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Is Pasta Vegan? Exploring the Many Plant-Based Pastabilities

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Jan. 12 2021, Published 1:16 p.m. ET

The quips and wordplay might be pretty funny, but pasta itself is no joke. According to the BBC, pasta has been one of the world’s most popular dishes for several years running, even amidst the “no-carb craze.” It’s easy to see why though: Pasta is versatile, affordable, stores well, and is readily available in many areas. But even though pasta is a patently vegetarian food staple, its base ingredients might give pause to those on a plant-based diet. They might even find themselves asking, is pasta vegan?

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Is pasta vegan?

Fortunately, most packaged (dried) pasta is vegan. This means all your Italian favorites: spaghetti, rotini, ziti, lasagna, farfalle, rigatoni, linguine, and so on. It also typically includes many types of Asian-style noodles like soba, udon, mei fun, ramen, and so on. Regardless of the region and shape of the dried pasta in question, the keyword here is “most.” 

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Longtime vegans will know that a good rule of thumb is to take no food for granted when it comes to the potential inclusion of animal products. Therefore, the easiest way to find out if a packaged pasta is vegan is to simply check the ingredient list on the package. Most of this dried pasta usually contains one or two ingredients on the list: flour, enriched flour, or semolina. If you see eggs or any sort of dairy product listed, then it’s not vegan. 

By the same token, most fresh pasta — that is to say, pasta stored in a refrigerated or freezer section of your local supermarket — are not likely to be vegan. This includes things like tortellini, manicotti, and ravioli, which typically contain cheese, meat, and egg. The same is true for any fresh-made spaghetti, linguine, or the like — these also usually contain eggs.

So, the answer is to the question of "is pasta vegan?" is yes in most instances, but not necessarily. Always check ingredients to be sure.

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Are there gluten-free vegan pasta options?

Food companies have been getting rather creative in this new world of specialized diets and allergens. This has been both out of necessity and to allow them to reach segments of the market they might not have been able to reach before. There are now dozens of different kinds of pasta out there, made of ingredients such as rice, quinoa, corn, beans, lentils, sea kelp, and sweet potatoes. The best part about many of these gluten-free pasta options is that many also happen to be vegan. But again, you need to check the ingredients to be certain. 

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What do I do if I’m dining out?

While many chain restaurants have indicators on the menu that a dish is vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free (such as Olive Garden, where you can surprisingly find some awesome vegan options), smaller, family-owned restaurants will likely not have such information out in the open. In these cases, it’s best to ask your server or the manager if their pasta contains eggs or if they have any vegan options. Since most dried pasta is free of animal products, any restaurant serving packaged pasta should be able to hook you up with a great vegan meal.

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Can I make vegan pasta myself?

There are thousands of delicious vegan pasta recipes out there that can teach you how to make everything from simple noodles to ravioli stuffed with cashew cheese. Even without eggs, plenty of smooth, workable pasta doughs can be made with only some water, all-purpose flour, and a touch of olive oil. Check out an easy homemade vegan pasta recipe here!

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What are some popular vegan pasta brands?

Many popular brands of pasta like Barilla, Mueller’s, and Ronzoni all offer a multitude of vegan pasta options, as do many in-store brands. Other brands like Explore Cuisine offer all-vegan, organic, and gluten-free options that are available at Whole Foods, Costco, and Walmart. Some of these specialty food stores also offer all-vegan frozen ravioli, like this one by Kite Hill. You just have to know where to look. 

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