Healthy recipes to satisfy my noodle craving?
December 4, 2016 8:01 PM   Subscribe

I have been trying to cut back on noodles to eat healthier, but now I'm thinking maybe I can find a healthy way to satisfy my noodle cravings. What are some healthy types of noodles and tasty dishes to eat them in?

1. Vegetarian
2. Healthy. I'm especially worried about glycemic index since I have a family history of type 2 diabetes. Protein and vitamins are nice too.
3. Tasty and filling, enough calories for a meal (400-500?)
4. Stores well for a few days in fridge or freezer. I usually make something on the weekend and portion it out for the week. But I can probably convince myself to cook again mid-week if needed.
I'm open to pretty much any noodle/pasta and I can get all sorts of ingredients where I live. Although I do find spaghetti squash too labor intensive and messy.
Examples of dishes I love: angel hair spaghetti, pad thai, pad see ew, vietnamese vermicelli noodle salad, jap chae, mac & cheese, instant ramen, fancy ramen, probably more...
Thanks for any recipe suggestions or other tips!
posted by Gravel to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Zucchini noodles are one answer to this.
posted by lazuli at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

I don't know much healthier it really is but I find Tinkyada brown rice pasta to be quite satisfying.

Really I came in here to suggest spaghetti squash, before reading your caveat. I split it in half, scoop out the seeds and microwave 20 minutes, then let it cool off maybe 5 mre minutes and find that the flesh spoons out quite easily. Makes a fantastic gratin with bechamel and gruyere. Also delicious with tomato sauce, sausage and copious amounts of pecorino.
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:09 PM on December 4, 2016

Do you know about Miracle Noodles?
posted by falsedmitri at 8:10 PM on December 4, 2016

I also just remembered from my low carb days that often a large helping of coleslaw would somehow scratch the noodle itch, oddly enough.
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:13 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Soba noodles! They never give me food coma like other noodles do. I have no idea why -- perhaps something something glycemic load? Who knows. In any case: soba noodles! The ones that are 100% buckwheat are particularly great. You can definitely store them in the fridge after cooking -- just make sure you massage in a little oil first so they don't stick together. They're delicious cold, hot, in soups, with veggies, whatever -- here are many excellent recipes. They're also delicious with a big spoonful of pesto and some halved cherry tomatoes. Mmm.
posted by ourobouros at 8:22 PM on December 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

I do a mix of shirataki/miracle noodles, zoodles (or my favorite, cucumber spiralized noodles - SO good with sesame oil and other Asian high-umami flavors), and cabbage slivers for Asian-style noodles, stir fry, Pad Thai. Cauliflower is my general base for pasta sauces and casseroles.

The trick to shirataki noodles is to rinse well and then either dry as much as possible and stir-fry in a smidge of oil, or soak/drain 1-2 times in boiling water from a kettle or pan. They have a slightly fermenty funk otherwise.

I recommend, if you're going to buy a spiralizer, splurge on both the handheld cone type and a crank style, as each one offers its own good options (the cone, for example, is very fast but only good for things that are very nearly cone-sized like cucumber or zucchini, less good for beets, apples, potatoes or other squashes.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 PM on December 4, 2016

Trader Joe's sells pasta made from black beans.
posted by bq at 8:49 PM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Honestly, unless you've been told by a doctor that you cannot under any circumstances eat pasta or noodles of any kind for diabetes-related reasons, noodles are not unhealthy. Just eat noodles if you want to. Do so in moderation, of course, but consuming a carb isn't going to make you diabetic if you're otherwise in good health and not under a doctor's care for diabetes.

Obviously something like pasta al pomodoro or tofu pad se ew is a lot healthier for you than macaroni and cheese or instant ramen, but it's just food, man.

(Protip: I do "fancy" Japanese ramen a lot with fresh or frozen vegetables added. It's not the healthiest meal ever invented, but it's not going to give you a heart attack, either.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:02 PM on December 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Eggs are quite good for you and add far more to a dish than the effort to cook them would indicate. Try to master your favorite ways to have them and then combine that with your noodle of choice.

For fried over-easy, you don't need to use very much butter or oil at all. More important is the right spatula and pan combo to make flipping easy, and getting things to the right temperature. This varies a bit between each combination of stove/temp of egg when placed in pan/equipment so just practice it a bunch until it gets easy. For most Asian inspired dishes I'll cook eggs in a bit of toasted sesame oil; most European inspired things get butter, but you can use anything - vegetable oil will add the least flavor and be most versatile.

Once you have that cooked white and creamy yolk easily available to you, try making eggplant sauce with fried eggs on shells (or bow ties or whatever works):

Take any type of fresh eggplant and cut it lengthwise down the middle. Score it deeply in a crisscross fashion, but try not to pierce through the skin. Sprinkle liberally with salt and let it sit for at least half an hour. Preheat your oven to 350 and line a baking tray with foil. Pat the eggplant dry, and drizzle with olive oil. Place cut-side down on baking tray and cook until soft, about half an hour depending on size. By placing it with the skin on top you're essentially steaming it. Take it out and let it cool. Meanwhile sauté some diced onion in a little oil and butter (or whatever combo you like) slowly so it browns softly. Also mince some garlic and parsley, add that for a few minutes. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant. If it's really meaty and keeping its shape, chop it up smaller, but it will continue to break down and you want it chunky so don't worry. Add it to your pan with some wine and/or veggie broth, cover and let it simmer. You can just heat it through or cook it down, it tastes good both ways. You can do all this way ahead of time and fridge or freeze it for a quick dinner any time.

To plate, have a bowl of pasta with a ladle of eggplant sauce and fry one or two eggs to put on top. Break the yolks and cut up the whites, and sprinkle with black pepper to taste. Each bite will have a different ratio of ingredients and the egg does amazing things with the eggplant to make a dish with lots of variety.
posted by Mizu at 10:19 PM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

I promise, I do not work for this company: but the bean-based noodles from Explore Asia are a dog-send for vegetarians/vegans (and anyone else who is trying to eat more protein). They make a huge difference to how I feel after eating a large plate of vegan "spaghetti bolognese". I experience far less bloat, a significant reduction in food-related-guilt, and they quickly/drastically can increase your protein intake. My favourites are the edamame/mung bean fettucini and the adzuki bean spaghetti. Give them a try!
posted by Socky McSockface at 11:13 PM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

So the shirataki noodles people have posted about are fine in terms of general shape and basic texture, but they don't taste at all like regular noodles. They're about as close to actual pasta as spaghetti squash is to spaghetti. And previous posters are right: They have a very stinky smell unless they are washed several times, par-cooked, and washed again.

If you get a very strong flavor on them, they'll substitute for noodles in a pinch, but they are not a good alternative to regular pasta.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:28 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Basic suggestion- keep the noodles but use less of them, proportionately, in a dish. I calorie counted for a while and I was shocked at how much of a difference it made to just do less rice and more meat and veg in my dinner portions. I didn't notice the lesser portion of rice much, compared to all the other changes I could have made involving substitutions of the rice in its entirety. Getting to still have my rice made me happier than having...eggplant or whatever, as a base. (I realise I was still having a substitution but it felt much less sacrificial).
posted by jojobobo at 11:51 PM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Most noodle substitutes just make me feel like I'm eating a Hungry Girl blog post. If you're used to that delicious, filling carbobomb, suddenly swapping in shirataki probably won't satisfy you.

We make a relatively low-noodle spaghetti that still scratches my carb itch. Here's what goes in it:

- Fresh, whole-wheat pasta. Both the freshness and the whole wheat add a lot of hearty substance to the texture. It's more inconvenient for us to get than dried supermarket pasta, yet it's quicker to make, so it ends up an easy dinner that we don't have all the time.
- More vegetables than noodles. We basically cook whatever veggies we have on hand and mix in 1/3 to 1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce; the end result is more like sauce-covered veggies than something you can pour.
- We've also recently discovered riced broccoli (we get pre-made bags at Trader Joe's) which is not exactly a substitute but makes pretty decent filler. You could make a dish with half noodles and half riced broccoli/cauliflower.

It could also help you to make personal rules about the circumstances when you eat noodles: only whole wheat, or only from scratch, or only in restaurants, or only when there's a lot of veggies/protein added. Something that will limit your opportunities without actually feeling restrictive.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:09 AM on December 5, 2016

We found a fantastic whole wheat pasta made by La Molisana that we like more than white pasta. We also tried spelt pasta at one point but we found it gummy and didn't like it.

If you're looking for high(er) protein, avoid gluten-free pasta (corn or rice based): honestly, just compare the protein content on the label. Durum wheat is a high-protein variety.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:57 AM on December 5, 2016

I use Hong Kong Noodles to make this fast and delicious Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles dish.

More often than not, I substitute chili garlic sauce for the garlic, then use less oil and sriracha.

I don't know how well it stores; I only make enough for immediate needs.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:02 AM on December 5, 2016

Oh yeah, and lots of veg. We've been making our own sauce starting by frying up some onions, adding chopped zucchini or swiss chard, then tomatoes (fresh, canned, or a jar of sauce -- if you're doing fresh or canned, throw in lots of oregano and some salt with the onions). Add the nearly-cooked pasta when it's about one minute from being done, mix with the sauce, and cook for another few minutes till the pasta is done (it cooks more slowly in the sauce).

It's delicious hot or cold for lunch the next day too.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:03 AM on December 5, 2016

Came in to say soba noodles, but ourobouros was already there. They are delicious and versatile, and it seems buckwheat is one of those foodstuffs that are really good for your microbiome. (last link a little pop-med, but as far as I can see, the underlying research is good).
Google for thousands of recipes.
posted by mumimor at 6:28 AM on December 5, 2016

Last time I was at Costco I brought home a big ol' box of edamame noodles (thin spaghetti shape) that were pretty awesome and served equally well in Asian and Italian recipes
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2016

If you're only worried about glycemic index (and not absolute calorie count), pair your pasta/noodles with lots of fiber.

Role of glycemic index and glycemic load in the healthy state, in prediabetes, and in diabetes
posted by porpoise at 11:24 AM on December 5, 2016

This is one example, but a simple fix is to reverse the ratio of noodle to vegetable
posted by O9scar at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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