Cutting Carbs? These 8 Delicious Recipes Are Grain-Free Alternatives

Updated 12/11/19
Half Baked Harvest

These days, people are ditching and cutting carbs for all sorts of reasons, from health to allergies and weight loss, among others. But sometimes it can feel deceptively simple to reduce your carb intake, especially if you're used to eating grains with every meal.

Enter cauliflower, zoodles, lentils, and rutabaga, aka your new grain-free BFFs. Riced cauliflower is a just-as-filling rice substitute, spiralized zucchini (zoodles) is the perfect stand-in for spaghetti, lentils work great in the place of meat and nuts, and the root vegetable rutabaga (a nice alternative to starchy potatoes) doesn't nearly get enough play.

Whether you're eating the Paleo diet to fight heart disease and diabetes, going gluten-free for digestive reasons, or cutting back on refined carbs because you simply feel like eating something lighter, upgrade your usual carb-laden meals with one of these eight grain-free versions. PS: You're welcome.

Jerk Shrimp With Cauliflower Rice

Jerk shrimp with cauliflower rice, a grain-free alternative to eating carbs.
Food Faith Fitness

Cauliflower rice is a nice switch from carb-heavy brown and white rice because it's far lower in calories and refined sugars, and its mild flavor means you can pair it with just about anything. This Paleo-friendly and Whole 30-compliant recipe from Taylor at Food Faith Fitness pairs it with a spicy, jerk shrimp stew. Like the rich, spicy dish that got its start in Jamaica, this, too, is a fiery rendition that includes velvety coconut milk, sliced carrots, and loads of pepper, with red-hot habanero to boot.

Apricot Chicken With Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower rice, instead of real white rice, with apricot chicken as an alternative to eating carbs.
Half Baked Harvest

This apricot chicken and cauliflower rice recipe from chef Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest only requires three ingredients (rice is the fourth), proving you don't need a mess of groceries to make a five-star gourmet meal. A cross between Indian and Asian flavors, it's at once, sweet, tangy, and sticky thanks to apricots and Russian dressing. For some texture and crunch, Gerard tops her cauliflower rice with chopped roasted cashews.

Veggies Stacked With Lentils

A stack of healthy vegetables atop a bed of green lentils instead of a meal that would otherwise include carbs.
The First Mess

Lentils are the things that make this veggie stack so satisfying. Chef and cookbook author, Laura Wright, of The First Mess heaps large slices of roasted cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, and celery root atop a bed of lentils and diced shallots for a lemony, nutrient-dense showstopper. After plating, Wright drizzles her horseradish-maple vinaigrette on top, for mustard-y, spicy-sweet balance.

Lentil Meatballs

Low-carb lentil meatballs atop ribbons of carrots instead of pasta.
Minimalist Baker

Vegan and gluten-free meatballs? Yes, it's actually possible. Chef and cookbook author, Dana Schultz, of Minimalist Baker, created this easy recipe for green-lentil meatballs that are wonderful accompaniments to sauces, sides, and stews. (And if you use precooked lentils, the recipe takes just 30 minutes to make.) Vegan Parmesan cheese, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasonings, and a flaxseed-meal "egg" combine with the lentils to form flavorful, crispy, protein-packed "meatballs." Instead of noodles, Schultz boils carrot ribbons for two-to-three minutes and tops them with store-bought marinara sauce.

Rutabaga Hash with Chiles and Bacon

Rutabaga Hash with Chiles and Bacon, a grain-free alternative to eating carbs.
Jen Schmidt Photography /  The Roasted Root

Whether you're making this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, no matter: It's a super-easy, flavorful dish that will certainly fill you up. Chef and cookbook author, Julia Mueller, of The Roasted Root, has adapted this rutabaga hash recipe from chef Diane Morgan's cookbook, Roots. This hash includes thick-cut bacon, chopped onion, and both jalapeno and chili peppers that give it a nice, slow burn. In lieu of potatoes, she uses peeled rutabaga, a turnip-like root vegetable that's packed with vitamin C, potassium, and zinc. Mueller kicks it up a notch by adding sliced avocado, eggs (any style), and hot sauce.

Roasted Rutabaga and Parsnip Soup

A roasted Rutabaga and Parsnip Soup recipe that's a great alternative to eating a carb-based meal.
The Full Helping

Registered dietician and cookbook author, Gena Hamshaw, from The Full Helping, pairs her roasted rutabaga and parsnip soup with kale and bits of coconut "bacon." Once roasted, the veggies are whirred in a blender along with vegetable broth, then returned to the stove to cook with heaps of chopped, raw kale. For added richness, Hamshaw suggests adding cashew cream and or 1/4-cup soaked cashews as well as nutritional yeast (aka "nooch,") for "cheesiness."

Spaghetti Squash Aglio e Olio

Creamy zoodles instead of spaghetti for a grain-free alternative to carb-laden meals.
Half Baked Harvest

Filled with healthy vegetables and then dressed up with Parmesan cheese, caramelized garlic, and olive oil, this spaghetti squash and rainbow chard dish by Tieghan Gerard is super-easy to make (there are only seven ingredients) and is brimming with quintessential Italian flavor. She foregoes pasta, for roasted strands of spaghetti squash, adds the Swiss chard after caramelizing the garlic, and tosses it with Parmesan and fresh parsley. She also recommends that omnivores pair this dish with garlic shrimp or roasted chicken, and that vegetarians and vegans add lentils for protein and swap Parmesan for the vegan version.

Creamy Zucchini Noodles

Creamy zoodles, as a spaghetti pasta carb-free alternative.
The First Mess

When you're wanting the comfort of spaghetti but want to go the grain-and carb-free route, zoodles, or spiralized zucchini noodles, are the solution. Wright pairs them with a creamy white-lentil-and-spring-onion sauce and "cheesy" sunflower garnish made with nutritional yeast. Roasted asparagus and kale also make cameos, and miso, lemon, and fresh basil combine for that bright-yet-savory, umami flavor we so desperately crave.

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