Aug 27, 2023

What Is Heart Of Palm Pasta

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Here's everything you need to know about this trendy low-carb noodle.

Low-carb swaps for pasta, rice, and other grains have come a long way. What started with zoodles has since expanded into a major industry, with new brands like Banza and Capello's and even legacy brands like Barilla making their own alternatives to wheat-based ingredients.

We've seen pasta and rice made from chickpeas, squash, almond flour, and of course, cauliflower. The cruciferous vegetable has been the darling of the low-carb movement for years now, but there's a new vegetable on the rise that just might overtake its fame: hearts of palm.

We're breaking down exactly what hearts of palm are, how they can be used as a low-carb pasta and rice substitute, and what they contribute to your diet. We chatted with Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition at Nucific to unpack everything you need to know about hearts of palm.

Thankfully, the name is pretty self-explanatory: it's the core of a palm tree. Hearts of palm are harvested from multiple different species of palm tree throughout Southeast Asia and South and Central America. Most commonly, you can find jars or cans of the vegetable packed in water or brine, sold either in the shape of thick, smooth cylinders or thin slices.

At first glance, some people may confuse hearts of palm for the stalks of white asparagus. The pale, off-white vegetable is actually more similar in flavor and texture to artichoke hearts. It tastes mild with slight vegetal notes and takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings you use.

Texturally, it has the consistency of a well-cooked pasta: tender while still having a bit of a bite to it. Its unique composition makes it an especially versatile ingredient. When roughly broken apart, it has the same flakiness as crab and other seafood. But home cooks are increasingly recognizing its ability to act as a rice and pasta substitute.

Compared to standard wheat-based noodles, hearts of palm are significantly lower in carbohydrates and calories. The USDA reports that 100 grams of cooked pasta contains roughly 30 grams of carbohydrates, while the same amount of hearts of palm has less than five grams.

The vegetable may not have the same protein content, but it contains less than 20 percent of the calories. Despite being comparatively lighter than standard pasta or rice, low-carb consumers love how substantial it is. "What really makes it a healthy alternative is the texture. It’s robust and filling," says Dr. Lee. "It also has a lot of fiber per serving."

Unlike certain low-carb noodles like zucchini, hearts of palm will leave you feeling satiated instead of starving. And a bonus, its mild flavor may have a broader appeal than cauliflower does.

"Lots of people don't like cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables because they can be bitter," says Dr. Lee. "Hearts of palm can be a better alternative because they're more neutral in flavor."

Ready to delve into hearts of palm? It's still an emerging ingredient in the low-carb grain industry, so it's not as widely available as other varieties. Here are some of the best ones currently on the market:

Another important thing to consider, according to Dr. Lee, isn't pigeonholing your low-carb pasta offerings. The best way to avoid getting tired of hearts of palm, cauliflower, or any other ingredient for that matter is to keep a variety of products in your meal rotation.

"Consumers should be aware of different types of vegetables that can be made into a low carb substitutes," she says. Incorporating hearts of palm into your diet along with legume-based grain substitutes and even konjac root-based shirataki noodles ultimately makes your diet more balanced and prevents you from getting bored.

Gabby Romero is Delish’s editorial assistant, where she writes stories about the latest TikTok trends, develops recipes, and answers any and all of your cooking-related questions. She loves eating spicy food, collecting cookbooks, and adding a mountain of Parmesan to any dish she can.

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