Carb Alternatives: 21 Low-Calorie Substitutes For Bread, Potatoes & Pasta

Carb Alternatives: 21 Low-Calorie Substitutes For Bread, Potatoes & Pasta

 

They might be delicious, but carbohydrates can be seriously calorific. Whether you're on a Paleo, Keto, Low Carb diet or just want a lighter meal, we've got some amazing carb alternatives for you to try.

There's nothing like bread substitutes, pasta, and potato alternatives to help you make your meals low-carb and nutritious.  Get all the taste and texture of your favourite carbs, without the calories, and start losing weight today.

Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in April 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in November 2018.

The importance of carbohydrates

First and foremost, it's important to understand what carbohydrates actually are and the important role they play in our diet.

Despite common opinion, carbohydrates are not 'bad' - whilst they may be high in calories, they're essential for energy production.

There are two types of carbs:

  • Simple carbohydrates - sugars that provide quick but not prolonged bouts of energy, eg. white bread and sweets.
  • Complex carbohydrates - wholegrain and fibre-rich foods that keep you fuller for longer and provide a slow release of energy, eg. fruits and wholemeal pasta.

If you want to lose weight, it's best to focus more on eating complex carbs, as these are much more nutritionally valuable to our bodies. Whilst many people will try a low-carb diet at some point in their lifetime, it's important to note that complex carbohydrates provide us with lots of energy, so any diet should be carried out cautiously.

Replace bread with these carb alternatives

1. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

carb alternatives califlower pizza base
Pizza party time!

Ooozy, cheesy goodness is hard to resist.

If you're a big pizza fan but looking to cut out carbs, then you'll be pleased to hear about this great alternative to the normal dough.

Learn how to make your own cauliflower pizza at The Lucky Penny - it's surprisingly easy to make, and you can customise them to your taste to make them as cheesy as you like. The kids will no doubt love this recipe too. 

Top with...

  • aubergine, cheese & red onion
  • mozzarella & tomato
  • ham, mascarpone & basil

2. Cloud Bread

bread substitute cloud bread
It's so fluffy!

Bread - we all love it. However, one little slice can soon turn into two, then three, and so forth and so on.

Cloud bread is a wonderful bread substitute that can be used for sandwiches and burger buns. They look pretty amazing, don't they? You can even toast Cloud Bread, making them perfect for breakfast.

Find this grain-free replacement bread recipe at MOMables.com. Give it a go - we'd love to know what you think of them!

Great with...

  • ham & cheese
  • toasted with jam
  • burgers

3. Cauliflower Tortillas

cauliflower tortillas
Who knew?

Fajitas, wraps - if you're a big tortilla fan then you'll have to try your hand at these. All you really need for this low-carb recipe is cauliflower and eggs and you're set.

Visit simple Tortilla recipe from Slim Palate to find out how to make them. I'm sure they'd make super-tasty quesadillas for all the cheese fans out there.

Tasty with...

  • cheese
  • chicken fajitas
  • carnitas

4. Mushroom Burger Buns

mushroom bun burger
It almost looks like the real deal!

There's no arguing that burgers are extremely tasty, but all that meat, cheese and bread makes for a pretty hefty meal.

It's time to say goodbye to burger buns and hello to mushroom buns - your new favourite bread substitute!

These are perfect for BBQ season, so if you're heading to a friend's then remember to pick up some Portobello mushrooms.

There's an easy recipe at ruled.me that looks good enough to eat - a promising sign!

Enjoy with...

  • beef patty
  • halloumi
  • guacamole & tomato

5. Lettuce Wraps

lettuce wraps low-carb
You can use any lettuce you see fit!

Don't be put off by the fact lettuce is normally eaten in boring salads - as a wrap, it provides a crunchy and healthy alternative to your traditional carby ones.

Grab some iceberg or baby gem lettuce leaves and cram full with your favourite fillings to try it.

While these wraps are great with all types of cuisine, one of our personal favourites is with Thai mince dishes.

Great with...

  • pork mince, chilli & shallot
  • salsa & guacamole
  • stir-fried beef

Carb substitutes for potatoes

 6. Avocado Fries

avocado fries
Surprisingly delicious, and colourful too!

Love avocado? Then you're going to adore this new take on them!

Avocado fries are a healthier take on your favourite side. Plus, they're super filling and satisfying so you definitely won't need to eat as many.

If you want to find out how to make your own, head over to JoytheBaker.com. There's also a rather mouth-watering cheese dip to go with them to boot. 

Serve...

  • bacon-wrapped
  • with eggs & salsa
  • with chicken

7. Cauliflower Mash

We're big fans of cauliflower here at Expert Home Tips. Long gone are the days when it was eaten steamed or boiled, now it's all about cauliflower mash.

It's a wonderful potato substitute that tastes just as good, if not better than the real deal.

Here's how to make it:

  1. Chop up your cauliflower into bite-sized bits, steam (or boil).
  2. Blend / mash-up with a bit of butter.
  3. Add salt and pepper. If you've got a food processor, it's even easier.

Serve with...

  • sausages
  • fried aubergine
  • cottage pie

8. Or why not try Broccoli Cauliflower Mash?

The supermarkets are now stocking these trendy new packets of equal amounts of broccoli and cauliflower - which is great news for you as this mash is now very simple to do.

Follow the same instructions as with the Cauliflower Mash above and you'll soon be tucking into this healthy and delicious potato mash substitute.

It's another brilliant way to sneak more vegetables into your children's diet, and we promise you, it's delicious. 

Enjoy with...

  • pork steak
  • portobello mushroom
  • shepherds pie (instead of mash)

9. Carrot & Swede Mash

carrot & swede mash
Beautiful autumn colours.

Here's another tasty and easy low-carb mash that goes great with roast dinners or haggis, and it's so simple to do!

Here's how:

  1. Boil 500g chopped carrot with 500g chopped swede (some supermarkets will even offer pre-chopped bags of both.)
  2. Mash when they're soft. 
  3. Add a dash of nutmeg and a sprinkling of pepper and salt - you're done!

Great with...

  • pork
  • fish
  • haggis

10. Try some Butternut Squash Cubes

butternut squash salad
Perfect with meats, salads, or on their own.

Butternut squash is great as it provides a similar texture to potato without costing you as many calories. Plus, it adds a gorgeous pop of colour to otherwise dull-looking meals.

Here's how to make yours:

  1. Chop your butternut squash into cubes and whack them on a baking tray with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  2. Cook at around 200°C and bake until golden.
  3. You can add flavours, depending on what you fancy - we like to either make them spicy, with chilli flakes and cumin or classic with rosemary and thyme.

Great with...

  • pork
  • salad
  • steak

11. Courgette Fries

courgette fries

A low-carb alternative for fries - is it really possible?

If you've been to a trendy burger joint in the last two years, chances are you'll already know about courgette fries. They're now extremely popular as they're unarguably tasty and obviously much healthier than traditional potato chips.

We'd definitely recommend heading to Kitchen Sanctuary for a cheesy courgette recipe next time you're in the mood for 'fast food'. 

Eat with...

  • burgers
  • dips
  • onion rings

12. Radish Crisps

radish chips healthy
You'd never guess they were radishes!

Potato crisps are so last year. If you want to be able to indulge in your favourite snack without packing on the pounds, jump on the radish crisp train.

Low Carb Yum has an amazing recipe that tastes almost better than actual crisps! Plus, Lisa has loads of other, low-carb recipes we'd recommend checking out too.

These little bites would brighten up any table and they'd also make a great party snack.

Great with...

  • dips of all kinds!

13. Courgette Fritti

courgette fritti recipe
How good do those look?!

We're determined to show you there are plenty of ways to get all the satisfaction of carbs, without the calories, and courgette fritti is one of our favourite substitutes.

Courgette fritti is essentially courgette fries, but much more delicate (and fancier-looking too!) Best of all, you only need flour, milk and courgettes to make them - it's really that easy!

Head over to A Beautiful Plate to try these for dinner tonight.

Serve with...

  • steak
  • omelette
  • cod

14. White Bean Mash

Another fab substitute for your creamy mashed potato is white bean mash. It's stodgier than traditional potato and also cauliflower mash - it's a super hearty accompaniment for those tasty winter dishes.

Here's how to make it:

  1. Grab a can of haricot beans and rinse them.
  2. Bring to the boil in a small pan with some stock and minced garlic.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes and then mash.

It's a splendid substitute for mashed potato and the addition of garlic makes it extra tasty.

Give it a whirl for a quick and easy mid-week dinner.

Enjoy with...

  • pork steak
  • Mediterranean vegetables
  • lamb

15. Carrot Fries

healthy carrot fries
Wait, isn't that sweet potato?!

Many of us think that sweet potatoes are healthier than traditional Maris Pipers, but in reality, they're just as calorie-heavy.

If you don't fancy courgette chips, why not try carrot? Almost everyone likes carrot, even the kids, so this recipe from 2teaspoons should go down a treat

Great with...

  • pork
  • dips
  • chicken

16. Kale Crisps

Kale is often hailed as a superfood, so any way you can incorporate it into your diet is great.

You can buy a packet full of kale leaves from supermarkets which will make loads of delicious chips to snack on at work, school or in front of the TV.

Best of all, there are only three steps!

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C, line a baking tray and spread your leaves on it.
  2. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  3. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until edges are brown.

Don't presume kale chips have to be boring - you can dress them up any way you like.

Try it with...

  • cumin
  • chilli
  • curry powder

17. Vegetable Crisps

vegetable crisp low carb recipe
They're so pretty!

Savoury fans will love to eat vegetable crisps. You can now pick them up in most supermarkets, but they can be surprisingly expensive.

Cut carbs and costs by making your own at home. Try out these Oven Roasted Herbed Vegetable Crisps from Mother Would Know for a guilt-free treat today.

Great with...

  • dips of all kinds

Low-carb pasta & rice

18. Courgetti is the best pasta alternative

courgetti spaghetti recipe healthy

Courgetti spaghetti is super fun to make, looks great, and tastes divine too - not to mention it rhymes!

It's what it says on the tin: spaghetti made from courgettes. You don't need a fancy spiraliser to do this, (although one may come in handy) a simple julienne peeler will do. If you'd prefer courgetti 'ribbons', you can even use a normal peeler.

Give My Fussy Eater's recipe a go to see if you can be converted to this carb alternative today.

Eat with...

  • chicken & sweetcorn
  • pesto & mushroom
  • meatballs

19. Whip up some Cabbage Noodles

Pasta is such a tasty and easy go-to meal, but it isn't the lightest of dishes.

Want a way to make it lighter? Try Cabbage Noodles! They're extremely easy to make and surprisingly satisfying.

Here's how:

  1. Grab a sharp knife, chopping board and slice your cabbage into long strips.
  2. Fill a saucepan with water and give your cabbage a quick boil - Easy!

They're great for students who may have a cupboard full of pasta sauce ready to cook with and want a healthier take on their standard carby meals.

Eat with...

  • bolognese sauce
  • tomato sauce, garlic & parmesan
  • bacon lardons, garlic & chicken

20. Cook Aubergine & Courgette Lasagne

veggie lasagna recipe healthy
Mmmmm we can smell it from here!

Who doesn't love a rich, warming lasagne? (Especially during the cooler months!) Want all that cheesy goodness without the calories? Go veggie!

Veggie lasagnas are rich and tasty and a wonderful way of getting more veg into your diet, plus the leftovers make a very enviable work lunch.

Head over to Cookie + Kate for a truly delicious looking recipe that the whole family will love.

Doesn't it look delicious? 

Enjoy with...

  • green salad
  • tomato, basil & mozzarella
  • glass of wine

21. Cauliflower Rice / Couscous

cauliflower rice
Here it is in couscous form.

Cauliflower isn't just good for replacing potatoes, it can also replace couscous and rice.

Here's how:

  1. Grate as much cauliflower as you need
  2. Heat a little oil in a pan and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add salt and pepper and you're done. It really is that simple! Choosing what to serve it with is the difficult part...

Great with...

  • honey & soy chicken
  • stir-fried vegetables
  • beef strips

We hope you enjoyed the list! Tell us your favourite carb alternatives in the comments below...

Author

Colleen B

Editor

Lifelong biscuit addict. Obsessed with recipes, cooking & eating. Slightly lazier than the average bear, so likes writing about life hacks & discovering the quickest / easiest way to do things.

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  1. Author Peter Ghent on May 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Love your tips. I have been using cauliflower mash, and broccoli/cauliflower mash successfully for years, mostly to guests who have never heard of them and are amazed at the taste. Am now experimenting with many more of your tips. Keep the good work going.

    1. Author Colleen B on May 5, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Thanks for your kind comment. Cauli-mash and broc-cauli mash is so tasty, I completely agree - as for the rest, you'll have to let me know which were big successes!

    Reply
  2. Author Nancy Njoroge on May 7, 2015 at 7:17 am

    These are really cool tips! Healthy alternatives to carbs while fighting gluten intake all in one! :)

    1. Author Colleen B on May 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Hope you enjoy them - you'll have to let me know which was your favourite.

    2. Author Jacqi on March 31, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      I can't eat cauliflower it gives me headache can i make broccoli mash instead I'm diabetic and trying to cut the carbs - the ideas are great and look so tasty i can't wait to try some of them . Thanks

    3. Author Jill on August 29, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      Brilliant ideas laganse lovely five stars for this . Lovely food to make .. Busy bee in my kitchen. Ha Ha .

    Reply
  3. Author Amanda Nicholson on October 7, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Adore swapping arbohydrates. Picked up some great recipes as diabetic1

    1. Author Colleen B on October 9, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Hope you've enjoyed the post Amanda!

    Reply
  4. Author Kay Hotson on October 20, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    All look so great to eat and healthy and full health diet

    Reply
  5. Author Sandy-marie on October 25, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Am going to my kitchen right now to make cloud bread!

    1. Author Colleen B on October 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Let us know how it went!

    Reply
  6. Author Jane Page on October 25, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Wonderful ideas for bread alternatives. I have been enjoying carrot and swede. Mash for some considerable time now, but I really am looking forward to using cauliflower - my favourite veg. Has anyone tried mashed parsnip with your roast dinner? When cooked, just add knob of butter and loads of black pepper - mm yummy!

    1. Author Colleen B on October 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Hi Jane, thanks so much for your comment, I have not tried mashed parsnip but will definitely give it a go. Hope you enjoy trying out all the recipes, let me know which was your favourite!

    2. Author June ward on October 17, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      These recipes look gd some veges i eat n others i dont but will try recipes of which vegs i do lke n let ya know bye for now june

    3. Author Colleen B on October 18, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Hope you enjoy trying out the different recipes June!

    Reply
  7. Author Carolyn Wright on November 3, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Some great ideas here! I now am looking for alternatives to flour and potatoes - nice to have a change as well as all the health benefits!

    1. Author Colleen B on November 3, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Glad to hear you like the article Carolyn - hope you enjoy the alternatives!

    Reply
  8. Author John Collard on November 4, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I used to love Cauliflower but about 15 years ago I became dietary intolerant to it. Now I dare not eat it, nor any food that has been in contact with it. Strangely, though, I can eat any form of broccoli until the cows come home!

    Reply
  9. Author mrs christine chatwin on January 6, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    just got onto your site , sounds great we want to start trying some of these dishes, but having trouble trying to print off ,printer says its off line , can you tell me what I'm doing wrong .

    Reply
    1. Author Anushka F on January 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Oooh sounds great!

    Reply
  10. Author Matt on January 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

    In stead of the carrot/swede mash I have been using carrot/parsnip mash for years and very tasty

    Reply
  11. Author Hilary Rose on January 30, 2016 at 6:43 am

    Love your information. Even an old wrinkly can change a few simple things in a diet and they are all tasty and relatively inexpensive

    1. Author Colleen B on February 16, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Ha ha, thanks for the comment Hilary, glad you liked the post!

    Reply
  12. Author Marilyn Morris on March 25, 2016 at 7:43 am

    I've enjoyed eating carrot , Swede and parsnip mash for years . It's delicious with a knob of butter and some black pepper . My children and grandchildren love it .

    Reply
  13. Author Alison Orth on March 30, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I have made the carrot & Swede mash & it was lovely with a knob of butter & cracked black pepper yummy,thankyou x

    1. Author Colleen B on April 5, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Hi Alison, I'm so happy to hear you made it and even happier to hear you found it yummy! Please feel free to share my post. :)

    Reply
  14. Author Debs on March 31, 2016 at 6:18 am

    I love this site, I've found it so useful and so many great ideas. This is another great one to add! I'm going to show these recipes to my sis and tell her about the site! Thanks! ?

    1. Author Colleen B on April 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Hi Debs, I'm so happy you like the blog post. I hope your sister likes it too!

    Reply
  15. Author cris on April 8, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Hi any ideas on how to get any of these great recipes already prepared? For ex, the cloud bread, or broc/cali mash? Can you buy those anywhere already prepared?

    Reply
  16. Author Lindsay on April 10, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Cant wait to try and make Portobello mushroom bun burger idea, easy dinner idea for next week sorted!

    1. Author Colleen B on April 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      I hope you like it Lindsay - let us know how it went!

    Reply
  17. Author Zainab on May 3, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Brilliant alternatives for people trying to cut carbs out

    1. Author Colleen B on May 3, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Hope you enjoyed the article Zainab! Please share it with your pals. :)

    Reply
  18. Author christina tribe on July 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    the food looks lovely

    1. Author Colleen B on July 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks Christina!

    Reply
  19. Author christina tribe on July 12, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    it all looks lovely can you send me recepes

    1. Author Colleen B on July 13, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      There are links to recipes in each section - enjoy!

    Reply
  20. Author Pat Glackin on August 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! Recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes and need all the help I can get!

    1. Author Colleen B on August 31, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      We're so glad you enjoyed the blog post Pat. :)

    Reply
  21. Author Kirsty Aldwinckle on September 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    They all look lovely but I can't eat cauliflower as it makes me ill, is there anything else I could use to replace carbs especially for the couscous?

    1. Author Colleen B on March 21, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Hi Kirsty, thanks for your comment! You could try beetroot or broccoli instead.

    Reply
  22. Author Joyce on October 17, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Add a knob of butter to the swede and carrot mash with lots of freshly ground pepper is so yummy and creamy

    1. Author Colleen B on October 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Yummy, thanks Joyce! Now you've made me hungry...

    2. Author Ben Dover on November 18, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Hungry for knob?

    3. Author Colleen B on December 13, 2016 at 9:55 am

      of butter?

    Reply
  23. Author allan thomas on January 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    can you send me a book on what you make thank you

    1. Author Colleen B on March 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Hi Allan, hopefully one day we'll get a book out!

    Reply
  24. Author V.Grey on September 5, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Why is it so many of the carb alternatives are such disgusting ingredients:cabbage,courgette,kale,squash & worst of all cauliflower.Several of these foods make me violently sick.I'll stick with bread,pasta,potato & noodles.

    1. Author Stephanie C on September 5, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Hi there. Sorry you didn't enjoy the suggestions. I personally love swapping carbs for veg and playing around with their textures, but it certainly isn't for everyone. :)

    Reply
  25. Author Miriam Bell on January 18, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Brilliant ideas thank you :)

    1. Author Stephanie C on January 23, 2018 at 9:30 am

      You're welcome, Miriam! :)

    Reply
  26. Author Sandra on March 10, 2018 at 2:09 am

    Iceland do carrot chips if anyone’s interested

    1. Author Stephanie C on March 13, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Aldi have a great selection too Sandra! Including cauliflower rice, butternut squash noodles and even courgette noodles!

    Reply
  27. Author Jasmin on June 1, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Help please What is Swede ❓

    Reply
  28. Author R C on June 27, 2018 at 1:00 am

    Yuck yuck yuck and yuck. It all looks so alluring in the pictures. Unless you have a restaurant style kitchen NOT ONE RECIPE will turn out the way it looks. Waste of a website google search. This should be in a different category when you're Googling.

    1. Author Stephanie C on June 28, 2018 at 11:40 am

      Hi RC, Sorry to hear you were disappointed with our blog post. I've tried many of the carb alternatives myself, and I can confirm they do indeed work. If you're looking for really easy ideas, cauliflower mash and courgette noodles are the best ones to go for. I hope this helps :)

    Reply
  29. Author Meg on August 12, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    And here I was thinking I 'knew it all' regarding low-carb meals. Some really wonderful new ideas here, thank you!

    1. Author Joanne A on August 13, 2018 at 11:02 am

      No problem, Meg! Thanks for the great feedback.

    Reply
  30. Author May Barbe on September 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Would love to get your recipe cook book ....it looks so appetizing!.....I really need to come off cards. Thanks for all these ideas..x

    1. Author Joanne A on September 10, 2018 at 10:12 am

      You're welcome, May!

    Reply
  31. Author sarah on October 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    I can't believe you suggest replacing potato with cauliflower then suggest eating it with steak. You need to watch what the health.

    1. Author Joanne A on October 3, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Hi Sarah! What does What The Health have to say? We'd love the hear from you!

    Reply

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