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9 Best Gluten-Free Pastas (Vegan, Low Histamine)

With more and more people seeking healthier food options, carbs like pasta are immediately pushed out. Many pasta products are made from refined white flour; arguably, most of them are. Eating a lot of refined carbohydrates has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

That’s not what you want in your meals.

The good news is that there are several low histamine, gluten-free pasta options available. We’ve listed a handful of options from gluten-free pastas, shirataki noodles, and the more novel option to spiralize vegetables at home and turn them into easy homemade fresh, and healthy ‘vegetti.’

What Exactly Is Pasta?

Hailing from Italy, pasta is a noodle typically made from wheat, but it can also be made from other grains such as rice, barley, or buckwheat. Some historians credit Marco Polo for bringing noodles, an early form of pasta, to Italy.

However, the Greek and Ancient Romans were already known to cook with laganon, a type of flat pasta or sheet, between 1,000 BC and 800 BC. Nowadays, as people gravitate toward healthier lifestyles and products, there are a plethora of alternative pasta options available, namely quinoa, vegetable, lentil, black bean, and chickpea. 

Pastas are formed into various shapes and sizes – sheets, strips, long, flat, hollow, short, tubular, ribbon-shaped, ear-shaped, and stuffed varieties. A few examples of the different types of pasta are:

  • Spaghetti – long
  • Capellini – long and thin
  • Lasagna – sheet-type
  • Ravioli – stuffed
  • Penne – short
  • Fettuccine – long and flat
  • Orzo – small, rice-shaped
  • Macaroni – tubular
  • Conchiglie – shell
  • Farfalle – ribbon-shaped
  • Orecchiette – ear-shaped

The common ingredients for toppings for pasta include meat, cheese, vegetables, and herbs while the sauces range from oil-based, broth, red or tomato-based, and cheese or cream-based. Each of the wheat pasta substitutes listed below can hold up to & complements any one of these sauces.

sweet potato noodles with tahini sauce & pili nuts

What Are the Different Types of Pasta?

Pasta may be fresh or dried, available as regular or wholemeal (whole wheat), and comes in different colors. There are over 50 different variations of pasta shapes & cuts, and even more when you factor in the different names per region, and various pasta sizes. 

Fresh pasta is made by kneading plain flour, water, and eggs into a dough, then rolling and cutting into the desired shape. It only lasts a few days and can be found in the chilled section of most supermarkets, and many even carry gluten-free fresh pastas.

Doughs can be colored with spinach juice to make green pasta, beet juice to make red pasta, or carrot juice to make orange pasta. Homemade pasta has a beautiful, bright yellow color due to the inclusion of eggs, though even some gluten-free fresh pastas are also egg-free.

Dried pasta, on the other hand, is made from semolina, the granular product milled from the endosperm of durum wheat grain and then mixed with water. It contains a large proportion of gluten (a plant protein which bothers many people, whether they have celiac disease or not). 

It is made into a paste and shaped into various types before being dried until all of the moisture has evaporated and the pasta hardens, extending the product’s shelf life. Regular pasta is typically made with refined wheat flour, but the refining process can remove important vitamins and minerals from the wheat, leaving the noodles with little nutritional value. 

Whole-grain pasta, which contains all parts of the wheat kernel (bran, germ, and endosperm), is a healthier pasta product because it is not as highly processed thereby retaining its nutritive value. However gluten sometimes bothers people’s stomachs (mine included), and is generally not recommende don a low histamine diet.

How to Use Pasta

Alternative pasta options are abundant, and as long as there are no wheat products in it, all of these alternatives are gluten-free. What’s important is to remember that they’re only as healthy as how you cook them. 

If you want to keep them good for you, stick to healthy fats, choose lean meats, and include lots of fresh fruits and veggies in your pasta dish. Skip pre-seasoned noodles or noodles that come with a packet of broth or seasoning as the sodium content and other unhealthy ingredients just don’t go well with a clean lifestyle. 

No matter the type, pasta is cooked in boiling water until firm to the bite (al dente) or until slightly tender. Once cooked, it can be tossed with butter, cheese, and flavorings like herbs, spices, and seasonings, or served with a variety of sauces.

These can be tomato, cream, oil-based, broth-based, or whatever you personally tolerate (tomato is not generally well-tolerated on a low histamine diet).

macadamia nut pesto; a great sauce for pasta of any type

Best Substitutes for Wheat Pasta

For most people, gluten is well-tolerated and does not cause any problems. However, for those who have celiac disease or histamine issues, eating foods with gluten like pasta can trigger an immune response and cause damage to the cells of the small intestine.

Thankfully, there are tons of gluten-free pasta alternatives to regular pasta. These can be easily found in grocery stores or made at home due to the ease of a popular and handy kitchen tool – the spiralizer.

Try the alternative pasta products we’ve listed below such as quinoa pasta, chickpea pasta, brown rice pasta, or shirataki noodles. Look for those to up the nutritional content slightly, or go for soba or kelp noodles instead, which are all higher in fiber and nutrients than rice noodles. 

You can also spiralize vegetables. Here we give a few examples of vegetables to experiment with, but when you’re fully committed to spiralizing your vegetables, you can make noodles out of not just zucchini and cucumbers but squash, beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots, among others. 

Do some experimenting and taste-testing, and you’re sure to find a healthy alternative to pasta that your family will love.

Shirataki Noodles

Originating in Asia, shirataki noodles can be used instead of pasta when looking for a wheat-free substitute. These noodles are high in glucomannan, a type of fiber extracted from the root of the konjac plant that has a variety of health benefits. 

They have a gelatinous texture and little to no flavor, but when cooked, they absorb the flavors of other ingredients. The fibrous ingredient simply passes through your body undigested. 

Glucomannan has also been shown in numerous studies to increase weight loss, reduce cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, and treat constipation. These ‘miracle noddles’ are generally well-tolerated on a low histamine diet.

They are filling in the same way that carbs are, but they are free of carbs and calories and have a low nutritional value. So it’s especially important to include healthy toppings in your pasta dish, as they’ll also be adding all the flavor to your meal. 

Similarly, you can use shirataki noodles for richer, creamier dishes, i.e. more calorie-rich sauces without feeling too guilty. Shirataki noodles come in different variants – spaghetti, fettuccine, macaroni, and angel hair varieties.

Unlike the other pasta varieties on this list, they are sold pre-cooked and packaged in water. To prepare, rinse well and boil in broth for maximum flavor. This also removes the sometimes-funky residue and odor from the packaging liquid.

Brown Rice Pasta

Brown rice pasta is made from brown rice and bran. While this gluten-free pasta won’t help you cut carbs, it can help you add important nutrients to your diet. It contains nearly three grams of fiber per one-cup (195-gram) serving of cooked pasta.

It’s also high in important nutrients such as manganese, selenium, and magnesium. Antioxidants, which are powerful compounds that can help fight oxidative damage to cells, promote better health, and may aid in the prevention of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, are also abundant in them. 

Brown rice pasta is one of the most popular gluten-free pasta varieties due to its mild flavor and chewy texture. It works well as a substitute in Asian noodle dishes, and depending on your preference, traditional pasta dishes. 

Vermicelli or Rice Noodles

Vermicelli or rice noodles are the second most common rice product in Asia, after rice itself. You may have already tried this substitute, as it’s a popular feature in many Asian restaurants. 

Made from white rice, a grain that only becomes white after being stripped of its germ and bran (the source of the majority of its nutrients) during processing, these noodles are composed of rice flour and water.

Chewy, light, and low in calories, rice noodles are an excellent substitute for wheat pasta.  Popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, they’re naturally gluten-free, flavorful, and nutritious.

Vermicelli has a signature gelatinous texture and transparent appearance as a result of the addition of cornstarch or tapioca to the mix for that extra chewy texture. Rice noodles, like regular pasta, are available fresh, frozen, or dried, and in a variety of shapes and textures. 

Regular pasta may contain more nutrients than rice noodles because many dry pasta products are vitamin enriched. Pasta and rice noodles are also cholesterol-free and nearly equal in terms of calories, fat, fiber, and carbs. 

Regular pasta contains about 2 grams of sugar per serving, whereas rice noodles contain almost no sugar. So the main distinction is the sodium content. Per serving, rice noodles contain 103 milligrams of sodium, whereas pasta contains only 3 milligrams. Additionally, regular pasta has 4 more grams of protein than rice noodles.

Quinoa Pasta

Quinoa pasta is made by grinding the Andean plant of quinoa’s seeds into flour, which is then turned into pasta. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, grain-free, and high in nutrients. It is one of only a few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

This whole grain, superfood pasta is protein-dense, fiber-rich, and contains a variety of other nutrients such as magnesium, iron, calcium, B vitamins, and antioxidants, and it may help with digestive health, blood sugar control, and weight management.

It tastes exactly like regular pasta while also being healthy, so it makes a good stand-in for regular pasta. It has a texture similar to traditional and whole wheat pasta, with a naturally nutty flavor that is easily disguised by pasta sauce or the additional ingredients you’ll be putting in your dish.

Quinoa pasta is cooked in the same way as traditional pasta, but it requires closer supervision while cooking. Stir it frequently to ensure the quinoa noodles do not stick to each other or the bottom of the pan, then toss them with oil after cooking.

Make sure to check the label of your pasta to ensure that you have a pure quinoa product. Some quinoa pasta manufacturers mix rice, millet, or corn flour with quinoa flour to make their final product, so your mileage may vary. 

Chickpea Pasta

Chickpea pasta is a relatively new alternative pasta. This newer gluten-free pasta is very similar to regular pasta, but with a hint of chickpea flavor and a slightly chewy texture. 

It’s a great plant-based alternative to wheat pasta. High in protein and fiber, it racks up about 13 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber in every 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. They can also help reduce blood sugar levels, appetite, and calorie consumption, improve bowel function, lower cholesterol levels, and improve blood sugar control.

For the best taste and texture, rinse well in cold water and cook the chickpea pasta in less time than the package directions state. Since it will add a distinct chickpea flavor to your dish, it will go well in cold pasta salads, and Mediterranean and Asian recipes. 

Zucchini Noodles or ‘Zoodles’

Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a summer squash from the gourd family. It’s considered a young fruit because it’s harvested before it fully matures. 

Often thought of as a vegetable, zucchini is actually technically a fruit, packed with a whole lot of nutrients. These include protein, thiamin, niacin, phosphorus, copper, dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, to be exact. 

While zucchini noodles or zoodles don’t taste exactly like pasta noodles, think of them as a low-fat, low-sodium, and low-cholesterol alternative. Zucchinis are made of 95% water so you don’t need to cook them for long, and often you’ll squeeze out excess water before serving.

You only need them slightly warmed to be surprisingly satisfying. Making zucchini noodles is cheaper than buying them at the store; all you need are a bunch of zucchini to get started.

The simplest way to make zoodles is to use a vegetable spiralizer. Note that larger zucchinis are easier to spiralize and will yield more noodles. To prepare them, boil them lightly and then drain them & squeeze out excess water, and use them in any spaghetti dish.

Similarly, you can also cook them in your chosen pasta sauce rather than boiling them like regular noodles. Another way to cook them is to sauté for a few minutes in aromatics before topping them with sauce.

Carrot Noodles

Another vegetable that can be cooked as pasta is carrots. Crunchy, tasty, and highly nutritious root vegetables, carrots are typically orange but can also be found in yellow, white, red, and purple varieties. Carrots are a very moist vegetable.

They’re mostly water and carbs, but they’re especially high in beta carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants, offering a variety of health advantages. This low-calorie vegetable has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and improved eye health.

Their antioxidant carotenoids have even been linked to a lower risk of cancer. When using carrots as a noodle substitute, wash and then spiralize or slice each one with a mandolin. Just be sure to pat the noodles dry before sautéing or seasoning it as pasta.

You can bake them in the oven like in a casserole or cook them with your sauce for 15 minutes. If you want to parboil them, dunk your carrot spirals in boiling water for 3-5 minutes tops. They’ll come out al dente, perfect for tossing in sauce

Carrot noodles are also excellent when eaten cold, like in salads or cold noodle dishes like japchae, providing great flavor and vibrant color.

Lentil Pasta

With a toastier umami flavor than that of chickpea pastas, lentil pasta is another single-ingredient swap for noodles that continues to grow in popularity year-over-year. This legume-based noodle comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and packs a much stronger nutrient punch than almost any other alternative to wheat pasta.

Full of fiber and protein, and a great source of potassium, folate, and iron, swapping refined pasta for lentil noodles is a great way to balance out your meatless Mondays.

Adding a sauce made with nuts or seeds, such as my tahini sauce, will balance out the amino acid profile and make lentil pasta a great source of complete proteins regardless of what you eat with it.

Sweet Potato Noodles

This popular grain-free pasta alternative is low lectin, and much like shirataki noodles, they basically take on the flavor of the sauce & other toppings you add. As with other starch-based noodles, they’re also quite thin & chewy, turning translucent when cooked, hence the nickname glass noodles, or ‘cellophane noodles.’

These starchy noodles are best known for being the base ingredient for japchae, a soy sauce-based dish popular in South Korea, though they’ve recently been making a resurgence in the grain-free community. Recently I’ve enjoyed topping them with flavorful vegan-friendly sauces, like my garlic herb sauce.

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