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6 Easy, Paleo-Friendly Keto Substitutes for High-Carb Foods

If you hunt long enough, you can find a keto replacement for almost any food, but a lot of them either rely on non-Paleo ingredients or take forever to pull together. That’s not exactly practical for Wednesday night dinner! So in the spirit of simple keto cooking for busy people, here are 6 workhorse substitutes that don’t take a huge amount of time and money.

Just to be clear: most of these aren’t intended to exactly imitate the taste of grain-based foods. They’re functional substitutes: you can use them to do the same thing that the grain-based foods used to do in your cooking. Vegetable noodles are a substitute for wheat noodles because you can load them up with lots of alfredo sauce and meatballs and have a satisfying meal, not because they taste exactly the same.

1. Zucchini noodles (4 grams net carbs per 2 cups) for wheat pasta (73.3 grams net carbs per 2 cups)

You can buy zucchini noodles all pre-noodled in grocery stores now (and you don’t have to go spend half your paycheck at Whole Foods: even mid-range stores have them now). Or you can make your own with a cheap handheld spiralizer – the upfront cost is about $20, but in the long run you’ll save money compared to buying pre-spiralized noodles at the store.

Zucchini noodles are delicious with tomato sauce and meatballs, with creamy white sauce (a great way to get more fat in your diet!), or with basically anything else you’d normally put on pasta. They also go really well with Asian flavors.

Recipe: Keto Zucchini Noodles with Tomato-Basil Sauce

2. Riced cauliflower (2 grams net carbs per 1.5 cups) for rice (79 grams net carbs per 1.5 cups)

Rice is an amazingly easy way to rack up a lot of carbs in a very little package. As anyone who’s ever eaten Chinese or Indian takeout knows, it’s very easy to plow through a whole lot of rice, especially if it’s covered in some kind of delicious sauce.

The keto solution: keep the delicious sauce, add more butter (because everything’s better with more butter), and put it over riced cauliflower instead! Riced cauliflower is just as good as a sauce absorption vehicle. It can give texture to a soup just like regular rice, and it can double for rice in stuffed peppers or other recipes. You can buy pre-riced cauliflower either fresh or frozen, or rice it yourself in a food processor.

Cauliflower bonus: you can also whiz it up in a blender and add plenty of butter and/or heavy cream to make a great mashed potato substitute.

Recipes: Keto Creamy Mashed Cauliflower, Coconut Curry Shrimp with Cauliflower Rice

3. Stevia (0 grams net carbs per tbsp.) for sugar (12.5 grams net carbs per tbsp.) – if you need a replacement at all

Sweeteners are always a tricky question when you’re eating for good health, and a lot of people


Love coffee but need to quit adding sugar to it? Try a splash of coconut milk for some healthy fat instead.

just psychologically do better without any sweeteners. Even 0-carb, 0-calorie sweeteners just get them craving the real deal. If that’s you, the best substitute for sugar might be “getting used to your food being less sweet.”

But if the taste of sweetness doesn’t cause you any psychological issues, stevia is probably the best of the 0-carb options:

Stevia looks like the best of the 0-carb sweetener options – again, that’s if you absolutely have to have a sweetener at all.

Recipe: instead of a recipe with stevia, have one for a dessert without any sweetener: Keto Chocolate Almond Butter Fat Bombs.

4. Lettuce wraps (1.3 grams net carbs/4 leaves) for sandwich bread(31.6 grams net carbs per 2 slices

Sandwiches are such a basic staple of lunch food that it’s almost hard to imagine how to do

without them. But take your cues from sandwich companies, some of which now actually offer lettuce wraps on the menu as an alternative to bread.

To make it work: use a flexible type of lettuce (butter lettuce, bibb lettuce, or green/red leaf lettuce often work better than Romaine, since Romaine tends to have those thick, inflexible stalks – Swiss Chard also has really big, flexible leaves that could work perfectly here). Don’t be afraid to make several smaller wraps instead of trying to cram an entire sandwich-sized amount of filling into one wrap.

You can make wraps with your favorite sandwich fillings (roast beef, horseradish, and cheese; tuna salad; turkey slices with pickles and mayonnaise) or you could fill the wraps with any other type of thing that sounds tasty.

Recipe: wrap a lettuce leaf around this Keto Tuna Salad.

5. Pork rinds (0 grams net carbs per 1 ounce) for potato chips (13.7 grams net carbs per 1 ounce)

(For reference, 1 ounce is about the size of the snack bags that you get out of vending machines.)

Crunchy snack food is one of the biggest things that people miss on Paleo or keto: without popcorn or chips, it might seem a little bleak. But if you’re craving that crunchy snack, no need to turn to deep-fried carbs for an answer. Just pick up some pork rinds instead! Pork rinds are high in fat and protein (and since they’re made from the skin of the pig, those proteins have a lot of collagen and other good stuff we don’t get enough of in the modern world).

The recipe for this one is super simple: buy pork rinds, open bag, dig in and enjoy!

6. Ground almonds (4.3 grams carbs per ½ cup) for breadcumbs (21 grams carbs per ½ cup)

Need to batter something and fry it? Something like, say…a delicious fillet of fish, or maybe a nice slice of liver? Throw out the breadcrumbs and grab some ground almonds – the carb count is a lot lower. You could also do this with any other nut of your choice (for example, hazelnuts have 2.6 grams of net carbs per ½ cup ground; pecans have 2 grams).

Another alternative is coconut flakes (2.9 grams carbs per ½ cup of shredded unsweetened coconut). Make sure to get unsweetened! Don’t let a surprise sugar bomb in your coconut derail your keto train.

Recipe: Mustard-Crusted Chicken Drumsticks

What’s your favorite fast, simple kitchen substitution to use in keto-friendly recipes? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Photo of Ashley Noël

Hi I’m Ashley, I’m an ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach

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