There’s No Missing out with These 5 Low-Carb Pasta and Noodle Alternatives
Plus, 3 new recipes
From one-pot pastas to homemade hand pulled Chinese noodles, this month is dedicated to exploring all ends of the pasta and noodle spectrum. To stay up to date with Slurp! The Everything Pasta and Noodles Issue, check back here for the latest recipes and articles, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for exclusive content.
Our month of pasta and noodles month is coming to an end and after a month full of carbs, we're on the lookout for lighter, but no less delicious, pasta alternatives. We've tried our hand at it and our chef Hanna has come up with 4 delicious recipes that not only work perfectly with their chosen "pasta" or "noodles" but taste nothing like second place options. Read on if you're also looking for lower carb options or need to eliminate wheat products from your diet due to gluten intolerance. With these 5 recipe ideas you can do something good for your body and enjoy a big portion of pasta at the same time...what more could you want?
1. Konjac Noodles
What are konjac noodles? Konjac noodles are made—not from the brandy of the same name—but from konjac flour, which is extracted from a tuber-like plant "amorphophallus konjac". This is found mainly in the tropics of East Asia and Oceania and has been much-used foodstuff in Chinese and Japanese cuisine for centuries. You can find konjac noodles at an Asian supermarket or a well-stocked supermarket. You can often find them there under their Japanese name: Shirataki.
Properties: In certain places in Asia, konjac is considered a remedy, which is even said to have a life-prolonging effect. Though this remains to be seen, konjac noodles do contain almost no calories. They consist of 97% water and the remaining 3% of the long-lasting fiber glucomannan, which can have a particularly good effect on your digestion and ensures that your blood sugar level remains balanced.
What's the best way to cook them? The convenient thing is that shirataki are already pre-cooked, so you can heat them directly in oil for a few minutes in a pan. If you choose the classic saucepan version, you only need to soak them in boiling water for 1 – 3 minutes. They’re especially practical when you’re in a rush!
How do they taste best? Since konjac noodles are tasteless, you'll need to add a spicy sauce to get your money's worth. You can, of course, get creative and incorporate them into different recipes, but we recommend staying true to Asian cuisine for this noodle alternative. They work really well in this recipe with spicy kimchi and the Korean chili paste gochujang and our chef Hanna also developed a recipe for Thai red curry soup with chicken and konjac noodles. Konjac noodles take on intense flavors really well!
2. Legume-based noodles
What exactly is pasta made from chickpeas? If you're browsing the pasta shelves of well-stocked supermarkets, you'll no doubt have come across low-carb alternatives. For these, high-carbohydrate wheat flour is replaced by flour made from chickpeas, red lentils, or other legumes.
Properties: Although these pasta alternatives are not entirely carb-free, they have several advantages over durum wheat pasta. While durum wheat noodles only come to approx. 2% fiber content, legume-based noodles contain approx. 10%. In addition, this pasta alternative wins out in the content of vegetable protein: 3.5 oz (100 g) of legume-based pasta contains ¾ – 1.5 oz (20 – 45 g) of vegetable protein, so about 3 to 4 times that of ordinary durum wheat pasta. They support your digestion and provide you with vitamins, too: Chickpeas, for example, contain a lot of calcium for bones and teeth, and red lentils contain a lot of zinc and iron.
How do they taste best? Since you can clearly taste the particular flavor of the legume used, it’s best to combine chickpea noodles and the like with flavors that tune in well. You should keep in mind that noodles made from legumes have a firm bite, which you can't soften by cooking them for a longer time, otherwise the noodles tend to become mushy. Since they also do not absorb any sauce, firmer sauce consistencies, such as homemade pesto, are clearly the better choice here! Because of this, Hanna developed a new recipe specifically for chickpea pasta that highlights the firm pasta consistency in a pasta salad. It's combined with eggplant and spices like cumin, cinnamon, yogurt and tahini.
Here's another great recipe for lentil pasta from our community.
3. Soba noodles
What are soba noodles? Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat. So the thin, gray-brown alternative to wheat-based noodles is nothing more than noodles made from (mainly) buckwheat flour, which are used a lot, especially in Asian cuisines.
Properties: Buckwheat noodles are the noodle alternative from this series with the most calories, but are in (almost) every case gluten-free. They are a good alternative, therefore, for those who need or want to eliminate gluten from their diet. In addition, its main ingredient buckwheat belongs to the pseudo-cereals, which keeps you full longer than wheat products. Buckwheat also contains iron, zinc, magnesium and the metabolism-stimulating coenzyme vitamin B6.
How do they taste best? Soba noodles also have a flavor of their own, with buckwheat lending its nutty, earthy notes. Hanna combines them with a creamy coconut sauce and green vegetables. In fact, soba noodle, which originated in Japan, is at its best in Asian recipes. So if you are a fan of Asian cuisine, you are invited to try this and many other recipes with soba noodles.
4. Quark pasta
What exactly are quark (a yogurt-y low-fat curd cheese popular in Northern Europe) noodles? Quark pasta is all the rage on the web when it comes to low-carb pasta. No wonder, because one serving has only ¼ oz (5 g) of carbohydrates, whereas a serving of durum wheat pasta comes to almost 2.5 oz (70 g). Instead of wheat flour, this pasta alternative uses carbohydrate-free guar gum, which is extracted from the guar bean, which originates in India.
Properties: Protein, protein, protein! The ingredients in quark noodles (quark and eggs) provide your body with plenty of proteins that keep you full for a long time.
How do they taste best? Quark noodles are pretty close to durum wheat pasta, both visually and taste-wise. However, don't be disappointed if they aren't quite as al dente as the original. Since they fall apart relatively quickly during cooking, we recommend you cut them a little shorter in length. The simplest variant is to serve them à la cacio e pepe with pecorino and pepper. You can find instructions for the sauce here, and a recipe for quark noodles here.
5. Vegetable noodles (made off zucchini, pumpkin and more)
What exactly are vegetable noodles? Even if you haven't been seeking out low carb or gluten-free recipes, you’ve probably heard of zoodles: Made with a spiralizer, they are not only almost carbohydrate-free, but also super easy to prepare. Meanwhile, the trend has spilled over to other vegetables that can be spiralized. This fall, be sure to try seasonal squash as a twisty noodle. Try our new recipe for miso cacio e pepe with squash noodles.
Properties: Vegetable noodles are easy to prepare, easy to digest, and therefore perfect for a quick lunch that won't catapult you into a midday slump. On the contrary, you will be able to dedicate yourself to the second half of the day energized, since this pasta alternative also naturally contains more vitamins than durum wheat: Zucchini, for example, provides you with vitamin C, vitamin A, and folic acid.
How do they taste best? Since vegetable noodles, especially zucchini, contain a lot of water, it's a good idea to salt them immediately after you've put them through the spiral slicer, let them stand for a short time, and then lightly rinse them and pat dry. This will remove excess liquid from the zoodles and they won't be as mushy. If you're in a hurry, you can also eat them straight raw and just pour a sauce over them like in our recipes for no-cook zoodles in marinara sauce. If you don't want to skip cooking them, make sure to pour hot water over them only briefly or boil them for no more than a minute.
More vegetable-based noodles recipes:
— Miso cacio e pepe with squash noodles
— Zoodles with lemon sauce
— Spicy peanut zoodles with shrimp— Zoodles salad with sesame dressing
— 5ID zoodles with marinara
As you can see, low carb-pasta and noodles can be fun in many ways. The basic idea when choosing an alternative is to pay attention to its texture so you can emphasize its advantages rather than trying to sub it into a traditional durum wheat pasta dish. Creativity and willingness to new tastes are what's needed here. Pasta alternatives will never 100% replace the originals, but that, as this article has hopefully proven that to you, is anything but bad.
Published on September 18, 2021