What do risotto, paella and sushi all have in common? Besides being deliciously filling, these three popular meals share one main ingredient.
That’s right, the holy grail of all carbohydrates — rice. Rice is perhaps the most widely consumed type of grain available to consumers today, and includes many varieties from all over the world.
Rice is a dependable side to any meal to give it more volume and flavor, however, it also happens to be one of the most abundant sources of carbohydrates you can eat.
If you’re on a low carb or ketogenic diet, you’ll have to say goodbye to this faithful grain.
But eating a low carb diet doesn’t mean depriving yourself of your favorite paella or risotto dish, or even fried rice. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite rice substitutes to make sure you are feeling full and satisfied to make healthy eating a breeze.
What Is Rice and Why Isn’t It Low Carb-Friendly?
While there are many varieties of rice, they’re all considered grains.
Some of the different kinds of rice include white, brown, wild, jasmine, black and basmati. While they all have a very high carb count, some are are considered more beneficial for your health than others. For example, millet or farro are healthy alternatives to white rice, which has very little fiber. Dietary fiber helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
All varieties of rice are grains, though. So while something like brown rice is a complex carbohydrate, it is only beneficial if you are trying to get a lot of carbohydrates into your diet, which is the opposite of what you want to do on a low carb diet. For individuals looking to a low carb diet like the ketogenic diet, rice should be one of the first foods to go.
Naturally this begs the question: if you can’t eat regular rice, what can you eat on a low carb diet?
Low Carb Alternatives to Rice
Vegetable-based recipes like cauliflower rice can provide a great alternative, as they taste great and provide added health benefits.
Who wants to give up dishes like a casserole or a delicious stir-fry? Even baked dishes are possible with the right ingredients.
Here are a few excellent low carb substitutes for rice, with much higher nutritional value. You won’t even miss the real thing!
Rutabaga is a root vegetable belonging to the cruciferous family. While it’s known for being a great substitute for potatoes, you can easily peel it and place into a food processor and pulse it into a rice texture.
Rutabaga rice is a perfect option for low carb diets like keto because of its macronutrients and micronutrients. One whole cup of rutabaga rice contains only 9 grams of net carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein and zero fat.
Rutabaga is also abundant in certain minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. It provides a good source of vitamins C, E and K. Rutabaga acts as an antioxidant, boosts the immune system, improves metabolic function and improves overall digestive health.
How to use it
A perfect substitute for common rice recipes, rutabaga can be used in many dishes or even on its own as a tasty side dish.
Shirataki rice was coined miracle rice for good reason.Prepared from konnyaku flour from the root of the konnyaku plant, miracle rice is actually calorie-free.
Yes, you read that correctly. This rice has no calories. It’s made up of soluble fiber and helps with many functions including better digestion and improved cholesterol. Miracle rice is calorie-free and a great source of iron.
Convenient for those following a low carb diet, miracle rice can be found packaged already and is available in most health food stores.
How to use it
Try substituting miracle rice in a stir-fry or pilaf recipe. It would also be great in a soup or stew in place of barley or brown basmati rice.
What can’t you make with a food processor?
Not only is butternut squash a delicious addition to any meal, but it makes a pretty great rice alternative as well. All you have to do is cut it up and throw it in the food processor, adding in a little bit at a time while pulsing until it forms a rice-like consistency.
At 21 grams of carbohydrates per serving, butternut squash may be cutting it close to your daily limit if you’re following a ketogenic diet, but the nutritional benefits make up for it. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E and B6, and is rich in manganese, potassium and magnesium.
During the fall and winter, you can find butternut squash at most grocery stores and farmers markets. Once you have peeled and cut the butternut squash, simply start adding chunks into the food processor until you are satisfied with the texture.
How to use it
Butternut squash rice is the perfect substitute in comfort meals like casseroles and baked rice recipes. Its semi-sweet flavor makes for a hearty and filling addition, particularly in seasonal dishes.
You can prepare cabbage rice with the same method as the others: in a food processor.
If you don’t have a food processor, you could also use a cheese grater. To use a grater, chop the head of cabbage into smaller pieces first, making it easier to shred.
Red cabbage is ideal because of its abundance of iron and vitamins A and C.
Besides miracle rice, cabbage rice yields the lowest amount of net carbs on this list, with zero grams of fat and 2 grams of protein per cup. Looking for the perfect option to fill you up and help you feel satiated without going over your macronutrient goals for the day? Cabbage rice is the key.
How to use it
Perfect in stews or as an alternative to fried rice, riced cabbage is especially delicious when combined with the flavors of India. Try adding spices such as garam masala, cumin and turmeric to your recipes.
One of the most popular low carb substitutes to rice is cauliflower rice — and for good reason. Cauliflower rice can be found in your local grocery store pre-packaged, but it can be made just as easy at home if you have a cheese grater or food processor.
Being a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse. Other vegetables in the cruciferous family include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy, to name a few.
Cauliflower can help reduce the risk of certain cancers, improve digestion and help balance hormones. Itis a strong source of vitamins C and K. It helps fight inflammation, which has been shown to be the root cause of most chronic diseases.
Cauliflower rice is a powerful inflammation fighter because of its abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which help to minimize free radicals and oxidative stress in our bodies.
How to use it
Find the Best Rice Substitutes for You
Struggling to find low carb alternatives to your favorite rice-based dishes? Combing your local grocery store for these five low carb rice substitutes should be easy. You can utilize almost any vegetable if you aren’t able to find the ones listed above.
It may not taste exactly like rice (the chewy texture can be tough to replicate with vegetables), but these alternatives will keep you in ketosis so you can keep burning fat as fuel instead of carbs.
Trying one of these low carb rice substitutes today? Comment below and let us know what you made!