Pasta is a versatile food tried beyond many cultures. However, it’s also notoriously high in carbs, which some people may prefer to limit.
Noodles are one of our all-time favorite comfort foods. These days, though, you may be looking into pasta alternatives. Perhaps you need a low carb pasta alternative, are newly gluten intolerant, or want some more variety in your diet.
Vegetables can be an excellent sub for pasta. They’re chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, and all that good stuff, plus plenty of fiber. But before you go ahead and use the spiralizer, consider the structure and flavor of each type of vegetables you’ll use.
Hearty choices like eggplant and even beets can stand up to more decadent sauces and longer cooking times. Save delicate veg that naturally contains a lot of water for lighter preparations.
You can also opt to use other pantry items as a pasta replacement. Grains and seeds like farro and quinoa naturally contain more fiber than regular pasta and are worth placing into the rotation.
You may want to stay away from wheat pasta or carbs if you follow a low-carb diet. The same thing goes if you have a gluten sensitivity or don’t want to get bloated after a meal.
But if you don’t want to completely give up on pasta and the delicious sauces it comes with, you might be curious about low-carb alternatives.
The recent growth in popularity of the low-carb and ketogenic diet has led to many new ways to get your pasta fix without losing sight of your health goals.
Pasta is a staple in international dishes. And, much like bread and rice, pasta takes up its fair share of space in the store. The variety of pasta available in the market today includes different shapes and sizes to complete any meal.
Regular pasta is usually made with refined wheat flour, but the refining process can shred some fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Thus, it leaves the noodles with low nutritional value.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could savor all our favorite pasta dishes without cutting the vitamins, minerals, protein?
Whether you have a gluten sensitivity or refraining from consuming carbohydrates, these healthy pasta alternatives will satisfy your tastebuds:
Zucchini noodles or “zoodles” have a low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low cholesterol. It’s also a great source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, phosphorus and copper, dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
The most straightforward technique to make zoodles is to use a vegetable spiralizer. Spiralize, then treat the zoodles like angel hair. Cook until barely tender for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain.
Best paired with sesame and chiles, lemon, butter, and herbs or in “pasta” salads.
When fully cooked, zoodles taste nearly like al dente spaghetti! You can replace them in any spaghetti dish, cooking them in the pasta sauce instead of boiling them as you would real noodle. Or sauté them for a few minutes, then top with sauce.
You can also shave zucchini in skinny planks, sprinkle with salt, and let it sit for 10 minutes to draw out the moisture. And then pat the zoodles dry. Then roll up around sautéed mushrooms, cheese, or ground cooked chicken.
If the planks seem too stiff to roll without breaking, try microwaving for 20 to 30 seconds first.
In addition to being 3–10 times lower in carbs than pasta, these vegetable noodles are also excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Adding more vegetables to your diet can be beneficial and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Eating more vegetables may also aid weight loss.
Another excellent veggie pasta alternative, squash noodles are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They also hold a pack of vitamins and nutrients like vitamin B6, dietary fiber, and vitamin C, to name just a few.
Like zoodles, squash noodles are made with a spiralizer. If you don’t want to spend time scraping a squash, you can buy premade squash noodles in the supermarket.
Spaghetti squash is an obvious choice because once cooked, you can separate its flesh into strands. It has a neutral flavor, which means you can match it with any sauces.
Other starchy vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes also make great subs for spaghetti. Another option is to roughly chop them up, and then pulse in the food processor until it’s pea-sized. Simmer with a cheesy sauce or toss with sautéed garlic and spinach.
Once cooked, its flesh can be removed with a fork into strings that match the spaghetti noodles — hence the name.
Another way of preparing it is by pricking the squash in several places with a fork, then bake it for 30–45 minutes at 350℉ (180℃).
Spaghetti squash can also be boiled for 20 minutes or sliced in half and microwaved on high for 6–8 minutes. Once done, use a fork to separate the flesh into spaghetti-like strings and top with a sauce.
At 6.5 grams of carbs per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), spaghetti squash only contains about 20% of the carbs you’d expect in the same quantity of pasta.
At the same time, it’s much richer in vitamins A, C, E, K, and most B vitamins.
Egg pasta is a great low-carb pasta substitute that typically combines egg with cream cheese. Some store-bought versions might combine the egg with flour (white, almond, or other).
If you find egg pasta in stores or online, you’ll cook it like “regular” pasta. Toss a large handful in a pot of boiling water, then allow to cook until it reaches your desired texture.
Low-carb egg pasta is usually tasteless, with a similar consistency to regular flour. You will love it for its macro content, combining the protein from eggs with the cream cheese’s fat.
Eggs are one of the most affordable and nutrient-dense foods you can buy with zero carbs, 6 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein. Cream cheese is a keto-friendly dairy product, as long as you buy from a high-quality source.
If you ever made cloud bread as an alternative low-carb bread, making egg pasta follows a similar process. In some recipes, you’ll see wheat gluten added to the recipe.
If you’re diagnosed with celiac disease or are looking for a gluten-free option, substitute guar gum or xanthan gum for wheat gluten.
These noodles originated in Asia but are taking the Western World by storm. Thanks to them being virtually calorie and carb-free.
Shirataki noodles come in spaghetti, fettuccine, macaroni, and angel hair varieties. Unlike the pasta alternatives on this list, they are sold pre-cooked and packaged in water.
Most cooks agree that the noodles taste much better if they are rinsed well in hot water or even boiled for a few minutes. That’s because the process removes any residue or odor from their packaging liquid.
Shirataki noodles are long, white noodles also known as konjac or miracle noodles.
They’re a known, low-carb alternative to pasta because they’re very satisfying yet have few calories. They’re made from a type of fiber known as glucomannan, which comes from the konjac plant.
Glucomannan is a soluble fiber, which means it can absorb water and form a viscous gel in your gut. This slows down your digestion, which can help you feel fuller longer.
Soluble fibers produce food for your gut bacteria, which then provide short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are thought to help lower inflammation and boost immunity.
Shirataki noodles are easy to prepare. Unpack and rinse them well under hot running water to remove the liquid and warm them up. Then add your sauce of choice.
Alternatively, you can heat the noodles in a skillet. This will remove some of the excess water and turn the noodles’ naturally mushy texture into a more noodle-like one.
Black Bean noodles
Black bean pasta may be the hardest one to slip past your kids because the noodles are black because true to its name.
Black noodles may be visually off-putting, but they are packed with protein, iron, calcium, and fiber. They are also low in sugar and calories and gluten-free.
Black bean pasta has an earthy taste than regular noodles, but its texture provides better absorption of yummy sauces. Cooking it, as with the other gluten-free pasta, takes more care to prevent it from sticking.
Black bean pasta is simply pasta made from black beans. Like almond flour pasta, you will typically find this in the grocery store.
This may be one of the few times you can enjoy legumes on keto, so enjoy it while it lasts. At 25 grams, black bean pasta is loaded with protein. While it is low in fat (just 2 grams), it’s also low-carb, containing only 5 grams net carbohydrates.
Unlike almond flour pasta, it would be better if you order black bean pasta online. The Explore Asian brand is one you might consider, simply because of its low net carb content.
While enjoying black noodles might take some getting used to, the taste is preferable to shirataki or other pasta alternatives. Pair with your low-carb bread smothered in garlic and butter.
Seaweed pasta is a unique low-carb alternative to pasta.
It consists merely of seaweed that has been harvested, rinsed, and dried. Thus, it will attach a sea-like flavor to your dish.
While seaweed is naturally low in calories and carbs, it’s packed with minerals. It’s an incredibly rich source of vitamin K, folate, magnesium, calcium, and iron. It also provides a good dose of iodine, depending on the variety.
Seaweed scores around 30% of the carb content of wheat pasta.
The seaweed varieties used to substitute pasta naturally resemble spaghetti or fettuccine. For cooking, place them in boiling water for 5–15 minutes or until the seaweed achieves your desired consistency.
Alternatively, try steaming the seaweed noodles for 20–35 minutes. This allows them to retain a firmer consistency.
Seaweed is a colorful replacement for pasta. Keep in mind that it will add a sea-like flavor to your dishes.
Eggplant, also known as aubergine, comes from India. Though botanically considered a berry, it’s more commonly consumed as a vegetable.
A serving of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of eggplant contains about 9 grams of carbs, which is around 3.5 times fewer carbs than the same quantity of pasta.
It’s also a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals — particularly vitamin K, thiamine, and manganese.
Eggplant isn’t just for eggplant recipes — it’s also perfect for using in lasagna and layering into baked casseroles. Thinly slice into planks with a mandoline then pan-sear until softened. Again, you could try salting the slices to dry out the moisture, then pat dry and layer in raw.
To prepare your eggplant lasagna, start by cutting this tasty nightshade lengthwise into thin slices.
Then brush both sides with oil and roast the slices until soft and golden, flipping them once. Use these roasted eggplant slices instead of pasta sheets when making lasagna.
You may also skip the roasting step and use the raw slices directly if you prefer a moist dish.
Eggplant is a popular low-carb, nutritious substitute for pasta in lasagna recipes.
Several people consider using cabbage as a noodle replacement, but it’s a deceivingly simple substitute.
It’s significantly low in carbs at around 6 grams of carbs per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). Incredibly, this quantity of cabbage provides 54% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C and 85% of the RDI for vitamin K.
You can add cabbage spaghetti to any dish you desire with less than 4 grams of net carbs, zero grams of fat, and one gram of protein per cup.
In addition to being low calorie, cabbage spaghetti is a nutritional powerhouse with some key health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals. Cabbage is rich in folate and other vitamins and minerals.
You can use whole cabbage leaves as a substitute for lasagna sheets. Alternatively, chop the cabbage head into thin noodles to use in a pad thai or lo mein. Keep in mind that the leaves closest to the core are very tough and can be bitter.
Once cut, put the cabbage into boiling water for approximately two minutes.
If used for lasagna, the cabbage leaves will be ready to be easily bent without breaking. They will cook further in the oven, so don’t boil them for too long.
If you’re using cabbage noodles for anything other than an oven dish, remove them from the water when soft enough to pierce with a fork.
Cabbage is a unique yet nutritious alternative to wheat pasta. It can be used as a replacement for pasta in noodles or lasagna dishes.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and holds a ton of nutrients like iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and more! It is one of only several plant foods considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
You can cook quinoa pasta by cooking it. However, you need to watch that pot carefully and often stir to ensure that the quinoa noodles don’t stick to each other or the pan’s bottom.
Most recipes recommend tossing any gluten-free noodles with oil after cooking to keep them from sticking. Whatever you do, don’t overcook, or you’ll end up with a goopy mess!
In general, cook them per package directions, then use them as you would macaroni or orzo.
Both farro, especially the quick-cooking type, and barley would be excellent in recipes like minestrone soup. You can also substitute it with your favorite macaroni and cheese recipes.
Quinoa (and its relative, millet) is a seed with a slightly vegetal flavor. It’s high in protein yet surprisingly light.
Tossed with broccoli and cheese, it’s as comforting and delicious as can be. Even for something that’s not pasta!
Almond Flour Pasta
Almond flour pasta is served similarly to regular pasta, replacing almond flour for wheat or white flour. With the growing number of gluten-free and low-carb products, you can find quite a few store-bought options as well.
Almond flour is a great low-carb pasta alternative. It contains 1.6 grams of carbs and 1.6 grams of dietary fiber, resulting in zero net carbs.
White, bleached, enriched flour contains over 76 grams of total carbohydrates with only 2 grams of fiber. Almonds are also an excellent source of healthy fats, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.
While there are many almond flour kinds of pasta advertised as low-carb, be sure to triple-check the label. Many brands contain more carbohydrates than you’d believe.
Al Dente Carba-Nada holds over 24 grams of total carbohydrates or 17 grams of net carbs. Fiber Gourmet, also advertised as low-carb, contains around 40 grams of total carbohydrates per serving and 3 grams of sugar.
Instead, try a homemade version. Make sure you don’t choose a recipe that includes tapioca flour or tapioca starch — it’s incredibly high in carbs.
Swap your low-carb pasta with your favorite noodle dishes, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a creamy, delicious Italian dish.
Cauliflower Pasta and Couscous
Yes, we may call kale a superfood but doesn’t cauliflower hold all the magical powers? Just as cauliflower can be mashed into “potatoes” or rolled into a pizza crust, you can make your pasta dish by baking cauliflower.
Not only is cauliflower the single most versatile food in existence, but it’s loaded with health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower have been shown to lower cancer risk and slow the rate of tumor growth. Cauliflower is also filled with antioxidants and vitamins C and K.
Roast or steam cauliflower until your desired consistency, then top with a creamy pesto sauce for an easy weeknight dish. Or, bring out your inner child and try this low-carb cauliflower mac and cheese that has a cook time of just 30 minutes.
To use as a replacement for couscous, break the cauliflower and put the florets through a food processor. Pulse it until they are grated into pieces about the size of rice.
The pulse function works best, as you don’t want to over-blend.
Drizzle a bit of oil in a large skillet and sauté the cauliflower couscous for 1–2 minutes. Then cover with a lid and cook for an additional 5–8 minutes, or until tender.
The end product can be used as couscous in recipes.
Cauliflower is one low-carb alternative to couscous. It’s nutritious and may offer additional health benefits.
Tofu noodles are a variation on the traditional shirataki noodles. They’re made from a blend of tofu and glucomannan fiber and produce only a few additional calories and carbs.
Buy these noodles packaged and prepare them the same way you would shirataki noodles.
Tofu is rich in protein and beneficial plant compounds. Hence, it has the potential to lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Tofu noodles are made from a traditional soy-based meat alternative and pack lots of protein into your dish.
Have you been depriving yourself of your favorite pasta dishes because you were accentuating over the carbs?
When you find yourself craving for pasta (but you know you can’t have it), these low-carb alternatives make healthy and nutritious options. If you’ve got more time for prepping, go ahead and spiralize keto-friendly veggies.
Are you struggling with a busy schedule? Buy a pack of shirataki or kelp noodles instead.
You can still enjoy your favorite Italian comfort food while keeping your carb count low. With these seven low-carb pasta options, there is no shortage of pasta dishes you can make.
Fresh vegetables, seaweed, and fiber-rich noodle replacements are some of the most popular alternatives. They contain fewer carbs, yet they are high in vitamins, minerals, and other helpful compounds than traditional wheat pasta.
Toss these newfangled noodles with your favorite pasta sauce and enjoy it.