Growing up there weren’t a lot of options when it came to noodles. You went to the supermarket and bought a box of dried noodles. The biggest choice you could make was which shape you wanted. Today the selection of noodles available is huge. You can buy the regular kind, protein-enriched whole wheat noodles or any of the many, many types of wheat-free noodles. Not only are there wheat-free noodles, there are gluten-free noodles, grain-free noodles and noodles you can make yourself out of vegetables or beans. Let’s explore just some of the wheat-free noodle options you can choose to use in your favorite dishes.
1. Gluten-Free Pastas
While all the noodles in this article are gluten-free, I am lumping together the store-bought gluten-free versions of the noodles usually used for pasta dishes rather than Asian noodles. These are the noodles that will work in any dishes whether they are Italian, Asian, mac and cheese or stroganoff. There are many brands available in stores such as DeBoles, Tinkyada and Jovial Foods which offer gluten-free pastas made from rice, quinoa, and corn. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes including spaghetti, angel hair, penne, spirals, elbows, shells and even lasagna. These pastas have great texture, never mushy or too chewy. Their flavors are so good that I can no longer eat pasta made from regular flour because I find them bland and flavorless. I use these types of noodles most often in my dishes such as my Pasta Aglio Olio, Moroccan Tofu in Lemon-Olive Sauce over Spaghetti, Creamy Rotini Alfredo with Asparagus and Peas, Spaghetti with Vegan Bolognese Sauce and Pasta ala Norma. For more on these types of noodles, see Gluten-Free Pasta Options and What to Cook with Them.
2. Bean Noodles
Noodles made out of beans are filling and filled with nutrients and fiber. You can buy noodles made with bean flour. Mrs. Glee’s makes pasta from whole non-GMO navy beans and non-GMO corn that are tender, easy to work with and delicious. The elbows are perfect for mac and cheese or my Pasta e Fagioli. Explore Asian has exotic gluten-free choices such as pasta made from soybeans, black beans, edamame, mung bean and adzuki beans. They taste like pasta with a nice al dente texture but I know I’m getting just beans and not a bunch of flour so it’s healthier and has a lot less calories. I used bean pasta to make my Pan-Fried Tofu with Zucchini, Carrot and Black Bean Sesame Noodles. Read How to Make Bean Pastas so you can make your own.
Mung bean noodles are also called cellophane noodles, bean thread and glass noodles. They are thin, transparent noodles made from mung bean starch and they are different-looking than ordinary noodles. They are good for soaking up sauce. They are also quick-cooking- just soak them in cool water for 20 minutes.
I used them to make my Indian Vegetable Curry with Mung Bean Fettuccine: heat 2 Tbs. oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and saute 1 chopped onion for 5 minutes or until softened. Add 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. mustard seeds, 2 Tbs. curry powder, 1 tsp. chile powder and 1 tsp. ground turmeric to the pan. Stir well so that the onion is fully coated in the spices. Let cook 2 minutes until fragrant. Add 1 large chopped eggplant and toss to coat in the spices. Cook for 4 minutes until the eggplant softens. Add 1 head of cauliflower cut into florets and 1 chopped zucchini to the pan and mix. Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 ½ cup coconut milk and ¼ cup water. Stir to combine. Add salt to taste. Cover the pan and let cook on medium heat for 10 – 15 minutes or until the vegetable are tender but still have some crunch. If the sauce cooks down too much, add more water. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the fettuccine. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and boil 1 package of mung bean noodles until they are al dente. Drain and set aside. Prepare raw carrots and broccoli stems for garnish by shredding them with a vegetable peeler. Divide the mung bean fettuccine into bowls. Top with the vegetable curry. Garnish with the carrots, broccoli stems and fresh chopped cilantro. Serve hot.
3. Asian Rice Noodles
Asian rice noodles are made from rice flour but they are different than the brown rice spaghetti you can buy for most pasta dishes. Asian rice noodles come in many sizes, lengths and are quick to cook. You soak them in warm water for about 15 minutes and they are ready to use in your stir-fry, Pad Thai, Pho or whatever dish you are making. Rice noodles are shiny, chewy and soak up sauces. Try rice noodles in this Char Kway Teow (Malaysian Stir-Fried Rice Noodles), Cold Rice Noodles in Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce, Rice Noodles with Vegetables in Green Curry Coconut Sauce, and Street Pad Thai.
4. Yam, Sweet Potato and Shirataki Noodles
Korean noodles made from sweet potatoes or yams are similar to bean noodles but they are thinner. They are translucent and glassy, very long, and are chewy and elastic. They pick up the flavors of whatever they are cooked with. Because they are so long, they are often chopped into more workable sizes. Like rice noodles, you just soak them in water and then use them in your dishes. You can buy yam and sweet potato noodles but it’s also easy to make your own with a spiralizer. For some amazing recipes with these noodles, try Quinoa and Sweet Potato Noodle Bolognese with Toasted Crushed Almonds, Buffalo Cauliflower with Sweet Potato Noodles, Healthy and Vegan Yam Noodles with Miso Sauce, and Sweet Raw Yam Noodles with Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds.
Also in this tuber category are shirataki noodles which are Japanese noodles made from konjac starch, a tuber that is also called devil’s tongue. Sometimes they are also made from tofu. They can be eaten raw but you probably don’t want to. When you open the package, they have a very earthy smell and need to be rinsed well before using. After rinsing, they can be directly added to a stir-fry or whatever recipe you are making. They have a rubbery texture and may be an acquired taste. They are popular because they have very few calories though they are filling. I like them best when mixed with other vegetable “noodles.”
5. Kelp Noodles
Another type of Korean noodles are those made from kelp, a type of seaweed. Kelp noodles are clear, crunchy and flavorless. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Since kelp is filled with iodine and minerals, it is a nutritious choice and essential for a vegan diet. When cooked, seaweed can also add that umami savory taste to our meals. Try Kelp Noodles in Peanut-Miso Sauce, Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage and Kelp Noodle Bowl with Rich Miso Dressing, and Vegan Chili Thai Kelp Noodles to Die For!
6. Buckwheat Noodles
One of my favorite types of Japanese noodles is soba noodles. They are made from buckwheat flour and may be flavored with seaweed or green tea. They have a nutty flavor and work well in both hot and cold dishes. You have to read labels carefully, however, as many brands of soba noodles add wheat to make them less expensive. Look for ones that are 100% buckwheat. Try soba noodles in these amazing recipes: Soba Noodle Salad with Avocado and Mango, Green Tea Soba Noodles with Roasted Vegetables and Herbs, and Rich Vegan Soba Soup.
7. Vegetable Noodles
Another popular option is to not only eliminate the gluten but all the grains as well. By using vegetables, you can make your own noodles. I often do this when I want a lighter meal. When you make the pasta out of vegetables and skip the flour, you can eat a big bowl-full and feel good afterwards. Use a spiralizer to make long noodles out of carrots, zucchini, eggplant or almost any long veggie. If you don’t have a spiralizer, don’t worry. Do what I do and just use a vegetable peeler or a mandoline. Which veggies should you try making noodles from? Try zucchini, carrots, broccoli, parsnips, beets, eggplant, cucumber, jicama, pumpkin and winter squash. Read Switch Up Your Pasta Game – How to Use Spiralized Veggies as Noodles for tips on how to make them. Then make this Vegan Zucchini Noodle Japchae, Purple Cauliflower Thai Green Coconut Curry with Carrot Noodles, Zucchini “Ramen” Noodles, Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Noodles, Miso Roasted Tomatoes with Spiralized Carrot Noodles, Tomato Basil Broccoli Noodles with White Bean Salad, and Vegan Eggplant Noodles.
Other veggies that can sub for noodles without the need for making “noodles” are spaghetti squash and cabbage. When you drag a fork over spaghetti squash, it forms strands that are a perfect substitute for noodles. Try it in this Spaghetti Squash with Alfredo Sauce, Mexican Bowl over Spaghetti Squash, and this Spaghetti Squash With Basil and Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce. Shredded cabbage can also stand-in for noodles. I love using cabbage in dishes like Moo Shu Vegetables.
With all these wheat-free noodle options, it’s easy to make tons of dishes healthier, with fewer calories, gluten-free and even grain-free. Plus it’s fun to make your own noodles out of veggies for unique, colorful dishes.
Lead Image Source: Indian Vegetable Curry wit Mung Bean Fettuccine by Rhea Parsons