New Twists on Pasta (A Guide to Alternative Noodles)

Whether you’re looking for a gluten-free pasta, trying to eat more whole grains or experimenting with ancient grains, you can find alternative pastas lining market shelves. Here’s a guide.
spelt pasta


Spelt pasta

Photo by: Borislav Marinic

Borislav Marinic

Whether you're looking for a gluten-free pasta, trying to eat more whole grains or experimenting with ancient grains, you can find all kinds of alternative pastas lining market shelves these days. Here's a quick primer.

Quinoa Pasta

Quinoa is a high protein whole grain (technically, it's a seed) that has become very popular. The grain provides hefty doses of B-vitamins, potassium, magnesium, selenium, iron and zinc. Quinoa pasta has a nutty flavor and a dense consistency. Although quinoa is gluten-free, the pasta can be blended with other flours, including whole wheat flour, so be sure to read labels carefully.

Corn Pasta

This pasta has a soft texture and light and airy flavor most closely resembling traditional enriched pasta. Sam Mills makes corn pasta made from two ingredients: 100% corn flour and water. This makes it free of gluten, wheat, eggs, dairy, sugar and soy—perfect for folks with multiple allergies. On the down side, it doesn't contain as many nutrients as some of the other pasta alternatives.

Spelt Pasta

Spelt is an ancient wheat species and was widely cultivated in parts of Europe during the Bronze Age. As such, it's not gluten-free. Spelt pasta has an even nuttier flavor and denser texture than quinoa pasta. A 2-ounce serving contains 190 calories and provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

Brown Rice Pasta

The ingredients here include brown rice flour and water. The color is a pale yellow-brownish color while the flavor is similar to brown rice.  The pasta is free of gluten, eggs, nuts and milk. Jovial Foods makes a line of brown rice pasta that's also processed in a facility free of gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and milk-–making it a good choice for those with celiac disease or food allergies. Nutritionally, however, it doesn’t have as many nutrients as spelt or quinoa.

Soybean Pasta

The consistency of this legume pasta is pretty flimsy, while the flavor isn’t very tasty. The ingredient list includes golden soybean and water. As soybean is high in protein, it's no surprise that one serving (1.75 ounces) provides 20.5 grams. However, given the option I'd choose spelt or quinoa pasta which both just taste better.

Others Options

Other pasta varieties you may find include kamut (another ancient form of wheat) and bean. Many pasta blends can also be found on shelves including Barilla Plus made from a combo of wheat and legume flour blend. If you're looking for gluten-free alternatives or just a pasta with a better nutrient profile, it's always a good idea to carefully read labels before purchasing.

TELL US: What's your favorite pasta alternative?

Next Up

Taco Bell Launches Two New Twists on Nacho Fries

New 7-Layer Nacho Fries and Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries made their debut the same day the Enchirito returned.

5 Alternative Burgers Worth Flipping For

Even if you hold the beef and spring for an alternative protein, you don't have to sacrifice flavor. Just in time for Labor Day grilling, these five alternative patties are ready to step up to the bun.

7 Alternative Sweeteners for Coffee, Cooking and More

If you're looking for alternatives to classic granulated sugar, options like date syrup, pomagranate molasses and more offer healthier ways to add sweetness to your recipes.

The Very Best Milk Alternative for Dairy-Free Baking

According to science, you’re making a mistake if you’re using anything else.

The Sporkful’s Dan Pashman and Sfoglini Release Two New Pasta Shapes

From the creators of last year’s viral cascatelli come quattrotini and vesuvio.

Why Did Someone Dump 500 Pounds of Pasta in New Jersey?

The Garden State upholds its reputation for being a little ... weird.

What Are Shirataki Noodles?

How they’re different from glass noodles, the different varieties and how to cook them, according to an expert in Japanese cuisine.

Your Guide to Utilizing Spring Produce

The next time you're at the grocery store, grab some rhubarb, asparagus and carrots, and craft these springtime recipes from Food Network.