Is Hearts of Palm Pasta Good for You?
Noodles made out of vegetables aren’t new—think spaghetti squash and zoodles. But one of the reasons why people are crazy for hearts of palm pasta is, they say, because it tastes more like the real thing. In fact, Palmini, one of the most familiar brands, calls the resemblance to pasta “extraordinary.”
Really? Four staffers from CR’s food team tasted Palmini and Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta—both labeled linguini—five ways: plain, with marinara, with EVOO and parmesan, with pesto, and in a stir fry with Hoisin sauce.
Keating prepared the pastas, starting with rinsing and draining the noodles. For the plain, EVOO, and pesto versions, she warmed the noodles in a skillet in a little oil before tossing with the other ingredients. For the marinara and stir fry, she added them to the pan toward the end of cooking and heated them through for about 5 minutes.
The verdict: You could tell you weren’t eating pasta—neither product had pasta’s body, springiness, or smoothness. But both hearts of palm pastas were pretty good, and the one to choose depends on your taste.
Both products had a vegetal flavor when tasted plain, with TJ’s being slightly stronger. That flavor was muted once the noodles were mixed with the other ingredients, Keating says. Palmini’s more neutral taste worked better with pesto and in the stirfry, although all of the testers thought pesto wasn’t the best topping for either brand of hearts of palm pasta.
If you like your pasta al dente, Palmini is the better of the two. It had a firmer texture than TJ’s every way we tried it. The noodles were longer and that made them more pasta-like, too. “You can twirl this one on a fork,” one tester said.
Two of the testers preferred Palmini, but the other two thought the softer consistency of the TJ’s noodles was a plus. “It reminds me of angel hair pasta and it paired well with the marinara,” said one. And the other said the softer texture of TJ’s gave the dishes a richer taste.
The pastas’ price may also influence which one you prefer. Trader Joe’s cost $3.49 for 9 ounces; Palmini $5.29 for 12 ounces. That’s a bit hefty when you consider that you can buy a pound of a good Italian pasta for around $2 in the grocery store.
If you want to cut the carbs in your pasta dish, but aren’t sure you’re ready for a plate of veggie noodles, you can mix hearts of palm pasta half and half with regular pasta. Put the hearts of palm pasta in a colander and pour the cooked pasta over it to drain. That’s all it takes to warm up the hearts of palm. Then serve with your favorite sauce.
Want to get more creative? On Instagram, hearts of palm pasta can be found in Thai spring rolls, Panang chicken curry, shrimp pad Thai, beef lo mein, creamy alfredo and pasta puttanesca.