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The Legume-Based Pasta Primer

Photo: Katie Cawood / Getty

A new healthy (and gluten-free) option for pasta lovers is becoming more widely available. Legume-based pastas are popping up on shelves, replacing boxes of traditional noodles. Use our handy guide to find out how to use each variety, what their textures are like, and their nutritional breakdown.

The pasta aisle has gotten more colorful in the recent years. Stocked among the wheat and gluten-free pasta varieties is a whole new product: legume-based pastas.

They come in all shapes and sizes, everything from brightly colored red or green lentil pasta to a shockingly dark black bean variety. Along with their fun appearance, legume-based pastas have some real nutritional benefits. With significantly more protein and fiber than traditional wheat pasta, and fewer carbohydrates, it might be a pasta-lover's solution to healthy eating.

Gluten-free eaters will be pleased, too. Practically all legume-based pastas are gluten-free. Most only contain a singular ingredient. (Always be sure to double check ingredients before purchasing.)

Each legume-based pasta boasts different color, taste, texture, and nutrients thanks to the bean or lentil variety it's created with. Below we've listed out the five most common legume pasta products and a run-down of their basic flavor, ideal texture, and nutrition per serving.

Black Bean Pasta

Taste: In a turn that should surprise no one, black bean pasta tastes just like black beans. While this may be off putting when tossed in something like marinara, it would easily be a great addition to recipes where a black bean flavor would be welcome like Chili Stroganoff or Mac and Cheeseburger.

Texture: Toothsome would be the ideal description of black bean pasta. When cooked al dente, the pasta keeps a firm texture that's only a little bit chewier than traditional wheat-based products. 

Nutrition: Per 2-ounce serving, the average black bean pasta contains: 

  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Carbs: 29g
  • Fiber: 37g
  • Protein: 18

Chickpea Pasta

Taste: Chickpeas are a mild bean on their own, which results in a very muted flavor once made into pasta. That is great for recipe diversity. You can use chickpea pasta in everything from traditional Italian dishes like Bucatini Puttanesca to even Asian-inspired meals like Indonesian Stir-Fried Noodles.

Texture: Very, very similar to traditional wheat pasta. In fact, chickpea pasta might be the closest product in texture and color. The best part is that unlike some other gluten-free pasta varieties, it holds up well being stored in the fridge and doesn't turn into a starchy mess.

Nutrition: Per 2-ounce serving, the average chickpea pasta contains: 

  • Calories: 195
  • Fat: 3g
  • Carbs: 33g
  • Fiber: 6.5g
  • Protein: 12.5g

Green Lentil Pasta

Taste: With a mild hint of lentil flavor, green lentil pasta is subtle tasting enough for most traditional uses. We would recommend using it in flavorful dishes and avoid mildly spiced meals like chicken noodle soup or cacio e pepe.

Texture: A little softer than traditional wheat products, green lentil pasta still holds together for tossing with sauces, into salads, or layered into casseroles. 

Nutrition: Per 2-ounce serving, the average green lentil pasta contains: 

  • Calories: 200 
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Carbs: 32g
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Protein: 13.5g

 

Cheesy Chickpea and Pesto Pasta Salad

 

Mung Bean & Edamame Pastas

Taste: The green color and slightly earthy taste of mung bean and edamame pasta makes it perfect for pesto sauces, but they also work well with tomato-based marinara. 

Texture: This pasta has a distinctive bouncy texture, easily comparable to tofu. Be sure to not over cook this pasta though; that bouncy texture can quickly turn mushy.

Nutrition: Per 2-ounce serving, the mung bean and edamame pastas contain: 

  • Calories: 195
  • Fat: 3g
  • Carbs: 19g
  • Fiber: 13g
  • Protein: 21g

Red Lentil Pasta

Taste: With just a hint of lentil flavor, red lentil pasta is subtle tasting enough for it to be used in pretty much any recipe. The bright reddish-orange color can be off-putting when tossed with creamy sauces, so try it in tomato-based sauces or pasta salad with oil and vinegar.

Texture: Slightly softer than traditional wheat pasta, the red lentil version still holds up well to cooking and preparation afterward when stirring in sauces, tossing with vegetables, or adding to casseroles.

Nutrition: Per 2-ounce serving, the average red lentil pasta contains: 

  • Calories: 195
  • Fat: 1g
  • Carbs: 35g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 13g