Pasta is one of the most popular dishes on the planet. It is a staple in almost every pantry, a dependable kid-friendly meal, and the quintessential comfort food. When prepared correctly, pasta can be a nutritious, affordable, and, of course, a delicious meal. Few dishes that are more uplifting than a steaming bowl of pasta covered in a sauce made with simple, fresh ingredients. Whether you choose penne, spaghetti, angel hair, or any of the many fun shapes and sizes, pasta can be the basis of an endless number of delicious dishes.
So, with all of that said, is pasta vegan-friendly or best avoided? You may assume that because pasta is a grain-based food, it is a safe option for vegans. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some brands and varieties of pasta contain animal-derived ingredients and additives and are therefore not suitable in a vegan diet. As a committed vegan, it is important to be cautious of these details.
To help you decide which boxes of pasta are vegan-friendly and which types you should leave out of your grocery basket, we’re going to take a look at pasta from a vegan perspective.
What is Pasta and How is it Made?
A good place to start is to explain what pasta is. Pasta is an Italian staple that is used in an almost endless number of dishes. Essentially, the term pasta refers to a mixture of semolina, which is a type of flour made from durum wheat, and water or eggs. The mixture is then formed by hand or pressed into different sizes and shapes and then either kept fresh or dried for later use.
This leads us to the two basic ways to make pasta. First is fresh pasta, which is often made and cooked in the same sitting. Fresh pasta does not undergo a drying process. Second, there is pasta secca or dried pasta as it is commonly known. This is the pasta we see sold in boxes and bags in grocery stores.
The two types of pasta differ in their ingredient content and production. This is important to note because it can determine whether the pasta is vegan-friendly or not.
Dried Pasta Versus Fresh Pasta
Is dried pasta vegan? Considering the majority of shoppers purchase their pasta in dried and boxed form, it is important to know if it is suitable for vegans to consume.
Luckily, most dried pasta is unintentionally vegan-friendly. Although most household brands do not advertise vegan certification, the ingredients used to make the pasta are all suitable for vegan consumption. Often the ingredient makeup of dried pasta is semolina flour, durum flour, water, salt, and vitamins for added enrichment. Since most dried pasta contains only the above vegan-safe ingredients, it usually meets vegan guidelines. That said, as someone who adheres to a vegan diet, you should always double-check the label and ingredient list for non-vegan additives.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for fresh pasta. The typical ingredients used to make fresh pasta are flour, water, salt, and often eggs. While fresh pasta can be made using plant-based oils instead of eggs, eggs are unfortunately the standard choice of ingredient. Of course, eggs come from animals and, therefore, do not qualify as vegan. Freshly made pasta could become a problem when dining at a non-vegan’s home, eating at a restaurant, or purchasing pre-made fresh pasta. You should always ask if the pasta being served contains eggs, or, better yet, try some vegan pasta recipes yourself so you know for sure.
Questions I often hear are “Is gluten-free pasta vegan?” and “Is whole wheat pasta vegan?” The temptation to assume that healthier varieties of pasta are vegan-friendly makes sense, especially since most people believe pasta is just a mixture of plant-based flours and water. However, as we discussed, it is worth double-checking even these varieties of pasta do not contain eggs or other animal-derived additives.
It goes without saying that vegans should avoid egg noodles. Regardless of the brand, egg noodles always contain egg yolk. The same is also true of any sort of cheese or meat-stuffed pasta. Unless specifically packaged as using vegan alternatives, this pasta is an obvious no-go for vegans.
Vegan Pasta Brands Available for Purchase
Although most dried pasta you encounter qualifies as vegan, some standout brands do exist.
Barilla is one of the most popular pasta brands on the planet so it is unsurprising I am often asked, “Is Barilla pasta vegan?” The good news for vegans is that almost all of Barilla’s dried pasta is vegan. Be careful of their “Protein Plus” variety as it does contain eggs. Aside from that, Barilla is a safe bet, which is excellent for vegans to have such a widely available vegan-friendly product.
Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese
Who does not crave this childhood staple from time to time? Luckily Annie’s created a vegan-friendly take on mac and cheese. It is available in many health food stores and on Amazon.
Explore Cuisine make a variety of vegan-certified plant-based pasta. Their noodles are made from beans and lentils which give their pasta a higher protein and fiber content than traditional pasta.
Is Pasta Sauce Vegan?
Unfortunately, most pasta sauce recipes contain heavy cream, milk, cheese, and meat. So, even though you can make homemade vegan-friendly fresh pasta or buy some of the many vegan dried pasta, all of this is useless if the pasta is topped with a non-vegan sauce.
Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based vegan pasta sauce recipes available. Some of these even emulate creamy sauces, such as alfredo, with all vegan ingredients. Plenty of recipes are available online for free. Have fun and experiment until you have a vegan-friendly sauce you love.
Vegan Pasta Lovers Rejoice!
While you may have to be cautious if you plan on dining on fresh pasta, there are plenty of options and recipes out there for you to enjoy. As is best practice whenever you are buying any groceries you are unsure of, you should still check the labeled ingredient list to guarantee your pasta is vegan. But, rest assured, just because you are living a vegan lifestyle, you do not have to give up pasta!
Here Are Some Great Vegan Pasta Recipes For You To Feast On:)