If you’ve had a poke around my website, or visited my Instagram page, you’ll notice a pretty common theme: I LOVE FOOD! My love of food has been a lifetime in its making and was a major contributor to the down-fall of my health all those years ago. It stems from growing up with a French chef for a father and being a sous chef for as long as I can remember! Since I could hold a knife or whisk I’ve been cutting vegetables and combining ingredients. I’ve also always enjoyed the social, emotional, and physical act of eating as it was the foundation for all our family interactions and traditions.
So how was I going to maintain my love of eating and preparing delicious, flavourful food and not feel like I’d been “robbed”? How could I make the transition to the keto lifestyle sustainable while still scratching the “love-of-food” itch?
Well, the answer really lay in the kitchen, the grocery cart, and on Pinterest! I’ve spent hours pouring over “keto” or “low-carb” recipes finding alternative options that would still provide me with flavour-variety, texture-variety, and fit the marco-nutrient parameters I’d set for myself.
I think here is a good place to mention mind-set as well. For the first couple of years of my keto-journey, I only had moderate success because I DID feel like I was being robbed, or that I needed “cheat meals” to celebrate my piosy during the week. It wasn’t until I truly shifted my mindset and thought of the “limitations” to my diet as a choice – a choice I was making to better my health and well-being for the long term, and one that still included dynamic, varied flavours and textures.
So mindset is a big factor – but I’ll leave it there, as we will be discussing mindset at length in a future post.
So my plan for this article: rather than just post a bunch of recipes on their own, I thought I’d break it down into different types of food and how I’ve achieved different flavours from around the world, both savory and sweet, that fall into low-carb/keto marcos.
Let’s first start with the keto-food pyramid. This is a pretty standard version of what is acceptable in an omnivorous (which I practice) ketogenic diet. You’ll notice that at the bottom of the pyramid is fat: saturated and clean fat. Then it works its way up with fatty-lean meats, then acceptable veggies and berries. The foundation of the diet is rooted at the base of the pyramid with the top being the added variants intended to accent.
Secondly, I got this image from Robert Sykes – someone who I follow closely as my views on health and nutrition align well with his and, though I’m not a bodybuilder, I am keenly interested in optimizing athletic performance while managing good type 1 diabetes control. This is one line of thinking for optimal, clean ketogenic eating and I find it really interesting that he puts quality, high fat meats and organ meats as the foundation – not ounces upon ounces of oil or butter. His approach is more of a whole-food, ancestral approach.
I’m showing you both versions, as I tend to place my protocol somewhere between the two.
So let’s talk flavours. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a stocked spice cupboard and pantry. Here is a list of staples that I always have on hand to create a wide range of flavours:
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Sesame oil
- Bacon drippings
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- White vinegar
- Rice vinegar
- Tamari (or gluten free soy sauce)
- Worcestershire sauce
- Sriracha sauce
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Baking powder
- Monk Fruit sweetener
- Coconut milk
- Coconut cream
- Peanut butter (single (or two if including salt) ingredient, non-GMO)
- Unprocessed salt – like pink hymalayan (you want a full mineral profile)
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Curry powder
- Moroccan mix
- Herbs de Provence
- Bay leaves
From this list it’s amazing what you can create. From Thailand to Mexico, North Africa to France, you can really create flavours from all around the world. This isn’t a complete list, of course, but it’s what I keep fairly stocked in my personal pantry.
So I’ve broken these down into my high-rotation meals falling under 4 categories: Far-Eastern, Southern (USA), comfort foods and sweets. Most of these are on a 2-3 week rotation to keep things fresh and interesting. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a good start to keep a flavourful, dynamic diet that will help you stay on track.
I’ve come up with, tweaked, and found some great recipes that keep the taste buds satisfied and don’t elevate blood sugars much at all. If you are a rice lover, you can substitute it for cauliflower rice. I however prefer to just create a dynamic medley of veggies with various textures to hit the spot with Asian cuisine.
Low-carb pad Thai
I can’t quite remember where I got this recipe from, but it’s morphed over the years I’m sure! The variety of veggies gives a great texture and the Thai flavour is really brought out by using a combination of peanut butter, lime juice, monk fruit and vinegar. Of course the cilantro is key (unless of course you can’t even with cilantro!)
Ingredients: Chicken (I use thighs), shredded carrot, Shredded zucchini, julienned onion, green onion, cilantro, lime, white vinegar, monk fruit, peanut butter, peanuts (crushed), avocado oil, sriracha (optional)
Directions: drizzle oil into wok and add in diced chicken. Once it’s changed colour, add in the onion, carrot and zucchini. Cook for a couple of minutes until soft, but not mushy. Turn off heat. In a separate pot add in 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of monkfruit and stir until well mixed. You can add water if it needs to be more liquidy. You can also add sriracha to add spice, if you wish. Add sauce to chicken and veggies and mix all together. Serve immediately and add crushed peanuts, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime.
I use this recipe all the time during the summer. It’s great for chicken skewers or even as a topper for a lettuce wrap burger at a BBQ. I can literally eat this out of the pot with a spoon!
Ingredients: Peanut butter, water, sriracha, white vinegar, monk fruit (optional)
Directions: Simmer a ½ cup to 1 cup (depending on how much you need) of peanut butter in a skillet with a couple tablespoons of water. Once it’s soft and malleable, add in a dash (start with a teaspoon) of vinegar. Stir well. As you’re stirring add in a nice squirt of sriracha sauce, adapting how much based on your desired spice level. Keep stirring and add in a teaspoon of monk fruit sweetener. I’m a big fan of tasting as you go. If you want more of a tart sauce, add more vinegar. If you like heat, more sriracha. Same goes for sweet. Start with a little bit of monk fruit, you can always add more. I usually end up with about a tablespoon. Finally, you may find it’s too pasty, so add water a tablespoon at a time while stirring until you reach the desired texture.
Szechuan style green beans
This recipe is more of a nod to Chinese flavours. It’s super quick and easy and goes well with any protein you choose. It’s a great mid-week side as it’s done in under 15 minutes.
Ingredients: green beans (you can hand break the stalks or do as I do for time’s sake, and just chop them all together with a knife!), garlic, avocado oil, soy sauce, sriracha, apple cider vinegar, salt.
Directions: Throw beans into a wok with a generous pour of avocado oil. I do this at the same time to avoid the inevitable oil explosion of water hitting hot oil if you heat the oil first (I’d also recommend a splatter guard if you have one). Saute beans until they are bright green, but still crunchy. Add in a generous squirt of soy sauce and about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix well. As the liquid cooks down, add in a squirt of sriracha – I do a zig zag over all the beans, but I like heat. Mix mix mix. As the beans are almost done (you can stick a fork through them easily, but still has a bit of crunch, add minced or crushed garlic and mix throughout. Give it about 30 seconds and turn off the heat to avoid burning the garlic. Add salt to taste, a little bit at a time (may be enough for you thanks to the soy sauce). Serve and enjoy!
Japanese-style beef bites (pictured above)
I created this one myself after enjoying a keto-appy at a local Japanese restaurant.
Ingredients: Steak (thinly sliced), avocado oil, tamari (or soy sauce), rice vinegar, garlic, fresh ginger, monkfruit, avocado, cucumber, toothpicks.
Directions: thinly slice your steak and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 tablespoon of tamari, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, 2-3 diced garlic cloves, 1 thumb of diced ginger, 1 tablespoon of monkfruit into a mixing bowl and mix well. Taste-test and add soy/sugar as needed. Add marinade to the beef and let sit for at least ½ and hour outside of the fridge. While marinating, slice up your cucumber and avocado. Heat wok on high and add the whole marinade/beef mixture. Cook for about 1 minute or to desired beef doneness. Assemble bites with cucumber as the base, avocado after that, then top with the beef. Hold them together with a toothpick, and if you have them you could sprinkle sesame seeds on top! Enjoy!
I’ve never been to Mexico or the southern United States, so my impressions of the flavours come from my exposure at restaurants. I’ve had some great meals that fall into this category both in Vancouver and places I’ve travelled in the US like San Francisco and New York City. Achieving these flavourful comforts is really quite easy – you need a balance of savory, sweet and smoke, with lots of bursting freshness with the sides.
Any “Southern” meal I make will undoubtedly have a coleslaw as either the side, or part of the main dish. I have 2 dressings I typically make, and both also make great dipping sauces for wings etc, if you are a dipper like me (especially sauce 1 – yum!)
Above you see the sauce with some coconut prawns (see recipe below).
Ingredients: avocado mayo, sriracha sauce, half a fresh lime.
Directions: generous dollop of mayo, mixed with a good squirt of sriracha. Mix until there are no lumps and add in the juice of half a fresh lime. Mix mix mix and taste test. Add ingredients as needed to achieve your ideal balance of tart and spice.
Above you see the traditional slaw with BBQed sausage.
Ingredients: avocado mayo, dijon mustard, celery salt (optional), apple cider vinegar
Directions: Add a generous dollop of mayo to a mixing bowl and mix with a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Mix well and add in about a half teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix well and if it’s too “mayo-y” add in a dash more vinegar and/or mustard. Mix until smooth and add in a sprinkle of celery salt if you wish, but it’s perfectly delicious without.
I tend to lean towards dry rubs for adding southern flavour to my cooking, as it’s quick and easy and makes for WAY less prep than making a bbq sauce. Not to say I haven’t and won’t, I’m just saying for time’s sake, dry rubs are easier – ESPECIALLY if you use a slow cooker.
I’ve made everything from ribs to pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken in my slow cooker – each time creating a dry rub, and in the case of the pork and chicken, I add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to add some tartness to the flavour.
Ingredients: tablespoon of each: salt, paprika (smoked if you want that smokey flavour) garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, monk fruit sweetener, then for my taste, ½ teaspoon of ceyan. 2-3 racks of ribes, depending on size of your slow cooker.
Directions: Mix all dry ingredients well and to a finger-taste test, adding sweetener, spice, or salt to your preference. Rub generously all over the ribs and place upright in the slow cooker. Cook on slow for 8-10 hours. Enjoy!
Above pictured: slow cooker ribs with spicy slaw and cauli-mash.
I use the same format for my pulled pork and chicken. With pulled chicken I like to mix thighs and breast as the breast pulls better, but I want the fat from the legs.
Ingredients: a pork shoulder cut or a couple pounds of chicken meat, 1 diced onion, apple cider vinegar, equal parts salt, pepper, morrocon mix or cumin, paprika, garlic powder.
Directions: Mix all the dry ingredients to create your rub, taste testing and adding ingredients as needed (you could throw in some sweetener too I’m sure, but I haven’t before). Rub generously over the meat and place in the slow cooker on a bed of diced onion. Pour in ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and cook for 8-10 hours on slow. Take 2 forks and “pull” the meat apart, creating that shredded texture. You can leave it in the sauce or remove – your preference. I leave mine in the sauce for the flavour to really soak in as it’s stored. Serve over coleslaw or in a low carb wrap/taco shell. I’ve created a “bowl” before with a bed of coleslaw, pulled meat, dollop of guac, dollop of sour cream, cilantro and lime to finish it off. Yum!
Below pictured: pulled chicken bowl.
Low carb tacos
These are a summer staple in my household! I’ve made them with battered prawns, sauteed prawns, “breaded” tilapia and pulled chicken/pork.
For the steps to making the shells, coleslaw, sauces and more, I’ll direct you to the recipe page on my website HERE. Below I’ll talk about different ways to make the protein.
Pulled meat – see above!
Above pictured is a quick sauteed prawn version of summer tacos.
I love coconut shrimp. I haven’t had a ton of success with recreating them though, so I made a quick version out of coconut/almond flour mix, egg bath, ceyan powder, salt and coconut oil. See the pictured above with some dipping sauce!
Ingredients: a large bag of de-veined and de-shelled (or you can do this yourself) raw prawns, 3 eggs, 1 cup of coconut flour, 1 cup of almond flour, ceyan and salt to taste.
Directions: mix all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk your eggs together to create the bath. Heat a generous scoop of coconut oil into a wok or deep dish. Dip each prawn into the egg bath and then coat well with the dry mix. Once all prawns are coated, place them into the oil. Fry until golden and crispy on the one side and then flip (about 1-1.5 minutes). Serve immediately as the topper for your tacos!
The battered prawns are a lot of work – full stop! If you want to make quick tacos, say during the week or just a last minute “sunny Saturday” meal, I highly recommend these quick sauteed prawns. (see above picture)
Ingredients: a large bag of deveined and de-shelled prawns, 1-2 tablespoon butter, 2 cloves of garlic, sriracha sauce, lime, teaspoon of honey or monk fruit sweetener.
Directions: Melt some butter in a skillet and add your prawns. As they are turning pink, add in the minced or crushed garlic. Squeeze a squirt of sriracha sauce and your sweetener of choice. Mix well and serve immediately, with a squirt of lime juice to finish if off.
“Breaded “ Tilapia (or other white fish)
This is a great meal on its own, or as the protein for your summer tacos. I also have used this recipe for breaded oysters, just as an aside, with the zesty spicy mayo sauce. Delish!
Above pictured are some breaded oysters with spicy dipping sauce.
Above pictured: breaded tilapia with my “split-pea” soup (see below for recipe)
Ingredients: 3 to 4 pieces of tilapia, ½ cup of almond flour, ½ cup of grated parm (the powder version of this is way better for this application, not freshly shredded), ceyan powder, salt, 2 eggs, avocado oil.
Directions: Whisk your eggs together to create an egg bath. Set aside. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Take each piece of fish and coat with the egg mix. Transfer to the dry mix and coat well. Once each piece is coated with the dry mix, place in the skillet over med-high heat, flipping after 1-2 minutes or so. Avocado oil has a high heat point so it’s a good oil to use, as is coconut oil (which will add a coconut flavour for sure). Serve immediately and enjoy!
This is a part of this post close to my heart, especially seeing as we’re coming out of a long, isolating winter! Honestly, nailing down a low-carb “mashed potato” alternative out of cauliflower is key, as you can achieve so many different dishes with that comforting dollop of mash such as Dutch stamppot, shepherd’s pie or any fine cut of sunday-comfort-meat. So we’ll start there…
An immersion blender is key for this recipe in order to make light, fluffy, whipped mashed cauliflower.
Ingredients: 1 head of cauliflower, 1-2 tablespoon of cream cheese, salt, pepper, chives (optional).
Directions: Steam your cauliflower until a fork goes through it very easily (around ½ hour). Place drained cauliflower in a bowl and add in the cream cheese. Whip it up really well with the immersion blender until super creamy. Add in salt and pepper to taste and mix in chives if you choose. Enjoy!
Above pictured you see cauli-mash with pork tenderloin and mushroom cream sauce – recipe below.
Ok now that we have that staple taken care of, let’s talk about a European delight that I’ve brought into rotation this winter.
My understanding of this dish is that it’s a “fridge clean-out” meal. I’ll use it for this purpose, or I’ll intentionally use coleslaw mix and kale if I’m planning for it. I’ll lay out the ingredients below for the “planned” version.
Ingredients: 4 – 6 (I usually make enough for left-overs) kielbasa sausages (but any will do), a bag of coleslaw mix, one budde of kale, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 onion, 2 dill pickles, dill pickle juice, cauliflower mash, green onion (optional).
Directions: Cut up and saute the sausage in a skillet or wok on medium heat. Cut up onion and saute with the sausage. While cooking, wash and de-stem the kale. Add it and the coleslaw to the skillet and cook until soft. Add in the minced garlic and mix until the dish is well “garlic-i-fied” (careful not to burn). Now add in the mashed cauliflower and mix well. While cauliflower is heating in the skillet, dice up a couple of pickles. Serve them on top as your garnish with some diced green onion. Drizzle some pickle juice over the dish and serve!
Mushroom cream sauce
This is a favourite for adding to leaner meats for added flavour and fat-macro nutrients. It’s pictured above over pork tenderloin and cauli-mash.
Ingredients: mushrooms, heavy cream, butter, garlic, thyme, sour cream, white wine (optional), salt, pepper.
Directions: dice mushrooms and saute in a pan with a generous dollop of butter. Once soft, add 2-3 cloves of garlic on low heat. Add a quarter cup of heavy cream and simmer until bubbling gently. Add a dollop of sour cream and a tablespoon of wine if desired. Add several shakes of thyme and ½ teaspoon of salt. Taste-test and add salt/pepper as needed. Serve and enjoy!
I use beef for this recipe, so perhaps I should have called it by its true name – cottage pie! Or maybe that’s just a British thing? Anyway, here we go! This is another comfort winter favourite and another use for the ever versatile cauli mash.
Ingredients: 1 kg or 2/5 lbs of ground beef (you could sneak in some chopped up organ meat and disguise it in here too if you like!), avocado oil, 1 can tomato paste, diced onion, diced carrot (1 cup of frozen diced carrot and peas – just don’t use the one with corn), dash of red wine, herbs de provence, salt, pepper, parm (optional)
Directions: heat your oil in a skillet and begin sauteeing your beef. As it’s cooking, prep the rest of your veggies or put the frozen veggies in as the meat is cooking. You’ll want to see that most of the water cooks away. As it’s looking done – beef is no longer pink, or just a bit pink in the middle, add in your can of tomato paste and a dash of red wine. Stir well and add in your seasoning. Once the sauce is ready, place it as your base in a deep dish, either ceramic or pyrex, then top with your premade cauliflower mash. Bake in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes or so, and then transfer to the broiler for the final 5 minutes to get a crusty top. You can add parm at this point if you’d like it extra crusty and flavourful! Let it sit for 10 minutes and serve!
Cauli-broc “Mac and Cheese”
This recipe is SO. GOOD. Like most things, I drew inspiration from a recipe on Pinterest and tweaked/adapted it to my needs and likes. This goes super well with a cut of beef, or with some pulled pork/chicken on top. You’ll see many versions of it on my instagram wall!
I posted the directions on my recipe page HERE, so take a peak there for the directions, but to inspire you, enjoy the photo below! I think the real flavour here comes from the cheese/mustard/garlic powder combo.
Low-carb “split pea” soup
This is one I came up with myself! I had a leftover ham bone from Easter and decided to make a keto version of split pea soup, which I love and miss. It honestly tastes so similar to the original that I bet you I could trick my dinner guests! I should try that when we are allowed to host dinner parties again…
Above: adding the diced ham to the mix.
Below: the finished “split-pea soup”.
Ingredients: bone and leftover meat from a ham, 2 onions, 1 head of garlic, 1 bay leaf, salt, pepper, 1 head of cauliflower, 1 bunch of asparagus (ends trimmed).
Directions: place bone, onion, garlic and bay leaf in a pot and fill with water. Add a generous pour of salt and some peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 hours. Remove the bone and any meat that has fallen off and the bay leaf. Add in the cauliflower and asparagus. Simmer for another hour or until all the veggies are super soft. Remove all the veggies and place in a blender – I use a vitamix. Add broth water until almost full and blend on high until super smooth and creamy in texture. Add to a new pot, or the existing pot having removed any unused stock (throw this in the fridge/freezer for later!). Add in the chopped ham and any more salt/pepper to taste. Simmer on low until ready to serve!
This soup pairs really well with these low-carb cheese scones. Directions are also on my recipe page HERE.
Sweet teeth and desserts
I’m going to just preface this whole section with this disclaimer: I am not a baker! I tend to be more of “a little bit of this” and “a little bit of that” when it comes to cooking. I suppose it comes from the intuitive cooking style I inherited from my father as I grew up. However, I CAN follow a recipe if I need to – and I always do and always will when it comes to baking!
Even then though, I’ve made mistakes which impact the end result. The trick is to be light hearted and have a growth mindset about it!
Take for example this decadent chocolate log cake I tried to make for this blog post. I made mistakes all along the way! Good thing I have great friends I can call in my time of need! Immersion blenders, FYI, are NOT appropriate for whipping up egg whites! LOL
I salvaged it though. It couldn’t roll, as I either baked it too long, didn’t have enough moisture in the damp cloths, didn’t achieve the right consistency for my egg whites OR yolks, may have over folded the eggwhites in…..see what I mean? The result however was still delicious and a wonderful treat for our low-carb Easter meal.
I won’t list the directions, as really, who am I to pretend I’m an expert at making this! I’ll tell you though that I just subbed in monk fruit sweetener for the sugar and it was super tasty and low carb.
Still looks pretty good though, right?
And ya…..it should have looked like this:
Keto-Avocado chocolate pudding
These little treats are right up my alley! There’s no baking, they’re forgiving, and when the proportions are right, taste JUST like chocolate pudding.
I found that the last time I made this, the avocados were too big, so you still got a hint of “avocado” in the background so I’ve said 3 medium sized instead.
Ingredients: 3 medium ripe avocados, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 3 – 6 tablespoons of coconut milk (I used 6, using more of the solid “cream” and just adding a bit of the water as needed for texture enhancement), 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 2 tsp coconut oil, 2 tablespoons of monk fruit sweetener.
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender of your choice – I used a vitamix, which created an insanely rich, pudding texture – and mix until smooth and creamy. Taste test and add sweetener or coconut water as needed. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments as needed. If you don’t want it to be too rich and chocolatey, just cut back a bit on the coca powder.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then enjoy!
Also note for storage: I’d recommend covering with plastic wrap, as the tops will brown and oxidize as an avocado would.
Low-carb peanut butter cookies
These cookies really saved me at the beginning of my journey. I had sweet cravings and programmed eating that I needed to conquer, and these low carb, clean, 3-ingredient cookies really helped. They are fast, easy to prepare, and if you’re having a craving, you can satisfy it with something that falls within your marcos within half an hour, so you don’t need to reach for the icecream! (Don’t keep icecream in the freezer if you can help it!)
Ingredients: 1 cup of organic crunchy peanut butter, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of monk fruit sweetener, salt (optional)
Directions: Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball and has a “dough-like” texture. Roll into 12 balls, eyeballing their size and making them as close to the same as possible. Flatten with a fork and sprinkle with a pinch of salt if you wish. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and let stand for at least 15 minutes or they will crumble.
Note: if you have some mascarpone in the fridge, a little dollop on top is heavenly! I also highly recommend using these cookies as a base with some keto ice cream for a treat, once in a while!
As I’ve already mentioned, baking isn’t my forte. I do love dessert though, so I will leave this section off with a word of encouragement! Don’t be afraid! I’m not, I’ve made lots of fumbles in the kitchen making dessert, and some have worked and some haven’t! Oh my gosh, my cashew icecream was a disaster! It came out as a block of ice. I couldn’t even find a picture to show you!
Really though, the same can be said for all cooking. Every time you make something think of it as an experiment. If it fails don’t let that get you down, just learn from it and hopefully you can salvage the ingredients!
I’ve tasted so many delicious low-carb desserts, granted by professionals, but don’t let this deter you! If you want to try to make a low-carb cheesecake, there are TONS of recipes out there to choose from with nuts and the base and stevia or monk fruit as the sweetener. I’ve had friends bring me low-carb carrot cake, which was sooo good, and have been forwarded a recipe for low-carb pavlova (I’m glad I’ve learned about immersion blenders and egg whites!) which I’ll be trying very soon.
A final word
The secret is, that there’s no secret! Just try to release any fear or apprehension you may have of experimenting in the kitchen. There are a whole world of flavours to experience within the keto space. If cooking creativity isn’t something you feel you’ve been blessed with, there are so many generous people out in the wide world who want to share their own creativity with you. I find it exciting, and all part of the fun. Just search out a food you want to make and include “keto” or “low carb” in the search field and you’ll be amazed at peoples’ creativity.
Please feel free to DM or email me with any questions/comments or feedback! Happy cooking!