For some, veganism is a lifestyle. For others, it’s a now-and-then cuisine. But no matter where you fall on the plant-based spectrum, there’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty: Everyone loves pasta. Which has likely left you wondering, “is pasta vegan? Is loving animals or sustainability a big-time pasta diss?” And the answer is: No, to the diss! Because yes, pasta is usually vegan. Emphasis on the usually, because there are exceptions that are important to know. So below, we’re breaking down the typical ingredients, any red flags to look out for and a couple of vegan alternatives you can feel confident about every time.
What Is Boxed Pasta Made Of?
Before we can fully answer that question, we’ve got one for you: What do you reach for when you walk down the pasta aisle at the grocery store? If your answer is a good old box of classic Barilla spaghetti, penne, rotini or the like, then you’re looking at a simple two ingredient blend: durum wheat and water. Durum wheat is a hard variety of spring wheat that is ground into semolina and commonly used to make pastas and breads. It’s higher in protein and gluten than soft winter wheat, which has a greater starch content and is better suited for pastries. And good news: This type of pasta is vegan. In fact, most dry, packaged pastas you buy in a box at the store are vegan.
Now, if you answered some other variation on traditional pasta—like one with extra protein—you’re going to want to take a close look at the ingredient list. It may contain egg whites, which means no, it’s not vegan. (But heads up: While Barilla Protein+ used to contain egg whites, they actually reformulated this line of pasta earlier this year, removing the egg whites completely so the product is 100 percent vegan. Instead, the protein comes from lentils, chickpeas and peas.)
Same goes for egg noodles—the answer is in the name. Eggs are, of course, an animal product, so while they look similar (and quite tempting) sitting next to your go-to box, they are not vegan.
And finally, if you’re considering tortellini, ravioli or any kind of stuffed pasta, this is your reminder to pay extra close attention to what’s inside. If the stuffing includes cheese, egg, meat or any other animal byproduct, skip it. It’s definitely not vegan.
And What About Fresh Pasta?
You might be surprised to learn that fresh pasta is not vegan, because most recipes call for eggs. Remember how packaged pasta is made with semolina and water? This combination creates a paste than is then shaped and dried at a low temperature for several days until all of the moisture is evaporated. This gives it a long shelf life, ideal for storing pretty much indefinitely.
Fresh pasta, on the other hand, is typically made from a dough of egg and flour. While also a simple recipe, this blend allows it to be kneaded like dough, then pressed, cut and cooked as desired right away. (Psst: You can only store fresh pasta in the fridge for up to two days. But you can also freeze it; just let it sit on a baking sheet to dry out for 15 minutes first.) But—as with anything—vegan recipes are out there, so if homemade vegan pasta is high on your list, don’t lose hope. Just turn to Google.
What Are Some Vegan Pasta Brands I Can Try?
All of these caveats might make finding a vegan pasta in the middle of grocery store rush hour feel like too much. And we get that—we like to get in and get out too. (Not to mention if you’re trying to secure a delivery spot online…forget about it.) So, we’ve rounded up a few brands of pasta that are vegan through and through to take the guess work out of your shopping.
Not only is this brand completely vegan (its pasta made from chickpeas), it also has way less carbs than your typical box of noodles (48 grams of net carbs versus 71 grams) and comes in all your favorite shapes.
2. Explore Cuisine
All three flavors of pasta noodles—red lentil, green lentil and chickpea—are made with organic, vegan ingredients for a colorful take on dinner. Plus, 2 percent of all Explore Cuisine proceeds go directly to the "Food to Thrive" foundation, which provides education, empowerment, and advancement in farming programs.
3. Modern Table
Red lentil flour, white rice and pea protein go into this vegan-certified pasta brand, which tastes, looks and cooks like traditional pasta—just with a cool 21 grams of protein per serving. Psst: they even make a vegan mac.
Don’t forget—if you’re sticking with the classic blue box or new Protein+ variety, you’re in the clear as far as vegan pasta is concerned. Not to mention it’s the cheapest option of the bunch, coming in at just $1 per box when you order this 12-pack.
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