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Apr 18, 2011 11:29 AM

Spaghetti Squash as a low carb alternative

[Note: This thread was split from the Chains board at[ ]. -- The Chowhound Team

How do you fix it, mcf?

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  1. I pierce the spaghetti squash (the smaller organic ones really taste remarkably better than others) several times with a skewer, and nuke it til it's soft. Once I can handle it, I cut it open and use a fork to scrape out the strands. I drain it in a strainer very well so it won't be watery and soggy. I like it with sauces, pesto, or just EVOO, butter and parmesan. I also use it as a bed for my baked shrimp with feta and tomatoes. You might like it better sauteed with onions and garlic, dries it out more.

    6 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      Ooh! Light bulb going blink! I could use it as a base for stir fries and other sorts of things. I just won't consider it pasta. Hmm. With a little parm and EVOO or butter, it should be pretty good. I'll have to mess around with this.

      I'd never fix this for DH as a sub for pasta. It wouldn't pass muster at all. It doesn't pass muster with me either, if I think of it as a sub for pasta.

      Funny how I don't miss pasta or potatoes.

      1. re: sueatmo

        Isn't it amazing how you stop missing starches at all? All the colors and flavors are in the other stuff. My husband hates squash in general, this is no exception, but he is a low carber for health and weight maintenance anyway, so I make the squash for me and he has other sides.

        1. re: mcf

          In the past eating carbs gave me a happy feeling. (There is a term for this but I can't remember it right now.) When I have indulged (very rarely) in the last few months, eating carbs has not given me that happy feeling. It fails to manifest itself. Sweets are still tempting though.

          I still have a journey ahead of me to find the perfect eating plan. But I know that low carb is the way to go for me.

          And, I don't care if I never eat another bite of rice, potato or pasta.

          1. re: sueatmo

            Good books on the subject of carbs and health are GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES, WHEAT BELLY, and PROTEIN POWER LIFEPLAN.
            I've lost 50 pounds in a year. I never crave carbs anymore, still have about 15 pounds to go but am fit and well for the first time ever, without much real effort. I just eat fresh basic foods, very little that's processed in any way, no "low-carb" stuff made from starches or non-gluten grains -- I just don't require breads. Like romaine wraps more than I ever liked bread, and chips now make me sick. Stay on your program; if you're burning fat, it's right for your body.

      2. re: mcf

        I generally like spaghetti squash sauteed with garlic, onions, mushrooms and topped with Parmesan cheese. If you're going low carb, it's a really special treat with a carbonara sauce.

        1. re: mcf

          Great idea(s). There's a recipe for Greek shrimp bake that I love; would be nice to have the buttered and cheesed squash under or on the side. And this is a wonderful way to have pesto without too many carbs. We have used shirataki noodles and found them okay but they're hard to get here. I don't drain my spaghetti squash very diligently; the "water" adds flavor if "reduced" by sauteeting, though meanwhile the squash and other ingredients might be overcooking. (The water could be drained off and reduced separately, then added to the other sauteed ingredients)

          Thanks mcf for posting this.

        2. I'm with you guys - I like spaghetti squash, but not as a sub for pasta - it has to be fixed as its own thing. I generally cut them in half then bake until the strands shred easily, then pull out the seeds. Scrape out the meat in shreds and you can do whatever you like. It's great mixed with butter and parmesan and baked a second time as a casserole. You can also leave it intact and stuff it like you would zucchini, with various meats/cheese/vegetables.

          3 Replies
          1. re: biondanonima

            Agreed. It's not spaghetti, it's just delicious food. Try this recipe with a maple sauce. I don' t usually get into most of Pioneer Woman's foods, but this was awesome.

            1. re: katecm

              The maple syrup adds 54 grams of sugar to an otherwise healthy, low carb vegetable.

              1. re: mcf

                As I just said, I don't see it as a low-carb alternative to spaghetti. I just think it's delicious and thought I'd pass along the recipe.

          2. I have used spaghetti squash as a base to put a stir fry on as an alternative to rice and it turned out great. Like mcf, I find the best way to cook it is in the microwave but I cut it in half, take out the seeds, smear it with butter and season. Then I wrap the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap and nuke for about 15 mins or so. It blows up like a big baloon but comes out great. I have also used it with smoked sausage and peppers instead of potatoes. I haven't tried it but I bet it would also be good toosed with some olive oil, fresh herbs and maybe some olives and sun dried tomatoes.

            14 Replies
            1. re: LorenM

              II don't feel comfortable using plastic wrap in the microwave due to carcinogens, Another method, anyone?

              1. re: magiesmom

                I have used plastic wrap in the nuker for years as have most of my family. I try not to be fearful of everything unless I know something IS harmful. If it makes a difference, the steam itself seperates the plastic from the food by about 3 or 4 inches once it baloons up.This is from the Glad website:

                Is it okay to use GLAD Cling Wrap when reheating food in a microwave oven?

                GLAD Cling Wrap has been tested extensively for microwave cooking by our technical staff. We have found that the product is an excellent moisture barrier when used as a cover for casseroles. It also promotes uniform cooking and prevents splattering.

                As a result of its molecular structure, however, GLAD Cling Wrap has a tendency to tighten during the cooking process. This can cause the wrap to split. To reduce the chance of such occurrences we recommend that consumers vent the cover at a corner or side of the dish. This will allow a small amount of steam to escape.

                GLAD Cling Wrap is not heated by microwave energy, but it will become heated by contact with extremely hot foods. Normally, foods in a microwave oven do not become hot enough to bring the wrap to its melting point. However, certain foods with high fat content (such as butter or bacon) or with high sugar content can become very hot in a microwave oven and should not come in contact with our wrap. If you wish to use our wrap when heating such foods, we recommend that at least an inch of air space be left between the food and the wrap covering the dish.

                1. re: LorenM

                  Loren, the pastics in foods DO get transferred, no matter what anyone in the plastics industry says. The condition of the plastic sheet before vs after you heat it should tell you that it has broken down to some degree, and where's the stuff going that is vaporized or whatever it is that happens? Of course if you drink from plastic water bottles you're getting elements of the plastics too.

                  Some things are handy to use and others can be switched for something else. I bought oneof the non-BPA water bottles but don't use it because I don't like the taste of our well water but DO like the taste of the Great Value water from Walmart that has magnesium in it (great for my bones).

                  We we pick and choose. I try to do that from a base of knowledge rather than fright. It seems better not to be hysterical all the time about everything -- as I used to choose to be but now don't. I'm late in my 6th decade and not only still alive but amazingly healthy. Have been exposed to lots of crap including above-ground atomic explosions in the west in the 50s and decades of fluoride (and am hypothyroid but probably not from nuclear testing or fluoride, but they didn't help) but changing my diet is the ONLY thing that completely changed my poor health. No more high blood sugar from what I eat changed everything. (protein power lifeplan and very restricted carbs)

                  Find what really works for you based not on someone else's theories but on your actual health. You know when you're feeling great day after week after month.

                2. re: magiesmom

                  I just pierce it several times, put it in whole on a paper towel and nuke til soft. I don't use any plastic in the microwave, either. Chemicals leach under heat. Much easier to cut when soft, too.

                  1. re: mcf

                    I remember your description mcf. You said you pierced the squash with a skewer. What kind of skewer pierces the skin of a squash? Surely not bamboo.

                    I'd probably cut it in half and nuke it with a plate over it, or some such.

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      I use either a metal kebab skewer or the double pointy end of a lobster pick, but in a pinch, a sharply pointed bamboo skewer has worked, as has a two tined meat fork.

                  2. re: magiesmom

                    I don't worry about plastic in the microwave but my microwave is small and crappy, so I always use the oven for spaghetti squash. I just cut it in half and roast it at 350 until it's done to my desired doneness, usually 30 mins-ish depending on size and how I'm planning to use it. You can actually roast it whole, too, if it's too hard to get a knife through it - even if you just stick in the oven for 10 mins, it will make it easier to cut through.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      I had forgotten that! I believe you can nuke the squash for a few minutes before stabbing it with a sharp implement.

                    2. re: magiesmom

                      I don't like using the microwave a lot for cooking, and my oven takes ages. So I put the whole squash, unpierced, in a large pot and boil it. I usually pick a small squash for this. Then let it cool, halve and scoop out the insides discarding seeds. This seems to be the least work for me.

                      1. re: magiesmom

                        Buy one of those covers (Walmart has them) and use that. Or use waxed paper.

                      2. re: LorenM

                        You take out the seeds, and then you put the 2 halves together again before wrapping?

                        Just so I can visualize it.

                        1. re: sueatmo

                          I usually will cook one half at a time, flat side up. I have done 2 before but it takes about 20-25 mins and do not put the 2 halves back together again. Seriously, I did not invent this and they come out better than the oven in my opinion.

                          1. re: LorenM

                            Or you can put the two sides - cut-side-down on a plate, and cover it with plastic wrap (which never touches anything you eat when you nuke it.

                        2. re: LorenM

                          Love your smoked sausage/peppers idea! That could become our favorite dinner. Thanks.

                        3. Cool! We got our own thread. I am enjoying reading the recipes and methods of cooking. This should be way better as a base for stir fry than shredded lettuce!

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: sueatmo

                            I don't know how limited your carb intake is daily but as a couple of other alternatives to high carb pastas, there is Dreamfields spaghetti, penne, linguine and others. They are all about 4 to 5 carbs per serving. Then there are the shitaki noodles which I think (not certain) are carb free or almost. They are a much softer noodle and no bite to them but they can substitute okay in say a stir fry.

                            1. re: Neta

                              Dreamfields has as much carb as any other pasta, and causes a later blood glucose rise that lasts for hours. There was a recent study of metabolic response to Dreamfields and there was no difference in that small group. Among diabetics, we've noticed the delayed and very long glucose spike. I don't have the same reaction to Carba Nada though, or the new Atkins low carb pasta. I pretty much avoid using them, though, preferring to avoid starches entirely for the most part.

                              Shirataki are lower, but I hate the rubber band texture. This thread isn't about pasta substitutes, though, it's about spaghetti squash.

                              1. re: mcf

                                Sorry, I thought the word "alternative" could mean there are others than spaghetti squash. Dreamfields has 5 grams of digestible carbs For myself, when I do indulge, I don't notice any big glucose spike. It works better than the whole wheat pastas for me and taste a helluva lot better. I'll bow out and let the spaghetti squasher continue with their subject mcf!

                                1. re: Neta

                                  Dreamfields carbs are all digested completely, though sometimes more slowly than regular pasta:


                                  "The result was the same; that is, the curves were essentially identical (Fig. 1). In 10 people without diabetes, the Dreamfields pasta product we purchased did not result in an improved glucose excursion when compared with a commercially available traditional pasta product as would have been expected based upon the company's claim."

                                  Unless you keep testing every hour for many hours, you can miss the spike. It's at 5-7 hours after eating for some folks, but some folks spike faster and worse from DF than regular pasta, too.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    Thank you for this info. Eventhough this is a very once in a while treat, I'll take it to heart. I have tested for the dawn phenonmenon which I did at several different times. My result was negative for dp. The best way I think to deal with carb problems is to limit the daily intake to what the medical profession recommends. So, I will play with the spaghetti squash recommendations when the mood strikes. Sorry to go off track.

                                    1. re: Neta

                                      I scrupulously avoid eating the amount of carbs most medical professionals recommend.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        mcf, I think you have mentioned what you eat carbwise before. Could you refresh my memory? And, do you space out the carbs that you do eat? I always appreciate your comments.

                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                          My nutrient breakdown, which I used to record for years to arrive at my best diabetic and weight control is mostly 50-55%% fat, 30-35% protein, and 15-20% almost entirely non starch or sugar carbs. I also have to eat low calories, so my carb total is typically around 50 per day, 70 on a very high day. I avoid eating more than 10-15 grams at any one time, typically, and I avoid eating any in the morning, when blood glucose is highest.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            mcf: thanks for reference to fitday.

                                            1. re: Hazeleyes3923

                                              I hope it works well for you. I've used the free version for many years. A major pain until I had a big data base of my own custom foods loaded in.

                              2. re: Neta

                                Thanks for the suggestion. Dreamfields might be a good alternative for some, but I've decided to simply eliminate the carb. I do like whole wheat pasta very well, but carb is carb, you know?

                                1. re: Neta

                                  Those are made from carbohydrate ingredients.Still high carb and high calorie without much if any nutrition. Best avoided by people with blood sugar problems. If you have the carbohydrate-processing problem, an excellent book on why blood sugar must be strictly controlled (not scary but just the facts of life) is Dr. Richard Bernstein's DIABETES SOLUTION. Customer reviewers recommended his earlier book because of certain important info that wasn't included in later editions, available at the link below:

                                  I'm not diabetic but it's in my family and I was on the brink, so restricting carbs is literally a choice of life and death for me. My approach to diabetes happened over a long period of time during which there was almost no useful information (except from Dr. Atkins), but now information about the cause of metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other symptoms of over-consumption of carbs is readily available. If anyone has the problem, they don't require a doctor but simply can read about every facet in recently published books such as WHEAT BELLY by a Milwaukee cardioolgist, or GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES by Gary Taubes, and use the information to change their diets and save their own lives.
                                  Not saying don't eat those products, but anything in a box, other than good quality sea salt, may not be your best choice.

                                2. re: sueatmo

                                  sueatmo: spaghetti squash has different vitamins and minerals than dark green lettuces such as romaine. You should eat greens frequently; dark greens are your best source of some very important nutrients. Romaine tastes delicious because it's full of those things. Also chickory, or curly endive, arugula, kale, beet greens, collard greens, red cabbage, radicchio, dandelion greens... all are nutritional stars. To check out the ways in which greens support your metabolism and biochemistry, check out vitamins and minerals at

                                  Remember, though, that it's water, fat, and protein that our bodies make tissues, bones, and organs from as well as repairing them during our resting hours, with help from vitamins and minerals, in a hyper-complicated process that still isn't well understood, so don't avoid any food except low-nutrient starchy carbohydrates and refined sugars.

                                3. I did low carb for years and LOVED Spaghetti squash nights! The best part is it can morph into two completely different dinners.

                                  For night 1, split in half, remove seeds, sprinkle with salt & pepper and a pat of butter on the insides of each half. Place in baking pan (I use stoneware – not sure if it matters tho) and roast at 350° until insides can be easily flaked away from the skin. (The time it takes will depend on the size of your squash.) This is excellent paired with a lean meat…I usually do boneless skinless chicken pieces cooked on the stove top with a tiny bit of olive oil. I’ve also served these two with a side of ‘Tasty Tomatoes’, but that’s another low-carb recipe…..

                                  For night 2, take the other half, shred the insides IN THE SHELL, add low fat cheese (I usually like a mix of cheddar and mozzarella) and tiny cubes of cooked ham. Pop in micro to heat up (about two minutes) and then top with a little extra of the cheeses and pop in toaster oven to brown the cheese. DELISH!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: debrolex

                                    This sounds so good! I am thinking that roasting in a regular oven might make the squash less watery? That is a major beef I have against using it as a pasta sub. I love the idea of getting 2 meals from one squash, after cooking them once.

                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                      sueatmo: if you can hack the thing in half or maybe into slices(?), and if the heat of the oven is high enough to dehydrate the very watery squash, that might work. If the oven heat isn't high enough, dehydration may not occur.

                                      1. re: Hazeleyes3923

                                        Thanks for the input. I just can't make myself like spaghetti squash no matter how I cook it. I can tolerate it only if masked with cheese or something. That kind of cooking doesn't appeal to me. I tried last spring, I had tried before, but I just don't like the taste.

                                        And, total low carb eating does not agree with me. I seem to need yo limit my fat as well. I know this goes against low carb gurus, but it seems to be true for me. And I don't feel really well on severe low carb. I tried it for over a year. I feel best when I have a little carb. Low carb +high fat makes me feel bloated and awful, and I stopped losing weight after the initial loss.

                                        What works for some does not always work for others. I never want to go no carb again. I didn't enjoy it all.

                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                          You have to do what makes you feel the best, while maintaining the most level blood glucose pre and post meal. I used fitday to find my best fit, and at 50%, my fat percentage is 50% lower than a lot of Atkins dieters who feel better and lose more weight that way. We each have unique metabolic profiles and life styles, not just diet.