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For the first time since i started dieting, I'm making a stir fry dish for dinner. Usually, I include white rice with the finished product to absorb some of the sauce and provide that fluffy texture.

What is a low carb, or even carb free, alternative I can use that provide a similar texture and absorbent quality?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Quinoa. I only recently discovered it as part of doing P90X, and man, it's so, so delicious. It's kind of a nutty flavour that goes really well with sauces. It's also pretty high in protein, which is good.

Note that this isn't "no-carb", though it is lower in carbs than rice.

It's important that you wash quinoa before you prepare it. Otherwise, it's prepared in a very similar way, 2-1 water-to-quinoa, boiled and simmered.

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I've had quinoa before. This seems like a good match. Any specific sauces you'd recommend? – Mike Sherov Jul 20 '10 at 23:19
Quinoa is the only grain that contains all the amino acids to be considered a complete protein on its own. Native to South America, the Inca's called it the "Mother Grain". Purpose for washing is to remove a natural compound called Saponin which is on the outer layer of the grain. It has a bitter taste to it and effecively acts as a natural pesticide to keep pests from eating the grains. Most quinoa has already had that layer removed, residual dust is what you're washing off to prevent it from tasting bitter. For more flavor, rinse and then toast it in a dry pan before adding your liquid. – Darin Sehnert Jul 21 '10 at 0:06
Just some information, Quinoa is about 65g carbs per 100g, so for a low carb diet this should probably be avoided. – Tom Gullen Jul 26 '10 at 0:12
@MikeSherov: I usually use quinoa in place of rice in dishes like dirty rice, red beans & rice, pilaf, biryani, etc. Another nice thing about it is that it's relatively high in Iron. – baka Nov 6 '11 at 19:23
Just a minor correction to Darrin's comment above - quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain; that's why it is a complete protein and why it has so much protein in it to begin with. – Laura Jun 15 '12 at 19:30

Cauliflower rice works. There are lots of variations, but basically you grate cauliflower and boil it in lightly salted water for 1-2 minutes. Add some butter. Mine looks something like this: Cauliflower rice with chicken

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That is an excellent idea! I'm trying that as soon as possible. – Iuls Jul 31 '10 at 2:33
@Iuls, you can also just cook the cauliflower first and then chop it finely with a knife for a similar effect. – yossarian Aug 19 '10 at 14:31
I prefer fried rice made this way (to the plain boiled). Stir fried with lots of yummy ingredients and some egg, it's probably better than rice itself. – Jane Sales Sep 26 '13 at 14:59

I actually recommend whole grain rice as a substitute for white rice. First, a stir-fry is just weird without rice.

Second, whole grain rice tastes and acts almost exactly the same. However, the carb/fibre ratio is adjusted quite well in your favour, and you get all that nice vitamin B-1 as well.

I dare say, rice is never the enemy in a diet. How many fat Chinese people have you seen?

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I was taught in a nutrition-related class that the top carbohydrates (in terms of health) were brown rice, oatmeal (by itself), and sweet potatoes. The dietary fiber means they take a while to digest and break down into less sugar. – justkt Aug 19 '10 at 13:03
+1 Brown rice is like rice, but with nutrients! Also, dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. – kevins Aug 19 '10 at 14:21
Chinamen? Really? I think the weight is probably much more related to socio-economic standing than the intake of rice. – yossarian Aug 19 '10 at 14:30
@Kevin Selter: I apologise for causing any offence. @yossarian: I've spent some time in China, among people of all classes, I only saw one fat person. It turned out that he was a teenager of Chinese descent, who had been born and raised in California. Aside from that, you'll note that in America and Europe, it is usually the poorest people who are fattest. – Carmi Aug 21 '10 at 6:59
This is formally called the fallacy of the undistributed middle. The evidence against this particular conclusion is obvious if you live in a North American city where people of Asian descent eat the same diets, yet gain much more weight and have much higher incidences of heart disease. The real reasons why the Chinese were healthy was low consumption of refined sugar and much higher levels of physical activity. That situation is changing, and so is the overall health. – Aaronut May 28 '14 at 4:21

Whole oat groats make a good replacement for rice when something with more fiber and a lower glycemic index is wanted. Whole oats aren't the most convenient of foods, two cycles of a rice cooker on the brown rice setting, but they more than make up for the effort with flavor, versatility and healthfulness.

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