My 5 favourite starch substitutes

When I tell people that I don’t eat pasta, rice or potatoes, the look of horror on their face is often quite priceless.  It’s like I have just told them that I eat snake eyes, squirrel hearts and worm pooh.  I find it interesting that people are SO attached to these bland beige foods that contain very little nutritional value.

There are better options

I do love engaging in the conversation though. It provides me with the opportunity to chat to them about some delicious alternatives that are grain-free, low carb and far healthier.  I have 5 favourites that I use in different ways. They are incredibly versatile and contain good quantities of vitamins and minerals. Oh, and they actually have some flavour too. I mean seriously – have you actually tasted a plain unadorned noodle? What is all the fuss about? And that is coming from a lady with Italian blood in her veins!

Rice, pasta and mashed potatoes are merely a “stage” on which to place the main attraction. It’s your garlicky bolognaise sauce,  spicy lamb curry or mouth-watering chicken casserole that should get all the attention.

Here’s my little secret. By using veggies as starch substitutes you can take your dish to a whole new level of awesomeness.

So here they are. My top 5 substitutes when needing a base for stews, curries, casseroles and pasta sauces.

(1) Courgettes:

Baby marrow bolognaise

Baby marrow bolognaise

Use a mandolin and slice the courgettes into ribbons. You can leave them as wide ribbons or cut them again length wise for thinner strips. Fry them in some coconut oil, or butter.

Add some garlic and fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t overcook them. They should remain “al dente”. Top with your favourite (homemade) bolognaise sauce and parmesan cheese.

For a variation, you can grate the courgette and cook in same way. Some fancier kitchen appliances even slice them into spaghetti noodles. Courgettes also make excellent lasagne sheets! Check out my recipe.


(2) Gem squash:

Springbok neck stew with marrow bones on top of gem squash

Springbok neck stew with marrow bones on top of gem squash

Boil your gem squash until flesh inside is soft. Cut them open, take out the pips and scrape out the yellow flesh and put back into your pot.

Mash with a fork. Add salt and a good-sized knob of butter. A dollop of sour cream also works like a dream. Top this buttery goodness with a hearty stew. Check out my recipe for Springbok neck stew.


(3) Cauliflower:

This one is truly a favourite as it is just so versatile. Rice or mash? How about both.

Beef fillet, cauliflower mash and salad

Beef fillet, cauliflower mash and salad


Steam the cauliflower to retain as many vitamins as possible. Add salt, pepper, and butter. You can also add other herbs and spices too. Anything that tickles your fancy will work.

Use a hand blender to puree the cauliflower chunks into a deliciously creamy  mash.

Once again you can top this with a hearty stew, curry or casserole. Or serve as a side dish.

Butter chicken, cauliflower rice and gem squash

Butter chicken, cauliflower rice and  squash


Grate the cauliflower while still raw. Pan fry some chopped onions and garlic in olive oil, butter or coconut oil.

Add the grated cauliflower and cook until soft but not mushy (about 10 to 12 minutes).

I have even turned this into a risotto by adding some additional butter at the end of cooking as well as grated parmesan cheese.

Eat on its own or give it a worthy accompaniment . Divine!


(4) Cabbage:

Garlic prawns served on stir-fried baby cabbage

Garlic prawns served on stir-fried baby cabbage

Cabbage works fantastically with stir fries and Thai curries. Thinly slice baby cabbage. Fry in a pan or work with some coconut oil or butter. Add garlic too, if desired.

For a more exotic and colourful look, combine a purple and green cabbage.


(5) Spinach:

Fillet steak, spinach sauted with bacon and gralic and drop of cream and mixed salad

Fillet steak, spinach with bacon and garlic and drop of cream

Besides it packing a mighty nutritional punch, spinach can actually be quite delicious too. You just need to know how to cook it properly.

I put  a little water in the bottom of my wok and close with a lid to steam. Once cooked I squeeze out all the water and toss back into the wok with olive oil and  garlic.

My kids particularly like it when I add crispy bacon bits, cream and parmesan cheese to the cooked spinach.

In conclusion…..

I hope I have given you some new ideas to experiment with and try for yourself.  Remember, if you are struggling to maintain your weight, then consider lowering your intake of carbs and replace them with low carb veggie alternatives that will truly nourish your body.

About Nicky Perks

Passionately sharing information about the paleo/primal, high fat/low carb lifestyle that will rock your world! I am on my own journey to good health and a slim body. My goal? To enjoy the ride as life on this beautiful planet is just too short to do it any other way.

Posted on September 6, 2013, in Meal inspiration, Primal 101 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nicky, these are my winners too, but I would like to add one more – aubergines, sliced thickly and dry toasted in a non-stick pan until browned and warm, but still retaining shape when handled, makes a successful substitute for toast( when having eggs and bacon) or for fried potatoes.

  2. Totally love those ideas….. Especially the cauliflower mash. I am going to try them out this week. Thanks so much xx

  3. Thanks Nicky! I am used to aubergine and cauliflower but are so keen to try the others and will start with the baby cabbage 🙂

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