Cauliflower noodles have become a popular low-carb alternative to traditional wheat noodles and pasta. Also known as cauliflower rice or riced cauliflower, these noodle substitutes are made by grating raw cauliflower into small rice-sized pieces or shredding it into noodle shapes.
Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. It provides some impressive health benefits, ranging from boosting weight loss to reducing inflammation. Additionally, cauliflower contains very few carbs, especially when compared to starchy products like pasta, rice or bread. This makes it an excellent base for low-carb recipes and meal plans like the ketogenic diet.
So how many carbs are actually in cauliflower noodles? Are they really a low-carb food? This article will take a deep dive into the carb count, nutrition facts and potential benefits and downsides of cauliflower noodles.
Carb Count of Cauliflower Noodles
When comparing cauliflower noodles to regular pasta and noodles, there is a pretty drastic difference in the amount of carbs in each serving.
Below is a quick comparison of the carb content in one cup of raw cauliflower noodles vs. one cup of cooked regular pasta (1, 2):
|Food||Total Carbs||Fiber||Net Carbs|
|Cauliflower noodles (raw)||5 grams||2 grams||3 grams|
|Pasta (cooked)||43 grams||2 grams||41 grams|
As you can see, cauliflower contains significantly fewer carbs than regular pasta, clocking in at just five grams of carbohydrates per cup compared to 43 grams in pasta.
However, keep in mind that these nutrition facts are based on raw cauliflower noodles, not cooked. The carb count typically remains low once cauliflower noodles are cooked, but the exact amount can vary based on factors like how long they are cooked and how much water is used.
According to the USDA, one cup of cooked riced cauliflower contains about 5–6 grams of total carbs and 3–4 grams of net digestible carbs (3).
So while the carb count may increase slightly with cooking, cauliflower noodles are still an excellent low-carb substitute for traditional pasta.
Benefits of Cauliflower Noodles
Here are some of the top benefits of swapping cauliflower noodles in place of regular pasta:
Low in Carbs
As noted above, the biggest benefit of cauliflower noodles is that they are significantly lower in carbs than regular wheat noodles and pasta.
Cauliflower noodles contain about 90% fewer carbs than traditional pasta. This makes them perfect for low-carb and ketogenic diets.
Some studies show that very low-carb diets can aid weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, decrease inflammation and reduce risk factors for heart disease (4, 5, 6).
High in Fiber
In addition to being low in carbs, cauliflower noodles are also high in fiber.
Fiber moves through the body undigested, promoting fullness, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut and reducing blood sugar spikes (7).
Studies show that a higher fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer (8, 9).
Cauliflower noodles are low in calories but high in nutrients. In particular, cauliflower contains a good amount of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium (1).
These important micronutrients play central roles in immune function, bone health and DNA synthesis (10, 11, 12).
Cauliflower noodles are naturally gluten-free, which makes them a safe option for those with celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It causes an adverse reaction in those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
May Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.
Cauliflower contains powerful compounds like sulforaphane that may be able to block inflammation and reduce oxidative stress in the body (13).
One study found that increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower was tied to lower levels of inflammatory markers in the blood (14).
Easy to Add to Diet
One of the best aspects of cauliflower noodles is that they can be swapped in for regular pasta or noodles in just about any dish or recipe.
With minimal effort, you can turn high-carb dishes into healthy, low-carb meals by simply replacing wheat noodles with cauliflower noodles.
Cauliflower noodles require no special preparation and can be cooked just like regular pasta. Simply swap them measure-for-measure in recipes and cook for a few minutes until tender.
Downsides of Cauliflower Noodles
Although cauliflower noodles can make an excellent substitute for traditional noodles and pasta, there are some downsides to consider as well:
Lower in Protein
Cauliflower noodles are significantly lower in protein than regular wheat pasta and noodles.
While this may not be a big deal for many people, it’s something to consider if you are trying to increase protein intake or follow a high protein diet.
Adding extra protein like chicken, fish or tofu to dishes made with cauliflower noodles can help boost the protein content of your meal.
Contains Less Iron
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, affecting up to 20% of people. It can cause symptoms like weakness, dizziness and fatigue (15).
Substituting cauliflower noodles for products made from fortified wheat flour can result in a decreased iron intake.
However, pairing cauliflower noodles with iron-rich foods like meat, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds can help maximize your iron intake.
Less Satisfying for Some
Some people find that cauliflower noodles are less hearty and satisfying than traditional wheat noodles.
Cauliflower has a lighter consistency and texture than wheat noodles, which some people dislike and find unsatisfying, especially in dishes that heavily feature pasta.
Adding sauces, cheeses, meats or veggies to cauliflower noodle dishes can help enhance texture and satisfaction.
Contains Goitrogenic Compounds
Raw cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain goitrogenic compounds, which can impair thyroid function by interfering with iodine uptake in some people when eaten in excess (16).
However, cooking helps inactivate these compounds. Avoiding very high amounts of raw cruciferous vegetables should minimize the risk of adverse effects.
Additionally, there are plenty of ways to optimize thyroid function for those eating higher amounts of raw goitrogenic vegetables.
Preparing Cauliflower Noodles
There are several different methods for turning fresh cauliflower into noodles.
Some of the most popular options include:
Using a food processor with a grating attachment, raw cauliflower can easily be shredded into noodles.
Simply wash the cauliflower, remove the core and stem, cut it into florets, then run it through the food processor. Minimal preparation is required and it yields long, thin noodle-like strands.
A spiralizer is a countertop tool that presses vegetables against a blade to form noodle shapes. It makes curly, spiral cauliflower noodles.
Cut cauliflower into large chunks that will fit into the spiralizer, then simply turn the handle in a clockwise direction while applying light pressure.
Using the largest holes on a box grater, cauliflower can be manually grated into rice-sized crumbles, which resemble the texture of couscous.
While not technically noodles, cauliflower rice makes a great low-carb substitute for dishes that traditionally contain rice or grains.
For thicker, fettuccine-style noodles, try using a vegetable peeler.
Cut cauliflower into slabs, then use a vegetable peeler to shave long ribbons off the cauliflower stalks. Rotate and continue peeling until you’re left with just the stem.
For convenience, many grocers carry pre-riced and pre-noodled cauliflower that’s ready to cook and eat.
This cuts down on prep time significantly. Look for it in the produce or frozen sections and simply heat it up before adding to recipes.
How to Cook Cauliflower Noodles
Cauliflower noodles can be used in nearly any recipe in place of starchy noodles.
They work especially well in dishes with flavorful sauces, cheeses or meats, as these ingredients help provide more texture and satisfaction.
Here are a few quick tips for cooking delicious cauliflower noodles:
– Cook for just 2-5 minutes to prevent overcooking and mushiness. They cook faster than regular pasta.
– To retain nutrients, try steaming instead of boiling.
– Sauteing in oil or baking also brings out flavor.
– Low, gentle heat is best. High heat increases chances of crumbling.
– Don’t rinse after cooking. The extra moisture can impact the texture.
– Add mix-ins like veggies, herbs, sauce and protein to boost nutrition and fullness.
Here are some healthy recipes that are perfect for cauliflower noodles:
Pesto Zucchini Noodle Bowl with Chicken
This fresh, summertime bowl is loaded with zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, pesto and chicken.
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
Spaghetti squash and cauliflower rice stand in for noodles in this lighter twist on pad thai.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This comfort food makeover ditches the elbow pasta for riced cauliflower to slash carbs.
Veggie Loaded Spiralized Lasagna
Zucchini, summer squash and cauliflower noodles replace lasagna noodles in this veggie-centric dish.
Should You Try Cauliflower Noodles?
Cauliflower noodles are an excellent low-carb, gluten-free substitute for regular pasta and wheat noodles.
Thanks to their impressive nutrient profile and long list of health benefits, cauliflower noodles are a smart swap for nearly any recipe.
However, some people find that they aren’t as satisfying and don’t hold up as well to certain cooking methods.
Experiment with different preparation techniques and try combining them with other veggies, protein sources, mix-ins and sauces to maximize the nutrition and flavor of each serving.
Pairing cauliflower noodles with a balanced diet and active lifestyle can help support better health. So give this low-carb swap a try in your kitchen to take advantage of the unique benefits that cauliflower has to offer.
To summarize, cauliflower noodles contain about 90% fewer carbs than regular pasta and noodles.
One cup of raw cauliflower noodles has just five grams of carbs compared to 43 grams in a cup of cooked pasta.
Switching to cauliflower noodles is an easy way to increase veggie intake, reduce carbs and calories, and boost nutrition.
However, some downsides are that they are lower in protein, less iron-rich and less satisfying for some people.
Cauliflower noodles can be used in place of regular noodles in virtually any dish. They are delicious, versatile and nutrition-packed, making them a smart choice for low-carb, gluten-free and ketogenic diets.
Including more non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower in your diet can provide important health benefits and support weight control.