All About 5 Pasta Alternatives - Consumer Reports (2024)

Regular pasta is made from a type of wheat flour called durum, or semolina. It’s higher in protein than other types of wheat flour, so pasta can be good for you, but the flour is still refined. There are a bunch of alternatives to pasta, made using a variety of flours with different nutrition profiles, some of which are healthier. Want to add a twist to your usual rotation of plain penne or spaghetti with red sauce? Here’s the rundown of five other noodles—and how they measure up.

Whole-Wheat Pasta

Nutrition notes: Whole-wheat pasta is one of the healthiest types of noodles. Like regular pasta, this is made from durum wheat. But it contains the outer bran and germ layers, which contain fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. A cup of cooked whole-wheat penne, for example, packs in 4 grams of fiber—double the amount in plain penne, plus zinc and magnesium.

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Serving suggestions: Whole-wheat pasta has a nuttier taste and a denser texture than plain pasta. Some people think it has a grainy texture, but CR’s professional tasters have found that’s not always the case. If you are concerned about the flavor, but want to take advantage of whole-wheat’s nutritional benefits, try combining regular and whole-wheat pastas in a 50-50 mix.

Although you can swap whole-wheat pasta interchangeably with the regular variety in recipes, it pairs best with bolder flavors, such as spicy puttanesca, garlicky leek, and umami-rich mushroom sauces.

Soba Noodles

Nutrition notes: Another healthy pasta choice, soba noodles look like spaghetti, but they’re made with buckwheat, a protein-rich, gluten-free grain that can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Soba also contains roughly half as many calories as plain pasta, with 113 calories in 1 cup cooked.

Serving suggestions: Unlike with regular pasta, rinse soba noodles in running water after cooking. This removes the excess starch, so it stays springy and light in texture. Soba has a slight, pleasant earthy flavor that’s tasty served hot or cold. Try it with vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and scallions, in a sesame-soy vinaigrette.

Red Lentil or Chickpea Pasta

Nutrition notes: These are made with ground bean flour, or bean flour and whole-grain flour, so they’re quite good for you. A cup (cooked) of one chickpea-lentil pasta brand has 13 grams of protein (almost twice as much as regular pasta) and 6 grams of fiber, plus a good amount of iron, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins.

Serving suggestions: There are many tasty ways to top legume pastas. Their nutty, beanlike taste pairs better with big flavors, such as sharp cheeses. Try blending broccoli rabe with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese for a flavorful pesto that’s full of healthy fats. Don’t overcook—these noodles tend to fall apart if you do.

Shirataki Noodles

Nutrition notes: Japanese for “white waterfall,” shirataki are named for their slippery, translucent appearance. They’re made from fiber from the konjac plant, a vegetable that’s similar to a yam. They’re a good low-calorie, low-carb substitute—half a cup has 10 calories, 3 grams of carbs, plus 3 grams of fiber. The downside is they have no protein and few vitamins and minerals.

Serving suggestions: They come dried or packaged in water; when using the latter, rinse to remove natural fishy konjac scent. They have a slightly gelatinous texture without much taste. They’re best used for dishes where you want the flavors of other ingredients to stand out, such as in Asian-style stir-fries and noodle soups, like pho.

Ramen or Udon Noodles

Nutrition notes: Usually found in brothy soups, these Asian noodles are made from refined white flour (not durum wheat), though there are whole-wheat versions. They have less fiber and protein than plain pasta and, unless they’re enriched, fewer nutrients. Udon is thick and chewy, while ramen is thinner and springier.

Serving suggestions: Instant soups can be ultraprocessed, and often loaded with sodium and unhealthy fat. Instead, make your own fresh version with a Japanese broth called dashi, low-sodium soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Top with chopped scallions and a soft-boiled egg for added protein.

Editor’s Note:A version of this article also appeared in the November 2023 issue ofConsumer Reports On Health.

All About 5 Pasta Alternatives - Consumer Reports (1)

Sharon Liao

Sharon Liao is a writer and editor specializing in health, nutrition, and fitness. She lives in Redondo Beach, Calif.

All About 5 Pasta Alternatives - Consumer Reports (2024)


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