A Guide to Low Carb Pasta Alternatives for Keto

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There’s no two ways about it, pasta is a super quick and tasty meal than can be thrown together really quickly. But the carbs are an absolute killer for those of us following a low carb lifestyle.

The good news is that there are some great low carb and keto substitutions for your favourite bowl of comfort.

Why is pasta not keto?

Lamb Ragu with Low Carb Pasta

Typically pasta is made from wheat. Wheat-based products are high in carbs, high GI which makes them outside the desired ratio of 5g carb/100g we aim for in keto. Wheat-based products also contain gluten which can be inflammatory. Clean keto stays away from any flours and grains as one its foundational principles. Dirty keto is less concerned about the ingredients provided it sit within the target macro range. It’s all personal preference based on your health goals.

If you’re like me, and intolerant to gluten, you would know that there are now a stack of gluten-free pasta alternatives. When they first became a more mainstream product in the supermarkets, they cooked like a pot of Clag glue. Not being partial to tomato flavoured glue paste, for a long time I stopped eating pasta.

A lot of the gluten-free alternatives are also not keto friendly. They use ingredients like rice flour, corn/maize, soy flour, potato starch which are typically high carb, particularly when they’re under in combination for texture. Typical gluten free pastas are about 80-100g serving around 60-80g carb per serving depending on the brand and ingredients.

While legume/pulse based pastas taste yummy, and are now being labelled as being a high protein source, their carb count also pushes them outside the bounds of keto macros. I occasionally eat the pulse pasta if I’m carb cycling, I just plan ahead and work it around low carb macros.

Kerry’s Lamb Ragu with Low Carb Pasta uses the Herman Brot Lower Carb Pasta. While it is low carb and yummy, it does contain wheat and gluten. It’s also not suitable for people wanting to follow a clean keto diet. Check out the Loka or Qetoe brands as a gluten free keto pasta option.

Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles)

zucchini pastaZoodles are just sprialised zucchini. The trick with Zoodles is to not overcook them. I typically toss them through the hot sauce just before serving for that al dente pasta feel. If you want them slightly less crunchy, zap them in the microwave for 90 seconds. But no more than that, unless you want zucchini mash.

If you have the spoons, you can pick up a basic sprialiser on Amazon for $10.00. Zucchini is always cheaper in summer when it’s in season. It can be handy to make a bulk batch of zoodles and freeze them into portions for future meals. If you are going to bulk prep them, here’s our guide to avoid soggy zoodles from the freezer.

Woolworths often have pre-made zucchini spaghetti in their fresh food section. It’s about $3.00 for 250g which is enough for two servings (in my household at least).

Fine Fettle is now being stocked at Woolworths (previously only available at health food stores or online). It’s dehydrated making it pantry stable. That catch is they’re $7.00 a packet which rehydrates to 70g (essentially a single serving for a main meal).

Thinly sliced zucchini also makes lovely lasagna sheets and rolls well for cannelloni-esk style dish.

Konjac Pastas

Konjac noodles have been around for forever. They are made from konnyaku or elephant yam which common in South East Asia. Konjac is particularly in Japan, where they are used in traditional dishes such as konnyaku noodles (shirataki noodles) in dished like Shabu Shabu, konjac jelly, and konjac tofu.

It’s gained huge popularity in the west because its low calorie count (20-40kJ/5-10kCal) and low carbohydrates (1-3g). It contains glucomannan (a fibre) that claims to help people lose weight by making them feel full and lowering their calorie intake. It’s also said to be good for your gut health, helping you control your blood sugar, and lowering your cholesterol. Being a veggie, it is naturally gluten free.

Konjac is a contentious ingredient in my house. My Asian partner hates it in anything. I tend to prefer it Asian dishes as a noodle rather than in Italian style dishes. This for me in more a texture thing than a flavour thing. It doesn’t have any real flavour on its own, which makes it a versatile substitute.

Both Woolworths and Coles stock the Slendier range in the pasta aisle. Slendier now has spaghetti, fettuccine, noodles, rice and penne styles for about $4.00 for 400g (4 servings). Personally I tend to buy it Asian supermarkets because it’s more than half the price. You can generally find konjac noodles with the fresh noodles in the fridge section of the Asian grocers.

Regardless of where you get it from, I strongly recommend giving it a really good rinse in cold water before adding it to your dish. The liquid it comes in does have a bit of a taste which can affect the flavour of your dish.

Soy (Edamame) Pastas

Soy (Edamame) PastasIf you are intolerant to soy products, this is not a pasta substitute for you.  Edamame is a Japanese for green soybean. It’s name is literally derived from eda, meaning “branch” or “stem,” and mame, or “bean.”

Edamame is highly nutritious and rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a good source of plant-based protein, making it popular among vegetarians and vegans. Edamame also contains important nutrients like folate, vitamin K, iron, and magnesium.

There are few brands in the Aussie market.

  • Again Slendier is the most readily brand available being stocked at Woolies and Coles. Their range has a dried edamame spaghetti and a dried edamame fettuccini  in 200g packets (about 2 servings) for around $5.00.
  • Qetoe has a large range of edamame pasta options and to me has a much milder taste than Slendier. Dried edamame spaghetti and a dried edamame fettuccini  in 200g packets (about 2 servings) for around $6.00

Low Carb Emporium stock the full range of Slendier and Qetoe.

Edamame does have a taste to it. I prefer to use it for Asian style dishes because it has that more earthy flavour to it. In saying that, I’ve found it stands up well to strong tomato-based Italian sauces. But I think it tastes terrible with carbonara or other creamy sauces!

Heart of Palm Pastas

Heart of Palm (palm heart or palmito) is the edible inner core or bud of certain palm tree varieties. People get it from the inside of the stem or base of young palm trees, usually ones like the acañ palm, the coconut palm, or the peach palm. It is slightly sweet flavor with a hint of nuttiness. It gets compared to artichoke hearts or bamboo shoots in terms of taste and texture.

This is another traditionally Asian ingredient that been adopted by the west. Heart of Palm can be eaten raw in salads, added to sandwiches, wraps, or sushi rolls, or used as a topping for pizzas and flatbreads. It’s also lovely in soups, stews, stir-fries, or casseroles, or marinated and grilled as a side dish or appetiser.

Heart of palm is low in calories and fat and contains a variety of essential nutrients, including fiber, protein, vitamins (such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate), minerals (such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium), and antioxidants. Again being a veggie, it is naturally gluten free.

If you’re wanting to get your hands on some to try, you will have to go online to the Low Carb Emporium. It’s not readily available in supermarkets. There are a few brands, but I prefer the Palmini. Their Australian range has lasagna sheets, linguine and rice. It’s around the $7.50 mark per packed which has 2-3 servings in it. I tend to use heart of palms as lasagna sheets.

Lupin Pastas

Lupin is a relative new comer to the low carb market. It is a very low carb legume that is often turned into flour. Lupin is one of the few legumes that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Although it’s gaining popularity and is more readily available in pre-made products like pasta and crackers, it’s still not stocked by the major supermarket chains. I still buy lupin products online because there’s more variety and it’s more cost effective.

Lupin is naturally very high in protein and it’s low carb properties make it perfect for keto and plant-based diets. It also has high iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

My favourite lupin pasta is made by Loka. It is one of the very few Australian owned, Australian grown lupin producers. You can buy directly from Loka Foods but I find Low Carb Emporium better value for money with their rewards program and sales. Loka make a lupin penne which is probably the closest thing to wheat pasta I’ve tried. It’s about $10.00 a packet (4 servings).

Kaizen is another emerging lupin pasta brand in Australia. It’s an American product and is currently only available through Low Carb Emporium. You can also get it on iHerb but the mark-up is wild! It is significantly more expensive that Loka at $14.95 a packet (4 servings). But they do have Fusilli, Cavatappi, Radiatori  and ‘rice’ which mixed up some of your options.

Using low carb wraps

I’ve used low carb wraps or egg wraps as a pasta hack. Each to their own. Personally I hate them for fettuccini, they go soggy and remind me a Clag glue. But they make pretty good lasagna sheets in a pinch.

Most commercial low carb wraps contain gluten. You also need to check the egg wraps (I know!) because some of them also have additives like gluten and other things you may want to avoid from a managing inflammation perspective.

So what’s the skinny?

  • Zoodles are the cheapest and cleanest pasta substitute. It is gluten free and suitable for clean keto.
  • Loka and Qetoe are the best pasta substitute I’ve found. They’re both gluten free but would be considered a dirty keto option.
  • Herman Brot Lower Carb Pasta is a fabulous low carb/dirty keto substitute (contains gluten).
  • Konjac is great for Asian dishes. It is gluten free and suitable for clean keto.
  • Heart of Palms is delicious for lasagna. It is gluten free and suitable for clean keto.

What’s your favourite pasta substitute?

Disclaimer: No Spoons to Cook is based on our own experience and research, and what we know works best for us. It is not medical advice. Our recipes focus on low inflammatory ingredients, whole foods and are founded in ketogenic and low carb ways of eating. We encourage spoonies to stay curious, ask questions, do your own research, listen to your body and to work with a Registered Dietitian or Medical Professional when appropriate to tailor your nutritional needs to support your care plan and goals.

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