Keto Friendly Pastas: Like Grandma's, But Without the Carbs
You’re craving a heaping bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or a pile of carbonara just like your Nonna used to make for family suppers. The only problem is that a bowl of carb-loaded pasta goodness doesn’t exactly work when you’re eating a keto diet. But just because traditional wheat-based pastas aren’t low in carbs doesn’t mean that you have to give up pasta on a ketogenic diet.
“The good news is there are keto-friendly pasta alternatives that make it easy to get your pasta fix, even when on the keto diet,” says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, co-founder of NutritionTwins.com with twin sister Tammy Lakatos, RDN, CFT. “Many of the pastas out there are low carb.”
Note: Some of these might be on the higher side of the number of carbs you’re permitted on a keto diet, so adjust serving size and the rest of your meals accordingly.
1. Kelp noodles
2 grams carbs and 2 grams fiber per cup
Made of kelp, these are a great keto-friendly pasta alternative “because they hold their noodle shape well” — and have a nice crunch to them, says Lyssie Lakatos. “They go great with most sauces and it makes the perfect side filler with most keto meals. So if a meal contains a lot of meat, these pasta-like noodles balance the meal well.”
Kelp noodles are easy to prep: Rinse them, then boil and serve with your sauce of choice.
2. Zoodles (zucchini noodles)
3.9 grams carbs and 1.2 grams fiber per cup
“Zoodles made from zucchini are a popular keto-friendly ‘pasta’ option,” says Brocha Soloff, RD, CDN, founder of iHeart Health. Once you lightly cook and dry the noodles (so your sauce of choice will stick better), these have a nice, al dente like texture that’s neutral in flavor. You may be able to find them pre-zoodled at your local market but if not, you might want to invest in a spiralizer, or use a julilenne (inexpensive kitchen tool that ‘grates/shreds’ zucchini, squash and other veggies into ‘noodles’.
3. Hearts of palm noodles
4 grams carbs and 2 grams fiber per 75-gram serving
“This is a newer trend made from hearts of palm in the shape of pasta,” says Soloff. Palmini pasta comes in cans and pouches, with a thicker fettuccine-style “noodle” as well as “lasagna”-like sheets. Hearts of palm come from the inner core of certain types of palm trees, and it has a delicate flavor that pairs well with many sauces.
4. Shirataki noodles
6 grams carbs and 4.6 grams fiber per cup
Made from the konjac yam — the corm (stem) of a konjak plant — shirataki noodles look like the real deal, “so they make it feel like a pasta splurge,” says Lyssie Lakatos. “These noodles are great for keto diet followers who love traditional pasta and feel deprived. Our clients who follow the keto diet tell us that if they’re craving the texture of pasta, these noodles help to hit the spot, even though they’re a bit more slippery than traditional pasta.” The secret? Drain the noodles and rinse them well.
5. Other vegetable noodles
Turnips: 8.4 grams carbs and 2.3 grams fiber per cup
Rutabaga: 12 grams carbs and 3.2 grams fiber per cup
Beets: 13 grams carbs and 3.8 grams fiber per cup
Grab a spiralizer and turn these, or other vegetables, into healthy, low-carb noodles.
“The best whole-food, keto-friendly pasta swap is spiralized veggies,” says Lyssie Lakatos. Beyond zoodles, you can use turnips, rutabaga, beets, or carrots.
“They all are good sources of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals and make a great low-carb pasta replacement,” she adds.
6. Spaghetti squash
10 grams carbs and 2.2 grams fiber per cup
Spaghetti squash makes another great pasta swap, according to the Nutrition Twins, and it’s one that’s very easy to prepare and source. One trick is to bake it in 1-inch slices cut across the width of the squash (instead of cutting it in half) for longer strands of “pasta.”
7. Almond flour pasta
10 grams carbs and 2 grams fiber per 1/4 cup of almond flour
Almond flour pasta is the best DIY keto-friendly pasta option. You can mix up the dough at home, shaping it into your favorite shapes.
“It’s very similar to pasta in the way it’s made, only almond flour is used instead of white flour,” says Lyssie Lakatos. If you’re making homemade almond flour pasta, be sure to check the carb count of other ingredients, too.
8. Black bean spaghetti
23 grams carbs and 12 grams fiber per 2-ounce serving
Explore Cuisine makes black bean spaghetti from just black beans and water (as do other brands).
“Black beans do have carbs, but they’re also high in fiber so the net carbs are low,” explains Lyssie Lakatos. “The secret here is to keep the portion very small, and the good news is that this is so close to the real deal that just a few bites feels like a pasta splurge. So if you’re on the keto diet and having a meat dish, toss a couple of forkfuls of this spaghetti into the dish to feel decadent.” If the carb count is too high for you, you can always cut mix them with one of the vegetable pasta’s below to reduce to carbs and get that yummy filling, and oh-so-healthy flavor.
Keto-friendly pasta sauce
Not only do keto-friendly pasta brands exist, but keto-friendly pasta sauce is fairly easy to pull off, too! If you’re buying a jarred sauce, be on the lookout for hidden sugar, says Soloff, who likes Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce. Be very diligent when reading the labels in the tomato sauce aisle, you will be amazed at how much different sauces vary in carb and sugar content – so be sure to keep a close eye on that label!
And watch those portions: “Be mindful if you’re on a very strict keto diet,” she adds. “Don’t use 2 cups of tomato sauce. Use a smaller amount or make your own tomato sauce.”
If you do make your own, start with no-sugar-added tomatoes (when using canned), says Lyssie Lakatos. Don’t add sugar to the sauce, and use powdered spices rather than fresh garlic and onions which can increase the carb content,” she adds. “From there, add oil, red wine vinegar and dried spices and salt, which are keto-friendly.”