What Are Shirataki Noodles?

Cooking and Recipes

Shirataki noodles

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Shirataki noodles are a type of Japanese noodle made from a plant called the konjac plant. They have a gelatinous consistency and little flavor, although they take on the flavors of ingredients they're prepared with.

Fast Facts

  • Category: Soup pasta
  • Cook Time: None
  • Main Ingredient: Konjac yam
  • Meaning: "White waterfall"
  • Substitutes: Tofu noodles

What Are Shirataki Noodles?

Shirataki noodles are made from part of an Asian plant, Amorphophallus konjac, commonly known as a konjac plant, konjac yam, or elephant yam. The part of the plant used to make the food is called a corm, which isn't quite a root and isn't quite a bulb, nor is it a tuber. But it's a part of the plant that's situated underground, and resembles a bulb. The konjac corms are dried, ground into a flour, and processed into a wiggly jelly that in turn is used to produce various foods, including shirataki noodles. You'll sometimes hear shirataki noodles referred to as "yam starch noodles," although they aren't made from a true yam, despite the plant's colloquial nicknames.

The noodles themselves are gelatinous, with a slippery surface and rubbery texture, and they are often sold in a bag of liquid to keep them from drying out. To prepare them, all you need to do is drain the liquid, rinse the noodles, and add them to whatever dish you're preparing. Although they don't have much flavor on their own, simmering them in a broth for a short time allows them to soak up the flavors of the broth. And as a bonus, unlike other noodles, such as ramen, letting shirataki noodles sit in a bowl of hot broth doesn't cause them to turn mushy. 

But they don't have to be cooked. They can be added straight into a cold summer salad, stir fry, or broth.

The slippery, rubbery texture of shirataki noodles, coupled with the fact that they have no flavor, may not sound appealing, and it's true that shirataki noodles will not be to everyone's liking. But they are popular among people following gluten-free and low-carb diets.

Shirataki vs. Glass Noodles

Shirataki noodles are similar to glass noodles, a term used to refer to a range of gluten-free noodles made from various plant starches such as potato starch, mung bean starch, and tapioca. They're used in a variety of dishes, like stir-fries, spring rolls, soups, and salads. Unlike shirataki noodles, glass noodles (also sometimes called cellophane noodles, so named because when cooked, they become translucent) are sold dried and must be cooked to soften them. Still once cooked, their springy, bouncy texture is similar to shirataki noodles. 

How to Cook Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are usually sold in packages of liquid, and these are ready to eat right out of the package, although it's a good idea to drain them and rinse them first, as the liquid they're packed in can impart an odd flavor. Some cooks like to boil them for 2 to 3 minutes to soften them and make them less rubbery. You can also microwave them for a minute or so.

You can also find dry, uncooked shirataki noodles, which should be prepared as directed on the package. With the dry ones, once the package is opened, you'll need to transfer any unused noodles to a container of water and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

In addition to the standard Asian preparations, like stir-fries and soups, shirataki noodles can also be used as a substitute for wheat pasta noodles such as spaghetti and linguine.

Shirataki noodles

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Shirataki noodles

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Shirataki noodles

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Shirataki noodles with shrimp

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Varieties

Some versions of shirataki noodles are made of a blend of shirataki flour and tofu, the addition of which gives the noodles a less rubbery texture. The tofu version of shirataki noodles has an opaque yellow-white color, which somewhat resembles the appearance of noodles made from wheat flour. Tofu shirataki noodles are available in a variety of standard shapes, including macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccine, and angel hair. Like regular shirataki, these products are ready to eat, but they can be parboiled for 2 to 3 minutes or microwaved for about a minute to heat them through.

Substitutes

There are a great many recipes for noodle dishes that feature shirataki noodles, but there would be no point in substituting some other noodle in a recipe like that since any other noodle is going to need to be cooked a different way. So you'd be better off searching for a recipe that's written specifically for the kind of noodle you want to use. Still, other than glass noodles, the product that most closely approximates shirataki noodles is probably tofu noodles, sometimes referred to as bean curd noodles or shredded tofu. (Not to be confused with tofu shirataki noodles, which are shirataki noodles that have some tofu in them.)

Shirataki Noodle Recipes

Shirataki noodles can be used in any recipe that calls for noodles, Asian recipes as well as Italian-style pasta dishes.