Do you remember when you opened your first cookbook or recipe box as a child? Remember how confusing it was to try to determine the difference between t for teaspoon and T for tablespoon? Do you remember asking your mom or grandma over and over again ….which sugar is confectionary and which is granulated? How about all purpose vs self-rising flour? Entering the low carb cooking and baking arena can be just like starting completely over again as a young chef! Everything seems foreign. Everything is new. Everything is confusing. So where does a “young-at-heart” chef start?
I understand those feelings all too well. I went through two years of testing and retesting before I could really say that I made desserts that I actually liked. I went through about a half dozen different sweeteners (and wayyyy too many flour combinations). My first two years of low carb cooking and baking can be called expensive and time consuming at best—and disastrous at worse!
So in this article I have compiled my favorite 15 Tips for the New Low Carb Baker…sort of a “what I wish someone had told me” right off the bat. I hope these tips help you save time, money, ingredients, and headaches!
Below are links to the ingredients I use in my recipes. I am an affiliate for Amazon.com. If you click on the links below I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support of this blog!
1. If you are a picky eater, like I am, it will be hard, no extremely difficult, to find things you like at first! There are some antidotes for this (see below!), but the first key is to stay away from sugar and flour long enough so that you kind of/sort of/almost don’t mind things that do not taste like “the real thing.”
2. If you do not mind sucralose (Splenda) in small doses and aspartame (Nutrasweet) in very small doses, there are some ready-made products out there that you might want to have on hand for “those times.” (Oh, and don’t believe anyone who tells you that there are not “those times”!) (If you are a purist, that is great, just skip this number. I have gone from a complete Diet Coke addiction to very little in the past few months, so I already know that these sweeteners are not the best for us and seldom use them myself.)
For some low carbers, these things include Russell Stover’s sugar free candy, sugar free hard candy, Lily’s chocolates (stevia-sweetened candy bars!), sugar free chocolate chips (these are actually good!), sugar free pudding and jello cups, sugar free ice cream and ice cream treats (many of those are not on THM or palelo for sure). Some Atkins and low carb followers like Atkins candy bars and treats, but these are made with sugar alcohols that some people avoid. (Also, some sugar alcohols give people tummy trouble—have you ever read the hysterical post about sugar free gummy bears???
This tip is a controversial one because, probably like you, I have had doctors tell me that Diet Coke is perfectly safe, and I have seen articles about how terrible it is for you. I have personally experienced bad side effects from aspartame (severe restless leg syndrome—and, might I add, don’t let anybody tell you that restless leg syndrome is just itchy legs!). Splenda doesn’t bother me, but there is some unfavorable research on it as well. This blog doesn’t give medical advice (trust me…I am an English teacher/author, not a health care professional!).
3. I see the advice all the time for people to try their favorite recipes but with low carb ingredients (almond flour, flax, coconut flour, stevia, etc.). This is almost always terrible advice. The non-grain flours do not act like regular flour, and the liquid stevia and even many non-liquid healthy sweeteners do not act like sugar. (See my Low Carb Flour Chart here.)
4. When something is made 95% of egg, it tastes like egg. Don’t let anybody tell you that it is a bread, a crepe, a tortilla, or, heaven forbid, a cookie. It really isn’t. Now, when you add cream cheese, it is definitely getting better. (But it still isn’t a cookie.)
Sugar free cream cheese frosting makes many average things yummy!
5. Don’t try too many new baking products at one time. I was desperate to feel better (pre-diabetes and carb intolerance), and I jumped in whole-hog (okay, whole bacon!) and changed my grocery shopping entirely. Didn’t like coconut milk or cream. Couldn’t get anybody to even smell the almond milk. Couldn’t take most coconut flour products (too dry).
Cookies made completely of flax? Cookies should never be made entirely of one of the lesser trading card commodities in the game of Pit!
If I could tell people a few things to start with, it would be as follows: great sweeteners (see below), finely ground almond flour, cream cheese, pecans, shredded sugar free coconut, sugar free chocolate chips, eggs, glucomannan or xantham gum (both for thickening), and half and half and/or cream. You can add to your list as you find recipes that call for certain things—and after you find the *magic number* of treats that you need to be able to make/have on hand in order to make this woe be a way of life. (Let’s be honest—we all want to change our eating—what do you have to do or be able to eat in order to stay on a healthy eating plan and not continually fall off the wagon because you miss certain foods so much?)
6. Find the very best bulk sugar-free sweetener that you are comfortable with, can afford, and like.
This is really the first key to making low carb goodies. Even if you adore almond flour and almond milk in every combination, if you get a sweetener that you do not like, your low carb creations will be terrible.
Many people who are used to the Standard American Diet (SAD) cannot just put away our Baskin Robbins and Hostess and love stevia. It just doesn’t seem to happen that way.
The sweeteners that people rave the most about that are healthy (let’s face it, Splenda is really yummy in baked goods!) include xylitol and erythritol. (Xylitol is fatal to dogs…as in really fatal. Thus, many families choose to not have it in their homes at all since Fido sometimes grabs Johnny’s brownie.)
Xylitol and erythritol are both known as “bulk” sweeteners. This means that they measure and act like granulated sugar. They don’t taste exactly like regular sugar, but they are easy to get used to and make pretty yummy treats.
I personally like Pyure—a granulated sweetener made from stevia and erythritol that measures ½ cup per every cup of sugar. It goes further than other natural sweeteners and can be used in recipes calling for bulk sweeteners. (See my Sugar-Free Solutions Chart here.)
Use low carb breads in a variety of ways! Here are my yummy savory low carb croutons! They make the best Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad!
7. With the best bulk sweetener you can find on hand, think about what treats you like that do not require flour. (I know…that is hard to do.) However, I will tell you that starting off with non-flour treats will give you items that taste the most similar to those that you used to enjoy (that were non-flour).
Here are some ideas (Google or Pinterest these for exact recipes):
1. Cream cheese whip (like the inside of cherry delight—remember that yummy Christmas treat?). This idea assumes that you can use dairy. This little “starter,” if you will, consists of cream cheese, bulk powdered sweetener (whirl eryrithol or xylitol in coffee grinder), vanilla, and whipped whipping cream. From there, the possibilities are endless (again, depending on your woe). (See my amazing Cream Cheese Dessert Base here!)
i. Use with sugar free pie filling and a nut crust for your own low carb version of cherry delight. (Or just sprinkle nuts over the top—forget the crust. Yum!)
ii. Whip the starter with some peanut butter and fold in chocolate chips.
iii. Spread the starter in a bowl and top with a sugar free jello cup, strawberries, and pecans.
iv. “Fry” one of Joseph’s low carb pitas in butter, sprinkle with cinnamon-Pyure (or whatever sweetener you use), and when cool, spread this mixture and some sugar free apple pie filling or half an apple chopped and microwaved with cinnamon and sweetener. Cream cheese, apple pie elephant ear anybody?
v. Sprinkle in chocolate chips and pecans for a crust-free type of cannoli (okay, sort of).
vi. If you are getting a little savvy with some baked goods, have it in any of the above combinations inside low carb crepes or on top of low carb Oopsie rolls. (Or even rolled up inside Mission Low Carb soft tortillas shells.)
2. Buckeyes or “reese’s bars”—make a peanut butter mixture (like a Buckeye filling—peanut butter, vanilla, sf bulk powdered sweetener; cream cheese optional) roll in balls or press into a flat casserole dish. Melt sf chocolate chips or sf chocolate bar or sf skinny chocolate/chocolate fat bombs over the peanut butter mixture (or roll balls in it). Let harden. Christmas candy any time of the year!
4. Homemade sugar free ice cream
5. Cut Joseph’s pita or Joseph’s low carb lavash into circles or squares, brush butter and sweetener on the pieces. Crisp in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl for thirty second intervals until crispy. Spread peanut butter between two of them. Pour melted sf chocolate chips, chocolate bar, skinny chocolate, etc. over them. Let them harden for a Girl Scout cookie/E.L. Fudge knock off!
7. If you don’t mind using sugar free pudding cups (or make sugar free pudding with half and half), you can come up with a pretty good treat. Layer with whipped whipping cream.
i. Peanut butter pudding—make a peanut butter/bulk powdered sweetener/vanilla mixture. Press into bottom of dish. Pour vanilla pudding over it. Top with whipped whipping cream. Sprinkle peanuts on top;
ii. Pecan Cream Pie—almond flour pie crust or chopped pecan crust or low carb tortilla crust (bake til a little crispy) with vanilla pudding mixed with pecans. Topped with whipping cream;
iii. Butterscotch pudding treat: mix butterscotch pudding with broken up flourless peanut butter cookies and cooked diced apple. Top with whipped whipping cream;
iv. Chocolate “Pie”—break up flourless peanut butter cookies or use almond flour crust or chopped pecans or low carb tortilla partially crisped in bottom. Top with chocolate pudding, peanuts, and whipped whipping cream.
Low carb tortilla shells—not just for savory!
8. Don’t overlook low carb products that are readily available and can be used to create easy low carb treats. For example, we use Joseph’s pitas and lavash bread, Mission low carb tortillas, Healthy Life low carb breads, and Trader Joe’s seven grain sprouted bread (low carb) in many of our savory dishes. Additionally, you can create some sweet treats with these:
i. Elephant ears—fry pita or tort triangles in butter and sprinkle with sweetener and cinnamon (and for a real treat—dip in sf apple pie filling or sugar free caramel sauce;
ii. Make “cinnamon-sugar toast” out of low carb bread (for a real treat, swirl sf icing over it!);
iii. Make peanut butter toast and swirl sf pancake syrup over it;
iv. Toast sf bread or pitas or lavash, top with sf pie filling, and whipped whipping cream;
v. Cube low carb bread into small cubes; toss with low carb sweetener and butter. Crisp in oven until like croutons. Toss cooled cubes with peanuts and sf shredded coconut. Melt peanut butter and sf chocolate chips together and drizzle over mounds of the cube/peanuts/coconut mixture. Or drizzle over in a bowl and break up for a crispy sweet snack;
vi. Use the lavash or torts to make a type of cannoli filled with low carb sweet filling;
vii. Use lavash or half a pita to make a cinnamon-buttery-crispy bowl (fry in butter and form; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar) for ice cream;
viii. Crisp lavash or pitas or torts in a skillet with butter. Sprinkle powdered bulk sweetener over them when you first remove them. Use them, along with strawberries, nuts, and coconut to dip into “fondue” created with sf chocolate chips and peanut butter mixed and melted together.
I don’t use almond flour alone. I can’t quite reconcile using handfuls of almonds per serving for a baked good—we would never sit down and eat that many handfuls of almonds! Almond flour is extremely calorie dense and fatty. (I know it’s a real food—and that is good, but wowsers!) Thus, I feel better using a combination.
Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Fudge!!
10. If you do want to try some favorite recipes made into low carb , consider these pointers. (These are good pointers for those wanting to try low carb recipes they find on Pinterest too. These tips will keep you from trying something that you might not like!)
i. Look for recipes that are lower in flour to start with (regular almond flour/low carb recipe or a recipe-revamp you are attempting)—or have a lower flour-to-other-ingredients ration. I have found that a cookie that has four cups of flour in it vs. a cookie that has one or two cups of flour in it makes a huge difference in whether we like it or not. (Also, if you are using almond flour or other expensive flour, it cuts the cost down.)
ii. Look for recipes that are lower in bulk sweetener. (Obviously, not ones that use honey or applesauce instead of the sweetener since those are high carb options.) My family likes less of the sweetener taste in their treats. Again, you will save money too!
iii. Along that same line, look for recipes that have other ingredients in them to drown out the almond flour and sweetener taste somewhat. These “additions” include cream cheese, sour cream, zucchini, pumpkin, shredded/pureed carrots, diced apples or low carb fruit, peanut butter, etc. (Even pureed black beans may be used for part of the flour with less noticeable differences!) (See my Power of Dilution article here.)
Some of my favorite low carb baked goods are pumpkin and zucchini muffins (and banana muffins made with one banana and banana extract and sour cream), cream cheese muffins, zucchini chocolate cake, black bean chocolate cake, quinoa chocolate cake, peanut butter cookies and bars, cream cheese pancakes, chocolate chip cream cheese bars, and cheesecakes. These all have less flour and sweetener with the additions of the yummy ingredients listed above. Plus, those additions are healthy!
iv. Try the recipes in small quantities. I just threw a dozen muffins out because I could only get twelve of them down over a three week period, and nobody else liked them. I wish I had just made a dozen to start with. Once you find some tried and true recipes, you will go back to those over and over again. And—need I say it again—you will have healthy substitutes for Twinkies or zebra cakes, and you will stay on your way of eating much better.
v. Try some Muffins in a Mug or Cake in a Mug. These generally use less flour than some baked goods. Again, look for these smaller versions of recipes with cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, peanut butter, etc. I know I like them better.
Low carb biscuits are pretty good with cream cheese, cheddar, and garlic added to the recipe!
11. Do not expect for things to taste just like they used to! I doubt I will ever make a low carb brownie that has the texture and even similar taste to my favorite boxed version. I know I will not eat any low carb version of chocolate chip cookies that are like my daughter’s. There are things that will never be duplicated, and I have come to accept that.
Sugar-free jello, whipping cream, and pecans!
12. Speaking of being duplicated, the very easiest treat to duplicate in a sugar-free/grain-free/low carb way is definitely cheesecake. (Again, it doesn’t rely on flour or sugar as its main ingredient!) And since you can find sugar free chocolate. And since berries are low carb and healthy. Low carb cheesecakes are truly the most similar treat to regular versions.
13. If you find something you like, make it in large quantities and keep in the freezer to grab any time. I don’t use a lot of “treats” every day, but I do use a couple. Right now in my freezer I have pumpkin muffins, banana nut muffins, peanut butter cookies, cream cheese chocolate chip bars, oopsie bread, biscuits, chocolate cupcakes, and crepes. I have berries in my freezer. And bowls of Cream Cheese Dessert Base in my fridge. I am ready for nearly every temptation (except for Harlan donuts, Baskin Robbins ice cream, DeBrands sundaes, and my daughter’s chocolate chip cookies!).
14. Try recipes from one of my cookbooks! ? my first recipe book, Sugar-Free Solutions, is free here at my blog to download. It has all kinds of recipes for things that are traditionally made with sugar, such as chocolate candy, sauces, syrups, powdered and brown sugars and much more. It is a good place to start when you have no idea what to do to replace sugar. It also has a chapter on many sugar substitutes, describing the best points of each one and which ones to avoid. My second book, Sugar-Free, Flour-Free, has fifty recipes using healthy bulk sweeteners and no flour at all (including no almond flour or coconut flour). It’s a great book for holiday goodies!
15. Don’t give up! There are so many times in the past five years of low carb cooking and baking that I said I was going to get rid of all of my low carb baking products and go on a low fat diet—like I did twenty-five years ago when I could eat all of the angel food cake, fat free ice cream, and saltines I wanted to! But I have kept persevering. And while I used to go off my woe frequently, the more I have learned to cook and bake low carb, the less often I deviate from plan. And the more consistently I lose weight—and the better I feel.
Note: Trying to go sugar-free? Here are some helps for you:
- My free Sugar-Free Solutions downloadable book
- Learn about Plexus Slim and how it helps curb sugar cravings here!
- Request a free sample of Plexus Slim here!
Here are all of the ingredients that I have talked about in this article…all in one place!