13 Best Keto-Approved Thanksgiving Foods
If you’re following the keto diet this Turkey Day, you don’t have to cheat to enjoy most of your favorite Thanksgiving foods. Many of them are completely keto-friendly, while most of the others require only simple changes.
Turkey Day without turkey would be a sad holiday indeed. Great news for ketogenic (keto) dieters: Turkey is entirely keto-friendly. Spice rubs and marinades are also typically keto-friendly. Just avoid any that use sugar or flour. “If you reach for turkey, grab a leg instead of a breast, since dark meat is higher in fat,” recommends Lindsey Bristol, MS, RD, of Swanson Health. Check out the 10 unexpected health benefits of the keto diet.
While guests gather, keep them occupied with snacks and bites that happen to be keto-friendly, too. A charcuterie board, complete with meat, cheeses, olives, and pickles, is a great option for everyone. You can also pare down to a simple cheese board with crackers for them and vegetables for you. “A charcuterie board or cheese board with some crudités and dip are great choices for appetizers,” says Diane Sanfilippo, a certified nutrition consultant and author of the upcoming Keto Quick Start cookbook. “Stuffed mushrooms made with pesto and mozzarella instead of breading are a great choice as well.”
You may be considering a soup course with butternut squash soup, but Anna Cabeca, MD, a keto-alkaline and keto-green expert, recommends swapping that higher-carb option for a “great pumpkin soup that is very alkalizing and low in carbs.” Dr. Cabeca says, “For this soup, you can add curry powder and crushed black pepper and mix it in with some beef or bone broth, and that’s perfect.” If you’re bringing a dish to the meal, you may want to cook one of these keto diet recipes that are so good, you’ll forget you’re on a diet.
Some families forgo turkey on Thanksgiving, preferring instead to put a ham at the center of their holiday table. Ham, in most cases, is also keto-friendly. “If you add ham to your plate, just be sure to avoid the outer edge if there’s a sugary glaze,” Bristol says. Hams are sometimes served with a syrupy glaze on the side. Skip that entirely, and choose a spicy mustard or creamy mayonnaise instead.
Most salads are safe territory for keto eaters, but steer clear of croutons, crunchy fried onions, or any other toppers that raise your carb count. “You can have a green salad topped with a wholesome salad dressing,” Dr. Cabeca says. “Olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and salt make a beautiful salad dressing that adheres to keto guidelines.” Check out these 10 classic Thanksgiving foods that are healthy and delicious.
You’re not going to be able to eat the traditional Thanksgiving gravy. The classics often include flour or cornstarch for thickening, two items on the no-no list for keto eaters. But there’s something even better than gravy that you can pour over your turkey: jus (or the turkey’s natural juices and fat that drip out during cooking). “Opt for the jus from the pan itself,” Sanfilippo says. “Spoon some pan drippings directly onto your portion of turkey instead of the flour-laden gravy.” You can also get a little creative and make your own gravy, says Summer Yule, MS, RDN, a health educator and advocate. “Keto-friendly gravy can be made with bone broth thickened with gelatin and egg yolk,” she says. “Butter is added for richness.”
Deviled eggs are made with hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and sometimes a bit of pickle relish, all of which are keto-friendly. That means these two-bite sides are approved for keto eaters on Thanksgiving, according to Stephanie Lincoln, founder and CEO of Fire Team Whiskey, and a former captain with the Florida Army National Guard who created a fitness and eating plan to help military members, first responders, and veterans get fit and healthy. You can play with your deviled-egg flavors, too. Add a bit of heat with hot sauce or a pickled jalapeño slice. For a smoky flavor, sprinkle on paprika or smoked sea salt. Read what it’s really like to follow the ketogenic diet.
“For veggie sides, stick with leafy greens and other lower-carb options like steamed broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, and cauliflower,” Bristol says. “Avoid vegetable casseroles, which tend to be carb-heavy.” If you want a bit of keto-friendly flavor, you can wrap the vegetables in bacon or cook them in bacon grease and serve with crumbled bacon. “Enjoy crumbled pork rinds as a crunchy, keto-friendly alternative to bread-crumb toppings. They have zero carbs,” Bristol says.
These petite cabbages are A-OK for keto eaters. What’s more, Brussels sprouts are great when roasted in a high-temp oven: They turn crispy and brown. Brussels sprouts are also delicious when pan-seared in bacon fat in a cast-iron skillet and served with chopped bacon. “Bringing your own low-carb options that are delicious will not only make you feel great about sticking with your plan,” Lincoln says, “but you may impress your skeptical friends and family and possibly convince them that this low-carb thing may be a great way to live.” Prep by learning the 13 things most people get wrong about the keto diet.
If no Thanksgiving is complete without a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, look to keto-friendly cauliflower puree instead. “It’s a perfect swap for mashed potatoes if you want the smooth, creamy texture without the carbs,” Sanfilippo says. Yule suggests adding heavy cream to your cauliflower puree, which ups the satiety factor and your fat count, plus a bit of butter for richness.
Luscious, rich creamed spinach is almost always keto-friendly. That’s because the main ingredients—spinach, butter, garlic, and, of course, heavy cream—all get the keto check of approval. Altogether, this is a side dish you can really dig into. Just double-check that the cook makes the creamed spinach without cornstarch or flour, both of which can add hidden carbs. Make sure you know these 15 things before trying the keto diet.
You can’t have a classic roll or bread slice—they can have 20 grams of carbohydrates or more—but a keto-friendly low-carb biscuit made with almond or coconut flour may fit nicely on your plate. Such low-carb biscuits are often denser than traditional rolls, so one is likely all you’ll want; that’s just as well, since these biscuits are only low-carb, not no-carb.
Pumpkin fat bombs
While the pie is a no-go, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a Thanksgiving Day–inspired dessert to cap off your delicious keto Thanksgiving meal. Fat bombs are often made with cream cheese, coconut butter, or coconut oil. For a pumpkin-pie-flavored variety, you can try a no-sugar-added low-carb pumpkin puree, as well as spices and healthy-fat-rich pecans. Check out 13 things doctors want you to know about the keto diet.
Thanksgiving items that aren’t on a keto menu
No question that there will be some classic Thanksgiving dishes you’ll have to skip when you’re filling your plate. Starting with “all the stuffing and all the pies,” Dr. Cabeca says. Stuffing, whether it’s made with bread or corn bread, is off the menu. And most pies will be loaded with sugar. Avoid the marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole and cheesy potatoes gratin. Green bean casserole, thanks to the onions and thickened cream of mushroom soup, won’t make the cut. Neither will that jiggly gelatin salad your aunt brings year after year. “One thing that I always tell my clients is to definitely eat some greens before [the main meal] so you’re satisfied, not hungry, and cravings are diminished,” Dr. Cabeca says. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these 14 impressive before-and-after pictures from people on the keto diet.