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Vermicelli vs Angel Hair (What’s the difference?)

Both are long and thin and have very short cooking times. Are there any differences between vermicelli and angel hair? Does it matter, which one you use?

Angel hair is even thinner than vermicelli. It is most often used in more traditional Italian pasta recipes, whereas vermicelli is used to prepare a variety of Asian dishes. While angel hair pasta is made from durum semolina flour, vermicelli can also be made from rice or starch.

Lastly, while vermicelli is often eaten in cold dishes like salads, desserts, and summer rolls – which are similar to spring rolls but served as an appetizer – angel hair is sometimes used for pasta salad but usually served hot.

Vermicelli vs Angel Hair (What's the difference?)
Vermicelli vs Angel Hair (What’s the difference?)

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Often, though you will find “vermicelli” used as an umbrella term for any kind of very thin pasta or noodles, which also includes angel hair.

Since these two types of pasta can be substituted for one another in most recipes, this is usually no problem.

What Are Vermicelli?

Vermicelli
Vermicelli

Vermicelli is a long, thin kind of pasta. The rather unfortunate translation of its name is “little worms.”

It has been known since the 14th century, and the first vermicelli recipes have been compiled in the 15th century by Martino da Como, who was a celebrity chef of this age.

In English-speaking countries, vermicelli are thinner than spaghetti – vermicelli have a diameter of fewer than 0.06 inches, whereas spaghetti are between 0.06 and 0.11 inches thick.

In Italy, though, spaghetti are between 0.076 and 0.079 inches thick and vermicelli can be up to 0.091 inches thick, making them the more substantial one of these two pasta shapes.

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To make matters even more confusing, there are different kinds of vermicelli all over the world. Italian vermicelli are made of durum semolina, whereas Asian vermicelli are made of rice.

Asian glass noodles, which are made from mung bean starch or sweet potato starch, are often sold as vermicelli outside of Asia, too, even though in their countries of origin all the kinds of Asian noodles that we only know as noodles or vermicelli have their own specific names.

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Vermicelli are often used in soups, as well as cold in salads. You will also find them as a filling in spring rolls and summer rolls.

Due to their very short cooking time, they are also a popular healthy alternative to instant cup noodles.

Due to their lightness and their subtle, unobtrusive taste, vermicelli are also often used in sweet desserts, like in the Indian kheer and the Persian faloodeh.

In Switzerland, vermicelles is a dessert consisting of sweet chestnut paste.

Instead of in their original length, you can also buy “broken” vermicelli. These short bits go well with recipes in which you could also use rice.

You might also have heard of chocolate vermicelli – this is not to be confused with chocolate pasta, instead, it simply refers to chocolate sprinkles that are used to decorate cakes and has nothing to do with noodles.

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What Is Angel Hair Pasta?

Angel Hair - Capelli D'Angelo
Angel Hair – Capelli D’Angelo

“Angel hair” is the literal translation of the Italian capelli d’angelo. It is a very thin pasta, with a diameter of only between 0.031 and 0.035 inches, which makes it the thinnest of all Italian pasta shapes.

Angel’s hair is often sold in the classic bird’s nest shape because it is too delicate to be stored in single strands.

Its thin and dainty shape goes well with light sauces, seafood, or fresh vegetables. It is recommended not to overburden an angel hair dish with too many ingredients, less is more with this pasta shape.

Often, it is also used in one-pot dishes, where the pasta is cooked directly in the sauce. This works well for tomato or cream sauces that contain enough moisture to prepare the angel hair pasta.

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Vermicelli vs Angel Hair

Aside from the fact that vermicelli are a bit thicker than angel hair pasta, there is not much difference between them and many recipes suggest substituting one for the other when your local supermarket does not have the variety you need.

The biggest difference is that between rice vermicelli and angel hair made of durum flour. This makes rice vermicelli gluten-free.

Asian noodles also often have not a strong taste and instead take up the taste of their sauce of soup very well. Therefore, they go so well with spicy soups or curries.