If you're trying to consume fewer animal products, you may find yourself reaching for a box of pasta often. While delicious, sometimes we may want a healthy pasta alternative with more fiber and less or no gluten!
While it is absolutely no secret that I LOVE pasta and have no qualms about eating it literally every day, every once in a while I do reach for a healthier pasta alternative to help keep me full and satisfied for even longer.
I've tried a TON of pasta alternatives, and I've compiled a list of the ones I think are the best tasting and how they should be used!
1. Chickpea-Based Pasta
Chickpea pasta is new to the gluten-free pasta world, but it is one of my favorite pasta alternatives! Not only does it still look like pasta, but the texture is very very similar when cooked properly.
Chickpea pasta is gluten-free, higher in fiber, higher in protein, and slightly lower in calories than traditional pasta.
I love Banza Chickpea Pasta because they have a ton of shapes and other products, but any brand of chickpea pasta I've had has been delicious!
Since the texture is so good on chickpea pasta, it pairs well with a LOT of different sauces. It goes great with thicker sauces like alfredo or mac and cheese sauce, but it can also pair well with lighter sauces like pesto, aglio e olio, or even just a butter sauce!
Nutritional Profile: 190 calories, 3 grams fat, 35 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 5 grams dietary fiber. (Per 2 oz serving)
Cook Time: Boil for 5-6 minutes for best texture.
2. Kelp Noodles
It's very likely that you've never heard of kelp noodles, but they are so delicious, fun, and very low in calories and fat! These are more of a replacement for noodles rather than a pasta alternative, but can be used however you like!
Kelp noodles are best used as an alternative for glass noodles or rice noodles. I think they are delicious paired with some soy sauce or with the sauce from my Peanut Noodle Salad!
Nutritional Profile: 6 calories, 0 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein, 1 gram dietary fiber. (Per ½ cup (or ⅓ package) serving)
Cook Time: Kelp noodles do not need boiling. Instead, gently rinse them out of the package, then place in a bowl. Sprinkle with baking soda and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have it, then cover with warm water. Gently massage to coat entirely, then let it sit for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain noodles and rinse thoroughly.
3. Brown Rice Pasta
I prefer the brown rice over the cassava, but both have similar nutritional profiles and both work very well as a pasta alternative. I would recommend pairing these with a heavier sauce, such as alfredo or bolognese.
The texture of these pastas can be a bit more on the gritty or grainy side, so a heavy sauce works well!
Nutritional Profile: 210 calories, 2 grams fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 2 grams dietary fiber. (Per 2 oz serving)
Cook Time: Boil for 8-10 minutes until soft.
4. Spaghetti Squash
As far as an unprocessed, natural pasta alternative goes, it doesn't get any better than spaghetti squash!
Since it comes from a squash, it is obviously gluten-free, lower in calories and fat, and higher in fiber than pasta is.
Spaghetti squash is never going to look or feel exactly like traditional pasta, but its still very tasty and super satisfying! I like to pair it with heavier sauces to cover up the slightly sweet "squash-y" flavor, but light sauces go well with it too.
Here are some of my favorite spaghetti squash recipes:
- Spaghetti Squash with Meaty Sauce (Vegan)
- Creamy Tuscan Spaghetti Squash
- Spaghetti Squash with Sauteed Veggies
- Vegan Garlic Scape Pesto
- Vegan Alfredo Sauce
Nutritional Profile: 42 calories, 0.4 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 2.2 grams dietary fiber. (Per 1 cup serving)
Cook Time: Cut the squash in half perpendicular to the stem (cut the short side). Scoop out the seeds and rub the inside with olive oil. Roast face down on a sheet pan at 400º F for 30-40 minutes. Use a fork to scrape out the "Spaghetti" strands and serve with sauce.
5. Lentil Pasta
Lentil pasta is just okay for me. It can taste really good when paired with the right sauce, but most of the time, I don't love it as a pasta alternative.
However, it is quite healthy and still a great choice for those who are looking to increase the amount of fiber they're consuming! I'd recommend this pasta alternative with a hearty sauce that has "stuff" in it such as a vegan or non-vegan bolognese sauce, a chunky marinara, or maybe even a mushroom stroganoff style sauce.
Nutritional Profile: 180 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 34 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 6 grams dietary fiber. (Per 2 oz serving)
Cook Time: Boil for 7-9 minutes until soft.
6. Hearts of Palm Pasta
Hearts of palm pasta is new to me, but I've become a big fan of it!
Heart of palm is harvested from the inner growing bud of many types of palm trees. The taste is mild and often briny due to processing, and the texture is solid but delicate, often compared to some seafood.
Note: Harvesting hearts of palm from the wild can be potentially very bad for the environment as it contributes to deforestation, but commercially grown hearts of palm seems to have little to no detrimental impact on the environment.
Hearts of palm pasta alternative works very well with creamy sauces, especially those with strong flavors. I recommend tomato creamy pastas, pestos with cream, and white sauce-based sauces.
Nutritional Profile: 20 calories, 0 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams protein, 2 grams dietary fiber. (Per 75g serving)
Cook Time: While you can just drain, rinse, then toss hearts of palm pasta with a sauce, I recommend quickly boiling it. Rinse and drain the pasta, then quickly boil it in salty water for 1-2 minutes, drain, and serve with sauce of choice.
7. Spiralized Vegetables & More
Spiralized vegetables, especially zucchini, were wildly popular in the mid 2010's. I tried really hard to enjoy them, but I just didn't.
However, that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it or that it shouldn't be eaten! I think using spiralized vegetables is great when they are not used as an alternative to pasta, but rather, a fun new shape of the vegetable.
If you do want to try "zoodles" (zucchini noodles), I suggest very lightly cooking them, if at all. When zucchini is cooked it tends to release water, making it very soggy and not very pasta-like. What I do is get a nonstick pan really hot, then just saute for about 1 minute and toss with sauce, or just add raw zoodles to an already hot sauce.
Zucchini noodles work best with sauces that "hide" the veggies. Again, heavier cream-based or tomato-based sauces work best here.
Nutritional Profile: 20 calories, 0.4 grams fat, 3.7 grams carbohydrates, 1.4 grams protein, 1.2 grams dietary fiber. (Per 1 cup serving)
- I would be remiss to not mention one of the BEST low calorie pasta alternatives I have ever found, Zeromen from Healthy Noodle. I found this at an Asian Grocery Store, but you can buy it online. It looks like shirataki noodles, but the flavor and texture is actually great and it acts just like rice noodles!
- I also have really enjoyed Edamame Pasta and Black Bean Pasta! These are both very high in fiber and protein, but taste very good!
Per 2 ounce serving, traditional boxed semolina pasta has 200 calories, 1 gram of fat, 42 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, and 3 grams dietary fiber.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE traditional pasta, and I think you shouldn't shy away from it. However, for some people, getting more fiber, protein, or fewer calories in their diet is difficult. Disguising these "healthier" components in pasta form can make that easier for some people!
While I am not a dietician, typically you want to reduce calories to lose weight. Eating more protein and fiber can help to reduce those calories. So, chickpea pasta, lentil pasta, kelp noodles, brown rice pasta, hearts of palm pasta, spaghetti squash, and spiralized vegetables can all aid in weight loss.