Pasta is a pretty simple combination of eggs and durum flour. Add a little salt, maybe a splash of olive oil and you’re set. It’s a wheat forward recipe with a lot of protein, starch, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and gluten. We’re not here to argue the benefits and drawbacks of gluten or gluten-free. But, we’ve all probably been in a pasta coma or two after a ltoo-big plate of noodles piled with cheese.
Let’s face it, wheat-based pasta is heavy. Delicious. But, yeah, we’re not talking about a light meal. A great way to lighten that meal is to try some good gluten-free pasta.*
*Five years ago, that statement would have been laughed out of any culinary establishment. These days, things have changed. Gluten-free pastas have gotten a lot better in a hurry.
With all this in mind, we’ve decided to cobble together a list of some of the best alternative-flour pasta out there. The gluten-free options that actually taste good. One great benefit of using a non-wheat flour pasta is the added flavors you’re bringing to a dish. Different textures abound and there’s a real sense of diversity in the starches when you start branching out into different flours.
If you’re cooking with any of these pasta variations, be sure to follow the instructions on cook time very closely. A benefit of durum wheat pasta is that it’s very durable. Some of these other options are not as tough and over-cooking can happen in an instant. Some chefs recommend stirring and hitting the pasta with a water rinse in the sink once cooked to halt the cooking process and prevent over-cooking. Consider yourself informed.
Explore Cuisine — Organic Black Bean Pasta
Bean flours are a great way to depart from wheat and really, really amp up the protein intake. An average two-ounce serving of Explore Cuisine’s black bean pasta has 25 grams (!) of protein. Compare that with your average wheat pasta’s 7 grams, and you’re really getting somewhere protein-wise.
Though, be careful cooking this one. It’ll fall apart quickly if left in the water too long.
Rustichella d’Abruzzo — Rice Pasta
Rice noodles probably bring to mind a dope bowl of Pho or a killer Pad Thai more than a plate of pasta slathered in Sunday gravy. And, that’s fair. But don’t limit your rice noodle intake to just the glorious cuisines of Asia. They work wonders with classic pasta recipes too. A good indicator of rice pasta as a great replacement for wheat is that you see it on Italian grocery stores shelves with brands like Rustichella d’Abruzzo.
At the end of the day, cheesy and buttery rice isn’t that far away from a classic Al Fredo. Give it a whirl.
Jovial — Brown Rice Pasta
Brown rice pasta takes things up a notch. Brown rice is hulled rice, so the bran is still attached adding heft. Heft isn’t the worst thing when you’re taking pasta dishes. And while there is more heft to brown rice pasta over white rice pasta, it’s nowhere near the heft of a full-wheat pasta.
There’s a nice, full flavor to Jovial’s iteration of the style that has a great texture — mimicking whole-wheat pasta. In fact, we’d wager that you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two in a blind taste test.
Le Veneziana — Corn Flour Pasta
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My first time trying glutenfree pasta. I haven't been feeling too well for the last couple of months and I'm starting to think it's got something to do with me being allergic (or at least very sensitive) to gluten. The pasta is made out of corn flour, taste is quite nice, consistency needs getting used to – very chewy. Still eatable 😉 #glutenfrei #glutenfree #nogluten #maismehl #cornflour #cornflourpasta #maispasta #oilandvinegar #gettinghealthy #healthy #healthyfood #gesundeküche #gesundwerden #pasta #nudeln #maisnudeln
Corn flour pasta is a pretty common sight around Italy. Classic brands like Le Veneziane have been around far longer than marketing terms like “gluten-free.”
Corn pasta is interesting. There’s a nice smoothness to the mouthfeel and the taste is very close to standard pasta. The noodles can pretty much sub in for any wheat pasta recipe you can think off. There is a (very) slight chewiness to the texture comparatively. Beyond that, this is a great choice.
Ancient Harvest — Quinoa Pasta
If there is a food that truly deserves the marketing moniker “superfood,” it probably is quinoa. Quinoa pasta is a great place to get a well-rounded pasta that’s pretty close to the original texturally and fairly neutral when it comes to flavor (making it a great platform for pasta recipes).
Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta has a decent amount of protein (17 grams), a nice dose of good fat, potassium, and lots of fiber. It does, however, carry a big dose of sugar too (24 grams per four-ounces). So be careful on that end.
Banza — Chickpea Pasta
Chickpea pasta has a richer texture and leans more towards the hefty pasta side of things. The noodles can handle heavier sauces and work really well with cold pasta recipes too. There’s a definite chewiness here and you can feel the bean-flour base. It’s a lot subtler than, say, the black bean variety. But, like other bean pasta, it will fall apart fast if over-cooked. So know your cooking window.
Tolerant — Organic Red Lentil Pasta
Lentils are a great food on their own, so it tracks that red lentil pasta would also be pretty rad. Lentils are much lighter than the other bean/legume pasta on the list which makes them great for pasta variations.
Overall, the same warnings apply when boiling — don’t over do it. The texture here is in line with a whole wheat pasta. The real delight is the red color and the hints of lentil living in each bite. If you dig lentil, you’ll really dig this pasta.
Felicia — Organic Buckwheat Pasta
Buckwheat has a place in all our ramen loving hearts as Soba noodles. They’re some of the best noodles out there. They have a heft to them, but they’re never too heavy. Their texture is smooth with a nice grain feel. The mouthfeel is always inexplicably soft and nourishing. Hence, buckwheat pasta is a great gluten-free alternative.
Also, please don’t let the name fool you. Buckwheat is not a wheat or even a grass. It’s a flowering plant that’s closely related to sorrel and rhubarb. The seeds are harvested and used for porridges, teas, or — in this case — milled into flour.
Garofalo — Corn, Quinoa, and Rice Pasta
If you’ve been to an Italian supermarket, you’ve probably seen Garofalo pasta on the shelf. It’s a big brand. They also make a great gluten-free pasta that’s a blend of some of our favorite noodle flours. In this case, corn, quinoa, and rice come together to create a near perfect wheat alternative.
The texture is nearly the same. The mouthfeel, we’d say, is very close to wheat pasta. And it looks identical to pretty much every wheat pasta out there. You could easily switch this one out for your standard pasta and no one would be able to tell. The biggest difference will be that no one will feel as tired, post pasta course.
Barilla — Corn and Rice Pasta
Barilla probably makes the best imitation of real pasta when it comes to gluten-free options. Their mix of corn and rice is really, really close to the gluten-loaded real deal durum wheat pasta. That’s clearly what their consumers want: Pasta that tastes exactly the same, without the gluten — and Barilla has the resources to create that.
How about this, you do a blind taste test at home and see if you can (honestly) tell the difference in taste, texture, or satisfaction. Our guess will be that you can’t.