Enjoy the weight-loss benefits of the keto diet without so many restrictions with these indulgent, easy, low-carb, “dirty keto” recipes and advice from chef Monya Kilian Palmer…
In recent years, I discovered that many people, just like me and my husband, have never been slaves to a ‘macro-tracking app’, [which is often recommended when embarking on a keto diet, to make sure you know just how many carbs you’re getting].
We began our journey by simply educating ourselves on which foods to avoid and which to enjoy. We kept those carbs super low and ate only when we were hungry. I am not saying that macro-tracking apps aren’t useful, I am simply saying that we never used one and we still enjoyed success with the keto lifestyle. This more relaxed approach is what I understand as “lazy keto”.
About 10-12 months into our keto journey, we realised we were eating only once a day: we had become intermittent fasters most days of the week without even planning to. However, we did, and still do, occasionally indulge in food that is popularly referred to in the world of keto as “dirty” keto food.
In many cases, “dirty” keto is unavoidable. If a friend goes to the effort of making me a lovely low-carb dinner, I am not going to interrogate her on what she included in the marinade she used. Keeping carbs consistently low is core to keto. To loosen up a little and have some fun, though, I have unapologetically reached for some convenience foods, such as pepperoni or sugar-free syrup in some recipes.
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic lifestyle gets its name from a process in the body called ketosis [not to be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a dangerous condition that can affect those with Type 1 diabetes and occasionally Type 2].
Ketosis is a natural state for the body to be in, and it simply means a person is using fat as a fuel source as opposed to glucose from carbohydrates. The by-products of this process are called ketones, a chemical produced by the liver when it breaks down fat for energy. Ketones may be present in the body after periods of fasting and in those following a ketogenic lifestyle.
Remaining in this state of ketosis will, over time, result in weight loss as the body taps into fat stored and consumed as its primary energy source. [This is why a strict keto diet is usually under 30g carbs per day, high in fats and with moderate amounts of protein].
As well as weight loss, those following a keto lifestyle can enjoy increased energy and mental clarity due to the reduction in blood-sugar spikes throughout the day.
What is dirty keto?
The easiest way to explain ‘dirty’ keto is to talk about processed food. With the keto lifestyle, there is special emphasis on eating ‘clean’, so keeping processed foods to a minimum. Processed food refers to food that has been altered from its original form.
It is good practice to look at the food labels when shopping. Not only will this enable you to calculate whether the carbs are worth it, you will be able to check whether there is gluten or sugar present, both of which are often found in low-carb products.
Neither wheat nor sugar are suitable on keto, but many people sometimes bend the rules, because they do not have gluten intolerances or can allow for trace amounts of sugar by including them in their daily macro count. This is known as“dirty keto”. Things such as vegetable oil, processed cheese and meats, alcohol and soy fall into this category.
In some of my recipes, I include items that may make the keto police shudder. However, I do not like to refer to my recipes as completely ‘dirty’, because I still care about overall health. To achieve nutritional balance, I always make sure there are nutrient-rich ingredients present in the dishes where processed items feature, so you still get all your micronutrients.
Dirty keto meal plan: 4 recipes to try
These recipes are perfect for weekend meals – just leave as long as possible between your evening meal and breakfast or brunch, so you benefit from the blood-sugar-balancing effects of intermittent fasting. Plus when you have high-fat, low carb meals, you can often go longer between meals as you feel fuller.
Brunch: Savoury Waffles
Waffles do not always need to be sweet! This recipe makes two waffles (in my waffle maker) and the macros shown are per waffle, excluding toppings.
- Calories: 310
- Carbs: 5.5g
- Protein: 21g
- Fat 22g
- 2 servings
- 4 eggs, large
- 110g cream cheese, flavoured
- 25g almond flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Toppings/garnishes of your choice
- Whisk together the eggs and cream cheese in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour and baking powder. Add this dry mix to the eggs and whisk well to create a smooth batter. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Grease and preheat your waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then pour in the batter and cook until done. Opening the waffle maker too soon can ruin them; I always open mine about 1 min after it tells me they are ready. Remove the waffles and enjoy.
- You could simply serve with melted butter and a scattering of salt flakes or herbs, but I love them with mozzarella and prosciutto. You could also try avocado and ham, or crispy bacon and no-added-sugar ketchup
Lunch: Battered Fish with Tartare Sauce
I sorely missed my local pub’s battered fish after going keto! Can you imagine my delight when these beauties came out so fabulous? My keto batter is crispy and so light. I have provided a quick, easy tartare sauce that can be enjoyed alongside, and you won’t miss the chips!
- Calories 543
- Carbohydrates: 8.7g
- Protein 27g
- Fat 44g
- 2 Servings
- 2 white fish fillets, boneless and skinless
- 1 egg white, large
- 1 tbsp double cream
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder (or use 2x8g sachets)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- Ghee, for deep-frying
- 1 tsp psyllium husk powder
- Salt flakes, salt and ground white pepper
- Small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, to garnish
- Lemon wedges, to serve
For the tartare sauce:
- 70g mayonnaise
- 15g capers, finely chopped
- 15g gherkins or cornichons, finely chopped
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, fresh and finely chopped
- Begin by making the tartare sauce. Simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Remove the fish fillets from their packaging and pat dry using paper towels. This step is essential to allow the batter to adhere to the fish.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white, cream, arrowroot powder, baking powder and paprika ,and season.
- Add enough ghee for deep-frying to a medium-sized saucepan and place over a high heat until it is very hot. Before you start frying, make sure you have a plate lined with paper towels at the ready, as well as a slotted spoon or spider strainer.
- Once you are ready to deep fry, whisk the psyllium husk powder into the bowl of batter. If your batter is left to stand for too long, the psyllium husk powder will thicken the mixture too much, so it’s important to do it at the last moment. (If it does over-thicken, just whisk in a small dash of cream or egg white to loosen it up again.)
- Working quickly, season the fish on all sides with salt and ground white pepper, then dip the fish into the batter and allow any excess batter to run off. Carefully lower the fish into the ghee. Spoon the hot ghee over the top of the fish as it is deep-frying, then gently flip the fish over. Frying fish like this won’t take very long (approx 2-3 mins, but thicker pieces may require slightly longer cooking times).
- Once the fish is golden on all sides, remove with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towel-lined plate.
- Serve immediately to ensure the batter remains crispy, seasoned with salt flakes. Scatter over some chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges and the tartare sauce.
Dinner: Decadent Vegetable Gruyère Bake
- Calories 508
- Carbohydrates 6.8g
- Protein 12g
- Fat 48g
- 6 servings
- 350g cauliflower florets
- 300g broccoli florets
- 2 tbsp butter, unsalted
- 180g mushrooms, sliced
- 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 420ml double cream
- 130g gruyère cheese, grated
- Pinch of paprika
- Salt flakes, salt, ground white pepper and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 6. Trim the cauliflower and broccoli florets into even-sized pieces, but keep them separate from each other.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the cauliflower. Boil rapidly for 3 mins, then add the broccoli. Cook for a further 5-6 mins until all the florets have softened but still retain their shape. Drain well in a colander and allow to steam off completely (this prevents a watery bake). Once this is done, transfer the vegetables into a medium-large ovenproof dish.
- Meanwhile, melt 1 ½ tbsp of the butter in a non-stick saucepan over a high heat. Add the mushrooms and fry for 5-6 mins until golden and caramelised. They will release some moisture, but continue to fry until this has evaporated. Add the remaining butter, along with the thyme leaves and garlic. Cook for 1 min until the garlic softens, stirring continuously to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Pour the cream into the pan and cook for 3-4 mins to warm through and reduce a little. Stir in three-quarters of the grated gruyère and season with the paprika, salt and ground white pepper. Pour the creamy mushroom mixture over the vegetables in the ovenproof dish. Mix well to combine, using a spatula to press the vegetables down to ensure they are mostly submerged in the cream. Scatter over the remaining gruyère and bake for 25-30mins, cranking the oven temperature up to max for the last few mins if needed to ensure the cheese gratins beautifully.
- Just before serving, season with salt flakes (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper.
Dessert: Chocolate Mud Pie
This dessert is loosely based on a French silk pie. You can have it super-silky by removing it from the fridge an hour before enjoying or more ganache-like by enjoying straight from the fridge.
- Calories 690
- Carbohydrates 8.7g
- Protein 9.9g
- Fat 68g
- 8 servings
- 190g dark chocolate (85 per cent cocoa), broken into small pieces, plus 10g grated, to decorate
- 120g butter, unsalted
- 450ml double cream
- 60g powdered erythritol, sifted
- 2 eggs, large
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
For the base:
- 120g almond flour
- 2 tbsp powdered erythritol, sifted
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 50g butter, unsalted
- 2-3 drops of liquid stevia (optional)
- Begin by making the base. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/gas 6 and grease a loose-bottomed 18cm tart tin.
- In a bowl, mix together the almond flour, erythritol and cocoa powder. Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and add the liquid stevia (if using). Pour the melted butter into the almond flour mixture and stir well. Tip into the tart tin and press down to form an even, compact layer on the base and up the sides of the tin. Bake for 12 mins, then cool completely in the tin on a wire rack. Once cooled, carefully remove the tart from the tin and place on a serving plate or cake stand.
- To make the chocolate filling, place the chocolate pieces and the butter in a small, non-stick saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted. Set aside to cool to room temperature.4In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to whip together the cream and erythritol until the mixture forms soft peaks. Transfer half of this sweetened whipped cream into a second bowl and set it aside for the chocolate cream topping.
- Pour the melted chocolate into the first bowl of whipped cream and continue to mix with the hand mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing between each addition until the mixture is almost mousse-like. Immediately tip this mixture into the cooled tart case.
- To make the chocolate cream topping, clean the whisks on your hand mixer, then whip the cocoa powder into the reserved bowl of sweetened cream until it forms stiff peaks. Gently spread this mixture on top of the mud pie and decorate with the grated chocolate. Leave to chill in the fridge for 3-4 hrs before enjoying.
For more dirty keto advice and recipes, check out Lazy Keto Kitchen by Monya Kilian Palmer (£14.99) – out now!