Pas-ta sauce for this ZenB pasta review

We love food here at Vegan Mum, and pasta is particularly popular. So when we got the chance to try out a pasta made from yellow peas, it just had to be done. Read this ZenB pasta review to find out how it fared in the Vegan Mum kitchen.

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3 dark green rectangular cardboard boxes lying on a brick floor. Each box is branded in the top left hand corner with the name ZenB pasta, and the name of the type of pasta below it, and an image of the pasta shapes below that. The first box contains macaroni, the 2nd contains Penne, and the 3rd contains fusilli pasta.

ZenB recently sent the Vegan Mum kitchen some samples of their yellow pea pasta products and asked us to try them out. And so, having tried gluten-free pastas before, I prepared myself for drafting a constructive – if not entirely positive – review. But I was in for a bit of a surprise and found myself really enjoying the pasta, the sauces, and the cracker bites they sent along to accompany them.

Read on for the full ZenB pasta review in which I explore the positives and negatives of the ZenB products I’ve tried, based on my experience of cooking with them. Oh, and eating them too…

Editor’s rating: 4.5 / 5

Pros

  • Flavour & texture
  • Straightforward ingredients
  • Gluten-free

Cons

  • Mainly in multipacks
  • Cost, although…

It’s important to know that ZenB sent me these products to try free of charge. However, this review is not sponsored by them and I have been entirely honest in documenting my thoughts about them.

Who are ZenB?

ZenB is a division of the Japanese company, Mizkan. Not exactly a household name here in the UK, but you will be familiar with some of the other brands that fall under their umbrella including Branston Beans, and Sarson’s (yes, that’s right, the vinegar you sprinkle on your chips!)

Launched in the US and Japan in 2019, the ZenB brand was subsequently introduced into the UK in 2020 and their stated aim is to build on plant-powered products and inspire change within the food industry. As a vegan, that sentiment certainly aligns with my own values and it is always my hope that businesses in the sector genuinely commit to achieving it.

The positives

As mentioned in my introduction, I was genuinely pleasantly surprised by the ZenB products I tried. The pasta and the sauces have good flavour and texture, the ingredients lists are reassuringly simple, and as a gluten-free product, I believe it is a really good alternative to wheat-based pastas (and some of the other available gluten-free options too). Let’s look at those positives in more detail:

For the purposes of this ZenB pasta review I tried 3 of their pasta sauces, and 3 different pasta shapes, and they were all good – the sauces were tasty and the pastas retained a nice texture, still with some bite and chew to them. Having read a few negative reviews online about gluten-free pastas, including ZenB’s, I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I really enjoyed all of those that I tried.

My favourite pasta was definitely the fusilli – the penne was ok, but I preferred it when mixed in with a sauce. We had the penne with the courgette and lentil caponata from my Merchant Gourmet cookbook. You can read my review of that cookbook here on Vegan Mum’s Merchant Gourmet’s plant-based cookbook review – it’s one of my go-to recipe books.

I do think the cooking time for the pasta is important though. The Fusilli pasta box says to cook 10 minutes for al dente, and 13 minutes for a softer texture, but I found 10 minutes was about right. Now I don’t like al dente pasta (yes, I know, I’m clearly not a true pasta aficionado) because it just doesn’t taste, well…cooked, but I’m glad I tried this pasta at 10 minutes because I think it would have started to lose its texture if I’d cooked it for any longer. And it didn’t taste underdone, it was perfect.

I also really liked the flavour of the pasta, although contrary to some reviews I’ve read where people say they can’t tell, I do think it is subtly different from wheat-based pastas. But that’s not a bad thing; whilst I could taste the difference, it was still very appetising. And as someone who can really dislike sauces out of packets, I was also pretty impressed by the 3 tomato-based sauces I tried which were well-flavoured, and didn’t have that overwhelmingly ‘long-life’ taste that some products in pouches have.

It may be wise to consider which recipes you use this yellow pea pasta in though if you want to retain the texture. I haven’t tried it, but suspect it may not be right for some of my ‘throw it all in and boil it for a while’ one pot pasta recipes! That said, I think it would probably retain its texture in an oven-based pasta bake with a creamier sauce – I will give it a try and update!


Ground whole yellow peas with skin – that’s it! This pasta really is very simple, and although you may or may not think ground whole yellow peas with skin sounds that appetising, it actually is! And when you consider that some gluten-free pastas contain a mix of several ingredients, including flours, starches and mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, ZenB’s one ingredient pasta is even more appealing.

Similarly, the pasta sauces are relatively short ingredients lists too with no unrecognisable additives, and their very tasty Cracker Bites are also based on the same yellow pea ingredient as the pasta, just combined with a few familiar and unscary flavourings.


So I believe all the products I have mentioned in this ZenB pasta review are gluten-free which makes them a great alternative for people with wheat intolerances. I am not sensitive to wheat gluten, but would happily eat these products anyway – being gluten-free hasn’t made them taste-free, or yum-free either!

The other good thing about having yellow pea as the key ingredient is that these products are also a good source of protein and fibre, and will make useful contributions to your potassium, phosphorus and iron requirements too.


The negatives

Very few things are perfect (except maybe my dog), and it would be great if ZenB products could be a bit cheaper, and more readily available in single packs. Here’s a bit more detail:

I don’t think that any of the products are available singly on ZenB’s online shop. This does mean you have to make a bit of an investment in a few packets without ever having tried them – that’s fine if you find you like the product and want to keep eating it, but not so fine if you don’t! As it turns out, I wouldn’t have been disappointed because I like the pasta, the sauces and the cracker bites, but that’s obviously no guarantee that you will like them. That said, these products have all had a universal thumbs up in the Vegan Mum household, so I’m not alone.

Some of the products do seem to be available in single packets on Amazon, but buying them singly is more expensive.


…it is difficult to accurately compare price because there are so many different brands, types of pasta and all of varying quality. Broadly, multipacks of ZenB pastas are, per 100g:

  • more expensive than your average supermarket wheat pasta
  • less expensive than many other legume based gluten-free pastas
  • more expensive than the average ‘multi-ingredient’ gluten-free pastas, of which many seem to have a lower nutritional value

The ZenB sauces seem to occupy the mid-range price bracket, whilst the Cracker Bites is another product that is difficult to compare, but I think leans towards the higher price bracket.

So they may not be the cheapest plant-based, gluten-free products on the market, but I can vouch for the fact that they have all passed the Vegan Mum taste test! In addition, the products do have some nutritional value too and so you won’t just be eating empty calories.


Conclusion of this ZenB Pasta Review

I guess that because I don’t have a wheat intolerance, I wouldn’t really have thought about regularly eating pastas that weren’t wheat-based. And to be honest, as a result I would have been missing out on a good product that is nice to eat, so I’m pleased that ZenB asked us to try some of their range.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t dubious because I have occasionally eaten gluten-free pastas before, and whilst most products ‘do the job’, they are a poor replacement. But with the ZenB pasta, I think of it as an ‘alternative’ rather than a ‘replacement’. In other words, I will now happily sometimes cook wheat-based pasta, and sometimes cook yellow pea pasta because I think they have their own respective flavours and textures. For me, the yellow pea pasta is at its absolute best with tomato-based sauces and in pasta bakes. However, I will probably stick to wholewheat pasta for my one-pot dishes because I think it’s just that bit more robust.

Getting the cooking time right for the yellow pea pasta was important though. I had read some reviews that say: it ‘turns to mush’; ‘loses its texture’; and ‘has no flavour’. I’m not about to be derogatory about other people’s cooking methods however, but will describe the method I used in case it is relevant:

  • I brought a very large pan of water to the boil, and added a little salt
  • Added the pasta and instead of boiling rapidly as I would with wheat pasta, I turned it down a little to a rolling simmer
  • I stirred it a couple of times to avoid anything sticking to the bottom of the pan, but really kept that intervention to a minimum (and it didn’t stick)
  • I cooked it for the ‘al dente’ finish (for the fusilli for example that was 10 minutes, not 13)
  • Drained it and kept it in a very small amount of its cooking water

Honestly, it was perfect, and kept its shape, texture and flavour.

I thought the sauces were good too, and useful for a quick lunch. Whilst I don’t think they will match a good, homemade sauce, they are great for convenience so I will certainly keep a couple in my cupboard.

And when I first looked at the cracker bites, I wasn’t quite sure how I would use them. This all changed when family came over, however, and we have since eaten them on their own as a great accompaniment to a glass or two of wine, with a splodge of homemade cashew cream cheese with garlic pickle, and my grandson loves them as scoops for hummus and my courgette dip recipe! So, we may have worked our way through a couple of boxes already…

So the tone of this ZenB pasta review is much more positive than I thought it would be! I like the products, think the pastas are a nice alternative, and I will be likely to use those with tomato-based dishes in preference to wheat-based pasta. Just don’t expect it to be exactly like wheat pasta because, in my humble opinion, it’s not.

Thanks ZenB – who knew!

Where can I buy ZenB pasta?

ZenB products can either be bought direct from their online store, or from Amazon. You can link through to either using the buttons below. They do advise that their products are available in some shops too, but I haven’t located any yet.

Penny Barkas


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