In case you missed it, the ketogenic diet continues to be a popular lifestyle for many reasons. It can promote weight loss, diminish sugar cravings, and lower the risk of diabetes. But while it's true that going keto means cutting back on carbs in a major way, that doesn't mean you're doomed to a life without your favorite foods. It just means you have to get a little creative. (That's where we come in!)
To help you enjoy your low-carb lifestyle, we've rounded up the best ways to enjoy keto Thai food. Along with some simple tips on making your favorite Thai dishes keto-friendly at home, we're spilling the (low-carb) beans on how to order when dining out, plus some recommended dishes that you can eat without compromising your keto goals.
6 Tips for Making Keto Thai Food at Home
Making your own meals is by far the best way to know what you're eating and control your portions. To add some Thai flavors to your keto meal plan, follow these six steps and get ready to satisfy your cravings.
1. Use Low-Carb Noodles
The easiest method to make keto-friendly versions of your favorite Thai recipes is to use low-carb noodles. Sure, you could try shirataki noodles (if you don't mind the fishy smell and jellyfish-like texture) or zoodles (if you're OK with the mushy consistency).
But we'll let you in on a little secret — you don't have to settle for less when it comes to keto-friendly noodles. Exhibit A: immi instant ramen noodles. These low-carb, high-protein noodles taste great, have the chewy texture you know and love, and won't kick you out of ketosis.
Oh, and they also happen to be totally plant-based and have a good amount of fiber. (FYI, protein and fiber increase long-lasting feelings of fullness, which is crucial for weight management.) We rest our case.
2. Choose Low-Carb Rice Alternatives
Much like all the low-carb noodle alternatives available today, there are plenty of low-carb options to replace the usual fried rice in many Thai dishes. You can try cauliflower rice, broccoli rice, and even zucchini rice.
3. Focus on Protein
Protein is central to good health and it's also low in carbs. Whenever possible, focus on high-quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free protein sources such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon (loaded with omega-3 fatty acids), chicken, and pork. For meatless protein, choose tofu, eggs, and edamame. Yes, these items might cost a little more, but your health is worth it.
4. Cook With Healthier Oils
Whether you're whipping up chicken pad thai or some other delectable Thai recipe, be sure to cook with healthier oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil. Not only do these oils add flavor and a better mouthfeel, but they also contain essential nutrients like omega fatty acids, which fight inflammation and obesity.
5. Load Up on Keto-Friendly Veggies
One of the great things about Thai cuisine is the ample use of veggies. While it's best to keep starchy veggies like potatoes off your plate, it's hard to overdo it with green vegetables like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, kale, cucumbers, asparagus, broccoli, and kale. Green bell peppers, green onion, green beans, eggplant, and bean sprouts are also good options, although they are slightly higher in carbs, so just keep an eye on quantity.
6. Try Coconut Aminos
Instead of loading up on soy sauce (which is fine in moderation), consider using coconut aminos. They're keto-friendly and have a very similar taste to soy sauce.
7 Tips for Ordering Thai Food on the Keto Diet
While making your own meals is ideal, it's not always possible. And let's face it — sometimes you just feel like going out for a meal or getting some yummy takeout or delivery. To help you stay on track, here are some helpful (and healthful!) hacks that are sure to keep you keto strong:
- No rice, please: Many Thai dishes are made with rice or come with it on the side, so just say no. You can also ask for an extra serving of veggies instead.
- Avoid fried stuff: Fried foods like tempura vegetables and shrimp are usually breaded in carb-loaded wheat flour, which is a definite keto no-no. (Although we made an awesome low-carb avocado tempura ramen that you can try.)
- Opt for stir-fry: Instead of fried foods, go for stir-fried dishes. You might also want to ask about what kind of oil the kitchen uses to make sure it's keto-compatible.
- Be mindful of sauces: Not all sauces are created equal — even savory sauces sometimes have hidden sugars and flour. Fish sauce is usually a safe bet, but it's best to ask about ingredients in peanut sauces and such. (Or maybe sneak in some almond butter of your own, LOL.)
- Dressings: As with sauces, be wary of potential added sugars in salad dressings. When ordering a salad, ask for the dressing on the side or simply request oil and vinegar (or lime juice). Then, doctor it up with some salt and pepper.
- Ask for extra herbs or spices: To help compensate for less (or no) sauce, ask the kitchen to throw in some extra garlic and onion and other seasonings and herbs to give you the flavor you want without the added carbs.
- Be cautious about coconut milk: Many Thai dishes feature coconut milk, which is great on keto as long as there aren't any added sugars. You'll have to ask the restaurant about its coconut milk to sniff out any potential carb violations.
6 Recommended Dishes for Low-Carb Thai Dining
When ordering at your favorite Thai restaurants, consider these dishes to stay low-carb. Also, keep in mind that ingredients and cooking practices will vary from place to place, so it's always wise to ask questions and make changes when necessary:
- Tom yum: This clear hot and sour soup is usually a good option on keto. Seafood is often the main protein (although tofu is sometimes an option) with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, and chilis.
- Tom kha: Often considered a milky version of tom yum soup, tom kha is a delicious blend of coconut milk, chicken breast, mushrooms, ginger, and lemongrass. Make sure there's no added sugar in the milk.
- Satay: These skewers of chicken, beef, or pork are naturally low in carbs and high in protein. Since satay is usually served with peanut sauce, find out if the sauce has any added sugar. If so, ask for soy sauce or just eat the satay as is. A squeeze of lime is another great way to punch it up.
- Pad pak: A stir-fry of meat and veggies, pad pak is generally a good low-carb option as long as you pass on the rice or noodles.
- Larb: This deliciously spicy-tangy dish is typically made with minced meat (or tofu) seasoned with lemongrass and chili. Since it's served inside lettuce or cabbage leaves, you don't have to worry about carb-heavy noodles or rice.
- Curry: From red to green to yellow, there's no shortage of tantalizing Thai curry options. The key is choosing one with non-starchy veggies and no added sugars in the coconut milk. Yellow curry has potatoes and peas, so consider green curry or red curry instead. Sub the side of rice for extra veggies.
Remember: These are just some initial suggestions. Every restaurant is different, so if you're not sure about something on the menu, just ask!
You Can Be Keto and Enjoy Thai Food
Good news, friends: You don't have to give up the tastes of Thailand when following a low-carb diet. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this Asian favorite in your keto lifestyle. Whether you're cooking it up at home, ordering in, or dining out at your favorite Thai restaurant, you can still treat your taste buds to this delicious cuisine without going over your carb limit.
By making easy ingredient swaps, watching out for hidden sugars, and using the tips in this handy guide, you'll be digging into your fave Thai dishes in no time. For more ideas on how to keep carbs low and flavor high, be sure to check out our growing list of keto recipes featuring low-carb, high-protein immi ramen.