Finding a delicious, low-carb pasta substitute is similar to hoping sugar-free ice cream tastes like gelato: wishful and often disappointing. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t healthy ways to enjoy comfort food without sacrificing taste.
Cue spaghetti squash. We won’t pretend it tastes like traditional pasta (it’s a squash, after all), but it is equally as satisfying and can be substituted into almost any pasta recipe. Bonus: You can eat the noodle-like contents straight from the squash itself!
So before denouncing carbs (they’re good for you!) and saying sayonara to spaghetti, give these fiber-filled noodles a try. Though the main ingredient may feel foreign, the following recipes will make you feel right at home.
These days every brunch menu seems to feature avocado and eggs on toast; stand out from the crowd by baking the healthy fats into spaghetti squash instead. It’s a lower-carb alternative, and with the heap of salsa mixed into the squash, you’ll get a extra dose of cancer-combatting carotenoids.1
- Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK. The Journal of nutrition, 2005, Apr.;135(3):0022-3166.
A pre-roasted mound of spaghetti squash serves as a bed for a poached egg and feta in this fast, easy breakfast. Once that yolk floods through the shreds of squash underneath, it’ll almost taste like a carbonara—and have a tad more calcium and protein to boot thanks to the light crumble of feta.
Stir some chickpea flour and Parmesan into your squash, and you’ve got a gluten-free batter ready to be baked to a golden crisp and filled with eggy goodness. Not only is it adorable, but doesn’t everything taste better when it’s made in a muffin tin?
Another recipe to add to your single-serving collection, this frittata is portion controlled and boasts an impressive nutritional profile, including more than two cups of produce and tons of satiating protein from the eggs. Spaghetti squash adds both volume and fiber, making this a huge and healthy treat, just for you!
It simply doesn’t get any better than a breakfast staple that’s been healthified: Spaghetti squash subs in for starchier potatoes and a tablespoon of coconut oil, known for its potential anti-inflammatory and anti-stress properties, replaces heaps of butter. The end product is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and you’d better believe it still pairs perfectly with eggs!
If you wake up with a raging sweet tooth, swap out that packet of instant oatmeal for this warm bowl of comfort instead. With spaghetti squash standing in for the grains, it may take a few minutes longer to put together, but you’ll get the veggie’s antioxidants in return. Top with fruit, and you’ll satisfy that sweet craving and sneak in more than a serving of produce!
Photo: Whole Yum
Italian for “spring,” the classic primavera takes a fall-inspired detour by substituting roasted spaghetti squash for pasta. Swathed in a garlicky sauce made with cottage cheese, there’s no doubt you’ll be dreaming of this dish in any season.
You may have heard of Alfredo made with cauliflower, but this veganized recipe goes to entirely new levels of luscious by puréeing the florets with a cup of coconut cream. Filled with medium-chain fatty acids that won’t wreak havoc on your cholesterol, it’s a cream sauce you can put into the regular dinner rotation.
Who says spaghetti squash can only replace Italian pasta? Try it out in this version of a Chinese takeout favorite, where, taking the place of refined noodles, it’s stir-fried with a rainbow of other veggies along with a fragrant concoction of soy, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. With a fraction of the oil used in regular chow mein, it’s a wheat-free meal for any gluten-sensitive eaters, as well as a grease-free meal for just about anybody.
When craving a heavy, creamy dish like risotto, turn to this recipe instead. Though it’s low-calorie, the combination of meaty mushrooms and Parmesan taste anything but. Plus, the ingredients are cheap and easy to find! Home-cooked dinners just got easier.
Tomatoes meet cashews for a silky and heart-healthy sauce that blankets a pile of roasted spaghetti squash; a sprinkle of basil lends a pop of fresh green color and flavor. It’s plant-based eating at its best.
We’ve covered Italian and Mexican, but what about Thai? Full of peanut sauces, ginger, lime, and various vinegars, it’s hard to beat the fun flavors of this national cuisine. And though it can be slightly difficult to acquire all the necessary ingredients, it’s totally worth it. Make this veggie-filled twist on pad Thai, have a second serving, and thank us later.
From the anchovies (don’t wrinkle that nose, they’re crammed with omega-3s) to the olives, the usual suspects of a classic puttanesca are all here. This blogger turns it up a notch by not only swapping out pasta for spaghetti squash but also by giving the dish its spicy kick (and some more protein) with lean turkey sausage.
Don’t feel like weighing down your spaghetti squash with a creamy sauce? Consider this alternative, which holds up particularly well to the lighter, olive oil base. It may be less rich, but between the salty bite of the capers (bonus: They’re packed with antioxidants from the flavonoid quercetin.) and the zesty freshness of the lemon, there’s no lack of flavor here!1
- Bioactive components of caper (Capparis spinosa L.) from Sicily and antioxidant effects in a red meat simulated gastric digestion. Tesoriere L, Butera D, Gentile C. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 2007, Sep.;55(21):0021-8561.
Gluten-free, vegetarian…this recipe meets almost all dietary needs (and can be adjusted to those it doesn’t). Plus, it’s super healthy and delicious. Packed with garlic, zucchini, squash, and Parmesan (use a dairy-free substitute to make vegan), and tossed with olive oil, this meal makes a great side dish or light lunch. For a protein boost, add tofu or chicken.
Made of white rice, traditional pad Thai noodles aren’t the most high-fiber option. Choose spaghetti squash instead for this non-conventional take on a Southeast Asian standard. Lower in carbs yet much higher in minerals like potassium and vitamins like folate, they’ll soak up the tangy, savory flavors of chili sauce and soy as well as any other noodle out there.
Casseroles, Bowls, and Bakes
Photo: Lemon and Basil
Somewhere between gratin and lasagna is this mouthwatering, healthier bake. Greek yogurt stirred into the squash acts as a higher-protein alternative to the gobs of butter or cheese in most recipes, while the Parmesan-flaked breadcrumbs make sure you’re still getting the golden brown topping that’s the best part of any casserole!
Who knew a ripe tomato and some roasted squash could turn into something so heavenly? Proving that veggies need minimal doctoring up to taste good, this super-simple bake lets the produce speak for itself, with just a bit of help from cheese—because when is cheese ever really a bad idea?
We don't blame you if you dive right into this bowl on a stressful day. You'll love the lightly steamed veggies (no soggy gray broccoli here!), cumin-spiced beans, and of course the strands of squash. But what will get you going is the creamy roasted garlic sauce—which is a delicious way to help possibly prevent cancer.
Getting in your nutrition as a vegan doesn’t have to be stressful—or flavorless! This hearty, balanced, and meat-free meal combines protein-rich tofu, fiber-filled lentils, and vitamin-packed veggies to cover all your bases. It does take a good number of steps to make, but vegan or not, you'll be happy with the results.
Spaghetti squash may be a well-known substitute for pasta, but this recipe shows you how those chewy shreds make a killer stand-in for pizza crust too! Bound with quinoa flour and egg whites, it bakes into a base to hold your favorite veggies and/or meat, resulting in a gorgeous (and gluten-free!) dish. Granted, it's best to eat it with a fork rather than your hands, but we don't care!
With peanut oil, eggs, and lots of garlic and green onions, this recipe includes all the usual suspects of fried rice—minus the rice! You may have tried the popular Paleo substitute of cauliflower for the grain, but spaghetti squash works great too. Plus it gives the dish a heftier punch of potassium and beta-carotene and a unique texture that you’ll never find at your local Chinese place.
With spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts swathed in a cauliflower sauce, this casserole is a yummy way to get in that vital daily intake of fiber. Goat cheese and fresh rosemary add a fancy touch to a dish that screams comfort.
Greek salad is a fantastic option when you’re looking for something light yet flavorful. But what about those times you want something light, flavorful, and filling? While that may seem like a pipe dream, it isn’t! This salad bowl substitutes squash for romaine, creating a hearty dish that’s still low calorie.
Latkes get a funky update with the use of spaghetti squash and the addition of sautéed spinach and kale for a double dose of vision-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin. Another twist? These are baked in an oven rather than pan-fried, yielding lighter but still perfectly crisp bites.
Photo: Half Baked Harvest
These sausage-stuffed boats are the perfect meal for fall: warm, filling, and oh so cheesy. They also look super fancy but are easy to prepare, making it the ideal recipe for a dinner party (or date night with yourself). To lighten it up, substitute roasted veggies for the spicy sausage.
Tacos don’t always have to mean ground beef and crunchy shells—these celebrate the taste of Mexican street food, vegan style, subbing tempeh (which may fight inflammation) and beans for the meat and serving them in spaghetti squash shells.1
The recipe may call for some extra steps, but plenty of leftovers means you don’t have to cook for a few days after this!
- Dietary influence on pain via the immune system. Totsch SK, Waite ME, Sorge RE. Progress in molecular biology and translational science, 2015, Jan.;131():1878-0814.
When you don’t feel like cooking, there's this. Between letting the spaghetti squash roast in the oven, nuking the broccoli in the microwave, using a store-bought pesto to help all the veggies come together, and eating the meal straight out of the squash skin, you’ll be putting in minimal effort for gourmet, wholesome results.
Whoever decided that combining spinach with cheese was a genius way to encourage people to eat more greens, kudos to you. And though spinach artichoke dip may not have the healthiest reputation, it’s easy to modify. Simply cut back (ever so slightly) on cheese, up the amount of veggies, serve in a squash, and trade in those chips for a fork.
Move over, burrito bowls—in this recipe, spaghetti squash takes over as the vehicle for beany, cheesy goodness. Bursting with metabolism-spiking jalapeños, anti-inflammatory garlic, and good ol’ gooey cheddar, it’s a melty, spicy fiesta of flavors and health benefits.
This garden-inspired meal tastes like a pizza but comes without the grease and heavy crust. Filled with spinach, diced tomato, and goat cheese, and topped with herbs and seeds, it’s everything you love about summer flavors but perfect for a crisp autumn lunch or dinner.
This recipe batters and bakes eggplant rather than frying, cutting down on a ton of unnecessary oil. The veggie is then tossed into a tangle of spaghetti squash and topped with mozzarella for a lighter eggplant parm that doesn’t compromise on taste.
An unlikely combination of ingredients yields delectable results when a variety of veggies join olives, herbs, and shellfish in a spaghetti squash bowl. Be sure to use up every last bit of that clam juice for maximum vitamin B12 benefits.1
- Broth from canned clams is suitable for use as an excellent source of free vitamin B12. Ueta K, Takenaka S, Yabuta Y. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 2011, Oct.;59(22):1520-5118.
It’s time to think outside the tortilla. Sure, enchiladas are great as is: chicken and veggies wrapped in a corn tortilla blanket and topped with sauce galore. But they can also be better. This recipe uses squash as the base and is filled with chicken breast, cheese, black beans, and traditional enchilada sauce. For a lower-carb version, use spinach in place of the corn and black beans.
If you thought Thai curry could only be enjoyed with rice, here’s a refreshing alternative. Spaghetti squash soaks up the fragrant spicy-sweetness of the coconut milk-infused curry paste for a meal that keeps all the healthy, “bad” cholesterol-lowering fats of the original dish with just a fraction of the starch.
Stumped for ways to use up those scraps of veggies in your fridge? Season and sauté them, throw them all in a spaghetti squash shell, top with cheese, and call it a dinner of champions. The ingredient list suggests some specifics, but we’re guessing anything goes—no matter what you’ve got on hand, you’ll be scarfing down more than two helpings of vegetables with just half a serving of the recipe.
When we said spaghetti squash was versatile, we meant it. Not only does the fiber-rich veggie blend well with Italian flavors, it’s also a great vehicle for your favorite Mexican ingredients! This recipe is loaded with black beans, corn, onions, peppers, and spices, and topped with cheese, cilantro, and whatever hot sauce fits your fancy. Sombrero (sadly) not included.
Don’t get get carried away by the cholesterol concerns around shrimp—these little shellfish have so much more to offer, including impressive levels of calcium, selenium, and phosphorus for bone and enzyme health. Enjoy them in these squash boats, where they join just three other ingredients for a simple weeknight meal.
Photo: Cara's Cravings
Why reserve kugel just for holiday dessert tables? Make this noodle delight anytime of year with a few switcharoos, like spaghetti squash for the egg noodles and coconut sugar for a much more potassium-rich alternative to the regular white stuff. Plus, the addition of apples and raisins for some fruity freshness counters the eggy bake.
We believe you should try to sneak veggies into every meal. But only if it still tastes good—and this recipe certainly fits that bill! Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and maple syrup are all you'll taste, so it’s the perfect treat to serve to picky eaters and nutrition enthusiasts alike.
Avoiding any added sugar whatsoever, this dessert gets subtle sweetness from vanilla extract and shredded coconut, while an egg batter drowns spaghetti squash in a luscious custardy bath. Lighter than a cream pie yet more satisfying than pudding, it’s a coconutty treat in a league of its own.
Notoriously weighed down with tons of dairy and sugar, most traditional Indian sweets can be heart attacks in disguise. This spiced, milky dessert gets switched up the Paleo way, with vermicelli noodles swapped out for spaghetti squash, plus coconut milk and a touch of ghee adding the requisite richness without compromising the health quotient. Now you can have your kheer and eat it too!
If zucchini muffins can be a thing, why not spaghetti squash muffins? These get their incredible moisture from the veggie and some zing courtesy of orange zest. Oh, and don't forget the best part: chocolate chips.
If you’re a fan of carrot cake (and we’re hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t!) we’re sure this recipe will be right up your alley. Spaghetti squash is the star veggie, lending fiber, vitamins, and potassium to the teatime classic. Draped in that all-important cream cheese frosting, you may even prefer this cake to its carrot-based cousin.
Originally published October 2014. Updated October 2015.