We’ve gone far past the steak-and-greens era when it comes to low-carb eating.
Today’s discriminating keto diner has an increasingly wide circle of options, as creative chefs have learned to keto-ize nearly every cuisine you can think of.
Keto-Friendly Rice: Beyond Cauliflower
Rice is a big part of many cuisines, especially those from Asia. And that can be a problem, since all types of rice—including such healthy varieties as brown and black—come with carb counts that put them far beyond what’s allowed on any low-carb diet.
Riced cauliflower, now widely available in food stores, has been the keto dieter’s go-to substitute. But after a while, that can get a little, uh, dull.
Fortunately, there are other rice subs, some of which you can create yourself with a food processor.
Rutabaga, for example, is an old-school root veggie that has only 9 grams of net carbs per cup, along with tons of minerals and vitamins C, E and K. Cabbage, in the same family as rutabaga, also has a low carb count and, again, a lot of nutrition. (Butternut squash is another nutritional superstar, but at 21 carb grams a serving, it may be tough to manage on a keto diet.)
The other option is shirataki rice. Also called “miracle rice,” it is a soluble fiber taken from the root of the Japanese konnyaku plant. Shirataki does have a bit of an odor straight out of the package, which you eliminate by rinsing and blanching it.
For chef Kelly Tan Peterson, coauthor (with her husband, Dan Peterson, MD) of Keto East (Cooking Inspired by Love), the hard part was finding substitutes for noodles and “sugary, starchy sauces” common in much of Asian cooking.
“Zucchini and other squash can be made into noodles,” Tan notes. “Other options are shirataki noodles, pure kelp noodles or tofu noodles.”
These substitutions work for Italian pasta dishes as well. What’s more, Italian food isn’t all pasta; go to a higher-end Italian restaurant and you’ll find antipastos based on meats and cheeses, plenty of marinated or grilled vegetables and all sorts of seafood dishes.
Another noodle substitute is tofu skin, a film that forms on soymilk boiled in shallow pans. Find the dried sheets in Asian markets and rehydrate before using.
In addition, Tan’s recipe for hoisin sauce—the bottled stuff “is full of sugar and preservatives”—uses unsweetened almond butter and the natural sweetener xylitol to produce a version that she says “tastes better and is low carb and diabetic-friendly.”
A number of cuisines employ breading or flouring in preparing meats or vegetables, such as veal scallopini. Almond flour, flax meal or grated Parmesan cheese make good substitutes. And while legumes, also prevalent in dishes from around the globe, are healthy, they aren’t low carb; use green beans or cubed eggplant instead.
In this country, Mexican food is often thought of as tacos and nachos. But Torie Borrelli, author of The Mexican Keto Cookbook (Ten Speed), points out that “traditional Mexican cuisine is high in healthy fats and proteins, and lends itself well to a ketogenic diet.”
The foods commonly identified with Mexico that Borrelli leans toward include avocado (she suggests cutting avos in half, removing the pit, scooping out some of the flesh, pouring in an egg and baking); cacao, which is processed at much lower temperatures than cocoa; epazote, an oregano-like herb; lard from pasture-raised pigs, which she says is full of omega-3 fats and vitamin D; tomatillos, which look like hard, green tomatoes in papery husks; and (of course) chiles of all kinds.
Do you eat globally? You can sample the planet and keep to a keto diet.
Turmeric-Spiced Cauliflower and Broccoli with Capers
“I believe most people think of mushy steamed veggies when presented with cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli,” says Borrelli. “Roasting is an easy way to prepare delicious veggies for the week without having to do much.”
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
3 tbsp slightly melted ghee* or avocado oil
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup capers in water, drained (rinse, if in salt)
2 tbsp olive oil for finishing
1 tsp mustard seed powder (optional)
*Clarified butter; butter heated to remove the solids for an essentially dairy-free product
Cilantro Yogurt Dressing
Borrelli suggests selecting the yogurt you use in this recipe carefully; many commercial products are made cheaply and quickly with all sorts of thickeners and other additives. “Good yogurt is made with live cultures, which create probiotic bacteria,” she says. “Choose only organic plain yogurt, preferably 100% grass fed, and the more fat the better.”
3/4 cup full-fat Greek-style yogurt
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp rice wine or champagne vinegar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 jalapeño, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Makes 1 cup
Source: The Mexican Keto Cookbook. Copyright © 2019 by Torie Borrelli. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.