiced broth of the Vietnamese Style Beef Pho is particularly flavoursome, while the curry sauce in the Singapore Rice Noodle turns the whole thing a pleasing, proper-pot-noodle yellow – without all the nasty additives. It’s not all good though: the amount of sugar is more than a little off-putting, while the powdered seasoning sachet makes the whole thing feel too artificial to ever truly be healthy.