7 Whole-Grain Pastas You've Never Tried

Pasta is such a versatile food, it’s no wonder it’s so popular. A survey conducted by the National Pasta Association found that 77% of Americans eat pasta at least once per week. Used as a side dish or main entree, eaten hot or cold, topped with a variety of different items, pasta is a great source of energy (carbohydrates) that helps power your mind through a tough day at work or school and your body though a challenging workout at the gym. You might have already made the switch to 100% whole-wheat pasta, but that's not the only variety of whole-grain pasta. Did you know that a wide variety of other whole-grain noodles are readily available in grocery stores these days?

Flours from other whole grains, such as brown rice, kamut, quinoa, buckwheat, corn and spelt, can all be used to make high-fiber, heart-healthy pastas, which each has its own flavor and nutritional profile. Being precise in cooking whole-grain pastas is important, as the texture can change greatly if you accidentally undercook or overcook them. This is especially true when cooking gluten-free pastas, as they tend to fall apart a bit more because they lack the sturdy protein, gluten, which helps bind pasta.

Here's an introduction to some of the most common whole-grain pastas you can find at the supermarket.

Buckwheat pasta
Buckwheat is technically a grass, not a grain. It’s gluten-free, so is wonderful for people with celiac disease. Buckwheat seeds are ground into a dark flour, which is used to make this pasta, also called "soba noodles." The noodles are a dark brown-gray color and have a nutty flavor. Some companies add wheat flour to ground buckwheat when making pasta, so be sure to check the label if you’re trying to avoid gluten. They're often used in Asian cooking.

Whole-wheat couscous
Couscous is a tiny, circular pasta from North Africa and the Middle East. It's becoming increasingly popular in America but is most often made with refined wheat flour. However, you can find whole-wheat couscous. Couscous is generally steamed or boiled in water and can be topped with stews, eaten plain, or flavored with various herbs and spices. It’s commonly stocked in the grains section of larger grocery stores.

Brown rice pasta
Made from ground whole brown rice, brown rice pasta is lighter in color than many whole-wheat varieties and mild in flavor. It is touted as having a smooth texture that is firm and is generally found in the gluten-free section of grocery stores or  health food stores. It has to be cooked slightly longer than wheat pastas but can be used just as you would any other pasta in hot dishes, salads, soups, casseroles or other dishes.

Kamut pasta
Kamut is a type of whole wheat. It contains gluten but is usually tolerated by those allergic to the common, crossbred versions of wheat. It has a richer, almost buttery flavor and can be found in many shapes, such as penne, spaghetti and fusilli.

Quinoa pasta
Quinoa is the seed of a grass-like plant found in the Andes Mountains of South America. It is not technically a grain, but it is often referred to as a whole grain because it is nutritionally similar. It resembles couscous in size and shape but is ground into flour to make gluten-free pasta (often made with a blend of quinoa and corn flours). It’s superior to traditional white flour pasta in amounts of protein, iron and phosphorous and is considered a complete protein, which is important to vegetarians.

Spelt pasta
Spelt is a close relative of wheat but yields noodles with a deeper flavor. It combines well with olives, feta cheese and tomatoes for a Mediterranean-inspired dish. This niacin-rich ancient grain can help with heart health by lowering total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Corn pasta
Pasta made from stone ground corn is yet another whole grain, gluten-free option when it comes to choosing noodles. It can range from white to yellow in color, depending on the type of corn used. This type of pasta can be a bit mushy, so it’s best to avoid using it in soups. Try combining it with spinach, peppers, or sun-dried tomatoes.

Use the table below to help you decide which types of whole-grain noodles will be best for you and your nutritional goals. Each brand and variety will have a different flavor, so you might want to experiment with a range of new-to-you whole grains.

Each of these values represents a single 2 oz serving of dry pasta (about 1 cup cooked). The fat content in all varieties is less than 1 gram per serving!

Type of Pasta Calories Carbs Fiber Protein *Gluten-Free?
Whole wheat 200 41 g 6 g 7 g No
Quinoa 205 46 g 4 g 4 g Yes
Buckwheat 200 43 g 3 g 6 g Yes
Spelt 190 41 g 4 g 8 g No
Brown rice 210 43 g 2 g 4 g Yes
Kamut 210 40 g 6 g 10 g No
Corn 203 45 g 6 g 4 g Yes

*Please note that foods that are naturally gluten-free can be contaminated during the manufacturing process. Always read labels and look for certified gluten-free products if gluten intolerance is an issue for you.


This article has been reviewed for accuracy and approved by licensed and registered dietitian, Becky Hand.
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Member Comments

Thanks Report
I like whole wheat pasta but for me, pasta has too many carbs and not enough fiber or protein. Report
Good article, but no mention of chickpea pasta which is low in carbs but very high in proteins (diabetic). Report
Thanks for the info Report
looks good Report
I LOVE edamame (green soybean flour) pasta, especially Explore Cuisine's Organic Edamame Spaghetti! A 2 oz. (56g) serving has 180 calories, 3.5g fat, 20g carbohydrate, 13g fiber (7g net carbs per serving) and 24g protein, with only 3g sugar (no added sugars and no sodium). In addition, it has 15% calcium (daily value), 40% iron and 40 percent potassium! It's available on Amazon and is not that expensive for 4 servings per container. After bringing to a boil, you simmer it for 3-5 minutes. Sure, it's green and it's a bit "chewy", but I really enjoy it and the nutritional value is spectacular! Report
spelt pasta? no thanks Report
Thanks Report
Thank ou for the info. Report
This article was written in 2010, and it is 2019 now. I was already familiar with couscous and several of the others mentioned in this article. Since then, I have bought some yummy Black Bean pasta (sort of a fettucine shape or maybe spaghetti), available from Costco, and the Banza brand of Chickpea based pasta, available in a wide variety of shapes - wheels, shells, elbow, rotini, etc, and I've seen it at Amazon, Walmart, Target all sorts of places. So the alternatives ARE getting around! Although, I'm sure that tiny little 500-600 population villages like where I spent some of my childhood years probably do not carry as wide an assortment and if you are in a small place like that (yep! I know not everyone lives in the big huge cities like LA or NY or KC or Chicago etc!!) then you may still find it better to go in with some like-minded neighbors and order online to save postage/shipping costs.
I'm surprised the article didn't mention bean pastas. In addition to edaname pasta, like CKOUDSI617 suggested, I've also enjoyed chickpea and red lentil pasta, which contain more protein and less sugar than most of the ones on this chart. Plus, they're easy to find: I've gotten them at Wal-Mart and Food Lion. Report
Thanks for this article. It was very helpful! Report
I'm wheat intolerant so the only ones I don't eat are whole wheat and kamut. The rest are in my pantry. Report


About The Author

Sarah Haan
Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.