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After testing 15 pasta alternatives, so far, Now Foods Quinoa noodles win for being the best dupe to traditional pasta noodles.

Whether it’s because you’re avoiding gluten, trying to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, or just generally want to level out your carb intake, you’ve likely wondered about the packaged pasta alternatives you see cropping up in grocery stores near your go-to spaghetti grab. Me, too.

Do those really taste any good? Could that possibly compare to real pasta? I set out to find out, taste testing all the types of pasta alternatives I could get my hands on.

I also spoke with one of our nutrition editors and dietitians (Hi Kelli!) to determine how these might actually fit into one’s diet.

Believe it or not, you could be missing out on some nutritional value by eating some pasta alternatives if not paired with the right ingredients. And many of them don’t actually cut carbs or calories if that’s your goal. But most are gluten-free, some grain free, and some just plain interesting.

Before we dive in, there were a couple universal truths I discovered. First, most of the pasta alternatives have a more grainy taste and texture than regular pasta noodles. It’s hard to avoid altogether, but some products get close. And many of these products foam up quite a bit more when boiling — some leave behind a bit of a film around the edges of the pot.

Now Foods Organic Quinoa Spaghetti

  • Price: $$$
  • Ingredients: organic rice, quinoa, and amaranth

The TLDR: By far the closest comparison to the taste of real noodles of everything we tried, but the nutrition label reflects that in carbs and calories.

Taste wise, this pasta alternative actually lives up. If someone had served it to me blind, I don’t think I would have known it wasn’t a traditional pasta noodle.

Our market nutrition editor here at Healthline, Kelli Mcgrane, MS, RD, pointed out it also has a similar nutrient profile to wheat-based pasta in terms of calories, carbs, and protein.

For example, 2 oz of dry traditional spaghetti noodles by Barilla has 7 grams of protein, 42 grams of carbohydrates, and 200 calories. This quinoa swap product contains 5 grams, 45 grams, and 210 respectively.

So, if you’re avoiding carbs for a strict reason, this might not be the best option. If you could care less about carbs and simply need a reliable gluten-free noodle, this one should do the trick.

Worth noting: it’s not made of quinoa only. It’s also made with organic rice and amaranth.

I found that after cooking this pasta, it does cook down quite a bit — not unlike the way a massive amount of spinach looks like much less once cooked. If you’re cooking for a crowd or large family, you’d likely need to use more boxes than you would with regular spaghetti.

Mcgrane also recommends eating it with an ingredient that adds fiber, since this only contains 1 gram of dietary fiber.

Pros

  • certified gluten-free
  • tastes like pasta
  • only three ingredients

Cons

  • still high in carbs
  • low in fiber
  • cooks down a lot
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Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta

  • Price: $$$ per serving through Amazon, $$ in store
  • Ingredients: heart of palm

The TLDR: Very spongey texture that’s not similar to regular noodles, but can be a good option for weight loss as long as it’s paired with healthy fats and protein.

With only one ingredient that’s also a vegetable, this is an attractive option for those hoping to eat fewer calories and carbohydrates. We tried this Trader Joe’s brand as well as Natural Haven Hearts of Palm Pasta, and they were identical in taste and texture with nearly identical nutritional profiles.

Despite being a vegetable, it doesn’t provide much nutritionally speaking. Mcgrane recommends pairing it with nutritionally-rich ingredients, ideally ones that provide protein and healthy fats.

Of everything we tasted, this type of pasta alternative looks the most different from traditional pasta once out of the package. The noodles are a bit mangy looking and come in a sealed plastic bag with some liquid in it as well. There are no other ingredients listed on the label, so I have to assume it’s residual from the heart of palm itself.

It also smells different in that it actually has a smell, sort of like artichoke or vegetable essence. Texture wise, it may be the farthest thing from regular noodles on our list — more of a spongy texture. I don’t think it’s something I would buy again if I’m truly trying to replicate traditional pasta, but it can be a good option for anyone looking to lose weight.

Pros

  • low carb and calorie, so it’s ideal for those with weight loss goals
  • only one ingredient
  • still provides a bit of fiber

Cons

  • much different texture than regular pasta
  • low in protein
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Banza Chickpea Spaghetti

  • Price: $$ (when you buy a pack of 6)
  • Ingredients: chickpeas, pea starch, tapioca, xanthan gum

The TLDR: Tastes close-ish to real noodles. It’s still high in carbs but is a good source of fiber and protein which isn’t the case with many packaged pasta alternatives.

Banza’s chickpea pasta was my first foray into pasta alternatives. I found it to be a palatable replacement in terms of taste and texture, though there’s no mistaking that it’s not quite the same as regular pasta.

Let’s put it this way, if you serve it to a dinner party guest blind (a distant aunt or uncle), they might give you a look that sort of indicates they might want to ask what kind of noodle it is. But there’s a good chance they’d bite their tongue and keep eating.

You’ll notice a lot of foam bubbling up when you boil these noodles, so it’s key to keep an eye on it and just be aware that it’s a factor with this alternative.

So, what about nutritional value? According to McGrane, it’s a good source of fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s also a good source of protein, something you won’t get with traditional noodles. But it’s still rich in carbohydrates. If you’re buying pasta alternatives because you’re cutting back on carbs, this isn’t a good option.

Pros

  • minimal ingredient list
  • good source of essential nutrients
  • high in fiber
  • high in protein

Cons

  • still high in carbs
  • contains xanthan gum which some might prefer to avoid
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Jovial Organic Brown Rice Penne

  • Price: $ (when you buy a pack of 4)
  • Ingredients: organic brown rice flour, water

The TLDR: texture is tougher and thicker compared to regular penne pasta when cooked. The spaghetti shape was more chewy like traditional pasta. Both should be eaten with a fiber and protein.

I opted to try the penne noodles first, but the brand also makes a variety of pasta shapes — spaghetti, fusilli, tagliatelle, farfalle, lasagna, and elbows just to name a few.

Variety is a big plus with this brand. I found that most pasta alternatives only offer one or two shapes, but that’s definitely not the case here. For anyone who needs gluten-free noodles, this brand provides lots of options to still indulge in classic pasta dishes.

Taste and texture wise, these penne noodles are thicker and tougher when cooked. I wasn’t totally sure when to stop boiling them because they are so tough. So, texture isn’t fooling anyone here. They don’t feel like regular noodles in your mouth, but the taste was palatable.

The tougher texture was unique to the penne noodle shape. I also tried the brand’s spaghetti which had more of a similar texture to regular noodles, albeit a little more chewy. I bet 8 out of 10 chances you’d be fooled the spaghetti wasn’t regular spaghetti if you didn’t know.

To compare brown rice noodle to brown rice noodle, I also tried the Tinkyada Brown Rice Spirals, which I didn’t find to be as tough as the Jovial penne. However, the Tinkyada spirals contain 5 mg of sodium, where the Jovial products are sodium free.

Jovial brown rice pastas are made from 100% gluten free brown rice flour and water — nothing else. Nutritionally, McGrane says it’s pretty similar to regular pasta, but contains less fiber compared to whole wheat options.

So, you’re not really saving on carbohydrates by going this route, and unlike chickpea noodles which offer protein, you’re not exactly gaining anything either. That said, you could eat these noodles with an added protein, and the hearty texture of the penne likely lends itself well to casseroles and slow cooking recipes.

Pros

  • minimal ingredient list
  • a lot of noodle shapes available
  • certified gluten-free

Cons

  • still high in carbs
  • penne has an extra tough texture
  • not an adequate source of fiber on it’s own
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Trader Joe’s Brown Rice and Quinoa Fusilli Pasta

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: organic brown rice, organic quinoa flour, water

The TLDR: texture is comparable to regular pasta noodles with a slightly grainier taste. These should be eaten with an added source of fiber, and carbs are not much lower than regular noodles.

I liked the texture of these noodles more than the pure brown rice flour recipes. They still taste grainier than a typical noodle, which is to be expected for most pasta alternatives. It was still palatable, and I would eat them again.

Still, nutritionally speaking, McGrane calls out that they are lower in fiber than she’d like and not much lower in carbs than regular noodles.

The product is not certified gluten free, so it’s not the best option for anyone with severe gluten allergies who needs the extra reassurance.

You might be better off springing for the organic or whole wheat version of a typical pasta noodle when you consider the price. And if it’s carbs you wanna cut, look at a products like hearts of palm noodles, konjac noodles, or red lentil noodles.

Pros

  • minimal ingredient list
  • texture closer to that of real pasta

Cons

  • still high in carbs
  • not an adequate source of fiber
  • not ideal for anyone with severe gluten allergies
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Veggiecraft Zucchini Penne

  • Price: $$$
  • Ingredients: lentil flour, pea flour, zuchinni flour

The TLDR: These noodles are not low carb but are a good source of fiber and protein. They shouldn’t replace whole vegetables in your diet.

Vegetable-based noodles are really appealing on the surface, because who couldn’t use the extra boost of veggies right? And in the form of pasta, it feels like the winning combination. Thankfully, Veggiecraft pastas do satisfy taste-wise. Like most pasta alternatives, they still have a slightly grittier texture, but it’s nothing that would deter you (or maybe even notice if no one told you).

However, these noodles should not replace good ol’ fashioned whole vegetables in your diet. According to Mcgrane, the cauliflower product contains very little per serving. Same goes with the zucchini and sweet potato versions.

These noodles also won’t help you reduce your carb intake. The main advantage to eating this pasta alternative is to get a little extra veggie boost in the form of noodles that are also gluten-free.

But they do all contain good amounts of fiber and protein. “I also like that it isn’t high in sodium,” says Mcgrane.

Pros

  • minimal ingredients
  • certified gluten-free
  • good source of protein and fiber

Cons

  • still high in carbs
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Jovial Grain Free Cassava Spaghetti

  • Price: $$$
  • Ingredients: organic cassava flour and water

TLDR: The only gluten-free pasta on our list that’s also grain- and lectin-free. It should be eaten with a protein and fiber source.

This pasta alternative is made from cassava, which is a root vegetable, and water. If you’re looking for a noodle that is both gluten- and grain-free, this is the best and only option on our list.

It’s lectin, legume, and gluten-free. That said, it’s not low carb and has just about as many calories as traditional pasta noodles. It also has a similar amount of fiber, but lacks protein.

The texture was a little bit grittier, but it wasn’t enough to deter me from eating it. It has little lighter of a “grainy” taste than whole-wheat spaghetti noodles. I also ate these noodles as leftovers for several days, and found them enjoyable each time.

Pros

  • minimal ingredients
  • certified gluten-free
  • grain-free
  • no lectins or legumes

Cons

  • lacks protein
  • not low carb or low calorie
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O Organics Red Lentil Penne

  • Price: $
  • Ingredients: red lentil flour

The TLDR: Tastes delicious and you’ll save a little on carbs if that’s your goal while consuming a good amount of protein. Might want to pair with a fiber source.

This product is made with one ingredient: red lentil flour.

I wouldn’t say these noodles replicated real noodles in the taste department, but they were quite tasty in their own way. They didn’t give off any overly powerful or gritty lentil flavor you might expect. It was more of an essence, and I kept thinking that cooked red peppers would pair really well.

I ate them with just a little olive oil and parmesan cheese, and it made for a fullfilling lunch. I could see these working really well in a cold pasta salad or with cooked seasonal vegetable in a sauce of choice. They reheated well.

Compared to Barilla’s red lentil penne pasta (which we haven’t tasted yet but did evaluate the nutritional profile), it has half the amount of fiber, a smidge more protein (by 1 gram per serving), and 20 more total calories. You may be better off opting for the Barilla if you need more fiber and fewer calories. Barilla also has 4 fewer carbohydrates per serving.

Mcgrane is impressed with nutrient profile of Barilla’s product. “It’s high in fiber and protein, a good source of iron, and sodium-free. Yet, it offers fewer grams of carbs than traditional pasta and is lower in calories. I also like that it’s made with just one ingredient and is certified gluten-free.”

While not a huge drop, noodles made from red lentil flour contain fewer carbs (34–38 grams per serving for these two products) than traditional noodles which usually clock in above 40 grams per serving.

This pasta checks the box if you’re looking for a vegan-friendly, gluten-free pasta that still provides adequate protein without needing to add anything.

Pros

  • adequate protein source
  • slightly less carbohydrates compared to traditional noodles
  • tastes great
  • one of the cheapest options

Cons

  • lacks a bit in fiber
  • not certified gluten-free (but Barilla’s product is)
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O Organics Green Lentil Rotini

  • Price: $
  • Ingredients: organic green lentil flour, pea flour, and brown rice flour

TLDR: Good source of vegan-friendly protein and tastes close to regular noodles but does not cut carbs or calories.

I was not expecting to like these noodles. Maybe it was the green color sending off don’t-eat-me vibes. But don’t judge the noodle by it’s color because they were actually pretty mild in taste and dare I say appetizing. Once dressed in some light pasta sauce, I think you might actually have a good chance at mistaking them for regular noodles if you weren’t told.

While they are labeled as green lentil noodles, this product also contains organic pea flower and organic brown rice flour.

Of all the noodles we tried, these and other lentil varieties foam up more than most when boiling — something to be aware of when you’re cooking. Don’t walk away for too long or get distracted prepping your other ingredients because you’ll end up with some spillover on your stovetop.

Not surprisingly, green lentil noodles have a similar nutrient profile to red lentil noodles, but are higher in calories and carbs (more comparable to regular noodles). So, they aren’t a great option if your watching your intake. But if you want a noodle with a good amount of vegan protein that delivers on taste, these live up.

Worth noting: for phase two of noodle testing, we’re eyeing Tolerant’s green lentil product which impressed Mcgrane with its nutrition profile. It’s certified gluten-free and is high in protein, fiber, and iron. It’s still high in carbs and calories, and it’s made with only green lentils, so we’re curious if it tastes more intense.

Pros

  • organic
  • good source of protein
  • tastes great
  • one of the cheapest options

Cons

  • still high in carbs
  • still high in calories
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O Organics Black Bean Penne

  • Price: $
  • Ingredients: organic black bean flour

This was one of the more difficult pasta alternatives to enjoy.

The black bean gives off an intense gummy, gritty, grainy experience. If you can imagine what it would be like to mash up beans and harden them into noddle form, you can start to imagine what this tastes like. Even with sauce, it wasn’t all that palatable.

Compared with regular noodles, you gain protein with this pasta alternative. According to Mcgrane, these are a good source of fiber and iron. But if protein is what you need, I might opt for the chickpea noodles or red and green lentil noodles instead.

I could see it mixing well into a pasta salad where it’s not meant to be the main star of the dish, but you could easily opt for others on our list with comparable nutrient profile and more to offer in taste department.

They are not a low carb option.

Pros

  • good source of protein
  • one of the cheapest options

Cons

  • not the most appetizing taste or texture
  • still high in carbs
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It’s Skinny Spaghetti

  • Price: $$$
  • Ingredients: konjac powder, oat powder, water, calcium hydroxide, sorbic acid

The TLDR: It’s extra spongey, could be ideal for weight loss or low carb diets, but also should be paired with protein, healthy fats, and vegetables.

Here’s the thing about this noodle: if your goal is weight loss, it’s one of two suitable options on our list in terms of being low carb and low calorie. These and the heart of palm noodles are the only products that are significantly lower in carbs and calories.

One package, which is two servings, totals 9 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. But (isn’t there always a but?), it’s really spongey, which feels really out of place in a dish like spaghetti with meatballs.

This type of noodle is commonly used in Asian cuisine (often referred to as shirataki noodles or the miracle noddle). It’s Skinny reimagined it for Italian cuisine, but it’s not going to trick you into thinking you’re enjoying a yummy Italian dish. You gotta go into it knowing it’s just plain different and make your peace with it.

It also doesn’t provide much nutritionally, so no matter what type of cuisine you use it in, Mcgrane recommends topping it with a source of protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables.

If you want something that makes you feel more like you’re eating real pasta, consider opting for a red lentil noodle which we’ve found has slightly fewer carbs than traditional noodles and also provides other nutrients.

Pros

  • good for weight loss

Cons

  • low in protein and fiber
  • spongy texture
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ProductIngredientsServing sizeCalories per servingCarbs per servingProtein per servingFiber per serving
Now Foods Organic Quinoa Spaghettiorganic rice, quinoa, and amaranth2 oz 21045 g5 g1 g
Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pastaheart of palm85 g204 g1 g2 g
Natural Haven hearts of Palm Spaghetti Noodlesheart of palm95 g (1/2 cup)254 g1 g2 g
Banza Chickpea Spaghettichickpeas, pea starch, tapioca, xanthan gum2 oz19035 g11 g5 g
Jovial Organic Brown Rice Penne and Spaghettiorganic brown rice flour, water2 oz21044 g5 g2 g
Tinyada Brown Rice Spiralsorganic brown rice, water2 oz21045 g4 g3 g
Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Quinoa and Fusilliorganic brown rice, organic quinoa flour, water2 oz20043 g5 g2 g
Veggiecraft Zucchini Pennelentil flour, pea flour, zuchinni flour2 oz20035 g12 g5 g
Jovial Grain Free Cassava Spaghettiorganic cassava flour and water2 oz20049 g1 g4 g
O Organics Red Lentil Pennered lentil flour2 oz21038 g14 g3 g
Barilla’s red lentil pastared lentil flour2 oz18034 g13 g6 g
O Organics Green Lentil Rotiniorganic green lentil flour, pea flour, and brown rice flour2 oz22040 g11 g3 g
O Organics Black Bean Penneorganic black bean flour3.5 z4.52 g0 g2 g
It’s Skinny Spaghettikonjac powder, oat powder, water, calcium hydroxide, sorbic acid3.5 oz4.52 g0 g2 g
  • Accessibility: We started by researching the many types of pasta alternatives and selected products that are widely available in stores or easily accessible online.
  • Taste: We cooked and tasted all of the noodles and tried them two ways: plain before mixing them with any sauce and then mixed with a classic pasta sauce or simply combined with olive oil and parmesan cheese. We sometimes added meatballs or vegetables as well, mostly opting to keep the recipes simple. We always salted pasta water as we would with traditional wheat pasta.
  • Nutritional value: We had a dietitian weigh in on how each product compares to traditional wheat-based pasta noodles.
  • Vetting: All the products we tested passed our internal vetting process, which ensures safety, brand integrity, and that the brand follows manufacturing best practices.

We’re curious about edamame pasta and will be trying Explore Cuisine’s Edamame Spaghetti. The brand also offers some interesting pasta combinations: edamame and spirulina spaghetti, edamame and mung bean fettuccine, and a fava bean fusilli.

ZENB makes pasta alternatives out of yellow peas, and that’s on our shelves waiting for a taste test.

We’re also eyeing some other options in the categories we’ve already tried above including Ancient Harvest gluten free pastas which are made from corn, brown rice, and quinoa. Edison is another brand producing quinoa pasta, though the products seem to be significantly more expensive that other quinoa pastas we’ve found.

Tolerant Organic makes green and red lentil pasta and chickpea pasta, which we plan to compare the brands above.

Most curiously, Pescanova makes pasta from fish sources, and we are tracking that down.

In addition to trying new products, we’re looking to test some of our favorites from above in different ways to see how these hold up in other classic pasta dishes.

If you’re eating a pasta alternative because you’re hoping to limit carbs or calories, many packaged alternatives don’t actually have much less than a good ol’ noodle. If you need to limit carbs or calories, you may be better off trying spiralized vegetables as a low carb pasta alternative.

But if you’re simply on the hunt for a gluten-free noodle (Now Foods Brown Rice Pasta), a grain-free noodle (Jovial Cassava Pasta) or one that packs in more protein (lentil or chickpea noodles), you have options and you may barely notice a difference in taste.