Some of the most delicious dishes feature rice as a key ingredient. Risotto, fried rice, paella, and sushi, for example, all rely on this starch-filled grain, but are there any rice varieties that won’t pack on the carbs?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. If you’re on a non-keto low-carb or standard ketogenic diet, you’ll have to avoid rice for optimal results.
That being said, you can still get your rice fix by using the right low-carb substitutes and keto recipes. Let’s begin our journey through the world of rice and its alternatives by taking a closer look at the composition of each grain.
Why Rice isn’t Good for Low Carb and Keto Diets
Each grain of rice is essentially starch that is packaged in a fibrous protein capsule. From a nutritional perspective, rice is like a bean but with more starch and less protein and fiber.
Though different types of rice will vary in their carb content, even the lowest carb variety isn’t low enough to fit into a low-carb diet. In fact, it will be nearly impossible to find a rice variety that is composed of less than 75% net carbs.
To give you a better idea of what I mean, we’ve included a chart with the carb content of the most popular rice varieties below. In this case, we’ll focus mostly on the “healthier” rice options (which aren’t as low in carbs as you might think).
Is Wild Rice, Black Rice, or Brown Rice Low Carb?
Though brown rice, wild rice, and black rice are all richer in micronutrients, fiber, and protein than white rice, they are still packed with too many carbs to fit into a low-carb diet.
As you can see, wild rice is the lowest carb rice. However, with ~32 grams of net carbs in each half-cup, it’ll be challenging to fit it into a low-carb or keto diet without cutting out other nutritious keto-friendly foods.
What About Rice Noodles: Are They Low Carb?
Rice noodles can be thought of as long strips of net carbs (similar to traditional flour-based pasta).
More specifically, one cup of rice noodles comes packed with 44 g of total carbs and 42.2 g of net carbs (which is almost identical to the carbs in white rice).
Rather than skipping noodles altogether, there are plenty of keto-friendly alternatives you can try. We’ll learn more about them after we uncover the truth about rice cakes.
Are Rice Cakes Low Carb?
Since they are made from puffed rice, rice cakes will be lower in carbs than cooked rice. However, before we are tricked by their low carb content, we must also consider what rice cakes lack.
Since they are almost 100% net carbs, rice cakes will increase your daily carb count without adding any healthy fats, protein, fiber, or micronutrients to your diet. In other words, even the lowest carb rice cake products are not a good option for keto since they add empty carbs to your diet and nothing else.
|Rice Cake Product||Total Carbs (per rice cake)||Net Carbs (per rice cake)|
|White rice cake||7||7|
|Brown rice cake||14||13|
|Kim’s Magic Pop Rice Cakes||2||2|
That being said, If you are craving a rice cake, opt for the lowest carb option and make sure to have some high-fat keto foods with it. For example, try spreading keto Nutella on top or make it into a quick keto pizza.
The 5 Best Low Carb Rice Substitutes for Keto
If you can’t eat rice, what can you eat on a low-carb diet as a suitable alternative? Here are the best low-carb substitutes for rice that are both healthy and keto-friendly:
- Riced cauliflower
- Miracle rice (shirataki rice)
- Cabbage rice
- Hemp seeds
- Mushroom rice
1. Riced Cauliflower
This is the most popular low-carb rice alternative since it is relatively cheap, low in carbs, and packed with health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In general, ½ cup (85 g) of prepared cauliflower rice has 4 grams of total carbs and 2 grams of net carbs, which makes it easy to fit into a strict keto diet as well as non-keto low-carb diets.
Riced cauliflower is available at your local grocery store pre-packaged, but it can be made just as easy at home if you have a cheese grater or food processor.
How to Use It:
2. Miracle Rice — The Lowest Carb Keto Rice, No Cauliflower Necessary
Made from konjac root, miracle rice (and shirataki noodles) only contain trace amounts of net carbs and are packed with health-promoting fiber. More specifically, a 3 oz. serving (85 g) of miracle rice comes with 10 calories, 3 g of fiber, and less than 0.5 g of net carbs.
Miracle rice is available in most health food stores or online. You may also see it called “shirataki rice,” “slim rice,” or “konjac rice” as well.
As long as the product is listed as having zero net carbs per serving, it’ll be the perfect rice alternative for keto.
How to Use It:
Try using miracle rice as a rice alternative in a stir-fry, pilaf, or cauliflower rice recipe. It would also work well as a rice or barley replacement in a soups and stews.
3. Cabbage Rice
Another great keto rice substitute is cabbage rice. You can prepare cabbage rice as you would cauliflower rice: in a food processor or with a cheese grater.
Both red and green cabbage are keto-friendly options, with green cabbage having a slightly lower net carb count:
- Red cabbage — 1 cup,chopped (89 g) has 7 grams of total carbs and 5.1 g of net carbs
- Green cabbage — 1 cup, chopped (89 g) has 5.2 g of total carbs and 3 g of net carbs
How to Use It:
Riced cabbage is great in stews, as an alternative to fried rice, or as the feature vegetable in a keto bowl. It will pair exceptionally well with spices commonly used in Indian food, such as garam masala, cumin, and turmeric.
4. Hemp Seeds
Shelled hemp seeds are great for mimicking the taste and texture of wild rice and other heartier grains.
They are also packed with healthy fat, plant-based protein, and fiber, making them the best rice substitute for anyone looking up their intake of these nutrients while keeping carbs low.
Overall, each ½ cup of shelled hemp seeds provides us with:
- 5 calories
- 39 g of fat
- 3 g of protein
- 7 g of total carbs
- 8 g of net carbs
Since this is the highest fat rice substitute, make sure not to overdo it. The fat calories can add up surprisingly fast and slow weight loss.
How to Use It:
5. Mushroom Rice
With their earthy umami flavor, mushrooms are a delicious keto-friendly substitute for rice as well. Just make sure to keep the carb counts in mind because they will vary depending on the mushroom variety.
Here are the carbs in the most commonly consumed mushrooms (in every cup, sliced):
|Mushroom type||Total carbs (g)||Net carbs (g)|
How to Use It:
To prepare mushroom-based keto rice, finely chop a cup or two of mushrooms and saute with some butter and salt. You can also combine mushroom rice with the other low carb rice alternatives to switch up the flavor and texture of your meals.
Low Carb, Keto-friendly Rice Recipes: Fried Rice, Sushi, Rice Balls, and More
If you’d prefer to follow step-by-step instructions, we’ve included a round-up of our favorite rice-based keto recipes below:
Low Carb Cauliflower Fried Rice
This keto recipe is packed with all of the flavors and textures we crave in restaurant-style fried rice. However, there is one thing missing: the starch.
Fortunately, with the combo of riced cauliflower and bacon, you’ll forget all about it. (If you’re looking for an even simpler keto fried rice, give our 4-ingredient crispy cauliflower rice a try.)
Spicy Cauliflower Rice & Salmon Medley
A delicious keto dinner featuring low-carb fried rice, with all the steps you need to cook the fish, prepare the keto rice, and combine them into a satisfying meal. Feel free to replace the salmon with your fish/meat of choice whenever you want to throw together a quick dish that you know will come out delicious.
For more keto-friendly rice-based dinner ideas, check out these recipes as well:
Jalapeno Cauliflower Rice Balls
These crispy, spicy, and cheesy rice balls are the perfect way to use up leftover cauliflower rice. Serve with sugar-free tomato sauce for keto-friendly arancini — or keep it simple and have as is. The inside is like a jalapeno popper, and the outside has a wonderfully crunchy texture thanks to the pork rind and Parmesan coating.
Keto Chicken and Rice Casserole
Chicken and rice casserole is much healthier and more satisfying with low-carb ingredients. In fact, this is one of the best ways to sneak a keto-friendly dish into a family dinner without anyone noticing. It uses some of my favorite low-carb convenience foods to save on prep time like pre-riced cauliflower and rotisserie chicken. I almost always grab a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. It’s quick, easy and can be used for a million different dishes. Pre-riced cauliflower can be found in the produce section of most stores and is a fabulous low carb staple and substitute for rice.
Keto Sushi (with a Low-carb Sushi Rice Alternative)
At first, replacing sushi rice with riced cauliflower may seem ridiculous. I thought the idea was crazy before I actually gave keto sushi a try — and I was pleasantly surprised. It fixed my craving for carb-ridden sushi, and now I have a reliable keto recipe to make whenever the craving hits.
Cauliflower Rice Congee
This keto Congee is an Asian-inspired porridge that is great for cold weather or as a zesty dinner appetizer. The ingredients such as cauliflower rice and chicken stock can be made from scratch or store-bought to reduce time. Optional toppings for congee include hard-boiled eggs, sliced scallions, and fried garlic. With this recipe, you’ll also learn how to incorporate low-carb cauliflower rice into your favorite keto soups.
Cauliflower-free Low Carb Rice Recipe Options (No Cauliflower Necessary)
You may have already noticed that most low-carb rice recipes feature cauliflower as the primary rice alternative. Whether you are looking to switch it up or you’re just not a fan of cauliflower, here are three go-to options for making low-carb rice without the cauliflower:
This side dish is the perfect keto-friendly alternative for cauliflower rice. Step-by-step, you’ll learn how to make it cauliflower-free by using hempseeds and mushrooms as the low-carb rice substitute.
Altogether, this recipe will mimic the taste and texture of wild rice pilaf without the excess carbs. Feel free to add meat to it for a complete keto meal — or use it as a replacement for cauliflower fried rice.
2. Replace the cauliflower with another low-carb rice alternative.
Pick your preferred option(s) from the list below:
- Miracle rice
These will work wonderfully in most keto stir-fry and fried rice recipes. You can even try mixing multiple alternatives together.
Just make sure you are mindful of the difference in your rice substitute’s carb, protein, and fat content compared to cauliflower.
3. Skip the low-carb rice.
Though your meal won’t be as filling without the low-carb rice, this may be the best option for certain keto recipes.
When making keto sushi, for example, the other low-carb rice alternatives won’t work well. In this case, the best option is to make it without the rice or try another recipe with similar flavors and textures (like our keto poke bowl recipe).
Are There Keto-friendly Rice Noodle Alternatives as Well?
As with low-carb rice substitutes, there are several keto-friendly rice noodle alternatives made out of konjac root and keto vegetables.
Of all the different and unique takes on noodles, here are some of best keto-friendly substitutes for rice noodles:
- Spiralized vegetables. While zucchini is the most common in keto recipes, you can also spiralize daikon radish, cucumbers, bell pepper, turnips, kohlrabi, onion, and even broccoli stems.
- Eggplant pasta. Cut eggplant into strips and cook as a penne-style pasta, or slice into thin sheets and use as a layering noodle in lasagna or pasta roll-up recipes.
- Thinly sliced cabbage can work really well as a noodle, but you can also use whole cabbage leaves as a layer in lasagna or even use it as a wrapper for eggroll type recipes.
- Miracle noodles. Also known as konjac or shirataki noodles, these fibrous noodles are made from the same ingredients as Miracle rice.
- Tofu noodles. Similar to shirataki noodles, these are typically a combination of tofu and glucomannan (the fiber found in konjac root). This yields a much more pleasant, less crunchy low-carb noodle.
- Homemade noodles. Using psyllium husk, almond flour, or a combination of low-carb flours, you can create keto noodles at home. These tend to be the most realistic in texture and flavor but can add a significant amount of calories to the dish, so you have to be mindful of your noodle portions.
To learn more about each noodle alternative and their keto recipes, check out our comprehensive guide to keto-friendly noodles and pasta.
Key Takeaways: Low Carb Rice Alternatives and Recipes for Keto
Rice is not suitable for low-carb and keto eating, regardless of the variety you have
However, there are plenty of low-carb rice substitutes that you can make to satisfy your craving for the starch-filled grain. These include:
- Riced cauliflower
- Miracle rice or shirataki rice
- Hemp Seeds
With the help of these keto-friendly options, you can make virtually any of your favorite rice-based dishes, including:
If you are also looking for suitable substitutes for cauliflower-based rice, here are the three best options:
That being said, even if you have the lowest carb rice substitute, it is still crucial to be mindful of how much fat, protein, and carbs you need to achieve the results you want.
The easiest way to make sure you are on the right track is by using our keto meal planning app. It will provide you with an unlimited eating plan personalized to your goals and preferences, so all you’ll have to do is shop for the ingredients, make your meals, and enjoy them.