Entrepreneur Brian Rudolph had two relatable motivations for creating Banza‘s chickpea pasta — he loved cooking pasta (in its most basic, delicious form), and he was on a continuous search for the healthiest way to eat. Instead of resigning himself to the idea that those two things could never truly coexist, in 2013 he went to work in his kitchen to figure out the best-tasting alternative to typical wheat noodles.
As part of his mission for wellness, Brian had already started experimentally cooking with many types of beans — especially using chickpea recipes. He’d switched over to a gluten-free diet, and chickpeas fit nicely into that regimen, in addition to offering tons of other health benefits. Missing his favorite food and dissatisfied with the existing g-free alternatives, Brian decided to try his hand at preparing chickpeas in one more form — pasta! A few pounds of beans and a hand crank later, he’d created the first batch of Banza pasta.
Banza is now carried by more than 4,000 American retailers. This month, it hit Target stores, making the products available in all 50 states for the first time. Banza’s chickpea pasta comes in five shapes, and the company recently launched a range of boxed dinner options for nights when you don’t have time for your craziest mac and cheese recipes. Although Banza may particularly appeal to people with restricted diets, it’s more than just pasta for people who can’t eat traditional pasta.
“We’re a company that focuses on positive nutrition,” says Banza’s Head of Communications Cathryn Woodruff. “Our pasta is gluten-free, soy-free and vegan, but we don’t look at what we do as ‘for you’ or ‘not for you’ based on your health concerns. We focus on what we do have, which is great taste and good nutrition that everyone needs.”
Banza’s goal is to get more than half of Americans to start eating chickpea pasta, regardless of dietary restrictions. “We imagine a world where it’s not divided between pasta and pasta alternatives,” Cathryn explains. “Everyone’s walking down the same aisle, and there’s just pasta and better pasta.”
And how does Banza plan to spread the word that chickpea pasta is better? With modern packaging, universally beneficial ingredients and a great taste that helps people forget they’ve swapped an old standard for something a little healthier.
“Our mission is to make the foods that people love better by using more nutritious ingredients,” Cathryn shares. “People love pasta. People don’t want to give up pasta, but they want to eat better. We took a comfort food that everyone loves, took out the bad stuff, added in some great stuff and now you have a sneaky healthy meal.”
Keep reading to find out a few more reasons why Banza’s chickpea pasta is going to be your new “sneaky healthy” favorite.
1. Chickpeas are associated with longevity. Along with peas, lentils and other beans, chickpeas are among the most consumed foods in the areas of the world called Blue Zones, where lifespans are longer than average. Populations in these areas — which include regions of Japan, Italy and Costa Rica — eat high-protein, high-fiber chickpeas as a cornerstone of their diet.
2. Beans are chock-full of nutrition, including protein and good carbs. Cathryn says that many of Banza’s early fans are fitness buffs who need their food to really pack a punch. “They’re looking for protein and energy,” she says. Chickpea pasta offers enough substance to keep active bodies going strong while minimizing unwanted add-ons, such as extra carbohydrates. Banza has nearly half the net carbs of traditional pasta.
3. You won’t be hungry later. Thanks to the additional protein and fiber from the beans, chickpea pasta is more filling than the wheat kind. Banza also has a low glycemic index, which means it will be kinder to your blood sugar, preventing a post-meal crash.
4. It’s an alternative to traditional pasta that doesn’t require extra time or energy. Spiralizing comfort foods (like pasta-based dishes) offers a healthy way to consume old favorites that’s more inclusive of people with restricted diets, but it can also be time- and labor-intensive. With Banza, Cathryn says,”You’re getting a nutritious meal that you can feel better about, but you don’t have to go out of your way to get it. It’s in your pantry, in a box, just like pasta is.”
5. The best part: It TASTES really good! While it’s easy for people to be impressed by the nutritional value of Banza, Cathryn emphasizes that in today’s crowded food space, taste needs to stand on its own. The Banza team has spent the last few months running grocery-store demonstrations to spread the word about their product. “We’ll cook it for people, and they are generally excited about it. But someone who is skeptical will try it with some tomato sauce on it, and they’ll realize it tastes just like pasta,” Cathryn says. “This is the food you can bring to a dinner party and know that everyone is going to like, whether they have a dietary restriction or not.”
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(Photos via Banza)