For as long as most of us can remember, pasta has been a go-to meal for busy weeknights. As we head into nicer weather, having quick, nutritious meal ideas readily available is more important than ever.
Fortunately for those with allergies and sensitivities (including gluten-free needs), and those making personal choices to avoid certain ingredients, there are more pasta substitutes than ever. Here, we’ll explore alternative pastas that are convenient and tasty but don’t contain gluten. Consider these ideas to boost the nutritional value of your next gluten-free pasta night.
Legumes, with edible seeds referred to as “pulses,” include various beans, lentils and peas. Common legumes you may have consumed (independently or in dishes) include black beans, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) and soybeans. You can now find gluten-free pasta options made from these exact ingredients. Alternative pastas made from beans, lentils or peas (namely split peas) offer a heftier amount of protein and fiber than their gluten-containing counterparts. Legume-based pasta substitutes can sometimes cook faster (becoming mushy sooner), so be sure to cook according to package instructions.
The cassava vegetable, grown from several tropical American plants of the Manihot genus, has become a slightly more familiar ingredient the past few years. It can be found in snack foods like potato chips and meal-prep staples like tortillas and flour. Furthermore, it’s gluten-free and technically grain-free. Cassava is still a starchy vegetable – an average serving of cassava-based pasta has around 49 grams of carbohydrate per 2-ounce serving – but it’s a healthy pasta alternative. If you can’t tolerate gluten, remember to check the label to be sure your cassava pasta isn’t blended with gluten-containing ingredients.
Often referred to as “shirataki” noodles, konjac noodles contain a dietary fiber called glucomannan. Konjac flour is sourced from the root of the konjac plant, or “elephant yam.” It’s made into a gluten-free noodle and doesn’t deliver the “heaviness” of a wheat-based noodle. Despite this, it still satisfies our taste buds and can be used in a stir-fried, gluten-free pasta recipe or as an alternative pasta in a classic pasta dish.
We all know it’s a good idea to eat more vegetables, but sometimes we get stuck in a creative rut about how to increase our veggie intake. Swap vegetable-based pasta for wheat- based, and you not only go gluten-free but also increase your vegetable intake for the day. Look for fresh, spiralized vegetable noodles in the produce section or a variety of veggie spirals in the frozen aisle, including zucchini, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and carrot varieties. You can also try making your own vegetable noodles with a spiralizer. If whole vegetables aren’t an option, vegetable flour-based pastas exist, but likely won’t provide you with the same fiber, vitamin or mineral punch that actual veggies will.
Next time it’s pasta night at your house, remember all these gluten-free pasta-bilities. Check out our Gluten-free Page to shop gluten-free items and find more recipe inspiration.