Over the years, I’ve become an expert at ketofying things. Seriously, I can find a way to make a keto version of anything. A large part of that is my imagination, and, of course, google. But, I owe my keto success in large part to the items I keep on hand at all times. These are those items *Law & Order voice*
There are two key components of maintaining a keto diet, in my opinion: figuring out a way to enjoy your favorite flavors that your palate still craves and getting in all the fats you need to truly make a diet ketogenic. A keto diet is, after all, a high fat diet.
While meats and veggies are the star of your diet, I like to think of the other items—oils, seasonings, accompaniments, etc.—as the supporting cast. What's a movie without its supporting cast? When it comes to my diet, most of my supporting cast come from my pantry. They are, in no particular order:
1 // Pork Rinds
When you chose this keto life, you sadly had to kiss breaded foods goodbye. Or did you? If you’re missing the crumby coating of some of your favorite foods, I want you to run to the store right now and get some pork rinds. Light and fluffy, pork rinds crumble very nicely in a food processor or blender and provide just the right texture to replace bread crumbs and panko in a recipe. I use pork rind crumbs to coat everything from eggplant parmesan to chicken nuggets and I don’t miss the bread crumbs one bit. When cooked, the pork rind crumbs give whatever they’re coated in a very satisfying crunch.
But wait, there’s more! Pork rinds pull double duty here as a substitute for chips! Their shape makes them perfect for dunking in your favorite dips, and they provide that crunch factor that’s often missing in keto for some reason. If you’re not sold on pork rinds yet, I have three words for you: Pork Rind Nachos. Thank me later.
2 // Coconut Milk
Talk about a keto staple. Coconut milk can be used in place of regular milk or heavy cream in most situations, and can also be added to curries and stews to provide a little sweetness along with its creaminess. One of my favorite ways to cook with coconut milk is to braise collard greens. Yum!
Another cool thing I just learned I can do with coconut milk? Make yogurt! All I need to do is add probiotics (something else I always have) and a little patience, and breakfast is complete without having to go to the store. I love this because most yogurts have way too much sugar for me to be comfortable eating on a keto diet.
3 // Coconut butter
Have you ever had this delicious substance? If not, go on Amazon and order some right now, where you can get two jars for what you’d pay for one in a regular store. Coconut butter singlehandedly quenched my craving for sweets in the days before low carb was popular and I could grab a pint of Halo Top at any store. Similar in texture to peanut butter, coconut butter provides a hint of sweetness and packs a bunch of fats with very little carbs. I’ve been known to grab a spoonful of coconut butter at the end of the day when I realize that a) I really want some dessert and b) I need more fats for the day, and it hits both targets beautifully. When I’m really craving something sweet and decadent-feeling, I mix coconut butter, cinnamon, a splash of vanilla extract, a pinch of sea salt, and the smallest amount (I’m talking about ¼ tsp) of maple syrup together and eat it with a spoon. Yum.
4 // Avocado Oil/Coconut Oil/Olive Oil/Sesame Oil
These are my go-to, shelf stable fats. The first three, avocado, coconut, and olive oils, are great for cooking at various temperatures. I use the avocado oil when I want a more neutral flavor, the olive oil for most sauteeing, and the coconut oil when its flavor profile complements something I’m cooking, such as Caribbean or Asian foods. I typically use the sesame oil as a dressing or a finishing oil, as it shouldn’t really be heated. There isn’t really much explanation needed on why these are included on the list—I don’t know how a person could possibly be keto without a good supply of good fats in their life.
5 // Lite Salt
If you’re just starting a keto diet, especially, lite salt is your friend. This seasoning, which is lower in sodium but fortified with magnesium and potassium, provides you with the electrolytes your body needs in a low carb, high fat diet. Ever heard of keto flu or carb flu? Or even worse, had it? It’s that initial exhaustion/sluggishness you get when you first switch to a lower carb diet until your body gets used to burning fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates. That sluggishness is due, in large part, to your body not getting the electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium) it would usually get from foods such as bananas, whole grains, or processed foods, which contain a ton of sodium. Using lite salt to season your food ensures you get the electrolytes your body needs to keep carb flu at bay.
6 // Lakanto Golden
There are many sugar substitutes out there, but this one happens to be my all-time favorite. For one, it’s all-natural, being that it’s derived from monkfruit and erythritol (a sugar alcohol that does not affect blood sugar). I try to stay away from fake sugar, which can cause a whole host of problems. Two, it has zero net carbs, which makes it perfect for a keto diet. Three, it tastes just like regular sugar! I have never been one to tolerate the fake sugar taste and I abhor the flavor of stevia. I mean really, can’t stand it. Although I don’t use it that often, Lakanto Golden helps me stay the keto course when I’m trying to make certain recipes that require sugar, such as keto mug muffins or shoyu eggs.
7 // Apple Cider Vinegar/Red Wine Vinegar/White Vinegar
ACV has been all over the interwebs the past few years as some cure-all tonic. While I don’t know about that, it certainly has a host of benefits, least of all being clear skin and improved digestion (as a GERD survivor, I’ll ALWAYS include digestion-boosting components in my life). But, most importantly, vinegars pack a serious flavor punch. I’ve singled out these three vinegars because I use them the most, but really, any vinegars work. The reason I’ve included these on a list of keto items is because they are great, shelf-stable items that can help you whip up a simple marinade or salad dressing at a moment’s notice when combined with one of the oils from above. I use the white vinegar in particular with avocado oil and an egg to make a quick, two-minute mayonnaise that’s packed with keto goodness without any weird unhealthy additives. Try it!
8 // Nutmeg
Ok, this also isn’t technically a keto-specific item. However, if you’re anything like me, once you stopped eating carbs, you started filling your plate with a LOT of leafy greens. (And if you haven’t, you should!) I grate some fresh nutmeg into every pot/pan that I use dark leafy greens in. A dash of nutmeg (just a dash!) eliminates the bitterness of greens such as spinach, chard, or kale without changing the flavor profile.
9 // Rao’s Marinara Sauce
This one is a holdover from my pre-keto days. I would, at all times, keep a jar of spaghetti sauce in my pantry because a big pot of spaghetti is so easy to whip up when you’re hungry, but tired. When I went keto, I thought my spaghetti days were (mostly) over, as tomato sauce has a bunch of carbs. Then, I found Rao’s. I don’t know how they do it, but this sauce is lower in carbs than most other marinaras, clocking in at 4 net carbs per serving. Works for me! My two favorite ways to use Rao’s are to add a serving to pre-cooked meatballs and zoodles (zucchini noodles), or “eggs in hell,” a simple, spicy version of a shakshuka.
(Pssst...Want to know all the keto foods you should be eating? Download the free Ultimate Keto Foods Guide for a comprehensive list!)
These are my keto pantry staples that I can’t live without. My super overloaded pantry contains more items, of course, but while those things rotate, these nine are always in stock. What items do you keep to help you stay keto? Share your wisdom in the comments!