What is Konjac? All About the Keto, Paleo, Vegan & Gluten-Free Noodle Alternative

Last Update: January 12, 2024

If you’re always researching the healthiest superfoods and most nutrient-dense ingredients to add to your diet, you’ve likely heard of konjac. While this root vegetable is often used in home cooking in many Asian cuisines, it’s used in different applications in Western countries (including as a dietary supplement). 

So, what exactly is konjac? We’re getting to the root of it—pun *totally* intended. 

What Is Konjac Root?

Konjac is a root vegetable in the Amorphophallus family, which encompasses many different species of similar tuberous plants that grow across Asia. The plant has a round, brown corm (a rounded part of the stem) that grows underground, and it is this corm that is harvested and used as what’s known as konjac.

Where Does Konjac Root Come From?

Konjac grows in certain parts of Asia, which is why it’s a popular food in Asian cultures. It originated in China, though it was later imported to countries like Japan and the US and used as a health food supplement or in diet-specific foods.

What Does Konjac Taste Like?

Unlike root vegetables like sweet potatoes or turnips, people don’t typically eat konjac whole; rather, it’s often used to make something called konnyaku in Japanese, which roughly translates to “yam cake” in English. (Though what we know of as yams aren’t in the same family as konjac, they are both somewhat similar root vegetables.) This starchy konnyaku takes on a gelatinous form, which is then used to make things like noodles or flour.

Konjac doesn’t have much of a flavor, as it’s valued more for its texture in most capacities. In some uses (such as when it’s formed into noodles or jelly desserts), flavors are added to the konjac before it’s made into its final form.

Konjac Root Benefits 

Konjac initially became popular in China because it is a drought-resistant plant that can provide food during harsh weather conditions. Today, it’s popular for more specific nutritional benefits and because it can replace foods that don’t work with certain dietary restrictions. Here are some of the benefits of konjac:

  • It’s high in fiber. Fiber helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood glucose levels, which makes it a healthy addition to many people’s diets.
  • It may help with digestion. Some studies show that foods high in glucomannan help to encourage healthy bowel movements.
  • It may help to lower cholesterol. Some studies show that glucomannan regulates cholesterol, which could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • It’s a great vegan gelatin substitute. The konjac root is made up of 40% glucomannan gum, so it has a similar consistency to gelatin without the animal products.
  • It has skin health benefits. Some studies show that konjac can reduce the appearance of breakouts and help to heal wounds.
  • It’s low in carbohydrates. Konjac is low in carbohydrates, which makes it a smart noodle or pasta alternative for those following a low-carb meal plan.
  • It fits into many common eating plans. Konjac is keto, paleo, and gluten-free. 

Konjac Root Risks 

The main risk of consuming konjac is the same thing that makes it so popular: its texture. While most gelatinous foods dissolve fairly quickly on the tongue, konjac is a bit firmer, so it could present a choking hazard in forms like small candies or thicker gels. In fact, many manufacturers now put warning labels on konjac products (and some countries have even gone so far as to ban konjac altogether).  

How To Use Konjac Root 

Because it’s nearly flavorless and easy to shape into many different forms and consistencies, konjac root can be used in a lot of applications—from foods to health supplements and even in skincare. Here are some of the most common ways to use konjac.

Konjac Noodles 

Konjac noodles (commonly called shirataki noodles) are translucent noodles that are low in carbohydrates and free of grains, which make them a popular alternative to traditional pastas or noodles. They come in many forms, from ramen-style to spaghetti-style, and they can easily take on many different flavors.

Try These Konjac Noodle Recipes:

Vegan Mushroom Bolognese Recipe
Keto Shirataki Ramen

Konjac Flour 

When dried and turned into a powdered form, konjac flour can be added to things like baked goods or stews to act as a thickening agent.

Konjac Jelly 

This jelly-like dessert is made from konjac mixed with liquids and sweeteners. It often comes in a pouch, but can also be formed into chewy candies.

Konjac Sponge

Because of its slippery, gelatinous texture, some people use konjac sponges for skincare, which act as alternatives to more abrasive loofahs or facial brushes.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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