Commonly called shirataki noodles, konjac noodles are gluten-free and low-carb noodles made from the corm of the konjac yam. It's a simple, almost translucent noodle that takes on the flavor of whatever it's paired with. And because it's a filling food without heavy carbohydrates, konjac noodles have become a big part of the ketogenic, or keto diet, paleo eating, and other low-carb and gluten-free meal plans.
Other Names: Shirataki noodles, miracle noodles, devil's tongue noodles, and yam noodles
Places of Origin: Japan, China, and Southeast Asia
Main Components: Glucomannan flour made from the konjac yam, water, and slaked lime water
What Are Konjac Noodles?
Made from the corm of the konjac yam, also dubbed the elephant yam, konjac noodles have been a staple in Japanese and Chinese diets for centuries. This unique corm (which is like the bulb some flowers grow from) contains only few digestible carbohydrates, and most of the carbs that are in konjac come from glucomannan fiber. To make the noodles with this ingredient, the konjac is made into a flour that gets mixed with still water and lime water, which is a solution of calcium hydroxide that helps hold the mixture together so it can be sliced into noodles.
The other common name for the konjac noodle is shirataki noodle. It means "white waterfall" in Japanese, a moniker given because the noodles look translucent and almost like cascading water when poured into a bowl. These almost clear noodles don't have much taste given they are about 97% water and 3 percent glucomannan fiber. What the food lacks in flavor it makes up for being a filling ingredient that's low in calories and has no digestible carbs. This makes konjac noodles perfect for low-carb and gluten-free diets.
Konjac Noodles Vs. Rice Vermicelli
Konjac noodles look a lot like rice vermicelli. Both ingredients are whitish and sometimes have a bit of translucency. Each are touted for being low-carb and a health food. As suggested by the name, rice vermicelli is made with rice flour and water, whereas konjac noodles use flour made by the corm of a lily-like flower, water and lime water. These noodles have both been used in Asian cooking for centuries, though rice vermicelli hails from China and konjac noodles are believed to have been created in Japan.
When shopping for rice vermicelli make sure it says "rice" on the package. There's also Italian vermicelli that looks similar and is made with semolina flour. Konjac noodles may also be found under the name shirataki, but there's no variation on how it's made. Both these noodles can be eaten hot or cold, and don't have a strong flavor on their own. It's also easy to over cooke these, though rice vermicelli is a bit more forgiving.
All konjac noodles are long and white or opaque. Some may look clearer than others. This ingredient can be found in other names including shirataki noodles, miracle noodles, devil's tongue noodles and yam noodles.
Konjac Noodle Uses
In theory there's nothing a regular long noodle can do that a konjac noodle can't, though the later tends to be a little more rubbery and can't cook for as long. The konjac noodle also doesn't have much flavor on its own, instead, it takes on the nuances of sauces, main ingredients and spices. Use it for Asian-inspired noodle dishes, to make a low-carb main, served cold and in a salad, or simply mixed with a savory peanut sauce for a quick side plate.
How To Cook With Konjac Noodles
Konjac noodles are known to have a bit a of smell and rubbery texture, but this aspect can easily be avoided if cooked right. When opening a package of the noodles make sure to rinse them before boiling. Then boil on high for about three minutes. Next, drain the noodles and then pan fry them without added oil for five to seven minutes, making sure as much water evaporates without the noodles drying out. This helps with the slightly rubbery texture. Next, the noodles are ready to add to the vegetables, meat and sauces. They can also be prepared just by boiling, though it's best to keep it quick and under three minutes.
What Do Konjac Noodles Taste Like?
On their own konjac noodles don't have much flavor. Think of this ingredient as a blank slate that will taste like whatever sauces or spices are cooked with them.
Konjac Noodles Recipes
Go ahead and substitute konjac noodles for the starch in many Asian dishes. They are closest to rice noodles in taste and texture and hold up well in many meals. However, avoid using konjac noodles in soups, because they are made mainly of water this ingredient tends to dissolve quickly when submerged or become rubbery and almost gelatinous.
Where To Buy Konjac Noodles
The best place to source konjac noodles is in an Asian market. Some health food stores will also carry this type of food since it's a diet staple. But for more variety, the local Japanese or Chinese grocer or an online shop are the best bets. Most of the noodles come dry, though sometimes they are kept fresh in a sealed package with water.
Because these noodles are made mostly of water, the shelf life isn't as long as other varieties. Keep dry and in a dark, cool pantry until ready to use. Most konjac noodles will need to be cooked within a year of purchasing. Wet-stored noodles need to be eaten sooner, and once cooked, this food should be consumed within days.
Nutrition and Benefits
A lot of the myths surrounding the konjac noodle state it's a miracle food. While there are benefits to eating this item, it's not quiet as good as the hype. The main thing to know is that konjac noodles contain glucomannan, which is a highly viscous fiber. That means that with each serving of the low-calorie, carb-free noodles, eaters are getting a hefty dose of soluble fiber, something that's known to help with digestion and give the body energy. Glucomannan also has been touted as a gut health food, making these noodles a tasty step for those looking to add more probiotics to a diet.
Konjac noodles are also low in calories and many are free of grains and carbohydrates. It's easy to add these noodles to a dish to give it heft without adding extra, and sometimes unwanted, components.