• 4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice

    4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice | stupideasypaleo.comPaleo swaps for pasta and rice can really help ease your transition into this way of eating. When you first go Paleo, it can be challenging to construct grain-free meals particularly when pasta or rice were staples of your diet.

    Luckily, there are some easy Paleo swaps you can use to replicate the “feel” of these foods. While they won’t always be the same flavor or texture, once your taste buds adjust, you’ll probably find you end up enjoying these swaps just as much. Bonus: Using veggies to sub for grains and other starches significantly bumps up the nutrient content of your meals.

    Paleo Swap for Pasta: Zucchini Noodles

    Zucchini noodles or “zoodles” are probably my favorite pasta substitute because they’re mild in flavor and really simple to make. Probably the biggest complaint, though, is that they can get watery when cooked, but there’s a simple solution.

    To prevent water-logged zucchini noodles, salt the zoodles after you make them but before cooking. Here’s how to do it:

    • Place the zoodles in a colander. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
    • Place the colander in the sink or over a large bowl because liquid will be pulled from the zoodles.
    • After 15 to 20 minutes, rinse very well with fresh water. Then, gently squeeze any excess moisture from the noodles. Use raw or cooked.

    How do you make zoodles? There are two basic methods: using a julienne peeler or a spiralizer. I prefer the julienne peeler for a few reasons: the noodles are “finer,” and the peeler is inexpensive and small. Lots of folks love the spiralizer because it’s faster. Either way, both will work. You can also make noodles from several other veggies such as sweet potatoes or beets.

    Here’s a video of how Mel from The Clothes Make the Girl makes her zucchini noodles.

    Suggested recipes: Cold Zucchini Noodle Salad with Tomatoes and Olives, Paleo Noodle Bowl

    Paleo Swap for Pasta: Spaghetti Squash

    Spaghetti squash also has a fantastic noodly texture and while it doesn’t taste like a plain noodle made from flour, it’s a very common swap in Paleo cooking. Once you bake the squash, you use a fork to loosen the innards into long strings, a texture unlike any other squash you’ve probably ever had. There are a few ways to prepare spaghetti squash, but my favorite is to roast it.

    To do that, preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C), and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. With a sharp knife, slice a small section off the squash so it won’t roll around the cutting board. Then, slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. (They’re actually dynamite when roasted separately with some salt and pepper.) Lay the halves cut side up, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes, then let cool. Scrape up the “noodles” with a fork.

    You can also microwave it, cut side down on a plate with a little bit of water until tender, 10+ minutes. Or, if you’re brave, you can poke a LOT of holes in it and microwave it whole. I can’t really recommend that method though, because I had a spaghetti squash burst that way once. The clean up is not fun.

    Suggested recipe: Paleo Chicken Florentine Spaghetti Squash

    Paleo Swap for Rice: Cauliflower “Rice”

    Okay, so this usually still tastes a bit like cauliflower, but the texture is very similar to rice provided it’s not overcooked or raw. Once I even fooled people at a party: My Paleo friend avoided trying my dish because she thought it was actual rice. The great part is that it’s a really blank canvas that you can add so many flavors to: Asian, Indian and Mexican are my favorites.

    Cauli “rice” is relatively easy to prepare if you have a food processor. First, core it, and cut into large florets. Then, you can use a shredding blade (easiest) or use a regular blade and pulse it in small batches until it’s roughly the size of rice grains. If you don’t have a food processor, you can fill a blender pitcher with water, add chunks of cauliflower and whir it for several seconds until the pieces are small, then drain in a fine mesh strainer. I’ve never personally tried that method, but many people use it and say it works well.

    I found the key to making great cauli “rice” is to cook it over high temperature and relatively fast. (Think of stir frying.) That way, the cauliflower doesn’t have a chance to get soggy. If chopped slightly smaller than rice grains, cauliflower can act as a replacement for cous cous.

    Suggested recipes: Indian Pineapple Cauliflower Rice, Paleo Caramelized Onion Cauliflower “Cous Cous”

    Paleo Swap for Pasta: Kelp or Mountain Yam Noodles

    While not my top choice for a gluten-free noodle, kelp or mountain yam noodles are pretty neutral in flavor and even closer to the texture of actual noodles. Generally, they’re not super nutrient dense (certainly not as much as veggies), but they are pretty low in carbohydrate. For an every-once-in-a-while addition to soup, they’re probably fine, but I wouldn’t make them a daily indulgence because, well, there’s not much redeeming to them.

    Where to find kelp noodles or mountain yam noodles? The refrigerated section of natural grocers (such as Whole Foods or Sprouts) near the tofu. Remember to rinse them before use.

    Suggested recipes: Healing Chicken Soup, Paleo Fresh Spring Rolls

    What About Other Gluten-Free Noodles?

    Nowadays, the gluten-free foods section of your market is bound to contain noodles made of various gluten-free starches such as rice, tapioca, potato, quinoa, corn, etc. Some things to consider: Some of these foods are generally avoided in Paleo, and when compared to vegetables (like making zoodles), these noodles are far less nutrient dense. Also, some may contain proteins that are still problematic for folks with gluten sensitivity.

    Optimizing nutrient intake and consuming enough vegetable matter is a hallmark of Paleo eating, so choosing veggie noodles or cauli “rice” is my best recommendation.

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    4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice | stupideasypaleo.com

    Have a question or comment? Leave it in the comments below!

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    20 thoughts on “4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice

    1. Hi Steph thanks for the great suggestions! I am an admitted spiralizer addict for my zoodles. One follow-up question i have is about the zucchini sourcing itself. I have read mixed messages about the need to use organic or not. I do not find it on the dreaded “dirty dozen”. However, i have heard that zucchini are highly likely to be GMO supplied. I know when in doubt go organic. But with the amount of zucchinis required to make a decent batch of water-removed zoodels it can get quite expensive. Your thoughts? Thanks much and keep up the awesome work you do.

      1. Hi Patrick…I understand your concerns, and you’re right…it’s not on the dirty dozen list. My best recommendation based on your concerns is to eat them seasonally (and source them from a farmer’s market or your own garden if you can) and rotate other veggies throughout the year. Hope that helps!

    2. To get the water out of the zucchini, I julienne it and then wrap it up in a couple of paper towels and let it sit for a few hours, I have even done it in the morning to use that night. The results are very dry strings that really imitate spaghetti and are not watery at all. I think it works better than the salt method.

    3. Have been a “zuch -getti” fan for years! So much tastier than wheat or even rice pasta. Just made cauliflower rice last night for the first time ! Better and quicker than regular blah rice. Kelp noodles r insanely good as well. R yam noodles also known as soba noodles?

    4. Hi, Thanks for the heads up on cooking spaghetti squash. I’ve been cutting it and putting it face down in a 1/4″ of water for about a half hour. It’s ok, but it comes out watery and the taste is watery too. I’m going to try your roasting method. I think it will turn out much better. Ellen

    5. I was in a hurry to find instructions for cauliflower rice tonight, and found yours. It came out great stir-fried in coconut oil. However, I did not realize I need to get rid of all the stem I could, so I ended up with cauliflower rice-a-roni… It also took me a minute or two to figure out how to put my food processor shredding blade on the stem (it’s been a very long time since I’ve done that), but it was worth having to figure it out, because that’s a fabulous method for making the rice. It’s a lot more dependable than pulsing with the regular blade. Especially if I’m the one doing it. 🙂

    6. When I know a quick meal will be needed during the week and I’m leaving it up to hubby to make dinner, I pick up a bag of broccoli slaw and use that as the noodles in my spaghetti. Hubby prefers the zuke noodles but isn’t willing to do the work to make them. I’ve fried them quickly in a little EVO and have also just tossed the bag into the sauce once ot was ready to serve.

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