All About Vermicelli: The Little Pasta that Could

Everything you need to know about vermicelli, including the different types of vermicelli, and our favorite ways to put these small but mighty noodles to good use!

An overhead photo of rice vermicelli, Italian style vermicelli and fideos.
  1. What are Vermicelli?
  2. Varieties of vermicelli
  3. How are vermicelli made?
    1. To Prepare Wheat Vermicelli
    2. To Prepare Rice Vermicelli
  4. Is vermicelli gluten-free?
  5. How to Cook Vermicelli
  6. Try vermicelli in these recipes

What are Vermicelli?

Vermicelli, which means “little worms” in Italian, is simply a type of round pasta best known for its thinness. In the United States, vermicelli falls between spaghetti and angel hair pasta, with variations throughout the Mediterranean, Africa, Central America, Asia and beyond.

Vermicelli does not require your attention. It is rarely the main event, or even listed on the menu, unlike “Linguine alle vongole” or “Manicotti ripieni”. But what vermicelli lacks in recognition, it makes up for in its ability to add addictive texture to a dish, absorbing its flavor and letting its co-stars steal the show.

In the Mediterranean, wheat vermicelli gives the perfect crunch to Lebanese rice, while shorter vermicelli, also called video, serves as the basis for the Catalan Fideuà. It also makes its way onto the dessert table, with rice vermicelli dipped in a sweet syrup for refreshing frozen Persian Faloodeh. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride!

Let's give this noodle the attention it deserves. Read on to find out all about vermicelli, including where to find it, how it's made, and our favorite vermicelli recipes.

Vermicelli spilling out and open bag in front of a bag full of vermicelli and a kitchen towel.Vermicelli spilling out and open bag in front of a bag full of vermicelli and a kitchen towel.

Varieties of vermicelli

Many cultures have their own variety of thin noodles, from Japanese somen to Indian semya. But in terms of what is typically described and packaged as “vermicelli” in Mediterranean cuisine, there are three main types:

  • Italian wheat vermicelli: Long and thin threads, yellowish in colour, obtained from durum wheat semolina (and sometimes from eggs if they are fresh).
  • Video: Sometimes called “short vermicelli” or simply “vermicelli,” these are simply shorter wheat vermicelli. These are also common in Mexican and Latin American cuisine.
    • Try it: Order short vermicelli from our shop! This shorter variety is perfect for making Lebanese rice, Turkish and Egyptian style pilaf, most from this region include short vermicelli or barley for crunch-Fideuà and more.
  • Rice vermicelli: Sometimes called “rice noodles,” they are similarly thin but made with rice flour or rice pasta. (This is different from cellophane or glass noodles made from mung bean and rice starch which become translucent after cooking.)
A bag of vermicelli sitting behind a pile of vermicelli.A bag of vermicelli sitting behind a pile of vermicelli.

How are vermicelli made?

The method for preparing vermicelli varies from region to region, some still use traditional techniques such as hand pressing and sun drying. But commercial production is the most common. Here are the steps:

To Prepare Wheat Vermicelli

  • Wheat flour, water and sometimes salt are mixed and kneaded.
  • The dough is extruded or pushed through a machine (or hand press) to create thin strands.
  • The threads are dried in the sun or in large heated dryers or tunnels.
  • The dried threads are cut and packaged.

To Prepare Rice Vermicelli

  • The rice is soaked, ground into a fine paste or flour, and mixed with water to create a smooth batter. The batter is spread onto baking trays in thin sheets and steamed.
  • The cooked sheets are cut into thin threads.
  • The noodles are dried, cut and packaged.
A close up photo of vermicelli.A close up photo of vermicelli.

Is vermicelli gluten-free?

Rice vermicelli is gluten-free (although, of course, always check the packaging). Rice vermicelli is lighter in both color and flavor. Wheat vermicelli is not gluten-free. If you're cooking with Italian-style vermicelli, which has a yellow tint, it's safe to assume that it's not gluten-free.

You can substitute wheat vermicelli for rice in most recipes for a gluten-free option. Keep in mind that rice vermicelli will have a milder flavor and typically a shorter cooking time. Check the packaging and adjust to avoid overcooking.

Vermicelli cooked in a colander sitting over a pot.Vermicelli cooked in a colander sitting over a pot.

How to Cook Vermicelli

You cook vermicelli just like any pasta. Check the packaging because it depends on the brand, but they are generally cooked in boiling water until tender. This obviously changes depending on the recipe. Most of the time you will toast and simmer the vermicelli in broth or water along with other ingredients.

Vermicelli from the Mediterranean Dish store.Vermicelli from the Mediterranean Dish store.

Try our Authentic Vermicelli

Our favorite vermicelli, sourced from Turkey and made with 100% durum wheat semolina flour.

Try vermicelli in these recipes

Browse all Mediterranean recipes.

Visit Our shop.

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