Can vegans eat pasta?
It’s a fairly common question. However, with most questions regarding a vegan diet, the answer isn’t simple.
Everybody loves pasta, or so it seems, as it’s pretty much found across the globe. It’s easy to see why. The simplicity of pasta makes it hyper usable, since it only needs one of two ingredients to make the most basic recipes.
Of course, vegans can eat many different types of pasta. But, the real question is “which types of pasta can vegans eat?”.
So let’s dive into this old and varied food source and see what separates the pastas that vegans can eat, from the pasta that vegans should steer clear of.
The Short and Savory History of Pasta
The origins of pasta can be traced back to greater Mediterranean region of Greece in BC times.
Some kind of pasta, made from flour and water, has been around since at least Roman times, and as mentioned even before then. A form of pasta resembling the modern lasagna was documented by a historian of the time. These were usually layers of dough with meat filling.
There are scattered reports of stringy shapes of dough that was dried before being cooked. A boiled dough was also consumed in Palestine in the late classical ages going back to the 3rd century AD. There are also chronicles from 1154 of these dried pastas being produced and shipped out of Norman Sicily.
Some people believe that pasta was introduced to Sicily from Arabia and North Africa, as couscous was a staple food in the latter during the early middle ages around the 9th century.
Starting in the 13th century pastas like macaroni, ravioli, and vermicelli were documented. By the 14th and 15th centuries dried pasta was traded all around the Mediterranean. Its popularity grew because of the pasta’s ability to be stored dry.
In the following century, pasta could be found all over the globe because of the shipping voyages of exploration.
The city of Naples kicked off modern pasta manufacturing in the 17th century, followed by Venice and soon after parts of Tuscany. Machinery was first used here for the kneading and pressing of pasta dough.
From the Italic peninsula pasta spread north. In the mid 1800s the city of Pest in Hungary was home to one of the first pasta factories in Central Europe.
The Zatka Brother’s founded the first pasta factory in Bohemia in Boršov nad Vltavou in the Czech Republic.
Nowadays the presence of pasta is ubiquitous in most parts of the world, and it is usually easily accessible. Even to vegans, since basic pasta, made the traditional way is oftentimes free of animal products.
What is Pasta Made Of?
The most basic homemade pasta recipes include four ingredients. Flour, water, olive oil, and salt. Thus, making a lot of pasta accidentally vegan.
Of course, many pasta dough recipes include egg yolks, deeming it not suitable for vegans. Let’s take a closer look though.
Since at least around 160bc, basic pasta dough has been made predominantly of wheat flour or semolina. In the South of Italy,durum wheat was mainly used, and in the North the dough typically consisted of a soft wheat.
In different regions around the globe, pasta grains from barley, to buckwheat, to maize and rice have been used. Some pasta makers have even used nut flours and chickpea flour to create the doughy delight that we all love to dive into.
Vegans can eat pastas that are created from all of these wide and varied ingredients, as long as they are animal product-free.
Cooked potatoes can also be used to make gnocchi, a common type of pasta.
Cheeses, herbs, spices, and veggie purees like spinach and tomato can be added to the standard pasta mix of flour and liquid to bulk up flavor and nutritional value
Sometimes doughs consisting of yeast are used, although it is definitely not the most common way to produce pasta.
In modern, commercially sold pasta additives like minerals and vitamins, which are lost in the milling process, are added to flour. This enriched flour can contain micronutrients like niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine.
Fresh Pasta vs Dry Pasta
Fresh pasta is usually created and boiled all in the same culinary session. Dried pasta can be stored and packaged and then shipped out around the world to be sold in shops.
Water, flour, salt, and eggs are the most common ingredients for fresh pasta. But not to fear, as mentioned previously, some makers will use oil to replace eggs.
Flour and salt are mixed together, and then the eggs are dumped directly into the the mix. After the flour and eggs are mixed it becomes a shaggy dough, which is then kneaded thoroughly.
The next step is to let the dough rest, and then it can be rolled out, and cut and shaped into any pasta style desired.
Vegans can make pasta at home with one minor tweak to the above steps.
Simply replace the eggs in favor of olive oil, mix the oil with the flour, and voila, delicious homemade vegan pasta ready to cook.
The only thing left is to boil the pasta in salted water to cook the dough.
Pasta Varieties Around the Globe
Of course no nation on the planet comes close to Italy with regardes to pasta production and consumption when we view it in the traditional sense.
Italians munch down pasta like horses eat oats. The people of Italy eat pasta in a seemingly never-ending variety of shapes and styles. Oils, cheeses, sauces, and both veggies and meats accompany the sumptuous dishes of this pasta-crazy nation.
That said, Italy doesn’t corner the market on pasta. As mentioned before, couscous is the most common type of pasta in North Africa, Palestine, and the Eastern Mediterranean. This type of pasta is more like tiny balls of dough, and it is rarely drenched in sauce like its cousin to the north andwest.
After pasta spread around the planet, it was absorbed into the local cuisines, which spawned many new varieties of preparation and cooking.
For instance, the Nepalese prefer to boil macaroni and sauté it with spices like cumin and turmeric, accompanied with green chillies, onions, and cabbage.
Vegans can eat pasta dishes like these, which are loaded with veggies and non-animal fats.
Pasta is very common in the Southern Cone of South America, as countries like Argentina and the lower parts of Brazil are rooted in Italian ancestry.
In Japan, rice vermicelli is a popular form of pasta.
The Swedes like to eat both a short and long flat pasta with their creamy meatballs. Luckily,, there are animal-free variations so vegans can eat this kind of pasta.
Sopa de Fideo, or simply, fideo, is a flavorful soup in Spain, Mexico, and Texas that is made with short thin noodles like vermicelli or angel hair (capellini). The noodles are usually browned and then stewed in a chicken or veggie stock.
In the Czech Republic short thin pasta is made in a soup with carrots, parsnips, and chicken liver dumplings. And also a sweeter pasta dish made with a long flat noodle, ground poppy seeds, butter, and confectioner sugar. Vegans can eat pasta prepared this way with just a simple butter substitution.
In the United States there are way too many pasta options to list, due to the country’s high immigrant population.Pasta eateries can be found all over the nation. Spaghetti and macaroni are still the most common types of pasta in the USA though, followed by ravioli and lasagna. Consumption of vegan pasta, along with gluten-free pasta, are at an all-time high.
Can Vegans Eat Pasta – Not These!
So, now that we are familiar with the history and varieties of pasta, let’s get back to the quest – Can vegans eat pasta? Here are some things to look out for.
Fresh pastas are far more likely to have animal ingredients than dried pasta. There are a whole host of ingredients to look out for.
First, eggs are the main culprit that ruins pasta for those of us that try to avoid animal products. Vegans do not eat pasta that contains eggs.
Though, fresh pasta without eggs does exist, but watch out for pasta with added cheese.
Squid ink is another ingredient to be aware of, but it is very easy to spot because of the black color of the dough. Some people may also incorporate milk into their pasta as a means to moisten the dough.
Additionally, even though butter is usually an added flavoring agent to the cooked pasta, some makers will incorporate it into their processed pasta doughs. So be aware, as vegans do not eat pasta that contains this animal fat.
Some of the obvious pastas to avoid are clearly marketed on the front of the package, such as “egg noodles”. The same goes for a great many stuffed pastas, like shells and ravioli, that contain cheese and animal proteins.
When dining out, just check with your waiter and get the information about the ingredients before you order. Often they can make the needed changes, and vegans can eat pasta dishes that are easily adjusted to fit their diet.
And, when at the grocery store, always check the ingredients list on pasta before making your purchase.
Can Vegans Eat Pasta? – Yes, Here are 5 Safe Options!
Dry pasta is almost always a better bet than fresh pasta for vegans. But sometimes even the dry can lie, so be careful.
Manufacturers are always creating new ways of pasta-making with interesting animal-free ingredients. Some examples are; rice, lentils, beans, yams and even kelp pasta.
Vegans can usually eat pasta that is made with these ingredients.
Many of our favorite pasta-makers have always had vegan options though, like Ronzoni and Barilla. But always check the ingredient list because they also carry non-vegan varieties.
Can vegans eat pasta? You betcha. Here are five options:
Barilla Vegan Pasta Options
As for Barilla, the pasta kings have quite a few vegan pasta options. Their penne, spaghetti, bucatini, bow tie, and rigatoni are all vegan friendly.
Vegans can eat pasta produced by Barilla and it is quite easy to find all around the globe.
De Cecco Vegan Pasta Options
De Cecco is another mega manufacturer of the pasta world, as their products are available in most parts of the globe. Some say they are even more vegan-friendly than Barilla, as their lasagna sheets and gnocchi are both vegan.
De Cecco only carries two types of pasta with eggs; the Egg Fettuccine no. 103 and the Egg Pappardelle no. 101.
Explore Cuisine Vegan Pasta
Explore Cuisine is a brand that only carries vegan, gluten-free pasta and is available at most large grocery chains like Costco, Whole Foods, and even Walmart.
Rio Bertolini’s Vegan Pasta
Rio Bertolini’s has a nice selection of stuffed pastas like raviolis made with butternut squash, roast chickpea and garlic, and also a tuscan white bean.
Banza Pasta Vegan Pasta
Banza Pasta is a high protein and high fiber pasta that is totally vegan. Their pasta is also gluten-free with no added sugars, and it is a healthier alternative to most traditional pasta.
Nowadays, vegan pasta options are easy to find with a simple google search. Every year the market grows with more and more choices of pastas that vegans can eat.
The Final Verdict on Can Vegans Eat Pasta
In summary, the answer to “can vegans eat pasta?” is, yes…if the pasta is vegan!
One simple guideline to follow is to keep in mind that fresh pasta is more likely to contain eggs than dry pasta.
Besides this tip, it would be wise to keep an eye out for ingredients like milk, cheese, and other bits like animal fats.
So, can vegans eat pasta? You bet, and vegans do eat pasta, every day.
In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet at most restaurants around the world. Pasta is a food staple that vegans can feel confident about relying on, as in its oldest and most basic form, pasta is plant-based.
Enjoy, and arrivederci!