Including some out-of-this-world boxed mac and cheese.
We’ve mentioned our love for gluten-free pastas in the past. Nowadays you can easily find varieties made with everything from legumes like chickpeas, lentils and edamame to flours like almond, rice, and quinoa. Recently, we’ve been especially loving the trending bean and legume-based pastas.
And even though studies have found gluten-free foods aren’t any healthier, there are tons of reasons you may want to swap some flour-free pasta into the mix. For those who have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten, these varieties are a great option to swap in to your favorite pasta recipes. For those of us who can comfortably down a bowl of traditional noodles, alternating with bean-based pastas can increase your fiber and protein intake, while lowering your carbohydrates for the meal. No, bean-based pastas aren’t an excuse to eat pasta all day every day (if only), but they’re something we’re turning to when we need a quick and healthy pantry meal.
So, we snagged nine boxes of chickpea and lentil-based pastas—five all-purpose and four macaroni and cheese-style—to see which in a blind taste test we’d totally dig. Here our favorites from both categories.
Runner Up For Best All-Purpose Pasta: Banza Rigatoni
Banza’s chickpea-based rigatoni consists of a blend of chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein, and xanthan gum. The flavor was pretty spot-on in terms of being pleasantly neutral, though there is a slight bitterness from the chickpeas. Texture-wise, tasters noted the noodles to be a bit gummy and chalky, but overall would buy and enjoy as an alternative pasta. An ounce of pasta lands you with 95 calories, 16g carbohydrates, and 7g protein.
Our Favorite All-Purpose Pasta: Tolerant Chickpea Pasta Rotini
Tolerant’s chickpea-based pasta in the shape of rotini was by far our favorite alternative all-purpose pasta. Though you could definitely taste the chickpeas, editors all agreed that texturally this was the best pick. The noodles didn’t become gummy or mushy with cooking; in fact, the chickpea and white rice flour blend made for a perfectly al dente bite. One ounce of pasta offers 94 calories, 20g carbohydrates, and 5g protein.
Runner Up For Mac and Cheese Box: POW! Mac and Cheese
From gluten-free pasta giant Ancient Harvest comes POW! This blend of red lentil flour and quinoa flour makes for an ultra tasty wheat-free pasta. The shells come with a packet of white cheddar mixture, made from mostly maltodextrin (from corn), cheddar cheese powder, dry milk, and cornstarch. Mix the shells in with the dry mix, milk, and some butter for a velvety white cheddar sauce. One taster noted, “I love this! Definitely more toothsome than classic mac and cheese, but I kind of prefer it.” We were all-around fans of the hearty texture and the light cheese sauce. One ounce of prepared shells has 112 calories, 18g carbohydrates, and 6g protein.
Our Favorite Mac and Cheese Box: Banza Macaroni and Cheese Cacio E Pepe
Though Banza sent us a few varieties of their shells and cheese boxes, we were blown away by the Cacio E Pepe variety. The shells are made from Banza’s classic chickpea blend (chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein, and xanthan gum), and the cheese packet is mostly Parmesan, non-fat milk, salt, and black pepper. We added butter, milk, and a touch of freshly ground black pepper for a lucious, richly flavored cheese sauce. One taste noted, “”The consistency isn’t bad at all and the flavor of both the pasta and sauce is really nice. There’s a great nutty-toasty thing going on.” The shells themselves were fine enough, but what really got us was the flavor of the delicate Cacio E Pepe sauce. One ounce of prepared shells has 104 calories, 14g carbohydrates, and 7g protein.