Are rice cakes plant-based? This popular snack food comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Let’s talk about what you need to know to make rice cakes a healthy snack while on a plant-based diet.
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When people ask me, “Are rice cakes plant-based?”, I smile, because I understand where they are coming from. Rice cakes are not animal-based, they do not come from an animal, so in that sense, they would be considered plant-based.
The rice cake itself is not a crop. It is most often made in a factory, from the rice grain crop, so technically I would consider rice cakes to be a plant-based processed food.
Where Did Rice Cakes Come From?
It is difficult to determine exactly where and how the rice cake was developed. Rice itself was cultivated over 7,000 years ago in countries like China and Thailand. Rice then migrated to warmer parts of Asia, Southern Europe, and eventually to the New World, including the United States.
Not until the invention of puffed rice technology did packaged rice cakes become popular.
Rice cake variations abound. Japan has mochi, which are soft, sweet, and chewy rice cakes. China has sticky rice cakes, balls, and rice candy, as well as traditional rice cakes made with bean paste. And England adopted the rice cake tradition of making rice girdle cakes, which is a type of rice pancake.
What Exactly Is A Rice Cake?
Rice cakes are a simple quick snack food to be eaten plain, or you can jazz them up to make a variety of vegan options.
The main ingredients of plain rice cakes are, well…rice! For example, in Lundberg’s Organic Brown Rice Cakes, there is only one ingredient, organic whole grain brown rice.
Rice cakes are made via high heat and pressure. When the rice is heated up to a very high temperature, and then pressed with just the right pressure, the rice pops and fills the mold it is shaped in.
The nice thing about rice cakes is that you do not need to use artificial flavor ingredients or preservatives to hold the cakes together. With the bran and other components, rice has the perfect chemistry to hold itself together.
There are different types of rice cakes with many different flavors.
For example, you can buy plain white rice cakes, with or without sea salt, whole grain brown rice cakes, cinnamon rice cakes, caramel-flavored rice cakes, and even rice cakes with dark chocolate on top!
Are Rice Cakes Vegan?
Rice cakes are considered vegan, as they are a plant-based food made solely from rice, and not derived from animal products.
That said, if you are not careful, what you put on your rice cake could end up being unhealthy.
For example, cream cheese contains animal fats and is high in saturated fat, so be careful not to spread it on too thick, or else you could be headed down the road to heart disease!
A great option would be to look for monounsaturated plant-based cream cheese and then add a touch of green onions for some added spice.
Another example would be using a jam or jelly that is loaded with white sugar. This could spike your blood sugar. Instead, look for jams that are made with pure fruit and without any added sugars.
Rice cakes can be a great healthy vegan snack but one has to be careful of the type and quality of their toppings.
Are Rice Cakes Healthy?
When people ask, “Are rice cakes vegan?” I say yes. But when they ask, “Are they healthy?”, well …even though rice cakes are a plant-based food, I wouldn’t consider rice cakes a nutrient-dense health food. Frankly, there is not a lot of nutritional value to a rice cake.
For example, here is the basic ingredients list for one of the more healthful rice cakes, Lundberg Organic Salt-Free Brown Rice Cakes:
- Organic brown rice. (Ha!)
And here is the nutritional information for those puffed rice cakes.
One rice cake has very few calories but also very few nutrients, a bit of carbohydrate with just a touch of fiber.
However, it is super easy to incorporate rice cakes into a healthy vegan diet, and there are many awesome vegan recipes that, by getting creative and adding on some super nutritious healthy toppings, you have yourself a great snack.
I like to top my cakes with all kinds of plant-based ingredients and, depending on the type of rice cake, you can make sweet or savory crunchy snacks.
Here is a recipe for a savory type of rice cake.
Garlic Hummus Pepperoncini Rice Cakes
- Whole grain rice cakes – THESE are one of my favorites and they are always without any added artificial flavor.
- Dijon mustard
- Garlic Hummus – no oil preferably
- Slice pepperoncini’s
- Everything Bagel Seasoning OR sea salt and black pepper
- Simply spread a thin layer of mustard onto the rice cake.
- Then add as much garlic hummus as you desire.
- Top it with a small handful of arugula and a few pepperoncini.
- Sprinkle as much of the Everything But The Bagel Seasoning OR sea salt and black pepper on top. ENJOY!
The base ingredients of this recipe are nothing but healthy.
I like to use rice cakes as my palette. Because its flavor is so mild, it allows the natural flavor of any of the ingredients I put on top to come out fully. It never overpowers the toppings!
And here is a recipe for a sweet type of rice cake.
Peanut Butter & Banana Rice Cakes
- Whole grain rice cakes – I like to use a little bit more of a sweet rice cake when building this snack. THESE have just a touch of cinnamon sugar on top, and it complements the rest of the ingredients beautifully.
- Peanut butter or almond butter – no added oil preferably
- fresh ripe banana
- honey – the best quality you can afford
- Spread a nice layer of peanut butter, or almond butter, onto the rice cake.
- Slice up half of your banana, and place 6-7 pieces on top.
- Drizzle the melted honey on top. Enjoy!
For various flavors, here are some other ingredients to consider when building your healthy vegan snack.
- tahini (a spread made with sunflower seeds)
- mashed up beans of any kind
- avocado or guacamole
- tofu salad – I have a wonderful plant-based eggless salad recipe HERE
- tempeh bacon
- greens, and more greens
- homemade jams – preferably without added sugar
Finally, if you have celiac disease, or are on a gluten-free diet, do not shy away from plant-based rice cakes. The good news is that you can easily get gluten-free rice cakes at your local grocery store.
Overall there are many different ways to build a beautifully built rice cake snack and incorporate this vegan food into your healthy lifestyle.
The health benefits may not come directly from the cake but you can have fun trying to build the most nutrient-dense rice cake snack imaginable.
Check out these other nourishing recipes and joyful living tips for busy caregivers
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