Diagnosed with Celiac eight years ago, Katherine Prendergast—or KP, as she’s lovingly known by her coworkers here at Thrive Market—has had a lot of experience with gluten-free noodles. And not all of them have been good.
“If you don’t get the right kind of rice pasta, it turns the water a weird, milky white,” she says. “And you have to really watch it, or else it overcooks and you’re left with a mushy mess.” And even though KP and her fiancé have mastered the art of gluten-free cooking, she understands that it’s not easy for first-timers.
Case in point: her fiancé’s Italian father, who decided to try his hand at skipping the gluten one day. “His dad was super sweet and thought he’d make me a special, gluten-free pasta, but he didn’t realize it doesn’t cook like a normal noodle,” says KP. “So I ended up with this tube of cooked-together pasta that I had to cut with a knife and fork.” Not ideal, right?
But just because gluten is off-limits doesn’t mean your pasta-loving days are over. Take it from this Italian writer—some gluten-free noodles are very good impersonators. Because they’re not made with the usual white flour and egg, manufacturers rely on some interesting ingredients to replicate the texture of grandma’s homemade spaghetti.
According to KP, most gluten-free pastas don’t have a ton of flavor. And honestly, that’s OK, because ideally, they’ll get smothered in a delicious sauce. So the key to alternative pastas is getting the right texture and consistency. We’ve taken the taste-testing on for ourselves, so you don’t have to! Read on for our faves.
The Low-Carb Favorite: Edamame and Mung Bean Pasta
With just 17 grams of net carbs and 20 grams of protein per serving, this super-healthy pasta is a favorite among Thrivers. When cooked, its consistency mimics regular spaghetti and holds up well to dense, meaty sauces. Try it with your favorite bolognese for a low-carb Italian night.
Best for Homemade Mac and Cheese: Quinoa Pasta Elbows
Worst-case scenario when cooking for picky eaters: They notice the difference between the healthy version and the regular version of their favorite food. Thankfully this quinoa-based pasta slips inconspicuously into any kid’s favorite mac and cheese recipe. Because it’s made from an organic quinoa and corn mixture, it’s perfect for those who don’t eat gluten—KP says her fiancé can’t even tell the difference. Bonus: thanks to the quinoa content, it’s got a decent dose of fiber, iron, and protein.
Will Fool Your Italian Grandmother: Brown Rice Lasagna
A delicious, authentic lasagna requires perfect noodles—too overcooked and the whole thing turns into a soupy mess, too undercooked and you’re left chewing for ages. Avoid a lasagna catastrophe with these brown rice noodles. They cook perfectly al dente—not even a little mushy—and layered between red sauce and ricotta cheese even Nonna will think they were handmade in the old country.
The Protein-Packed Pasta: Black Bean Noodles
These noodles are a one-ingredient wonder. Made from 92 percent black beans (and 8 percent water), they’re loaded with 25 grams of protein per serving. That’s the nutritional equivalent of eating five eggs, so you won’t feel guilty about throwing on a little extra parmesan on top.
If You Want a Little Bit Of Everything: Tru Roots Ancient Grain Pasta
A mix of grains—brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, and corn—makes these nearly indiscernible from regular pasta noodles. And they’re made in Italy!
Wanna Get Weird? Try: Kelp Noodles
KP and I both agree that kelp noodles are a little funky, though not in a bad way. They definitely don’t have the same consistency as spaghetti—straight out of the package they’re more crunchy; cooked in hot water, they start to resemble glass noodles. But because sea kelp is the main ingredient, kelp noodles are incredibly dense yet low in calories (a mere 6 calories per serving, to be exact). Try them in salads, vegan dishes, and hot soups, especially if you’re watching your calories.
Remember, a killer bowl of pasta involves two major ingredients: the pasta, and the sauce. Here at Thrive Market, we’ve got you covered when it comes to both!