If you’re on a low carb diet and miss noodles and pasta, or are just watching the calories and so are cutting back on carby portions, behold konjac noodles – also known as shirataki or no-calorie noodles – your new best friend. But what exactly is konjac? How many calories do they contain? Are they different from kelp noodles? Is brown shirataki different from white – and most of all, are Konjac noodles healthy.
We answer all these questions and more below…
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What Are Konjac Noodles?
Konjac is a type of yam and, the translucent konjac or shirataki noodles made from it are effectively strings of a soluble fibre – called glucomannan – that your body can’t digest – this means they technically have no carbs and no calories.
Admittedly eaten alone they also have no taste, but they do play well with sauces and soups so this isn’t a massive concern.
They originated in Japan and are used a lot in Japanese cooking.
Are Konjac Noodles the Same as Shirataki Noodles?
Yes. Konjac noodles and shirataki noodles are the same thing. You might also see konjac noodles called konjac pasta, konnyaku noodles or yam noodles.
Brand names of the noodles include Miracle Noodles, Zero Noodles or Slendier.
We’ll use a mix of konjac noodles and shirataki noodles in this post.
Are Konjac Noodles Healthy?
Let’s start with one important point. A food made of a substance you don’t absorb, might sound kind of synthetic and artificial, but konjac is not an artificial product. It’s a tuber, rather like a yam, which means that ‘no-calorie noodles’ are actually a completely natural product.
They are also very high in fibre which is something we should increase our diets. In fact, the fibre in konjac has been shown to help reduce the incidence of constipation and increase levels of good bacteria in the bowels.
It’s also been linked to lower cholesterol and low blood sugar. Because they don’t contain any digestible carbohydrates or sugar, they also won’t raise your blood sugar while you eat them.
So there are some definite health benefits of consuming konjac noodles.
What Nutrients are in Konjac Noodles?
However, despite being a plant there aren’t actually any vitamins or minerals in konjac which means that konjac probably isn’t as healthy a swap for noodles or pasta than something like courgetti which also contains just a handful of calories.
Are There Any Downsides to Eating Konjac?
Konjac can lead to bloating.
The noodles keep you seriously full because they travel slowly through your digestive system – however, if like me, your digestive system seems to be full of little bacteria that love to feed ravenously on anything that hangs around in your digestive system creating a large amount of air as they do so, you will puff up (see also why chia seeds create bloat).
It helps if you eat them in small mouthfuls and chew them well, but if they’re in a soup, this gets tricky.
I wouldn’t eat them the day before a big night out where you’re wearing a tight dress just in case.
As we talked about in our piece on why you might bloat after eating, suddenly adding a lot of fibre to your diet in one go can also upset your bowel so you might find that suddenly eating a lot of no-calorie noodles could lead to stomach upsets. Introduce them into your diet steadily so your body can get used to handling extra insoluble fibre.
Also, because konjac can swell up, it’s not suggested that you take supplements containing it if you have any kind of swallowing problem. If you have this kind of health concern, then ask your doctor before trying konjac noodles just to be on the safe side.
Lastly, read the serving size carefully and don’t eat lots of them in one go. There has a been a case of a woman who did that and ended up with the noodles forming a solid mass in her stomach which led to quite a lot of pain and a lawsuit. Stick to suggested serving sizes.
Can You Eat Konjac Noodles Every Day?
Because they don’t contain any other nutrients, it’s probably not the best idea. If you’re really trying to cut down on your carbs, it’s a good idea to switch between low carb alternatives like konjac noodles and spiralised vegetables.
If you’re looking for some extra ideas, have a look at our post on low-carb alternatives.
How Many Calories are in Konjac Noodles?
Okay, so shirataki are often called no-calorie noodles, but don’t be fooled – some brands do contain a few calories.
The pack of Slendier I have on my desk, for example, contain 12 calories per 125g serving. Some products in other ranges have 5-6 calories per serving. But true, zero-calorie products are out there – Miracle Noodle’s Angel Hair Pasta for example list no-calories on its nutrition label.
In the scheme of things though, even the 12 calorie products will save you heaps of calories per meal.
The same size serving of egg noodles contains about 80 calories. And a cooked 125g serving of cooked fresh pasta has 126 calories. But generally, you use a lot more pasta than that.
So, Are Konjac Noodles a Good Choice?
They can be if you use them in the right way.
If you’re trying to lose weight, swapping other carbohydrates for konjac noodles can help you create a bigger calorie deficit.
They’re also a good source of fibre which most of us need more of in our diet.
But, because they don’t contain any nutrients, replacing wholegrain versions of things like pasta, noodles or rice with a konjac version could reduce your intake of some nutrients like the B vitamins.
For that reason it’s important to make sure the rest of your diet is balanced when you’re using konjac or shirataki noodles.
It’s also important to take note of the suggested serving sizes, not consume too many of them, and speak to your doctor before using them if you have issues with swallowing or bowel problems.
Using Konjac Noodles in Specialist Diets
The advice above applies to general diets, but what if you’re on a specific diet – can you use konjac noodles then?
Are Konjac/Shirataki Noodles Gluten Free?
Yes, absolutely – they don’t contain any sources of gluten.
Are Konjac Noodles Keto-Friendly?
Yes, they don’t contain any absorbable carbohydrates or calories which makes them very keto-friendly.
Are Konjac Noodles Vegan?
Yes- despite the fact that they can have a slightly fishy taste, there’s no animal products used in konjac noodles.
Are Konjac Noodles FODMAP-Friendly
Yes. The team at Monash University have sampled Miracle Noodle, one of the best known brands of konjac noodle and discovered that they are low in all different FODMAPs
Other Questions About Konjac Noodles…
Are Brown ‘No Calorie’ Noodles Different from White?
When they first launched in the UK, konjac/shirataki Noodles only came in the plain white version – but, a few years later, brown no-calorie noodles appeared on the scene.
So, what’s the difference between brown and white konjac noodles? Looking at the ingredients from the brand I tried, it’s the addition of seaweed powder as everything else seems to be the same as the white ones.
So, the next question was, do they taste any different? Yes is the answer. I tried a spoonful alone (even though shirataki don’t normally really taste of much solo, they pick up flavour via whatever you have them with). The seaweed powder does give them a taste of their own; it’s almost kind of meaty. They also seemed less slimy than the white noodles.
Are Shirataki Noodles the Same as Kelp Noodles?
No, they’re not. Kelp noodles are made of seaweed with the outer husk removed and so are different from shirataki/konjac noodles.
Both foods have no calories, but kelp noodles have a completely different texture. They almost pop when you eat them. They work really well in salads.
If you want to see more on the nutritional benefits of kelp noodles, check out this post which explains all about them.
How to Use Konjac Noodles?
Okay, the biggest mistake you can make when cooking with konjac noodles (and it’s one I have also made) – is to just open the packet, drain it and put the noodles directly into the soup or sauce that you are cooking.
You see as the noodles sit on the shelf, the water they are stores in starts to pick up some of the scent of the konjac and this creates a frankly, stinky, brew that might put you off tasting the things in the first place.
It can also give a fishy undertone to anything you’re cooking them with – and while that might work well with a bowl of soup of spicy Thai Soup or Pad Thai, it might not go so well if you’re making a carbonara sauce!
Instead, read the instructions on your particular packet on what to do with the noodles before you cook with them.
Slender, for example, suggest that you drain away the fluid from the pack. Then add the noodles to hot water for a minute, then drain that – and if maybe even tip them out on a couple of sheets of kitchen paper to drain them further.
Miracle Noodle say to drain then rinse the noodles and toss them in a frying pan until they are dry.
Now, add them to whatever you’re cooking just before you eat it.
What to Make With Konjac Noodles?
Personally, I think they work best in Asian dishes, particularly soups, as an alternative to normal noodles.
This is because they’re pretty slimy and so to me, they don’t quite cut it as an alternative to pasta which I like for its dry, starchy texture.
To me, the best bit about eating Italian is not the saucy bits of pasta, but the uncovered dry bits around the edge and these just don’t give you that – however, lots of people disagree with me and do use them in Italian dishes (I did find one brand, Slendier, that I think work better as a pasta alternative – check the review on those here).
If you’re pining for Spag Bol and trying to keep to your low-carb plan, they could be your answer.
If you haven’t tried lemon with the noodles before I’d absolutely recommend it (see the section on ‘brown shirataki noodles’ below for how I used them there).
If you want to keep things traditional though and try a simple Asian soup recipe using shirataki noodles, here’s mine for the dish above….
Shirataki and Miso Soup
300ml chicken stock
2 teaspoons of miso soup paste
3 sheets of nori, cut into strips
1 pack of noodles – drained, then rinsed in cold water
Mix the stock and miso paste and bring to the boil, add the noodles, seaweed, mushrooms and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped spring onions to serve. Folks who like things spicy can also add chilli flakes, or swap the onions for chopped red chilli.
Can You Freeze Shirataki Noodles?
No. It’s not recommended.
Instead, Miracle Noodle say that you should store any unused raw noodles in water in the fridge. They’ll last up to a week if you change the water.
Is Konjac Rice Any Good?
I have tried it. Specifically I tried a brand called Eat Water Slim Rice which is available in the UK.
I’m not quite as big a fan of the rice as I am the noodles – I think mostly because I tried it with salmon and broccoli rather than having it with any kind of sauce and that didn’t quite work for me.
I think if you had it to accompany a curry or with a chilli, it would work far better.
Since I tried that, Miracle Noodle has also brought out a rice and shirataki hybrid that sounds intriguing. Called Love My Rice it has just 70 calories a serving. It looks like it’s only in the US right now. If you get to try it, please le me know what it’s like in the comments.
Where to Buy Konjac Noodles
If you want to find konjac noodles in the UK, you’ll find them in most Japanese food stores – look in the fridge.
You’ll also find brands like Zero Noodles, Slendier, Yutaka, Eat Slim and Miracle Noodles in health stores.
Or, you can buy them online and have them delivered. Click to see a host of brands here.
I’ve tried pretty much all of the ones named above. They’re all good to replace noodles, but in my opinion, Slendier works as the best pasta alternative.
Alternatives to Konjac Noodles
If you’re not keen on the texture or idea of shirataki or konjac noodles, there are other noodle and pasta alternatives out there.
Chances are you’ve already tried courgetti or zoodles made from spiralised courgettes, but you might also want to try spiralising squash, beetroot, mooli, carrot. Of, if you don’t have a spiraliser, you can create large pappardelle style noodles with a vegetable peeler. Also find other ways to swap carbs for vegetables (and fruit) here.
There’s a heap of innovative spiralising ideas in the book Spiralize Now: 80 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for your Spiralizer.
If you’d prefer to buy something ready-made, have a look at bean-based pastas. They aren’t as low calorie or quite as low carb as the no-calorie noodles but they do contain higher levels of protein and have a lower glycemic index which means they keep you fuller for longer than pasta does and also don’t raise blood sugar as high which may help with fat storage.
I have tried the Black Bean Pasta which I enjoyed. Check out what happened when I tried it, here.
Or, if you just want to go ahead and order some, you can get the Explore Cuisine range on Amazon.
I’ve also got a mung bean one sitting in the cupboard waiting for a sauce to go with it. I’ll update the post above once I’ve tried it.
So, there you have it – hopefully a pretty thorough guide to all things no-calorie noodle. If you do have any questions though, let me know in the comments and I’ll try and answer them.
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.
9 thoughts on “Are Konjac Noodles Healthy? All Your Questions Answered”
omg!!! i use these too, but i use the other ones, the other brand : http://www.amazon.com/Tofu-Shirataki-Noodles-Fettuccine-Shape/dp/B003GMFAWM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1349189329&sr=8-6&keywords=noodles+shirataki
i LOVE these, i am obsessed- and let me tell you, i HATE tofu anything!!! but if you wash these right, you can throw them into ANYTHING and sub as pasta. LOVE them!! good find 🙂
Okay, so I was buying it until you got to the bit about ‘the bloat’ – and also images akin to the dog eating a golf ball once and having to pull lots of undigested elastic out the t’other end…. Are they really worth the effort?
Your imagination is worse than mine. As far as I’m concerned at the moment anything that shifts the blooming scales is worth the effort – and everything healthy bloats me. I’m sure if I lived on pie and chips I’d weigh seven stone and have a stomach like Jessica Ennis.
In Japan, remember to ask for Konyakku (remember the ‘u’ on the end of everything. I remember eating it as a greyish brownish slab of tasteless firm jelly. But it certainly is vegetarian so I’m a fan. Now . . . where can I buy it in NZ?
Miracle Noodle sell in Oz but doesnt look like NZ. Im guessing there’s a shop somewhere like Howick that’ll have them……?
Zero noodles in the Daily Mail today and someone from NZ commenting saying you can buy them in one of the Asian stores on Dominian Road.