In search of a low-carb, non-wheat-based spaghetti noodle

  • Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Posted8/25/2021 6:00 AM

Soon after I began trimming highly processed carbohydrates (including sugar) and wheat-based foods from my food plan, it didn't take long to trigger a search for a way to enjoy cheese or meat sauces over something that fulfilled dual roles: zero wheat and low carbs. It's a tall order.

At first, I used low-carb veggies, such as cauliflower, to ladle sauce over or ricing cauliflower as a decent base for Asian dishes. Neither was a pasta substitute.

 

Yes, wheat-free/gluten-free pasta, some made from rice, corn, pulses (such as lentils or chickpeas), or cassava (a starchy vegetable), are available. Not one of those is low in carbs, though. Their carbs can be as high or higher than wheat-based pasta.

At first, it seemed that there was no such thing as low-carb, wheat-free pasta. Fortunately, I was wrong. I found three.

The first: My youngest brother recommended shirataki noodles (such as miraclenoodle.com). Shirataki noodles, sometimes called konjac, are made from the konjac yam and are popular in Asia. Shirataki noodles come in different shapes, from angel hair to fettuccine. The 7-ounce bags ($3.99) are water-packed, soft and ready-to-eat, sort of.

My brother told me to rinse shirataki noodles under several changes of cold water to neutralize their flavor. He drizzles his warmed noodles with extra-virgin olive oil as a dinner side, sometimes tossing them with steamed broccoli florets.

I found shirataki noodles just OK. Since they are nearly flavorless, it's all about the sauce. The texture is slightly slippery, too. For some, these noodles are a good trade-off for the low calories (less than 5) and nearly zero carbs for each 3.5-ounce serving.

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- Courtesy of Don Mauer

Next, I discovered coconut noodles on the web, made from just coconut water (puretraditionsfoods.com), for around $5. How they make them is well outside my knowledge base. Coconut noodles come packaged in water, similar to shirataki noodles and have a similar texture and taste to glass or cellophane noodles (made from starches).

A 2/3-cup serving of coconut noodles delivers just 10 calories, two carb grams and one fiber gram. The noodles are neutrally flavored, and for me, sauces tended to slide off and pool underneath. It may depend on the sauce.

- Courtesy of Don Mauer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

My first experience with hearts of palm, a white vegetable harvested from certain palm tree species, was as a salad in an upper-tier Chicago restaurant. Hearts of palm have a light flavor similar to an artichoke. I'd never thought they could also be cut in shapes to match a pasta, like linguine.

Whole Foods' Hearts of Palm Linguine ($3.79/6.3 ounces) turned out to be a terrific no-wheat, very low-carb substitute for standard pasta. The texture is similar to al dente pasta, with a sufficiently subtle flavor that works with any sauce. Good news: Sauces cling to the slightly rough texture.

A one-cup serving delivers just 30 calories, eight carb grams and two fiber grams. Compare that to the same weight of cooked pasta with 284 calories, 56 carb grams and 3.2 fiber grams.

- Courtesy of Don Mauer

Of the three, the surprising hearts of palm noodles are the winner -- definitely.

Have you discovered a wheat-free, low-carb pasta substitute that you've tried and liked? Let me know.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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