If you’re on a low carb diet and miss noodles and pasta, or are just watching the calories and so are cutting back on carby portions, behold shirataki noodles – also known as no-calorie noodles – your new best friend. But what exactly are shirataki made from? How many calories do they contain? Are they different from kelp noodles? And is brown shirataki different from white – all these questions and more below…
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What Are Shirataki Noodles?
Made from a type of yam called konjac, the translucent shirataki noodles are effectively strings of a soluble fibre – called glucomannan – that your body can’t digest – this means they technically have no carbs and no calories.
Admittedly eaten alone they also have no taste, but they do play well with sauces and soups so this isn’t a massive concern.
You might also see them called konjac noodles, konjac pasta, konnyaku noodles or yam noodles. Brand names of the noodles include Miracle Noodles, Zero Noodles or Slendier.
They originated in Japan and are used a lot in Japanese cooking.
How Many Calories are in Shirataki Noodles?
Okay, so they are often called no-calorie noodles, but don’t be fooled – some brands do contain a few calories.
The pack of Slendier I have on my desk, for example, contain 12 calories per 125g serving. Some products in other ranges have 5-6 calories per serving. But true, zero-calorie products are out there – Miracle Noodle’s Angel Hair Pasta for example list no-calories on its nutrition label.
In the scheme of things though, even the 12 calorie products will save you heaps of calories per meal.
The same size serving of egg noodles contains about 80 calories. And a cooked 125g serving of cooked fresh pasta has 126 calories. But generally, you use a lot more pasta than that.
How to Use Shirataki Noodles
Okay, big mistake – which I have also made – is to just open the packet, drain it and put the noodles directly into the soup or sauce that you are cooking.
You see as the noodles sit on the shelf, the water they are stores in starts to pick up some of the scent of the konjac and this creates a frankly, stinky, brew that might put you off tasting the things in the first place.
It can also give a fishy undertone to anything you’re cooking them with – and while that might work well with a bowl of soup of spicy Thai Soup or Pad Thai, it might not go so well if you’re making a carbonara sauce!
Instead, read the instructions on your particular packet on what to do with the noodles before you cook with them.
Slender, for example, suggest that you drain away the fluid from the pack. Then add the noodles to hot water for a minute, then drain that – and if maybe even tip them out on a couple of sheets of kitchen paper to drain them further.
Miracle Noodle say to drain then rinse the noodles and toss them in a frying pan until they are dry.
Now, add them to whatever you’re cooking just before you eat it.
What to Make With Shirataki Noodles.
Personally, I think they work best in Asian dishes, particularly soups, as an alternative to normal noodles.
This is because they’re pretty slimy and so to me, they don’t quite cut it as an alternative to pasta which I like for its dry, starchy texture.
To me, the best bit about eating Italian is not the saucy bits of pasta, but the uncovered dry bits around the edge and these just don’t give you that – however, lots of people disagree with me and do use them in Italian dishes (I did find one brand, Slendier, that I think work better as a pasta alternative – check the review on those here).
If you’re pining for Spag Bol and trying to keep to your low-carb plan, they could be your answer.
If you haven’t tried lemon with the noodles before I’d absolutely recommend it (see the section on ‘brown shirataki noodles’ below for how I used them there).
If you want to keep things traditional though and try a simple Asian soup recipe using shirataki noodles, here’s mine for the dish above….
Shirataki and Miso Soup
300ml chicken stock
2 teaspoons of miso soup paste
3 sheets of nori, cut into strips
1 pack of noodles – drained, then rinsed in cold water
Mix the stock and miso paste and bring to the boil, add the noodles, seaweed, mushrooms and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped spring onions to serve. Folks who like things spicy can also add chilli flakes, or swap the onions for chopped red chilli.
Are Shirataki Noodles Healthy?
A food made of a substance you don’t absorb, might not sound like it should be healthy, but konjac is not an artificial product. It’s a tuber, rather like a yam, which means that ‘no-calorie noodles’ are actually a completely natural product.
They are also very high in fibre which is something we should increase our diets. In fact, the fibre in konjac has been shown to help reduce the incidence of constipation and increase levels of good bacteria in the bowels.
It’s also been linked to lower cholesterol and low blood sugar.
So, yes, as part of an otherwise balanced healthy diet, shirataki noodles can be classed as healthy.
Well, as well as containing no calories and no carbs, they also contain no nutrients so, it’s important that whatever you eat with the noodles makes up for that.
Also, watch out for bloat.
The noodles keep you seriously full because they travel slowly through your digestive system – however, if like me, your digestive system seems to be full of little bacteria that love to feed ravenously on anything that hangs around in your digestive system creating a large amount of air as they do so, you will puff up (see also why chia seeds create bloat).
It helps if you eat them in small mouthfuls and chew them well, but if they’re in a soup, this gets tricky.
I wouldn’t eat them the day before a big night out where you’re wearing a tight dress just in case.
Suddenly adding a lot of fibre to your diet in one go can also upset your bowel so you might find that suddenly eating a lot of no-calorie noodles could lead to stomach upsets. Introduce them into your diet steadily so your body can get used to handling extra insoluble fibre.
Also, because konjac can swell up, it’s not suggested that you take supplements containing it if you have any kind of swallowing problem. If you have this kind of health concern, then ask your doctor before trying konjac noodles just to be on the safe side.
Lastly, read the serving size carefully and don’t eat lots of them in one go. There has a been a case of a woman who did that and ended up with the noodles forming a solid mass in her stomach which led to quite a lot of pain and a lawsuit. Stick to suggested serving sizes.
Are Brown ‘No Calorie’ Noodles Different from White?
When they first launched in the UK, Shirataki Noodles only came in the plain white version – but, a few years later, brown no-calorie noodles appeared on the scene.
So, what’s the difference between brown and white shirataki noodles? Looking at the ingredients from the brand I tried, it’s the addition of seaweed powder as everything else seems to be the same as the white ones.
So, the next question was, do they taste any different? Yes is the answer. I tried a spoonful alone (even though shirataki don’t normally really taste of much solo, they pick up flavour via whatever you have them with). The seaweed powder does give them a taste of their own; it’s almost kind of meaty. They also seemed less slimy than the white noodles.
To serve with them I decided on a strange mix of tuna mayonnaise, spring onion and sundried tomatoes – don’t ask me why I was just really craving tuna mayo so I figured I’d try it.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to marry the topping with the need for something to flavour the noodles and was ferreting in the cupboards for something to use as a sauce when I came across the Ponzu sauce I bought to make Cameron Diaz’s breakfast.
It’s a mix of soy and citrus, at which point I decided I’d also rescue the slightly sad looking lemon in the fruit bowl and give it a job in life. I cooked the noodles, added a dash of Ponzu and the juice of half a lemon, left them to soak for a bit and voila – deliciously citrus noodles that worked perfectly well with the fish.
There’s no picture of them with the tuna on top for obvious reasons!!!
Are Shirataki Noodles the Same as Kelp Noodles?
No, they’re not. Kelp noodles are made of seaweed with the outer husk removed and so are different from Shirataki.
Both foods have no calories, but kelp noodles have a completely different texture. They almost pop when you eat them. They work really well in salads.
If you want to see more on kelp noodles, check out this post which explains all about them.
What Special Diets Can You Use No Calorie Noodles on?
Obviously, they work for any weight loss diet where you are trying to cut back on your calories.
The noodles also contain no gluten and so they are suitable for a gluten-free diet.
Because they are carb-free and very high in fibre, no-calorie noodles are keto-friendly.
They are also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. The only ingredients in most no-calorie noodles are konjac flour and water, although as I say, the brown ones do also contain some seaweed.
Can you Freeze Shirataki Noodles?
No. It’s not recommended.
Instead, Miracle Noodle say that you should store any unused raw noodles in water in the fridge. They’ll last up to a week if you change the water.
Where to Buy Shirataki Noodles
If you want to find shirataki in the UK, you’ll find them in most Japanese food stores – look in the fridge.
You’ll also find brands like Zero Noodles, Slendier, Yutaka, Eat Slim and Miracle Noodles in health stores.
Or, you can buy them online and have them delivered. Click to see a host of brands here.
I’ve tried pretty much all of the ones named above. They’re all good to replace noodles, but in my opinion, Slendier works as the best pasta alternative.
Alternatives to Shirataki Noodles
If you’re not keen on the texture or idea of shirataki or kelp noodles, there are other noodle and pasta alternatives out there.
Chances are you’ve already tried courgetti or zoodles made from spiralised courgettes, but you might also want to try spiralising squash, beetroot, mooli, carrot. Of, if you don’t have a spiraliser, you can create large pappardelle style noodles with a vegetable peeler.
There’s a heap of innovative spiralising ideas in the book Spiralize Now: 80 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for your Spiralizer
If you’d prefer to buy something ready-made, have a look at bean-based pastas. They aren’t as low calorie or quite as low carb as the no-calorie noodles but they do contain higher levels of protein and have a lower glycemic index which means they keep you fuller for longer than pasta does and also don’t raise blood sugar as high which may help with fat storage.
I’ve also got a mung bean one sitting in the cupboard wating for a sauce to go with it. I’ll update the post above once I’ve tried it.
What About Shirataki Rice?
I have tried it. Specifically I tried a brand calledEat Water Slim Rice
I’m not quite as big a fan of the rice as I am the noodles – I think mostly because I tried it with salmon and broccoli rather than having it with any kind of sauce and that didn’t quite work for me.
I think if you had it to accompany a curry or with a chilli, it would work far better.
Since I tried that, Miracle Noodle has also brought out a rice and shirataki hybrid that sounds intriguing. Called Love My Rice it has just 70 calories a serving. It looks like it’s only in the US right now. If you get to try it, please le me know what it’s like in the comments.
So, there you have it – hopefully a pretty thorough guide to all things no-calorie noodle. If you do have any questions though, let me know in the comments and I’ll try and answer them.