Some people (like me) would love to eat pasta for every meal, but while carbs are coming back into fashion, carb overload is still very real. So, I found four better-for-you pasta alternatives: spaghetti squash, spiralized vegetables, shirataki noodles, and kelp pasta. Each of these are low in calories and carbs, nutrient dense, and gluten-free, but the most important question remains: can they satisfy my pasta craving?


Pasta alternatives

Photo by Lexi Nickens

Spiralized “noodles” obviously taste like whatever vegetable they’re made of, and although vegetables may be delicious, they can get in the way of other flavors and definitely don’t taste like pasta.

If you like pasta because it serves as a good base for lots of dishes, spaghetti squash has you covered. Because it’s so bland, this vegetable easily absorbs other flavors and can easily be integrated into any meal.

However, if you’re like me and appreciate the subtle wheat flavor of pasta, go for the shirataki or kelp noodles. Some find their fishy smell off-putting, but if you simply wash them, the smell dissipates, leaving an earthy taste reminiscent of pasta.

Winner: Everything but spiralized vegetables


Pasta alternatives

Photo by Lexi Nickens

Depending on how long you cook them, both spaghetti squash and spiralized “noodles” can range from soft and delicate to crisp and crunchy, but for all their textural diversity, they can never achieve pasta’s signature chewiness.

Both shirataki and kelp noodles have a slightly (for lack of a better word) slimy mouth feel, but they are both wonderfully chewy. However, shirataki noodles are slightly more gelatinous so…

Winner: Kelp pasta


Pasta alternatives

Photo by Lexi Nickens

Cutting, gutting, and cooking spaghetti squash is both laborsome and time-consuming. Spiralizing veggies may be simpler and quicker, but it is nearly impossible to spiralize the full vegetable, leaving behind large chunks that must be repurposed.

Shirataki and kelp noodles are ready to go in the package and simply need to be washed; if you want to eat them warm, it only takes two minutes to heat them in the microwave or on the stove.

Winner: Shirataki and kelp noodles

Cost and Accessibility

Pasta alternatives

Photo by Lexi Nickens

Kelp pasta costs a whopping $6.99 per two servings, while shirataki noodles are slightly better at $1.99 for the same amount. Both can be found at most healthy food stores, such as Whole Foods.

However, vegetables and spaghetti squash will definitely provide more bang for your buck and can be found at any average grocery store.

Winner: Everything but kelp pasta


All of these alternatives serve as healthy, enjoyable additions to any meal, but if you’re really craving a pasta substitute at a somewhat reasonable price, go for the shirataki noodles.