The best keto-friendly meals, according to chefs

ShutterstockMaking keto-friendly meals can be delicious.

If you’ve spent any time online during the last couple of years, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the ketogenic diet, an eating plan centered around healthy fats and low carbs with the goal of urging your body into a state of ketosis, a metabolic condition that optimises your fat-burning and energy-converting capabilities.

But like many trendy diets, the keto plan can easily feel overly restrictive … and, to be honest, kind of boring. However, plenty of chefs view the popularity of keto as an enticing challenge, inspiring them to come up with creative and flavorful eats that follow the keto diet’s regulations. We asked six chefs to share their favourite keto-friendly meals, along with a few words of guidance for anyone eager to give the keto life a try.


A burger loaded with bacon fits into the keto rules … with a few modifications.

One of the biggest appeals of the keto diet involves its embrace of “fatty” foods; most diets require you to bid farewell to burgers and bacon, but the keto plan allows you to keep those savoury treats in your life…with a few minor adjustments.

Chef Peter Sherman of BarBacon in New York City told us that “arguably the best part of the keto diet is the fact that you still get to enjoy the goodness of all things bacon,” and at BarBacon, he’s determined to “satisfy the keto dieter’s every need without [making them feel] like they have to totally restrict themselves.” In order to keep keto customers happy, he offers up dishes that feel indulgent while still adhering to the diet’s guidelines, like his BarBacon “Burger.”

How It’s Done:

To make the BarBacon “Burger,” grill up a ground-beef patty, then top it with a piece of honey mustard-glazed bacon. Replace the bun with a lettuce cup, then add bread-and-butter pickles for an extra dose of tanginess.


Cauliflower rice makes the perfect base for a “keto bowl.”

Fascinadora/ShutterstockAdd avocado too.

Cauliflower rice serves as a prime alternative for grains, particularly when used in an entree “bowl.” Chef AJ McCloud of Southern California-based fast-casual Mexican restaurant concept Tocaya Organica features bowls anchored by cauliflower rice on his menus, telling INSIDER that “two of my favourite keto food options are cauliflower rice and avocado. Both of these ingredients are amazing for the keto diet, or [for] incorporating into any diet.”

How It’s Done:

Layer seasoned cauliflower rice at the bottom of a bowl, then top with sautéed tri-colour peppers, avocado, sautéed garlic brussels sprouts, Roma tomatoes, black olives, arbol salsa, and your choice of protein.


Packed with healthy fats and protein, eggs are total keto MVPs.

ShutterstockEggs can be used in a million different ways.

Eggs don’t get a lot of fanfare from culinary tastemakers … but this workhorse ingredient fulfils pretty much every requirement of a keto-friendly food item. They’re loaded with healthy fats, they’re protein-rich, and they’re totally carb-free.

For all these reasons, chef Craig Rispoli of fresh&co uses eggs as the base for his popular Keto Energy Bowl. “[The Keto Energy Bowl] contains five simple ingredients and provides a nutritious meal for those who adhere to the keto diet. The avocado, bacon, and cheese are high in fat content, the eggs are a great source of protein, and zucchini is one of the few low-carb, keto-friendly vegetables,” Rispoli insisted.

How It’s Done:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Next, layer 8 oz. zucchini noodles, 2 eggs, 2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese, 3 pieces of cooked all-natural pork bacon, and 1/2 an avocado in a skillet. Cook in oven until the eggs reach your desired doneness.


Ceviche with chicharrones is a refreshing and delicious keto entree perfect for summer.

1000Photography/ShutterstockYou don’t need to eat red meat to be keto.

During hot weather, light and invigorating dishes become more desirable than ever. If you want a meal that conjures up these descriptors while still adhering to the keto rules, a ceviche topped with crispy chicharrones may be just the thing.

“It’s possible to offer keto options without relying on [red] meat,” executive chef Christian Frangiadis of Spork in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania told INSIDER. “Our cold ceviche with hot chicharrones on top is not cooked in fat. We’ve also replaced the typical citrus [used in ceviche] with fermented tomato water, [lending an extra level of refreshment].”

How It’s Done:

Make tomato water by slicing 2.2 lbs of tomatoes and adding .75 oz. of salt. Place in a vacuum bag or a Ziploc bag and allow to sit at 82 degrees Fahrenheit for five days, “burping” the bag as needed. Process the tomatoes and liquid and strain through a cheesecloth. Save the water and reserve the pulp for another use.

Make the chicharrones by combining 1 lb. pork belly, ½ gallon water, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. oregano, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1/4 cup orange juice in a Dutch oven. Boil until the liquid evaporate. Add oil to a skillet and bring up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then put pork in the oil and heat until brown. Cut the fried pork belly into 1″ chunks.

Make ceviche by mixing 1 lb. of fresh diced fish (Corvina or mahi-mahi are suggested), 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup fermented tomato water, 1/2 cup pickled forest mushrooms, 3/4 cup pickled red onions, 3/4 cup diced red bell pepper, 1/4 cup diced shallots, 1/4 cup diced jalapenos, 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, 1 cup plum tomatoes, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper.

Scoop ceviche into a bowl and top with warm chicharrones.


Cookies aren’t totally off-limits on the keto diet- just keep them protein-packed and low-sugar.

Shutterstock/smspsyThey need a few modifications.

Keto diet naysayers often cite the plan’s lack of sweets as a reason to reject it altogether. However, a few clever adjustments can allow you to follow a keto lifestyle while still enjoying desserts. Dietitian and nutritionist Lauren O’Connor uses protein powder to bolster her keto-friendly macaroons.

How It’s Done:

Mix a scoop of protein powder with 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, 2 tbsps date syrup or maple syrup, 1 pinch sea salt, and 3-4 tbsps mini dark chocolate chips. Fold in 1/4 cup whipped egg whites. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden-brown.


Protein + green vegetables + generous spices = an ideal formula for a nourishing keto meal.

Jeff Greenberg / ContributorMaking your keto meals high in protein will help keep you full.

When it comes to keto meals, sous chef Nick Cripps of JW Marriott Chicago has a simple credo: “Keto meals focus on high fat, moderate protein, and low carbs. Oftentimes, people want simple, cheap, and easy meals that they can fit into their busy lifestyles.”

To fulfil this criterion, Cripps likes to whip up smoked paprika chicken breasts, which he serves with zucchini noodles and a kale salad. “This menu is healthy and a perfect fit for someone on a keto diet,” Cripps insisted.

How It’s Done:

Rub a 6 oz chicken breast with 1 tbsp smoked paprika and salt & pepper to taste. Warm a saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. When the oil is heated, add chicken breast. Cook for 9 minutes, then flip and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove chicken breast from heat and rest for 5 minutes.

While the chicken rests, add 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, and one minced shallot to the saute pan. Saute over high heat, then add 1 zucchini cut into ribbons. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Prep the kale salad by adding 1 bunch washed, de-stemmed, and finely chopped curly kale, 1 sliced avocado, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste to a large bowl. Use your hands to massage the ingredients together for 1 minute, then allow to rest at room temperature. Top with 4-5 halved cherry tomatoes and 1/4 shaved Parmesan cheese.

Add cooked zucchini ribbons to a plate, then top with sliced chicken breast. Serve the kale salad on the side.

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