KETO BASICS and TOOLS
So, you’re new to low carb eating and the ketogenic lifestyle, have been reading about it, seeing it in the media, watching people on youtube, and now you want to give it a go but you’re not sure what kinds of things to keep in your pantry and cupboards.
There are so many different low carb foods and pantry items you could keep in your pantry, but I have put together a list of the ones that I personally have found the most useful to keep on hand while following a low carb ketogenic lifestyle. I’ve also included some kitchen tools that you may find helpful. For more detailed information on ketogenic friendly foods, see the “Ketogenic Friendly Foods” page.
Read through the Pantry Staples information below or scroll to the bottom for a printer friendly list.
Fruits and Vegetables
If you haven’t already taken a look, go check out the fruit and vegetable sections of the “Ketogenic Friendly Foods” page. There is an array of tasty vegetables that you can eat, some lower in carbs and some higher, but in general, here are my favourite fruits and vegetables that I like to keep in the pantry/kitchen. A few may be seasonal, so not available at all times of the year, but I believe eating fresh and to the seasons is a more natural way to eat. I do cheat somewhat with some frozen fruits though.
- Lettuce and pre-washed mixed salad greens
- Leafy greens (such a kale, spinach, swiss chard, watercress, bok choy)
- Tomatoes (technically a fruit)
- Capsicum/Bell peppers (in moderation)
- Onion (in moderation)
- Cabbage (in moderation)
- Green beans (in moderation)
- Garlic (in moderation)
- Rock melon / cantaloupe (sparingly)
- Watermelon (sparingly)
Salads are quick and easy to throw together. I like to make the bulk of them with mixed leafy greens which are the lowest in carbs and just sprinkle in a smattering of colourful vegetables that tend to be higher in carbs such as capsicum, cucumber, tomato, mushrooms and radish. You can also jazz them up by adding different cheeses, nuts and seeds.
I like to use green beans, courgette/zucchini (spiralized), cabbage (cut into strips) and asparagus spears as pasta alternatives to go underneath pasta sauces like bolognese , alfredo or carbonara, but I would recommend measuring out the quantity as the carbs in these vegetables can add up.
Cauliflower can be used as an alternative for rice, mash potato, couscous, in flat breads and as an ingredient in an array of low carb recipes.
Celery is an excellent high fibre, crunchy snack that you can dunk in creamy dips, fill with cream cheese or peanut butter.
I use onions, tomatoes, garlic and capsicum regularly but these really do have higher carb counts so I tend to use them sparingly. Luckily though, they pack a lot of flavour in small quantities so a little goes a long way.
The list of fruits that I keep in my pantry tend to be restricted almost solely to berries. The carbs in these adds really quickly so I recommend being careful with our quantities. The great thing about berries is that you can keep them in the freezer and bring them out for desserts (e.g. cheesecake) or making a low carb jam any time that you like. On special occasions I might add a few thin slices of rock melon or watermelon to a cheese platter. You’ll also see avocado and olives featuring on the fruits list. These are great on a low carb diet.
Spreads and Condiments
You do not have to skimp on condiments just because you have gone low carb. Many are naturally low carb but there is also a growing array of sugar-free or low carb condiments entering the market. Some people may be sensitive to sugar alcohols or have concerns about artificial sweeteners so be sure to read the nutritional labels and ingredients lists.
- Peanut butter (no added sugar)
- Almond butter
- Reduced sugar tomato sauce (or sugar free if you can get it)
- Reduced sugar BBQ sauce (or sugar free if you can get it)
- Sugar free maple flavoured syrup
- Mustard (dijon, hot English, whole grain, American style)
- Tobasco or other hot sauces like sriracha or buffalo)
- Coconut butter
- Nutritional yeast
- Lemon or Lime juice
- Apple cider vinegar (or other low carb vinegars)
- Fish sauce
- Soy sauce or coconut aminos (sparingly)
- Low carb jam (diet jam if you don’t mind artificial sweeteners) or homemade low carb berry jam
- Kimchi or sauerkraut
- Pickled gherkins or jalepenos (check the nutrition label as some brands add a lot of sugar)
- Himalayan Pink salt
Dairy products are used in an array of low carb recipes, particularly some breads, pastries and sauces. Unfortunately vegetarian alternatives such as vegetarian cheeses, tend to be high in carbs as many are made from beans or high carb nuts. You will not see cows milk on the list as it is high in carbs but instead, our household has gotten used to using either cream or nut milks such as unsweetened almond or coconut milks.
Here is a list of dairy items that I always have on hand.
- Cream (pouring cream in New Zealand, heavy whipping cream in other countries)
- Sour cream
- Cream cheese
- Other cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar/tasty, parmesan, colby, brie, camembert, blue)
- Low carb plain yoghurt or Coconut yoghurt (technically not dairy but an alternative)
Fats and Oils
I believe in consuming a mix of both animal and vegetable based fats and oils.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil (extra virgin and cooking)
- Avocado oil
- Sesame oil
- Rice bran oil (not ideal but I keep this for deep/shallow frying. I would recommend avocado oil if you can afford it)
- Lard or duck fat if I am cooking a lot of asian recipes
- Cacao butter
Nuts and Seeds
You will find that nuts and seeds are used in many recipes as wheat flour alternatives, particularly in baked goods. These are the ones that use the most often.
- Peanuts (whole, butter)
- Almonds (whole, ground, butter)
- Pumpkin seeds / pepitas
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia (whole and ground)
- Flax seed / linseed (whole and ground)
- Sesame (whole, oil)
- Coconut (desiccate, shredded, flaked, butter, oil)
If you are someone who enjoys baking, you will find that most of the flours you have been used to are no longer available on a low carb lifestyle. I bake often and this is a list of flour alternatives I use. Protein isolate powder can also be a good flour replacement in some recipes but it takes some getting used to as it can sometimes result in a sandy or dry texture. I have included vital wheat gluten as I do use this in some of my breads but it should be noted that it does contain a few more carbs than the other alternatives and of course, contains gluten.
- Almond meal (ground almonds with skin)
- Almond flour (ground with skins removed)
- Coconut flour
- Protein Isolate
- Vital wheat gluten
- Flax seed /Linseed (standard and golden) ground
- Psyllium husk (whole and powder)
- Oat fibre
- Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
I keep of variety of sweeteners on hand but these are the ones that I use the most often. I do grow a stevia plant but I would note that if you dry the leaves and make a powder, it will have a green colour to it and will also have a slight bitter aftertaste and on it’s own, it will not add the bulk that you often require for baking so probably better in a beverage or sauce. Also, I have used xylitol and plain erythritol in the past but do not use them as often these days.
- 100% Pure stevia
- Erythritol & stevia blend
- Erythritol & monk fruit blend
- Liquid stevia drops
Meat and Protein
When it comes to meats, just keep the ones in your kitchen that your household likes to eat. Our household contains equal opportunity meat eaters so I keep many different cuts of meat in my fridge or freezer.
I am not a vegetarian but if are and still eat dairy products, then eggs and cheese may be good sources of protein. You can also incorporate protein powder into your diet. There are some vegetarian mycoprotein meat alternatives on the market that my be low enough in carbs to fit into your diet but I have not tried these and therefore cannot and do not recommend these. It is advisable that you do your own research before adding these products to your diet. Also, read the nutritional labels of soy meat alternatives as these can be high in carbs.
- Frozen prawns
- Chicken (thighs, drumsticks, fillets, mince, tinned)
- Beef (steak, mince)
- Lamb (chops, roast, lamb rack)
- Pork (belly roast, chops, bacon)
- Pork rinds / crackle (I eat these instead of potato crisps)
- Fish (fillets, smoked, tinned)
- Deli meats (ham, salami, bier sticks, etc.)
- Sausages, hotdogs, frankfurters
- Protein powders (dairy or vegetarian)
It goes without saying that whatever you like to drink, sugar free and unsweetened beverages are your friend. When it comes to soda pop (fizzy drinks), I mostly add flavoured stevia drops to plain soda water. I also love sparkling water and you can now find it with fruit extracts and no sugar in New Zealand supermarkets. Diet sodas will not affect your low carb diet but you need to do your own research and decide for yourself if you are happy with consuming artificial sweeteners. In our household we will have diet sodas on rare occasions only.
Check out the beverages section of the “Ketogenic Friendly Foods” page for more information.
- Tea, including herbal (no sugar or milk)
- Coffee (no sugar or milk – I use cream and stevia)
- Hot chocolate (sugar free – I use a stevia sweetened hot chocolate)
- Sparkling water (plain or flavoured but with no sugar – I often purchase La Croix)
- Bone broth
- Diet sodas (consume sparingly)
- Soda pop sweetened with stevia only
- Alcohol (spirits and dry wine – consume sparingly or not at all)
General Pantry Items
Here are a few items I keep in the pantry as staples that don’t quite fit into the main categories.
- Xanthan gum or Guar gum (or glucomannan powder if you can get it)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Sugar free chocolate (no maltitol/mannitol)
- Seasoned seaweed snacks
- Shiraki/Konjac noodles and rice
- Stock (vegetable, chicken, beef, fish, pork, lamb)
- Coconut cream (canned)
- Herbs and spices (the ones you like to eat)
- Sugar free Extracts (e.g. vanilla, banana, caramel, etc.)
These are the main kitchen tools and appliances that I keep in my kitchen. They are not all necessary but do come in handy if you are an avid cook.
- Food processor or blender
- Hand mixer
- Rolling pin
- Silicon mat (silpat sheet)
- Slow cooker / crock pot
- Non-stick or iron skillet
- Air fryer
- Immersion/stick blender
- Baking tins
- Muffin pans
- Baking sheet
- Silicon molds
- Waffle maker
- Baking paper
- Good knives
- Meal prep containers