Nothing beats a bowl of pasta. Even the most strict ancestral eating devotees can agree, settling in with a warm bowl of noodles at the end of the day is a comforting ritual…not to mention easy meal prep for families and individuals alike. Traditional pasta dishes are heavy and full of bleached flour and hefty carb counts. If you’re craving the familiar textures and flavors associated with your go-to sauce and noodle combination, here’s a roundup of some of the best grain-free and low carb pasta alternatives to match every taste.
Here are 11 different types of pastas that are grain-free and have fewer carbs than your typical bowl of spaghetti:
Zucchini noodles, aka “zoodles”
Adzuki bean pasta
Hearts of palm noodles
Read on for the carb count of each, information on taste and nutrition and the best uses for each type of pasta.
When it comes to low carb pasta alternatives, “zoodles,” or zucchini noodles, are one of the easiest swap-ins to your traditional noodles. These zucchini spirals feature only a hint of vegetable flavor, which helps them take on the complex tastes of your favorite dishes. A serving of zucchini noodles is equal to about one very large, spiralized zucchini, so if you’re looking to make a keto pasta that also introduces some vegetables into your diet, look no further.
With a low carb count, and most servings clocking in at 55 calories, and 5g of protein, zucchini noodles can be made at home or purchased at your grocery store. If you’re DIY-ing your noodles, use a spiralizer, julienne peeler, or mandoline to cut your “noodles.” Because this vegetable is mostly water, you’ll want to avoid over-cooking it. Enjoy your zoodles as they are, pop them into boiling water for a few seconds, sauté, or bake them in the oven.
Turnip noodles are an unexpected update to the more ubiquitous zoodle. Making turnip noodles in a skillet is a snap, and these low carb noodles pair especially well with acidic, acrid, or piquant tastes. Because turnips can be more bitter, adding creamier sauces can make for an exciting flavor combination.
You can find these keto pasta noodles on grocery store shelves (usually paired with another vegetable like cauliflower), or you can spiralize or shave your own into “noodles,” and briefly fry them up in a skillet with oil and any herbs or spices of your choice.
Until recently, these noodles (sometimes known as “miracle noodles”) were mostly known for their place in Asian cuisine. If you’re looking for a no carb pasta, the shirataki noodle is your best bet.
What Are Shirataki Noodles?
Made from glucomannan, the starch found in konjac yams, these clear, thin noodles are mostly water-based, making them gluten and grain free, dairy-free, and are nearly calorie-free. These noodles are perfect for retaining flavorful sauces, too, as the noodles are almost flavorless.
Some folks even claim there’s health benefits to be reaped from these alleged “miracle noodles.” Because they’re high in viscous fiber, these noodles take longer to digest, which might make you feel fuller,1 and may support certain good bacteria. That’s a lot of power in one pale noodle.
Washing the noodles in cold water removes the less than desirable smell, and once dry, they can be considered ready to eat. For a more traditional texture, boil them for up to 10 minutes and then pan-fry them for a few more. Simply dry-frying on medium to high-heat until they become firm will also work. Zero carb noodles options may be impossible to find, but shirataki comes pretty close.
Pairs well with: Alfredo Sauces, Herbs, Butter, Sprinkled Cheese, Marinaras
Even if you’re fresh off of grains or gluten, and just learning about pasta alternatives, you’ve likely heard of or even had spaghetti squash. This low carb spaghetti alternative is made from a squash, and contains all the nutrition that squash offers. The high fiber content also provides a host of benefits for the body, like creating short-chain fatty acids2 which could aid in supporting the body’s inflammation response.
The best part about spaghetti squash is how easy it is to prepare. Cut it in half, remove the seeds, season to your desired tastes and cover in oil, and then pop it in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
Pairs Well with: Primavera, Arrabbiata, Any Red or White Sauce
Chickpea pasta is popping up everywhere as a grain-free noodle alternative, but a few questions remain: is chickpea pasta keto, and perhaps more importantly, is chickpea pasta healthy? Chickpea pasta contains 14g of carbohydrates, so for those on stricter Keto diet plans, it will likely tip the scale. Chickpeas do carry some nutrition3, but Mark has spoken before about legumes like chickpeas as falling into a gray area.
Chickpea pastas prepare exactly as regular pasta, in boiling water (though you’ll likely want to keep a watchful eye so the noodles don’t become overcooked and mushy). If you’re looking to go grain-free but keep the general taste and texture of your favorite noodles, chickpea pasta is a viable option.
If chickpea pasta is something you want to try and you generally tolerate chickpeas, it’s probably best to enjoy them occasionally.
Pairs Well With: Teriyaki, Umami Flavors, Sesame Dressing
These Japanese buckwheat noodles are made from buckwheat, which is often billed as a grain. The good news is, buckwheat is a seed, which makes soba noodles a grain-free and gluten-free noodle that can be used in hot broths or served cold with dipping sauce. Despite being a lower carb pasta substitute, Soba noodles are not keto friendly noodles, with 24g of carbs per serving.
Despite being gluten-free, allergy-prone eaters will want to be wary of a possible reaction to buckwheat. While Soba noodles cook like traditional angel hair or ramen noodles, they overcook easily, so keep an eye on the clock while boiling them.
Try: Quick Soba Teriyaki. Saute your favorite vegetables in a small amount of avocado oil until crisp-tender. Cook your soba noodles according to package directions. Drain, and toss with your vegetables and no-soy teriyaki sauce. Serve hot!
High in fiber and protein, these noodles are made from a red bean regularly cultivated in China. If you’re trying to cut the carbs in noodles, you likely won’t be reaching for Adzuki Bean Noodles. But if you’re looking to reap the benefits of fiber, relatively significant protein, and cutting grains, these noodles are a seamless swap-in for spaghetti. Adzuki beans are legumes, so if you don’t tolerate beans, you may have trouble with these.
With a more noticeable flavor than chickpea pasta (some liken it to the taste of whole wheat pasta), these bean noodles follow a traditional boil and can be topped with a sauce of your choice.
If you’re looking to cut carbs in pasta, green and red lentil pasta is gluten-free and grain-free, made from these versatile legumes. Similar to chickpeas, legumes have their place as an occasional part of a Primal diet, and only if you can tolerate them.
Similar to other noodles on this list, be mindful of cooking times to retain the structure of the noodle, but otherwise, lentil noodles (readily available in any grocery store these days) boil in lightly salted water in just a few minutes, and have a fairly neutral taste that mixes well with any flavor sauce.
A growing trend in pasta substitutes? Hearts of palm. Zero carb pasta may be the goal, but 4g of carbs comes pretty close. The nutritional value of this unexpected vegetable noodle is undeniable. Hearts of palm are packed with potassium and other nutrients that give your bowl a boost.
Be aware of the relatively high sodium count in this alternative – these aren’t noodles you’ll want to salt when cooking.
Hearts of palm noodles have a similar flavor profile to an artichoke, so this veggie substitute matches many of your favorite sauces with ease. Rinse your noodles and let them sit in milk for 15 minutes to get rid of any unwanted odor, and then just warm them up before eating.
Like the zucchini spiral noodles, but less popular, carrot and beet noodles are relatively low-carb swap-ins that add color and familiar veggie flavor to your plate. Cook or crisp them, or dress them up cold, you can make these spirals yourself, or purchase them at most grocery stores.
Yes. With just around 4g of carbs per serving, depending on your recipe or brand, this is a gluten-free, low-carb option for anyone craving the traditional taste of an egg noodle. Almond flour pasta is relatively easy to make at home, but most recipes require xanthan gum, so be sure to use sparingly and be aware of any gastrointestinal problems that may arise. With a familiar taste that’s slightly sweet, this noodle pairs well with any sauce you’re planning on using.
Can you eat pasta on keto?
Depends on what you mean by “pasta.” The amount of carbs in spaghetti, for example, rule the much-loved pasta dish out of even the most lenient Keto eating plans. So if you’re craving a bowl of fettuccine while on Keto, reach for one of the lower carb substitutes above, watch your macro count, and load up on protein and fats on the side.
Is pasta keto?
Again, it depends on the “noodle”, and how it’s factoring into your daily macros. Traditional pasta, like the big bowls of spaghetti mom made, are not Keto (unless your mom made her classic dish with hearts of palm and sauce made with low sugar). Even if your noodle is Keto friendly, be sure to check the stats on your sauce. Many pasta sauces are loaded with ingredients that can decimate even your best day on Keto or Primal.
Does pasta have gluten?
Unless specified otherwise, most traditional pasta noodles include gluten. Instead of purchasing gluten-free pasta, which can clock in 44g of carbs per serving, choose a veggie or legume noodle. If you’re wondering, “is gluten free pasta healthy?” The likely answer is not really, but it depends on what’s inside your gluten-free noodles.
Is gluten-free pasta keto or low-carb?
Again, it depends on your noodle and your sauce. If you skip the super-processed taste-alike gluten-free pasta products, you have a fighting chance of creating a low-carb or Keto pasta dish.
Do egg noodles have carbs?
You bet. 40g per serving seems to be the going carb count for egg-based noodles. Typically, the egg is the binder that holds white flour together, so it’s not a low-carb food at all.
Mimi von Schack is the Senior Copywriter from Primal Kitchen. She communicates all the good stuff that’s going on at Primal Kitchen, like new products, exciting recipes, and a rapidly growing online community.
She graduated with an MA from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014, and as a writer, she’s written copy, advertisements, narrative prose, articles, commercials, presentations, social media posts, and videos.
As a comedian, Mimi has performed all over the US and in the UK, and written jokes for films, video games, comedic iPhone apps, and her award-winning live show. Mimi lives in Los Angeles, California, where she attempts to paddle board in the Pacific Ocean, tell jokes, and make your favorite Keto and Primal recipes plant-based and vegetarian friendly.