Substitutes for pasta water

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When you’re cooking pasta, the water you cook it in becomes infused with the starch from the pasta. This starchy water is often used as a base for sauces, and it can add a lot of flavor to them. If you have no pasta water on hand, there are plenty of alternatives you can use.

In this article, we’ll discuss what pasta water is, and some substitutes that will give your sauce the same flavor profile. We’ll also cover what to do with the leftover pasta water, and how many calories are in it. keep reading to understand the tips on seasoning your pasta water for extra flavor! 

What is pasta water

Pasta water is the starchy water left when you boil pasta. It is usually seasoned with salt and sometimes other spices. The high starch content from the pasta cooks in the water and makes it slightly thick and cloudy. It has a mild slightly salty taste that can be used to add flavor and rich texture to gravies and soups. 

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6 Substitutes for pasta water

If you’re out of pasta water or just don’t want to use it, there are a few substitutes that will work in a pinch. You can use cornflour, potato starch, xantham gum, cornstarch, tapioca flour, or arrowroot powder.

Have in mind that the substitute you use will add flavor to your pasta, so choose wisely. And if you’re using something other than pasta water, be sure to season it well with salt and pepper. Otherwise, your pasta will be bland and tasteless.

1. Corn flour

Cornflour and water mixture has a smooth and silky texture that’s perfect for thickening. The mixture is made from a blend of oil, salt, and cornflour. It is a perfect substitute for pasta water and is ideal forgluten-intolerant persons. Do not add hot water directly into the flour to avoid lumps from forming.

2. Potato starch

This is the perfect substitute if you are sensitive to gluten. Do not add it directly to the pasta, instead, make a potato starch and water mix then add it in. This starch comes in different versions dairy-free, soy-free and grain-free. If you want the best from potato starch, use it sparingly and cook on low heat. 

3. Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a powerful version of cornflour. To use it, just mix the cornstarch with 1 cup water(cold) and add in some hot water then give it a good stir till it gets runny. After that, add it to the pasta and add in seasonings of your choice like salt and some little sugar to replace the sweetness of the corn. The consistency you get will be close to the standard pasta cooking water. If you want starchier water, add in some more cornstarch.

4. Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum is an excellent substitute for pasta water. It thickens fast without needing heating or cooling. Just add it to your dish and give it a stir then sit back, and watch it thicken right before your eyes. You can add in somelittle oil and add it to sauces sparingly. It might be safe to consume but high amounts of xanthan gum can cause digestive issues. 

5. Arrowroot

Arrowroot powder is quite similar to xanthan gum, only that it takes some little more time to cook for it to thicken. The arrowroot powder and water mixture makes a slushy paste, perfect to substitute for pasta water. 

6. Tapioca flour

Tapioca starch is thick and has a glue-like texture that can be added to cakes, biscuits, and bread. It’s also used as a thickening agent for sauces and soups. 

Other alternatives to pasta water

If you don’t have the above options, you can use a simple substitute of boiled potatoes or mix flour with some water.

1.Boiled potatoes

Starch from potatoes can work as a substitute for pasta water. Just boil the potato until starts falling apart, drain the water, mash the potato and add it to your recipe. 

2. Flour and water

This should be the last thickening option to use as a substitute for pasta water. Add a tablespoon of flour with cold water and mix well. 

What to do with pasta water

Once you’ve boiled your pasta, don’t pour that liquid gold down the drain! You can use it to make your meal even better. Here are some great ideas to incorporate:

  • Use it to cook vegetables. Blanching veggies in pasta water is a great way to infuse them with flavor.
  • Make a soup. Just add some vegetables, protein, and maybe a little cream or tomato sauce to that starchy water for an instant soup base.
  • Water your plants with it. Plants love starch! It’s a great way to give them a nutrient boost.
  • Use it to soften your legumes. Soak beans, and peas into the pasta water overnight to soften and cook better.
  • Use it as a detergent to wash pots and pans.
  • Soak your sore feet. The warm water and the minerals in it leave your feet soft and relaxed.
  • Cooking rice.
  • Making pizza and bread dough. The starch in the pasta water makes the dough come together better.
  • Hair mask. Massage some pasta water into your roots and leave it to sit for 10 minutes. Rinse it out after time lapses for a spa-like deep conditioning experience. 

Pasta water calories

One cup of pasta water has lots of calories, a high carb content, and very few nutrients. However, one mineral present in pasta water is sodium. So if you’re on a low-sodium diet, you may want to avoid drinking pasta water. 

How to season pasta water

You shouldn’t forget to season your pasta water. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this key step. Adding salt adds flavor and prevents the pasta from sticking.

To properly season your pasta water, you’ll need to add about one tablespoon of salt for every two quarts of water. This may seem like a lot, but it’s the only way to ensure that your pasta is properly seasoned.

Once you’ve added the salt, be sure to give the water a good stir so that the salt is evenly distributed. You can then add your pasta and leave it to cook as per the package instructions.

If you’re looking for a little extra flavor, you can also add some herbs or spices to your pasta dough. A few garlic cloves or a dash of red pepper flakes can take your pasta water to the next level. Just be careful not to add too much, as you don’t want to overwhelm the flavor of the pasta itself. 

Pasta water nutrition

Starchy pasta water is a great source of nutrients and can be a healthy addition to your diet. It is calorie-rich but it does contain some nutrients. That said, pasta water isn’t a complete source of nutrition and should not be used as a meal replacement. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pasta water good for you?

Yes, pasta water is good for you! You can drink it, and use it in broths and soups. If the pasta water is too cloudy, it should be discarded.

Why put salt in pasta water?

Salt helps to improve the flavor of your pasta dish and also helps to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Additionally, salt can help to keep pasta water from boiling over.

Video: When should you salt pasta water and How much?


Pasta water can be replaced with other suitable substitutes. Cornflour, cornstarch, and xanthan gum are some great alternatives you can use. Do not forget that these substitutes have different flavors so you can experiment with the pasta water and settle for the best flavor.You can also try using the leftover water in other different ways other than cooking.

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