Product Review: Konjac (low-cal) noodles

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 16 November 2012. Posted in Reviews
Tagged: calories, carb counting, carbohydrates, convenience, diet foods, dieting, diets, obesity, salad, smart carbs

Slim Pasta and Chang’s Lo-Cal noodles side by side

Product Review: Konjac (low-cal) noodles

Less than 10 calories per serve? Fewer calories than a slice of bread? Fat-free, low-carb, low GI, high-fibre AND gluten-free? Ticking all the boxes, it sounds too good to be true. When the people at Chang’s handed me a packet of their new Lo-Cal Wok-Ready noodles telling me how fast sales were growing, I realised this was a new trend. Then when I spotted a similar noodle called Slim Pasta at the supermarket, I knew I had to investigate.

As you may know, I’m sceptical about lose-weight-quick products. There’s no short cut to losing weight. Even less so for busy women who have no time to exercise or cook. So do these new products stack up and what do they taste like? Most diet foods taste like whipped tasteless air so I must admit my expectations were pretty low.

Taste 6/10

These noodles taste just like those bean-thread cellophane noodles that you buy in Asian grocery stores. Thin, clear, gel-like and completely tasteless! My first thought was 'Yep they're just like all the rest!' For this reason, I gave them a 6 out of 10. Bear in mind though, they'll need lots of flavour from garlic, fresh herbs, chilli, meat or fish, and lime juice etc., etc.

konjac recipe ingredients 1To test them out, I used both brands to make up the Chang's recipe for their Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad with shredded Chinese cabbage, cucumber, carrot, bean sprouts, heaps of mint and coriander topped with an oil-free Asian dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, rice vinegar, chilli and garlic. Fairly stark diet fodder – not a skerrick of oil and extremely low in carbs - as you can see.

To my surprise, the noodles worked nicely in the salad and complemented the whole dish. I could have served this up to my girlfriends for a light luncheon with no complaints. I had it for dinner and then again for lunch and must admit I didn't feel any hunger for three hours after. Although I did feel a little windy at the other end if you get my drift!

The Angel Hair pasta from Slim Pasta looked pretty similar to Chang's except it was more broken into short lengths with fewer long strands.

konjac noodle saladAnywhere you'd use cellophane noodles you can easily substitute konjac noodles. Sensational in an Asian-style diet salad. I'd definitely use them again.

Slim Pasta say you can use their product for Italian pasta sauces but I don't see this working unless it's a light delicate sauce as it will smother the noodles. They'd be fine added to a clear soup or to throw in a stir-fry at the end but doubt they'd hold up to a gutsy dish of meatballs. If you crave noodles but need to lose weight, these are perfect for you. Just don't expect them to work as your usual spaghetti, linguine or elbows pasta. Think of them more as a replacement for thin, translucent Asian noodles and you won't be disappointed.

Unfortunately both noodles aren't Aussie-made so if you don't mind buying Chinese-made products and need a low calorie noodle, these are for you.

Nutrition 8/10

Konjac noodles ARE everything they claim – there's no fat, no carbs, no protein, just fibre. And only 44 kilojoules (6 to 10 calories) per 100 grams. They're not made from a grain so there's no gluten. I don't know how they tested its GI as there are no carbs to measure – maybe they assumed it was low like other viscous fibres.

Thanks to konjac's composition, all you'll find is fibre. At 4 per cent fibre, it's twice as much fibre as regular pasta which has only 2 per cent but on a par with wholemeal pasta at 5 per cent.

In contrast, boiled cellophane noodles supply around 20 per cent carbs, 365 kilojoules per 100 grams and little fibre.

INGREDIENTS

According to the ingredient list, the only ingredients are konjac root (extract or flour), water plus a stabiliser which is calcium hydroxide (additive code 526) needed to stop the noodles breaking up and keep them separate. Chang's have 12 months Best-before date while Slim Pasta gives you 6 months which is good. Keep a pack in the cupboard for when you need it.

Changs 200g pack:

Water, Konjac root extract, stabiliser 526

 

Slim Pasta Angel hair noodles 250g pack:

Purified water, konjac root flour (3.8%), calcium hydroxide (mineral salt 526)

 

Nutrition stats

One serving of konjac noodles (weighing 100g cooked) supplies:

0 protein, 0 fat, 0g sugars, 0 starch, 4g fibre and 44 kilojoules (10 calories)

 

Convenience 10/10

Konjac noodles drainedKonjac noodles are different to regular dried noodles. They have been pre-cooked and come ready to use in a sealed pack floating in a watery liquid. This may put you off at first but all looks safe and ok to me once I'd gotten used to the idea.

Really they couldn't be more convenient. To prepare, all you do is drain the pack and rinse the noodles under cold water. For Slim Pasta, you have to dunk the drained noodles into a pot of hot water for one minute. Easy. Handy for busy women as there's no need to cook ahead, cool and drain. Perfect for holidays or next time you're camping.

The bottom line

Konjac noodle are diet food in the extreme. They can substitute for real noodles but are only useful if you don't get hungry an hour later and reach for the muffins. As is the problem with all low-carb diets. I can see only two uses:

1. As a fake food so you can eat Paleo or Dukan or Atkins but feel like you're eating something more 'normal' when you've got a "can't be ignored" noodle craving.

Or

2. You're on a low-carb diet but want to save your carb allowance for something else, say a decadent chocolate dessert.

If you love those clear thin cellophane noodles, then these are a close second. They're not my cuppa tea. But they were a darn good copy.

 

Konjac – what is it?

Konjac (Amorphophallus konjac) is an Asian root vegetable similar to a potato in texture but without the starchy carbs or protein or kilojoules.

Known as konnyaku potato, devil's tongue, devil’s taro or elephant yam, konjac has been grown in China, Korea, Japan and most of south-east Asia for hundreds of years.

Konjac root is composed of water and fibre. It can be ground into flour, boiled and shaped into a substitute for wheaten pasta or rice noodles. For instance, the Japanese traditionally make konnyaku or shirataki noodles by mixing konjac flour with water and limewater (calcium hydroxide). It is then boiled and cooled to solidify into its noodle lengths. Because it’s so delicate, you’ll see it sold in plastic bags with its accompanying water. You may have eaten it in sukiyaki and oden.

 

Background on glucomannan

Konjac consists of some 40 per cent of a type of soluble fibre called glucomannan, which is one of the most viscous fibres known with the highest water holding capacity of any food fibre. These strong setting qualities are sought after and it’s often used as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin.

Like other soluble fibres such as guar or psyllium, glucomannan has the ability to slow down the passage of food though the digestive tract and lower cholesterol. They help you feel fuller so you’re less likely to tuck into after-dinner sweets or chocolates.

Several studies testify to its power to delay absorption and it’s been suggested as important in diabetic and weight loss diets.

There’s not a huge number of studies but three well-controlled projects reported that glucomannan lowered cholesterol, triglycerides and body weight and kept blood sugars levels lower in diabetic subjects but it had to be taken every day for several weeks.

Konjac jelly cups recall and ban in 2004

You may associate the term konjac with bad press ten years ago. Mini-cup jelly lollies for kids which were made with konjac as the gelling agent were recalled in 2001 then banned in 2004 due to the possibility of choking. The jelly produced by the konjac was so strong it caused the sweet to “stick” inside the throat, causing a constriction of the airways and choking.

Fifteen deaths around the world have been linked to choking episodes caused by this type of jelly cup, including eight in Japan, five in the US and one in Australia in 2000.

Konjac in other forms is not a problem. It was simply the small size and stickiness of these jelly cups.  

 

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book - Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion – answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right!

Comments (39)

  • Sally Johnston

    Sally Johnston

    17 November 2012 at 09:14 |
    Thanks for this review Catherine. I read your review with great interest as I see one more use for these noodles - as part of the 'free food allowance' on a VLED, particularly in the case of my clients preparing for weight loss surgery. I must work on some recipes incorporating the noodles to share with my clients, it may just help some of them satisfy their hunger through this tricky stage.
    Regards,
    Sally Johnston
    APD | AN
  • Catherine Saxelby

    Catherine Saxelby

    22 November 2012 at 11:05 |
    Yes these low-cal noodles would be excellent for your patients on a Very Low Energy Diet before gastic banding or similar. Hadn't thought of them as a group! And it would make those salad meals look more normal too! They can have their noodle and eat it! Cheers Catherine
  • Susan

    Susan

    02 March 2013 at 11:41 |
    Hi Catherine,
    I tried the Slim spaghetti with my bolognese sauce, and it was delicious, with a unique crunch. The thickness of the pasta worked well with a gutsy meat sauce. My only concern was the Ingredients list which said:
    Purified Water, Konjac Flour (3.6%), Rice Flour, Calcium Hrdroxide (Mineral Salt,526). Such a minute percentage of Konjac made these surely just another rice/corn pasta.
    Also the Made in China label for food is a worry to me.
  • Catherine Saxelby

    Catherine Saxelby

    21 April 2013 at 21:19 |
    Hi Susan. Good to hear the spag was good to eat and nice with the meat sauce. Yes there's not a lot of the konjac ingredient present and yes it's refined like rice noodles which are the closest product to it. I guess that's a trade-off against the really low kilojoule count - at times one can't have everything in nutrition and still have a product that taste good! Many folk would say the same as you about a product that's made in China but I'm not aware of any other country that grows this specialised konjac plant. Cheers Catherine
  • Nichole

    Nichole

    23 April 2013 at 13:39 |
    Hi Catherine,

    Thanks for the review. I thought I'd just add that I use the Spaghetti and Angel hair Slim Pasta as a substitute for dried pasta for my fitness and health; not weight loss. I can barely taste the difference, and angel hair is fantastic in Chicken noodle soup :) But it's always fantastic to read an unbiased review to learn more about products I use.
  • sixpackacademy

    sixpackacademy

    29 April 2013 at 19:59 |
    Great review - very thorough introduction to Konjac.
  • Nadine

    Nadine

    02 June 2013 at 12:52 |
    Konjac noodles are quite good. Have made stirfries and pad thai out of them successfully. Surely you are confusing the low carb diet with something else though when you say you are hungry again in two hours? The LCHF (low carb high fat) way of eating has eliminated my need for snacking completely for the first time ever. The konjac noodles made me a little windy too.
  • Lisa Finocchiaro

    Lisa Finocchiaro

    13 June 2013 at 13:52 |
    I bought some of this pasta to try and to be honest I don't find it that practical at all. I prepared it as directed, and found it very difficult to mix sauce through and it most definitely CANNOT be frozen. I like to prepare lunches in advance for work as I work long hours, so prefer to have meals ready that I have made as I have food allergies as well. The pasta loses all texture after being frozen (yet I use other gluten free pasta and its fine) and tastes like plastic. It's very disappointing that I have now had to throw 3 meals out because it's inedible. This type of pasta cannot be cooked and frozen. I'm sorry to say I won't be buying it again.
  • Catherine Saxelby

    Catherine Saxelby

    13 June 2013 at 15:18 |
    Thanks for the comments Nichole, sixpackacademy and Nadine. Appreciate the feedback. Nadine, the meal I ate was carb-free and high-protein which I suspect is different to what you're talking about. I only reported what I experienced - maybe I wouldn't have been hungry if I'd eaten a larger portion. Interesting that the LCHF way of eating keeps you satisfied and not snacking. Is it like Atkins? Cheers Catherine
  • Catherine Saxelby

    Catherine Saxelby

    13 June 2013 at 15:21 |
    Hi Lisa. Thanks for letting me know that this pasta doesn't stand up to freezing. Didn't test that in my Review so good to know. Pity it becomes so inedible but yes obviously not something that works for you. Maybe best to stick to the gluten-free noodles that you've tried before. Cheers Catherine
    • Barb

      Barb

      13 August 2013 at 07:31 |
      Hi Lisa,
      Like you I work long hours, and so rather than adding the Konjac noodles into the meal, I simply freeze the sauce (or whatever you're adding to flavour up the noodles) and then take the noodle sachet separately. They only need a minute under boiled water to heat, so I have left a large heatproof bowl and strainer at work (obviously not practical if you drive for a living!). I've al,so found that drying the noodles on some paper towel after rinsing helps remove any of that "smell". Pura Veda make angel hair, fettuccine, "pearls" (like enormous blobs of rice) and penne ( too much noodle in one hit for my liking)...I've used all of them for Asian and Italian style cooking, as I just can't stick to a diet without pasta or noodles! (Ie not so good at dieting)
  • Elaine

    Elaine

    03 August 2013 at 11:46 |
    I was introduced to konjac through another member at weight watchers. When you first open the pack they smell and taste foul on their own. Once you rinse them that smell disappears. Having said that I have found them great to bulk up a meal or soup.I find the packet soups not filling enough so I add a packet of these noodles to my cup(which now has to be put in a bowl). I use a nice spicy soup mix like asian thai curry, laksa or tom yum and fills me up for a low kj quick, tasty lunch.
    I had it 3 times this week and now know why I have been so windy.
  • Andrew Callanan

    Andrew Callanan

    09 August 2013 at 14:26 |
    Hi Lisa,

    I have tried both these brands but my naturopath put me on another brand called zero noodles to avoid the BPA packaging. My personal opinion is that they taste better and don't have the smell of the others. The price is good too at $2.80 a packet of 200g net.
  • Kylie

    Kylie

    03 December 2013 at 15:06 |
    Thanks for the review. I was very skeptical about this wonder diet food but after just trying the slim pasta as an Italian dish (chicken "carbonara" using lf evaporated milk) and an Asian stir fry I'll definitely be buying it again.
  • Julie

    Julie

    20 January 2014 at 18:17 |
    Thanks for the review! In New Zealand we eat Lean Pasta - which you can buy directly from their website https://leanpasta.co.nz
    The best part is they have a broad range including my personal favourite.. Spinach Fettuccine!
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      20 January 2014 at 20:19 |
      Thanks for the link Julie. Sure my NZ readers will be grateful. Catherine
      • Sonja

        Sonja

        07 February 2014 at 16:12 |
        Hi, I'm glad I found this site...so the "smell"...of the rice that I opened for the very first time to try of the slim pasta was very " fishy" is that normal? I was too scared to eat it. I thought the product may have been off, even though it was within it's use by date. If it's " normal" I shall give it another try. Thanks for any feedback..oh, I rinsed and soaked it to packet instructions beforehand as well.
        • Catherine Saxelby

          Catherine Saxelby

          08 February 2014 at 19:00 |
          Gee I didn't pick up any fishy odour so maybe there is something off with your particular packet. Or perhaps rinse and rinse well for remove all the surrounding liquid. I recall there was a slight odour, more metallic than anything else. But not offensive in any way, in my packs. Thanks for the feedback Sonja. Catherine
        • Julie

          Julie

          16 February 2014 at 09:04 |
          Hi Sonja!

          Yes you have to be careful with some Konjac products as they have a strong "FISHY" smell.

          LeanPasta has absolutely no SMELL!!
  • Kayla Mailley

    Kayla Mailley

    09 February 2014 at 10:13 |
    Hi there, thank you for this review. I got a lot of useful information out of it.

    I recently purchased a packet of slendier noodles for the simple fact that they are vegan. I took them out of the packet, they smell foul. Once rinsed the smell goes away. I submerged them in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute and pulled them out. They were rubbery and odd. Not at all like the usual gel noodles I buy.
    I added sauce etc to the dish and found that they don't hold any flavour, the sauce runs off.
    They are like... Gel but not tender or soft, more like chewy and rubbery. Unless I made them wrong? But how hard can it be to heat something for 1 minute.

    Did anyone else experience this?
  • Daniel

    Daniel

    16 February 2014 at 14:10 |
    I feel that I'm missing something here. Why is a food that contains absolutely NO nutritional value ( apart from fibre) being promoted as beneficial?
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      17 February 2014 at 17:00 |
      Hi Daniel. to clarify, I didn't PROMOTE these noodles as healthy or beneficial. I have had a lot of questions about them so I did a taste-test and gave you free nutrition background on what they are and whether they're any good in a weight-loss diet as many things often seem to be 'too good to be true'! Personally they're not for me as I find they have absolutely no flavour and a limp texture. But many people find them useful for cutting back on carbs and calories. It all depends on your needs, I'd venture to say. I suspect there's almost NO vitamins or minerals in them. And we know there's no protein, fat or carbs. So there are way healthier choices out there for you in the world of noodles and pasta. Regards Catherine
      • Terri

        Terri

        27 March 2014 at 13:10 |
        They do have a good serve of fibre if that is what people require
  • Daniel

    Daniel

    17 February 2014 at 19:29 |
    Thank you for your reply Catherine, I appreciate it.
  • Fran

    Fran

    11 March 2014 at 12:08 |
    I have used these for stir fries, thai style salads - extremely helpful and easy, satisfying for weightloss and GF.
    Can be bought in Asian supermarkets for $1.50 for pack which offers 3 serves - could not be cheaper. however, ingredients list should checked as some now put slim on label but are not konjac.
    Also Asian varieties come as super thin vermicelli style, thicker udon style and with kelp added for slightly stronger flavour and colour.
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      11 March 2014 at 19:16 |
      Thanks for those good tips Fran. Yes konjac (or similar) are pretty inexpensive aren't they? Catherine
  • Denise

    Denise

    02 April 2014 at 20:41 |
    I tried the noodles my daughter tried the pasta. Both are of a horrible consistency and we both felt sick afterwards. Even with sauce these are yuk yuk yuk are people paid to say these are nice. Heaven help them.
  • Anne

    Anne

    14 April 2014 at 21:25 |
    I thought this was a very fair review and it gave me extra background information which was helpful. I found the fact that it was a traditional food for some Chinese people reassuring. I just had my first meal of fish + soupy noodles. It was very filling and oddly fibrous but not unpleasant. Makes a good standby when you're hungry but don't want to crash your diet plan. Given the effect of eating 200g, I will probably eat a lot less of them, or mix them in with starchy noodles in the future. You could probably make something similar yourself from, say, raw celery, which might explain why they don't freeze. What will put me off them in the UK is the high price. But I will try the local South East Asian shops for the more traditional less hyped version. All the comments above, even the very negative ones, were helpful in guiding me as to how and whether I want to continue using this food. So thanks.
  • Kelly Kurcina

    Kelly Kurcina

    22 April 2014 at 07:25 |
    Hi!
    I just discovered your page and love it! Question.. I found something similiar at my local asian grocery store, ingredient label reads: shirataki, ingredients: yam flour and hydrated lime. Is this the same thing?
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      25 April 2014 at 20:23 |
      Hi Kelly. Sure sounds like the same thing! Yam = konjac Lime = calcium carbonate. Sent me a pic of it if you can. Catherine
  • andree gontier

    andree gontier

    30 April 2014 at 05:53 |
    thank you Catherine for this useful information. I discovere Konjac rice/noodles a month ago and i have been eating everyday as i am following a diet of high protein, but i miss my carbs so much, in this way i have some satisfaction of filling on those types konjac products without worrying on the carbs contents. I feel very satisfied, of course it is not the real thing, but it replaces them satisfactorily...for those who complains about the smell, i normally wash them in a colander, and cook them in the microwave for 10 minutes, it comes out fluffy and less watery. In fact now i am use to its taste and look forward to consume my meals both lunch and dinner with a big bowl of either rice or noodles..that was a great invention and hope that one day they would cultivate this magic plant it in europe,.
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      30 April 2014 at 17:31 |
      Hi Andree. Thanks for your feedback and tips on how to prepare them so they don't smell. Interesting. Thinnk the konjac plant will remain in China where it's been grown and then processed for some time. But who knows? Catherine
  • Zoe

    Zoe

    02 May 2014 at 16:08 |
    Hi Catherine, do you know if these noodles are appropriate on a low-FODMAP diet?

    Thanks.
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      03 May 2014 at 12:46 |
      Hi Zoe. No I don't know and wonder whether they've been tested as yet. But they ARE high in fibre which may spell disaster for FODMAP-sensitive folks. On the other hand, there's no wheat which could help. You'd have to ask your dietitian. Cheers Catherine
  • Shane

    Shane

    18 June 2014 at 17:04 |
    Thanks for the review Catherine,
    My partner and I have decided to add these to our diet just to cut down on carbs and have something different as we do love stir-frys a lot and were concerned about the fatty noodles. What we have found is we add chicken, capsicum, spinach leaves etc and flavor them with honey/soy or a red, green or yellow curry paste and they soak up the flavor making them absolutely delicious! We now have them at least 4 nights a week and love them. The price, the convenience and the no fat/ carb side are all a plus but the fact that you don't feel hungry for many hours is the best. They take on the flavour of any sauces you add and would highly recommend them to anyone.
  • Menthe

    Menthe

    22 June 2014 at 11:14 |
    Konjac pasta simply acts as a framework to add other healthy foods to. It doesn't need to have a nutritional value to have a place in cooking, much as water doesn't add nutrients to soup.

    Incidentally, the first thing I taste tested it with was meatballs and as someone who doesn't eat carbs at dinner time, I found it to be a satisfactory replacement for pasta.

    And to the other comments, yes, there is always a distinctly fishy odour when you first open the packets. No big deal.
    • Catherine Saxelby

      Catherine Saxelby

      22 June 2014 at 22:26 |
      Thanks for that feedback Menthe. You make a point about not having to have a nutritional merit.Yes agree but with regular pasta, it takes up so many kJ of intake, it needs to add something so the expectation with other noodles is that they too will contribute some nutrition eg protein, B vitamins, fibre. Many fold think regular pasta and rice is similarly just a bland framework to add other foods to. Which I understand. Cheers Catherine
  • Maz

    Maz

    03 July 2014 at 13:44 |
    Catherine I am lactose intolerant an have been told that they are ok for me if so where can I purchase them I have tried in Coles by no one seems to be able to help me . Thanks for any feed back and it would be appreciated.
  • Clare

    Clare

    15 September 2014 at 16:36 |
    Have just tried the fettuccine with meatballs and creamy tomato sauce. I thought they were horrible! I was prepared for the fishy smell on opening the packet but it lingered after rinsing and texture was slimy. Would not buy again or recommend!

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