Jul 07, 2023

What Are Shirataki Noodles, and Are They Healthy?

Why shirataki noodles are great for those looking for low-carb, low-calorie and gluten-free noodle options.

Breana Lai Killeen, M.P.H, RD, is a Chinese and Jewish chef and dietitian who has worked in all facets of the food world. She is a recipe developer, culinary nutritionist and marketing specialist with more than 15 years of experience creating editorial and digital content for top food and kitchen brands.

Maria Laura is EatingWell's senior nutrition & news editor. As part of the nutrition team, she edits and assigns nutrition-related content and provides nutrition reviews for articles. Maria Laura is a trained dietitian, almond butter lover and food enthusiast with over seven years of experience in nutrition counseling.

What if someone told you there's a type of noodle that is gluten-free, low in carbs and calories and doesn't require a spiralizer? You might think this is another gimmick or worry that this sounds like a science experiment.

Fair enough. It might sound too good to be true, but these noodles might be in the produce section of your grocery store. Keep reading to learn about shirataki noodles and how they could soon be a staple in your kitchen for making tasty, healthy and easy meals.

Shirataki noodles are a type of Japanese noodle made from the konjac yam. The noodles are made by mixing konjac flour with water and then shaping the mixture into noodles. They are then cooked and packaged in water to keep them fresh. Shirataki noodles are very low in calories and carbohydrates and have become popular as a low-carb and gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta.

Shirataki noodles have a mild flavor and can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stir-fries to salads and pasta dishes. The noodles are thin, translucent and have a slightly gelatinous texture. The word "shirataki" means "white waterfall" in Japanese, which is emblematic of their appearance.

Shirataki noodles can come in a variety of shapes and forms. The most common size is a long flat noodle, a little thinner than spaghetti and slightly thicker than angel hair, but they can also be short like macaroni or even in little balls resembling grains of rice.

In the U.S., they are most commonly sold in a package of water, so instead of being in the pasta aisle at your grocery store, they can often be found in the refrigerated section near the tofu.

At this point, you may be visualizing a type of dry noodle you've come across in the Asian aisle at your grocery store called glass noodles, AKA mung bean noodles. While glass noodles share some characteristics with shirataki noodles, they are pretty different. Glass noodles, also known as cellophane noodles or mung bean noodles, are a type of transparent noodle most often made from mung beans or sweet potatoes. Glass noodles have a softer, chewier texture than shirataki noodles and also have more calories and carbohydrates.

The biggest difference between shirataki and other types of noodles is the nutritional content. Shirataki noodles are mainly just water with some fiber, meaning they have relatively little nutritional content—for better or worse.

According to the USDA, a 100-gram serving of shirataki noodles contains:

Compare that to a 100-gram serving of cooked pasta, which contains 157 calories, 31 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, or a 100-gram serving of glass noodles, which contains 84 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates and no dietary fiber.

The nutrition information of these foods may vary depending on the manufacturer.

Since shirataki noodles are so low in calories and carbohydrates compared to other types of noodles, they can be very useful for people looking to reduce calories or manage their carbohydrates. Given that they have a fairly high fiber-to-calorie ratio, shirataki noodles can help people feel full without consuming a lot of calories, which may be helpful to those trying to lose weight or manage their weight. And for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, shirataki noodles have the advantage of being naturally gluten-free.

As mentioned, shirataki noodles are most commonly sold packaged in water. When you're ready to cook them, transfer the noodles to a colander and give them a good rinse. From there, simply boil the noodles until soft, about 3 minutes. If you plan on eating them immediately, add them to the rest of the dish. If you plan on eating them later, drain the noodles and let them dry, then toss with a bit of oil and refrigerate them.

Remember, shirataki noodles have a mild flavor and can absorb the flavors of the other ingredients in your dish, so be sure to season your dish well.

If you're looking for noodles that are low in carbs and gluten-free, other options include zucchini noodles (zoodles), spaghetti squash, kelp noodles, edamame noodles and mung bean noodles. However, the last two options are higher in calories and carbohydrates. Check the nutrition labels for the most accurate nutrition information.

While it may sound too good to be true, it is possible to eat noodles that are low in calories, low in carbs and gluten-free. Better yet, these aren't some gimmicky health food trend but are part of a rich Japanese tradition. So when you're thinking about your next dinner, consider trying shirataki noodles in a stir-fried noodle dish. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

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