I've been getting e-mails asking about shirataki noodles and why I never use this zero-carb ingredient in my recipes. The reason was simple: I didn't like them... at all. The first time I tried shirataki noodles was a few years ago and I have to admit it was not the most pleasant experience. All I could remember was this terrible smell and rubbery texture. Low-carb or not, I thought it wasn't worth the effort and money.
That has all changed after I read this article by Low Carb Dietitian. I realised that I didn't really know how to use shirataki noodles. The golden rule is:
"Tip: Rinse them really well and pan-fry them without oil or other liquid in order to remove as much water as possible. The less water that remains, the better the texture will be."
I'll get back to how to prepare shirataki noodles later in this post.
What Are Shirataki Noodles?
Shirataki noodles (aka miracle noodles, aka konjak noodles, aka konnyaku noodles) is an ingredient popular in Asian cuisine. It's made from konjak plant which is ground and them shaped into noodles, fettuccini or even rice. Shirataki noodles are almost zero calorie and zero carb. They are 97% water, 3% fibre and traces of protein, fat and calcium. There are 4 kcal and ~ 1 gram of net carbs per 100 g / 3.5 oz of shirataki noodles. If you find that the packaging says "zero" calories or "zero carbs", etc. it's because the FDA allowed products with less than 5 calories / less than 1 gram of carbs, protein and fat to be labeled as zero.
Benefits & Side Effects
This study shows that the soluble fibre called glucomannan found in shirataki noodles may help you lose weight and improve health. Below are the main benefits of glucomannan:
- Soluble fiber is very low in calories and lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that is consumed.
- It has shown to promote satiety via several mechanisms. Including shirataki noodles will keep you fuller for longer!
- It slows down digestion which again induces satiety.
- It inhibits carbohydrate absorption and improves glycemic parameters (lowering blood glucose levels and inhibiting insulin spikes).
- It reduces fat and protein absorption (only beneficial for excessive calorie consumption).
The same study shows that there are few potential side effects of glucomannan.
- It may cause minor gastrointestinal complaints, such as bloating, gas, and mild diarrhea. If it does, reduce the serving size.
- It may reduce the bioavailability of oral medications. You should avoid eating shirataki noodles with your medication and supplements. The medication should be taken 1 hour before or 4 hours after your meal containing glucomannan.
- There have been some incidents of esophagus, throat or intestine blockage by using glucomannan tablets which absorb large amounts of water. Note that the tablets are not the same as shirataki noodles which already contain water and don't pose this risk.
- Since there are no nutrients, do not overuse products containing glucomannan. The vast majority of your diet should be focused on real food (eggs, meat, non-starchy vegetables, raw dairy, avocados, berries, nuts, etc).
Types of Products
You can find all sorts of products using glucomannan: noodles, fettuccini, penne or even rice. My favourite ones are noodles and rice simply because the texture is better and gets easily mixed with other ingredients, minimising the rubbery sensation. I use Zero Noodles and Miracle Noodles, both of which offer a wide variety of products to choose from. Another product that is worth trying is Glucomannan powder which can be used as thickener in smoothies or instead of xanthan gum. Avoid product called Barenaked noodles - apart from konjak flour, it also contains soy bean flour.
How to Cook Shirataki Noodles
So what are the common mistakes when using shirataki noodles? Back to the beginning when I mentioned my initial failure when using them, I thought that washing them well will be enough to get rid of their natural but not very pleasant smell. As I realised, that's not enough. To get the best results, you'll need to cook and pan-fry them.
If you really want to enjoy shirataki noodles, don't have high expectations - they won't taste like real pasta. The best way is to use them in a stir-fry rather than "regular" pasta meals. The trick is to use them in relatively small amounts and mix them with other ingredients like vegetables, meat and cheese. This and the cooking method explained below will help improve the texture. Adding spices, herbs, garlic, ginger and other ingredients will boost their flavour and make them taste delicious!
Here is how to achieve best results:
- Drain the noodles - discard all the water. Place the noodles in a large sieve and wash well under running water.
- Transfer into a pot with boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. This step is important for removing the unpleasant odour.
- Drain the noodles and place on a hot pan without any grease or liquids. Fry over a medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. There will be a lot of steam and that's what you want to achieve - remove as much water as possible without drying them out. If they become too dry, they will significantly reduce in size. Using tongs, you'll need to turn the noodles to avoid that. This step is important for their texture.
- When done, place in a bowl and have it ready for a stir-fry. Try in my Easy Paleo Pad Thai or Prawn & Noodle Stir-Fry!