Meet these super noodles that are gluten-free and lower in carbs and calories

By Stacey Ballis
Updated September 10, 2020
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As someone living with Type 2 diabetes, I am always in need of great products that are both delicious and lower in carbs. And as an avid entertainer who wants everyone to feel comfortable at my table no matter what their dietary requirements, it is important for me to be aware of options for serving my gluten- and grain-free friends. Which is what has led me to a brave new world: plant-based pastas.

Because let’s face it: Spiralized vegetables don’t always cut it for subbing in for pasta. They often miss on texture and bring too intense a flavor to the dish. Further, fresh vegetables lack the shelf stability that makes pasta such a fast and easy staple in our kitchens.

Is it time for you to add plant-based pastas to your pantry? I tested (and tasted!) a pantry-full of grain-free and vegetable-based pastas, and here are my top picks (and how best to use them in your recipes).

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Courtesy Amazon

Pastas made from lentils and chickpeas

If you are less worried about carb load, and mostly just need a pasta for addressing gluten intolerances, dried pastas that are based on lentils or chickpeas are a great option. While not much lower in carbs than grain-based pastas, they bring a lot of protein to the party, along with a mild flavor. Be aware, though: These pastas can overcook and get mushy quickly, so start tasting for doneness at the earlier end of the recommended cooking time. For mild flavor and better texture with lighter and vegetable-based sauces, go for pastas made with red lentil. To pair with meat-based and cream-based sauces, chickpea versions are your best bet.

Top picks:

Barilla Red Lentil Rotini or Penne ($24.90 for a pack of 10 boxes), amazon.com

Banza Chickpea Pasta ($14.99 for a variety pack of three shapes), amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Courtesy Amazon

Pastas made from beans and edamame

If you want a significant reduction in carb load, with the same dried pasta convenience, look no further than pastas made with beans. Carrying fewer than half the amount of carbs as grain-based pastas, these options satisfy without spiking your blood sugar. Whether black bean or edamame based, these cook up mild flavored and al dente, ready for whatever sauce you have planned. As with other non-grain pastas, you do have to keep a strong eye on not overcooking.

Top picks:

Explore Cuisine Organic Bean Spaghetti Variety Pack—3 Boxes Edamame Spaghetti, 4 Boxes Black Bean Spaghetti ($28.99), amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Courtesy Amazon

Hearts of Palm “Pasta”

One of my new favorite products is hearts of palm “pasta.” Instead of making a vegetable-based flour and making a dried pasta product from it, this is simply hearts of palm processed and cut into pasta shapes like spaghetti, linguini, angel hair, and lasagna. It comes canned or in vacuum pack bags, and unlike the dried pastas, does not need cooking, just reheating. Hearts of palm have a nice al dente texture and mild vegetable flavor, while offering very low calorie and carb numbers. While the lentil and chickpea pastas come in between 32-39 grams of carbs per serving, and the bean-based pastas around 20 grams, and all are close to the calorie count of regular pasta, the hearts of palm products come in at around 8 grams of carbs and 50 calories for the same portion size. I find that a 50/50 split of real pasta or bean pasta and hearts of palm pasta gives me a lovely generous portion while keeping carbs and calories low.

Top picks:

Natural Heaven Spaghetti Hearts of Palm Noodles ($24.90 for a pack of 4), amazon.com

Palmini Low Carb Linguine ($24.96 for a pack of 6 cans), amazon.com