For pasta lovers, going gluten-free may seem far more daunting than a simple diet modification.
Whether you’re following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, a sensitivity to gluten, or personal preference, you don’t have to give up your favorite dishes.
Though traditional pasta is typically made using wheat flour, there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives available.
Here are 6 of the best types of gluten-free pasta and noodles.
1. Brown rice pasta
Brown rice pasta is one of the most popular varieties of gluten-free pasta due to its mild flavor and chewy texture — both of which work well as a substitute for most traditional pasta dishes.
Compared to most other types of pasta, brown rice pasta is a good source of fiber, with nearly three grams in a one-cup (195-gram) serving of cooked pasta.
Brown rice is also high in important micronutrients like manganese, selenium, and magnesium.
Plus, research shows that the bran found in brown rice is loaded with antioxidants, powerful compounds that can help fight oxidative damage to cells and promote better health.
Some studies have found that eating brown rice can increase antioxidant levels in the blood and may aid in preventing chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Summary: Brown rice pasta is a good source of fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that can optimize health and prevent chronic disease. Its mild flavor and chewy texture make it a great substitute for most traditional types of pasta.
2. Shirataki noodles
Shirataki noodles are made from glucomannan, a type of fiber extracted from the root of the konjac plant.
Because the fiber passes through your intestine undigested, shirataki noodles are essentially free of calories and carbs.
They have a gelatinous texture and little to no taste but take on the flavors of other ingredients when cooked.
In addition, glucomannan fiber has been shown to increase weight loss and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.
Other studies have found that supplementing with glucomannan can reduce cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, and treat constipation.
However, keep in mind that shirataki noodles contribute almost no calories or nutrients to your diet.
For this reason, it’s especially important to load up on healthy toppings for your pasta, such as heart-healthy fats, veggies, and protein.
Summary: Shirataki noodles are made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that’s calorie-free and can help promote weight loss, reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar and relieve constipation.
3. Chickpea pasta
Chickpea pasta is a newer type of gluten-free pasta that has recently garnered a good deal of attention among health-conscious consumers.
It’s very similar to regular pasta but with a hint of chickpea flavor and a slightly more chewy texture.
It’s also a high-protein, high-fiber alternative, packing about 13 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber into each two-ounce (57-gram) serving.
Protein and fiber have a filling effect and can help reduce your calorie intake throughout the day to aid weight control.
One small study in 12 women found that eating one cup (200 grams) of chickpeas before a meal helped reduce blood sugar levels, appetite, and calorie consumption later in the day, compared to a control meal.
What’s more, research shows that chickpeas can improve bowel function, reduce cholesterol levels and enhance blood sugar control.
Summary: Chickpea pasta is high in protein and fiber, which may aid weight control and help improve bowel function, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar management.
4. Quinoa pasta
Quinoa pasta is a gluten-free substitute for regular pasta that’s typically made from quinoa blended with other grains, such as corn and rice. It’s often described as having a slightly grainy texture with a nutty flavor.
Suggested read: 10 proven health benefits of chickpeas
Its main ingredient, quinoa, is a popular whole grain favored for its rich nutrient profile, mild flavor, and extensive health benefits.
As one of the few plant-based complete proteins available, quinoa delivers a hearty dose of all nine essential amino acids that your body needs.
Quinoa is also a good source of several other important vitamins and minerals, including manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, and iron.
Plus, quinoa pasta is rich in fiber, providing about 3 grams of fiber in each 1/4-cup (43-gram) serving of dry pasta.
Studies show that fiber can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar levels, improve digestive health and promote feelings of fullness to prevent weight gain.
Summary: Quinoa pasta is made from quinoa and other grains, such as corn and rice. It’s a good source of protein, fiber, and micronutrients and may be beneficial for digestive health, blood sugar control, and weight maintenance.
5. Soba noodles
Soba noodles are a type of pasta made from buckwheat flour, a plant commonly cultivated for its nutritious grain-like seeds.
They have a nutty taste with a chewy, grainy texture and are available in many different shapes and sizes.
Soba noodles are lower in calories than many types of traditional pasta but still supply a good amount of protein and fiber.
A two-ounce (56-gram) serving of cooked soba noodles contains about 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and a good amount of several important micronutrients like manganese and thiamine.
Studies show that eating buckwheat may be associated with improved cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight regulation.
Soba noodles also have a lower glycemic index than other starches, meaning that eating soba noodles won’t increase your blood sugar levels as much.
Suggested read: 11 proven health benefits of quinoa
However, note that some manufacturers combine buckwheat flour with other types of flour when producing this type of noodles.
Be sure to check the ingredients label carefully and avoid any products that contain wheat flour or white flour if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Summary: Soba noodles are a type of noodle made from buckwheat flour. Eating buckwheat has been linked to improved heart health, weight regulation, and blood sugar levels.
6. Multigrain pasta
Many types of gluten-free pasta are made using a blend of different grains, including corn, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, and amaranth.
The nutritional value of these pasta varieties can vary significantly based on what types of grains are used. They may contain anywhere between 4–9 grams of protein and 1–6 grams of fiber per 2-ounce (57-gram) serving.
For the most part, multigrain pasta can be a good alternative to regular pasta for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Multigrain pasta is also often closer in taste and texture to traditional pasta. Just a simple swap can make all your favorite recipes gluten-free.
However, it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients label and steer clear of products loaded with fillers, additives, and gluten-containing ingredients.
Summary: Multigrain pasta is made from grains like corn, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, and amaranth. It’s often a close match for regular pasta in terms of taste and texture, but the nutrient profile can vary based on its ingredients.
Though pasta may have once been considered completely off the table for those on a gluten-free diet, there are now plenty of options available.
Be sure to opt for products that are certified gluten-free and double-check the ingredients label to avoid cross-contamination and adverse side effects.
Additionally, keep intake in moderation and pair your pasta with other nutritious ingredients to maximize potential health benefits and maintain a well-rounded diet.