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Low-Carb Specialty Ingredient Guide

Psssst – Don’t miss my handy Guide to everyday low carb shopping and prepping!

 
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While I do my best to limit the number of ‘specialty’ ingredients that I call for in my recipes, there are a few indispensable ingredients needed in every low carb kitchen. Once you pick up these few items that I call for consistently, you’ll be ready to make every recipe in my cookbooks or on my sites without worrying that you’ll need to buy something new for every recipe. (There are many more low carb ingredients out there on the market, to be sure, more every day, but I find it MUCH easier overall to stick to just those few that I consider tried and true.) This is not intended to be an inclusive guide or a glossary to all the many low-carb ingredients available. This page is meant to help you understand and source the ingredients that *I* call for in *my* recipes.
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To be successful at any eating plan, you need to ENJOY your food and not allow yourself to become bored. If you can’t find an ingredient that I call for in a local store, it’s always available online.  Many times, it is cheaper to order online and have it delivered than than it is to waste time hunting for it, anyway – so, here are some recommended sources (only vendors whom I actually shop with myself and can therefore recommend to you without reservation.)
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Nuts, nut meals, nut butters, unsweetened grated coconut, and seeds –  Plan on keeping nut meals refrigerated or frozen as they will go rancid in warm/moist weather. Nut meals, also referred to as nut flours, are generally interchangeable in recipes. I use walnut and pecans meals often, for variety. I also keep hulled, unsalted sunflower and pumpkin seeds on hand, along with roasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and macadamias. Recipes which call for nuts in my books generally call for whichever nut you prefer, then include nutritional data for the first listed recommendation – so it is probably best to just stock up on the types of nuts and seeds YOU prefer.
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Protein Isolate –  Soy isolate is recommended for lowest carbs and best texture, but that’s just my opinion and many peolple avoid soy for health reasons. You can also use wheat isolate or plain whey protein powder or plain whey isolate. Brands I have used and can recommend: soy: Naturade 100% soy protein booster / NOW Foods Soy Protein Isolate / whey: Designer Protein natural flavor NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate
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Protein Powder – Vanilla is called for in some baked goods in both editions and is better known as shake mix. Chocolate shake mix is called for in some recipes, too. Powders with a mix of soy, whey, and egg protein in them seem to work best as a general rule. Whey-only powders can result in a dryer texture. **Many of the mixed-source protein powders have disappeared – I recommend blending a whey-based with a soy-based powder for better results than using just either type alone – that’s how I do it in my own kitchen.
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What really matters: Isolates should be zero-carb. Protein powders (shake mixes) are calculated in the cookbooks as having 6 carbs per cup (on labels, typically expressed as 2 carbs per scoop).  Keep in mind that if you bake up something with the texture of a tennis ball, a different brand of protein powder may be the simple cure. I am sure many brands work well besides those I have listed, and many others do not – experimentation is the only sure way to find out and I can only do so much of that myself. EAS 100% Protein whey-based protein powder can usually be found at Wal-Mart, grocery stores, etc. Designer Protein whey-based protein powder is more easily found online or places like GNC. CarbRite Diet Smoothie is one of the only still-available mixed-protein source powders I know of. It costs a bit more but tastes and works well in both shakes and baking.
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Dixie CarbCounters Thick It Up,  or guar gum –  I originally called for ThickenThin NotStarch in many sauces, casseroles, and condiments, and provide some general guidelines in the Intro for substituting guar gum instead. ThickenThin has been discontnued by the manufacturer. I have tested and recommend Carb Counters Thick It Up Low Carb Thickener in its place. Both cookbooks have been revised to remove all mention of ThickenThin and now call for Thick It Up instead. (USE JUST HALF THE AMOUNT IF YOU ARE COOKING FROM AN OLD COPY.)
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Splenda granular – Called for in both books but recipes can be easily converted to use Fiberfit or another sweetener. I specify granular Splenda in all my sweet recipes because it is easiest to find nationwide and measures the same as sugar, making my recipes easy to convert to ANY sweetener. I use Fiberfit in all of my own cooking, because it is my preference and because it results in lower carbs with more fiber to mitigate the impact of the carbs that are left.
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Maltitol powder and syrup / Maltitol-sweetened chocolate –  I call for these products only when needed for successful outcome of  recipes that rely on their ability to caramelize. Very limited call in Volume I, and occasional call in Volume II recipes. You can probably substitute maltitol crystals for powder, but I choose to limit my own use to the powdered and syrup forms. As far as maltitol-sweetened chocolate bars, I do call for those in a few dessert recipes, usually chopped, but you can find them almost EVERYWHERE these days! Steel’s Gourmet Nature Sweet maltitol powdered and syrup available from both Low Carb Connoissuer and Netrition.
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Oat, wheat, barley and rye flours or pumpernickel meal –  oat and whole wheat called for in bake mixes and asst. baked goods in Vol 1. All varieties called for in various bread recipes and baked goods in V2. Netrition now carries almost everything you’ll need in this category, and King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill are other good sources for whole grain products. I buy lots of my own whole grain flours from BulkFoods.com.
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Powdered whole milk – You can find Mido brand at Wal-Mart. It comes in a yellow can with Spanish writing on the label and is found next to the powdered buttermilk (which you should NEVER use for anything, especially my dressing recipes – fresh buttermilk is both cheap and plentiful!! Always buy the richest (thickest) buttermilk you can find.) Organic varieties can be found, and are recommended.
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Sugar free syrups and flavoring extracts – I call for 0-carb syrups a lot, and usually recommend one flavor but say you can really use whatever you like. My favorites include vanilla, french vanilla, chocolate, white chocolate, cherry, raspberry,  and banana. Pineapple and coconut syrups and extracts always come in handy if you like those flavors- if not, you probably won’t be making those recipes that call for them, anyway. DaVinci Gourmet syrups cheap from Netrition! Some flavors also available at Super WalMarts, Sam’s Clubs, etc. Natures Flavors syrups and flavors available direct. Other brands out there – do NOT use one with aspartame.
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Soy flour – Called for in a few of the lowest carb baked goods in Volume 1, but there is a soy-free bake mix option in that book. I did away with it altogether in Vol. 2 due to health concerns. Easily found in grocery and health food stores. Goes rancid easily – best stored refrigerated or frozen, as are foods made with it.
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Unsweetened dried fruit – Health food, bulk, and natural food stores. Make your own with a food dehydrator. Just Tomatoes sells lots of plain dried fruits and vegetables.
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Vital wheat gluten – Called for a lot in both editions. Check the grocery or health food stores – not always called “vital”, this is never 0-carb –  more like 24 carbs per cup. CHEAP SOURCES don’t always work! I think bulk suppliers take shortcuts, and the Chinese are known to counterfeit protein source… beware.
 

That’s about it for specialty ingredients in my recipes – plenty, I’m sure!