5 Low-Carb Alternatives to White Rice
Rice is delicious. Personally, I could eat a whole pot of rice with butter and salt. But this is a rare treat because as we already know…rice is pure starch. And those carbs are digested quickly and spike your blood sugar quickly.
1 cup of cooked white rice contains 45-53 grams of total and net carbohydrates, depending on the type of rice!
For some of us with diabetes, that might be half our entire day’s worth of carbohydrates!
In this article, we’ll look at 5 alternatives to white rice that are low in carbohydrates and a tasty substitute for your next rice-based recipe.
5 low-carb alternatives to white rice
Certainly the most popular approach to replacing rice, cauliflower rice is remarkably low in carbohydrates.
Creating it can be pretty messy with a food grater, but you can easily put a head of cauliflower (chopped in 3 or 4 large chunks) into your food processor instead. A quick zap and you’ll have “rice” right before your eyes. If that’s too much work, you can find ready-to-go cauliflower rice in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores (or buy it on Amazon).
If you don’t like the taste of cauliflower normally, you might like it in rice-form when it’s covered in a delicious sauce. But hey — cauliflower isn’t for everyone!
Carb-Count: 1 cup contains 4 grams total carbs / 2 grams net carbs
We have three 3 great cauliflower rice recipes here on Diabetes Strong:
- Vegan Cauliflower Pizza with Basil Pesto
- Low-Carb Cauliflower Oatmeal
- Chicken Cauliflower Casserole
Edamame/Mung Bean Pasta
You can find edamame pasta in many grocery stores or buy it on Amazon.
When it comes to eating pasta, this is the only way I do it. After subtracting the dietary fiber from this type of pasta, the carb-count is so low that I can enjoy a bowl of pasta and meatballs with a relatively normal insulin dose and without a blood sugar battle.
To turn this pasta into rice, simply cook it as instructed (which takes mere minutes, by the way), and then use your kitchen scissors or large kitchen knife on a cutting board to chop it into rice-sized pieces! Tons of protein, tons of fiber, and very few carbs.
Don’t be deterred by its green appearance. The flavor is mild and the texture is great! (By the way, even my picky father-in-law liked this pasta…and that’s saying a lot!)
Shirataki (Miracle Rice)
You either love shirataki products or you really don’t like them at all. Often referred to as “miracle” noodles or rice, they’re made from the konnyaku flour which comes from — wait for it — the konnyaku plant! Go figure.
What makes them so “miraculous” is that in addition to containing no carbs at all, they also contain zero calories, too! Pretty weird — if you ask me — but a lot of people love shirataki rice and noodles.
They usually come in a liquid-filled bag and they don’t smell so great at first. It’s recommended that you rinse them thoroughly before using, then saute them in butter and add a sauce you love.
Much like cauliflower rice, the prep for this one is either really messy (using a food grater) or really simple (using a food processor). Cabbage definitely has a stronger smell and taste compared to cauliflower so it may not be an acceptable rice substitute for some folks.
You could saute the grated cabbage in butter or just add your sauce and toppings onto a bowl of raw cabbage. Loaded with fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and a slew of other vitamins, cabbage is by far a more nutritious alternative to rice!
Spiralized and chopped zucchini
Okay, this isn’t exactly the easiest approach to replacing rice but it is healthy and tasty. Before chopping into rice-sized bits, you’ll definitely want to roast your spiralized zucchini noodles in the oven to dry out the excess water.
* You can follow this guide to make zucchini noodles with or without a spiralizer
Add salt, herbs, your favorite sauce, and enjoy. Will you think you’re eating rice? Definitely not, but you’ll have a nice low-carb alternative for the same dishes. Just don’t forget your toppings!
A spiralizer is one of those gadgets you can get for a reasonably affordable price — the ones they sell for under $30 on Amazon are plenty. You don’t need a fancy one. And while you may not use it all the time, it’s great for a variety of other veggies.
The Best Low-Carb Rice Substitutes, According To Nutritionists
Rice is a must-have for Chinese takeout and Chipotle runs—or at least it was before keto and cauliflower-everything pretty much blacklisted the stuff.
While rice (namely brown rice) offers some legit benefits—like good ol’ fiber—it’s not exactly low in carbs. (Half a cup contains 39 grams, per the USDA) So if you’re living the keto life, or just trying to cut down on carbs a smidge, you may not want to crush rice-filled burritos on the reg.
“Rice is higher in starch and lower in protein and fiber than some other whole grains, so when not paired with adequate amounts of fat, fiber, and protein, it can cause higher blood sugar spikes in some people,” says nutritionist Kelly Jones, RD. That’s a recipe for a blood sugar drop (and the hunger, irritability, and fatigue that go along with it) later.
Whether you’re making a stir-fry or Thai curry, though, you’ve got plenty of equally-satisfying, low-carb rice alternatives you can swap in. Many of these (which you can make from veggies in the produce aisle or buy pre-made) are simple and full of good-for-you nutrition.
“Rice alternatives tend to be vegetable- and legume-based,” says Jones, who recommends looking for an option that contains at least two grams of fiber per serving and pairing it with other fiber-containing foods for max satisfaction.
Next time you’re craving the chewy bite and flavor-absorbing goodness of regular rice, try one of these low-carb alternatives instead.
One of the most popular low-carb rice alternatives, cauliflower rice provides some protein and fiber, plus 45 percent of the daily value of vitamin C, per serving,” says Jones.
Research also suggests that cauliflower (and similar veggies) play an important role in gut health and digestion.
Per serving (3/4 cup): 20 calories, 0 g fat, 4 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 20 mg sodium, 2 g protein
RightRice Original Vegetable Rice Alternative
Made with a blend of lentils, chickpeas and pea fiber, I love that RightRice offers 10 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per serving, and also actually tastes like rice,” says Jones. (It’s also super high in iron.)
Jones loves the Spanish variety, which has major paella vibes.
Per serving (1/3 cup dried): 180 calories, 2 g fat, 30 g carbs, 5 g fiber, <1 g sugar, 390 mg sodium, 10 g protein
Want to squeeze a little more green onto your plate? “Broccoli rice edges out cauliflower with an extra gram of fiber, while also providing vitamin C and gut health benefits,” says Jones.
Whether you mix it into a stir fry or casserole, or blend with oats for a light and savory breakfast, it’s super versatile.
Per serving (85 grams): 20 calories, 0 g fat, 4 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 20 mg sodium, 2 g protein
Another great option you likely haven’t thought of: parsnip rice.
“Simply throw a couple of raw parsnips into a food processor and blitz, says Sofia Norton, RD, nutritionist for Kiss My Keto. From there, sauté it in a little bit of oil until soft (about two minutes).
Try parsnip rice in risottos or pilafs.
Per serving (½ cup, cooked parsnip): 55 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g sat), 13.3 g carbs, 2.8 g fiber, 3.7 g sugar, 7.8 mg sodium, 1 g protein
Banza Chickpea Rice
Though a little higher in the carb department, Banza’s rice alternative offers five grams of fiber, plus 11 grams of protein per serving. “These nutrients are not only important for gut health and maintaining muscle, but also for boosting feelings of fullness,” says Jones.
Since it has an orzo-like texture, Jones likes to use this one in stir-fries or pesto pasta salads.
Per serving (1/4 cup, dry): 170 calories, 3 g fat, 30 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 70 mg sodium, 11 grams protein
Unexpected but true: Finely chopped mushrooms (of any variety) make for a great low-carb rice alternative. “The best thing about mushrooms is their unami flavor, which is savory and earthy,” says Alex Lewis, RD, LD, nutritionist for Baze.
Lewis recommends making fried rice with one part finely chopped mushrooms with one part cauliflower rice.
Per serving (1 cup): 16 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g sat), 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1.5 g sugar, 4 mg sodium, 2 g protein
Miracle Noodle Shirataki Rice
This rice substitute is labeled as a miracle because it contains almost no carbs or calories,” says Norton.” It’s also soy- and gluten-free.” How? Shirataki rice is made with konjac, a prebiotic fiber that’s great for gut health.
“It’s best prepared blanched, since blanching helps remove much of its konjac aroma,” says Norton. (Otherwise it smells a tad fishy.) Cook it up separately and then add it to stir-fries, Mexican-inspired dishes, or any other rice-containing meal.
Per serving (3 ounces): 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 3 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 1 g protein
This root veggie, a relative of cabbage and turnips, is slightly bitter raw, but takes on savory flavors when cooked, says Lewis. She recommends putting chopped raw rutabaga in the food processor to get that rice-like texture before cooking it up with veggie or chicken broth.
Per serving (1 cup): 53 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 12 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 17 mg sodium, 1.5 g protein
Though you wouldn’t want to eat riced cabbage raw, “as cabbage cooks, its bitterness reduces and its flavor becomes milder, which makes it a nice addition to many dishes,” says Lewis.
Cook up riced cabbage in any rice-containing recipe that needs a little extra green.
Per serving (1 cup): 17 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 4 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 13 mg sodium, 1 g protein
Better Than Rice
Similar to Miracle Rice, Better Than Rice is made from purified water and organic konjac flour, but also adds organic oat fiber to the mix.
“Because it’s rich in fiber, it digests slowly and helps you feel fuller for longer,” says Norton. Another major perk of this pick: It’s pre-cooked!
Per serving (¾ cup): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 4 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 0 g protein
Cut up zucchini noodles and, voila, you’ve got zucchini rice. It’s a great way to add bulk to your meals—and works great in Asian-inspired dishes, says Lewis.
One tip: When using zucchini, blot it with a paper towel to remove excess moisture so it does not water down any sauces or dishes you choose to pair it with.
Per serving (3 ounces): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 1 g protein
Cascadian Farm Riced Cauliflower with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Kale
This frozen blend from Cascadian Farm takes cauliflower rice to the next level. Made with just cauliflower, onion, sweet potato, and kale, it keeps flavor high but sodium low, says Jones.
It also offers 50 and 45 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamins A and C, respectively.
Per serving (2/3 cup): 35 calories, 0 g fat, 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 20 mg sodium, 1 g protein