Ah, pasta! One of the world’s favorite meals. And what’s not to like? You can customize it, which is especially helpful for those who follow restrictive diets. You can eat it cold or hot. It’s easy to cook and lasts for what feels like forever in your pantry.
While most foods fit neatly into one or two categories – vegan or not vegan – pasta is slightly different. At this point, you may be thinking, what? Of course, pasta is vegan! However, the truth is that it is simply not that straightforward.
Luckily, whether or not you are vegan, there are plenty of options if you are craving a big bowl of your favorite pasta. Here is what you need to know about your pasta and its toppings to enjoy a vegan-friendly meal.
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Is Pasta Vegan?
Anyone who has watched a cooking documentary or has an Italian relative who makes their pasta knows that eggs and flour are the only two ingredients to make homemade pasta. However, the truth is that most store-bought pasta is vegan – most, but not all.
Two rules will usually steer you in the right direction when trying to determine if the pasta you want is vegan:
- If the pasta is dry, it is likely vegan
- If the pasta is not dry, it is most likely not vegan
Of course, the simplest and most effective way to be sure that the pasta you buy at the grocery store is vegan is by checking the list of ingredients on the packaging. However, this doesn’t mean that things can’t get a bit more complicated when you order takeout or go to a restaurant and want to eat a pasta dish.
Non-Vegan Ingredients Commonly Found in Pasta
So, you’re walking through the grocery store, and you find yourself in the aisle with all the options for pasta – there are usually countless options to choose from. As you read through the ingredients list, here’s what you must remember.
Many pasta ingredients are OK to consume if you follow a vegan diet. Most of the ingredients found in pasta that aren’t wheat are minerals. These include:
- semolina (wheat)
- durum wheat flour
- ferrous sulfate (iron)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin (B-2)
- niacin (Vitamin B-3)
- Folic Acid
- Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1)
Wheat is the main ingredient in pasta, while eggs are traditionally used to bind the wheat and create the noodles. Additionally, there are fortified pasta products that can include animal-sourced ingredients. Here is what you should be on the lookout for if you’re vegan:
- Eggs – yolks and whites
- Whey protein
- Milk or dairy products
- Milk powder
Are There Any Vegan Pasta Alternatives?
You’re in luck if you have other dietary requirements besides vegan-friendly foods or prefer something other than the usual wheat and water pasta! There are plenty of plant-based pasta alternatives – most of which are vegan.
However, it is essential to note that plant-based does not always mean vegan. Check out these vegan-friendly pasta alternatives to make your next shopping trip easier.
1. The Only Bean – Organic Edamame Bean Pasta
A bean-based, one-ingredient noodle is called The Only Bean Pasta. Each serving of edamame fettuccine contains 11g of fiber and 25g of plant protein from organic edamame beans. Gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher, and organic. There is never any addition of wheat, flour, eggs, binders, or other hidden ingredients.
2. Tolerant Foods – Lentil Pasta
Red lentils, green lentils, or chickpeas, the sole ingredient in Tolerant Foods’ lentil-based pasta, are all high in protein. This pasta alternative is packed with 25g of plant-based protein, 44% daily fiber, and no significant allergens.
3. Natural Heaven – Hearts Of Palm Pasta
Angel hair, spaghetti, and lasagna are the three varieties of pasta that makeup Natural Heaven, which are all made from the hearts of palm. Hearts of palm pasta from Natural Heaven can help improve bone and digestive health, combat anemia, aid in weight loss, and boost immunity. They can also help stabilize blood sugar. This gluten-free and vegan pasta alternative has only 70 calories and two grams of net carbs.
4. Thrive Market Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles, used for generations in Asian cooking, are renowned for soaking up flavorful sauces and soups. There are only ten calories per serving! Drain, rinse, and then drizzle your preferred sauce on top.
What to Know When Eating Out
While it is much easier to determine if the pasta you’re buying at a grocery store is vegan, it may not be as simple as when ordering pasta at a restaurant. A few things you should avoid, or at the very least enquire about when ordering pasta, include:
- Handmade pasta
- Homemade pasta
- Egg noodles – primarily used in Asian cuisines and dishes
Fortunately, many restaurants now disclose which menu items are vegan-friendly and whether they offer vegan options for traditional dishes. When in doubt, always ask your server or their manager. If they aren’t sure, it’s best to enjoy your pasta at home to ensure you eat nothing that isn’t within your dietary restrictions.
Don’t Forget About the Toppings and Sauces!
With all of your focus devoted to finding vegan pasta, it is essential to remember that your toppings and sauces should also be vegan. It’s easy to make your favorite pasta and forget that what goes into it or on top of it may include ingredients sourced from animals.
Of course, some of these are easy to identify – meats, cheeses, and other dairy products are a few of the ingredients that don’t fit within the restrictions of a vegan diet. However, some sauces and toppings aren’t as easy to identify – especially any dish that could be described as creamy.
While many creamy pasta sauces have vegan alternatives, you always want to check the label to ensure there aren’t any non-vegan ingredients or make it yourself. Even red sauces can hide meat products. Remember to look for vegan-specific jarred sauces or vegan pasta recipes online.
What are the Vegan-Friendly Pasta Brands?
No one wants to spend any more time shopping for groceries than necessary. Wasting your day in the pasta aisle, checking the back of every box for a list of ingredients is certainly not at the top of your list. Luckily, there are a few trusted brands that you can rely on for your favorite vegan pasta dishes.
1. De Cecco
De Cecco attributes its incredible products to its mix of premium semolina flour and the region’s abundant supply of fresh spring water in Fara San Martino, Italy. De Cecco also maintains that low temperature and gradual drying are responsible for the high quality of their pasta.
Believe it or not, De Cecco provides just two varieties of egg-containing pasta: Egg Pappardelle (item no. 103) and Egg Fettuccine (item no. 101) (no. 101). All of De Cecco’s other kinds of pasta are vegan.
The most popular pasta brand worldwide is Barilla, and you can readily purchase it in supermarkets from Italy to the United States. According to the company, it sells more pasta and baked goods than anybody else in Italy.
Just be mindful that not all Barilla pasta is vegan and that you should avoid their lasagna, fresh pasta, and fettuccine varieties.
Globally distributed Colavita pasta is made entirely of vegan ingredients. The pasta offered by Colavita is entirely vegan and certified Kosher since, according to the company’s website, it is manufactured only with durum wheat and spring water. They use fresh spring water and 100% durum wheat to make their pasta.
4. Garofalo Fettucce
Although they have a sizable vegan assortment, the Italian-based pasta company Garofalo also makes a few varieties with eggs. Besides producing vegan durum wheat pasta, Garofalo also sells whole grain, gluten-free, and organic pasta devoid of dairy and eggs. Only filled ravioli and tortellini are not vegan pasta variations.
After Barilla, this brand offers the second-largest assortment of vegan pasta, which includes Gluten-Free and Whole Grain Organic varieties. It includes many lentil and chickpea-based substitutes, besides seven other types of spaghetti and completely vegan potato gnocchi. Besides a few fresh egg pasta varieties, this is one of the most vegan-friendly pasta brands on the market.
Final Thoughts on Pasta Vegan
With food as versatile as pasta, it makes sense that it doesn’t easily fit into the category of “vegan” or “non-vegan.” Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether.
Finding your favorite store-bought pasta brand makes creating vegan pasta dishes simple. While it may take some time to find vegan pasta dishes, you won’t have to worry about it after you make your dishes and find restaurants with delicious vegan pasta options!