While many can agree that the benefits of keto are great, like weight loss and consistent energy, some are a little hesitant to give the diet a try because they feel that their food options may be too limited, especially if their favorite foods are carb heavy.
We understand that cravings can be tough, but the good news is that once you go a few weeks without bread, pasta, and potatoes, you’ll think less and less of them. But if one of your favorites is rice, we have some tips and tricks you’re going to want to try.
There are plenty of substitutes out there that will leave you feeling less deprived and more satisfied. Here’s everything you need to know about rice on keto and how to make seven delicious rice substitutes.
Can You Eat Rice on Keto?
If you’re a big fan of rice, you might think that its health benefits outweigh its heavy carb content. After all, brown rice contains 85% of the recommended daily amount of manganese, which helps improve cognitive function, encourages weight loss, and reduces your chances of developing diabetes. Brown rice is also high in magnesium which helps your body produce energy. Magnesium also regulates blood glucose levels and keeps electrolyte levels in check.
At first, these benefits of rice might make you think you can help your body by eating a small serving of it when you’re following a ketogenic diet. However, eating regular white, brown, or long grain rice when you’re trying to go low-carb will only keep you running on an imaginary hamster wheel. Even though you’ll be doing a lot of work to deplete glucose stores, you won’t see the results you’re after. While eating rice on a standard diet does have its benefits, it simply doesn’t help the keto diet.
Remember that your main goal of a keto diet is reaching ketosis, which is the metabolic state in which your body relies on fat for energy instead of glucose. The only way to reach ketosis is to limit your carb intake. This means all the time and at every meal, not just when you feel like it.
Eating a low-carb breakfast and lunch will begin the process of entering ketosis but eating a dinner with rice as a side will erase all of the hard work you did throughout the day. Immediately following dinner, your glucose levels will rise, and you will be that much further from your goal of ketosis.
So even if the temptation is there, resist it. Rice has too many carbs per serving, so it will never help you reach your keto goals. But don’t worry. There are ways to satisfy your rice craving without throwing your macros off.
Why Use a Rice Substitute?
For some, simply cutting rice out of their diet completely might be the best answer. But for others, finding a substitute will have plenty of benefits, including the following.
- Satisfies cravings – The main benefit of eating a rice substitute is that, ideally, it will curb your cravings for the starchy side. We’ve included plenty of options for you to choose from because each has its own texture, fitness, and taste, so it may take a bit to find one that satisfies your taste buds the most. But, with a little experimentation, you might find yourself enjoying a rice substitute that tastes just as good (if not better) than the real thing but without throwing your keto diet off.
- Provides health benefits – Depending on the substitute you choose, you’ll be adding a variety of vitamins and nutrients to your diet. Each provides its own unique benefits. While you can always supplement, which many on keto do to make up for any deficiencies, consuming nutrients the old-fashioned way is always best. If you’re looking for a specific vitamin or mineral, try to find a rice substitute that provides you with it.
- Improves kitchen skills – If the only rice you’ve made before came in a box and involved a pot of boiling water, you might find that some of our rice substitutes involve a little more work. You might be using kitchen equipment that’s been sitting on a shelf and collecting dust for a few years. Well it may seem a little difficult at first, we hope that you will be able to take your new skills and apply them to other keto ingredients and recipes as well.
- Expands palate – While some of our rice substitutes are made from common ingredients, a few might not sound familiar. We hope that you’ll give them a fair try. You never know, one of them might just be your new favorite. One of the best things about keto is that it opens your eyes and mouth to new food experiences. Don’t write anything off without trying it first.
Ready to find your new favorite keto rice substitute? One of the following is sure to become your new favorite.
Cauliflower is a variety of cabbage, and in the same family as broccoli and collard greens. It is probably the most commonly used vegetable in keto as a rice substitute. One serving of cauliflower delivers 77% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C. There’s also plenty of vitamin K, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, potassium, and folate.
There are two main techniques you can use when making cauliflower rice. Both tackle the main task of turning a large head of cauliflower into small rice-size pieces. Using either a box grater with medium-sized holes or a food processor with a grater blade, transform chunks of cauliflower into your desired size and shape.
Once your cauliflower looks like rice, take the time to remove any excess moisture from it. Transfer the rice to a large paper towel and squeeze or press to remove any water. You’ll appreciate this step when it’s time to enjoy your cauliflower rice. To cook the rice, simply sauté it in a large skillet with a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. It helps to cover with a lid while you’re cooking to make the rice more tender. Cook for about 5-8 minutes and then season as desired.
We recommend using cauliflower rice in just about any recipe that calls for traditional rice. Use it in Chinese dishes, as a side dish for dinner, or in soups for added texture. We also love serving up larger portions of cauliflower rice for lunch. Add some cheese and chicken for a delicious meal that’s keto-friendly and easy to make.
Rutabaga is a root vegetable. It’s a cross between turnips and cabbage. Rutabaga is not the most popular vegetable so you might have to look a little harder for this in the produce section if you’ve never purchased it before. Don’t let its funny sounding name turn you off from giving it a try. When used to make rice, you’ll enjoy a wide variety of health benefits.
Rutabaga is often used as a healthier alternative to potatoes because of how low-carb it is. It’s easy to boil and mash (give this a try after you try the rice version). Also, don’t throw away the leaves of the vegetable. You can cook these up just like you would spinach leaves.
Rutabaga is high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese and zinc. Because of its diverse composition of antioxidant compounds, many studies classify rutabaga as a natural way to reduce the growth of cancerous tumors. These high levels of antioxidants also help to fight free radicals, which can help prevent the development of cancerous cells to begin with.
Ready to give rutabaga rice a try? You’ll want to use a food processor. Start by peeling away the skin of the rutabaga and chopping the vegetable into pieces that will easily fit in the food processor. Then pulse until the pieces resemble rice. Next, bring water to a boil in a pot. Add the rutabaga and cook until soft. This shouldn’t take longer than 7 minutes. Strain the water and season as desired.
Looking for a way to add a complimentary side dish to your next keto-friendly Mexican dish? Try Mexican rutabaga rice. You’ll want to season the cooked rice with tomatoes, garlic, chili powder, ground cumin, and other vegetables as desired. Warm with a bit of olive oil in a skillet and allow the flavors to combine.
Broccoli is a popular keto vegetable, but did you know you could use it to make a delicious rice substitute? This member of the cabbage family is native to the Mediterranean area and has only been in the United States for about 100 years.
Some consider it to be a superfood because all it brings to the table (literally). It includes small amounts of folate, vitamin E, thiamine, and riboflavin. But it’s high in calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. It’s also known for its high fiber content, which is ideal for keto.
Studies on broccoli have shown it’s more than just a green source of nutrients. It also does plenty for our overall health. Broccoli includes a compound called isothiocyanates, which helps decrease inflammation and the overall risk of cancer. More specifically, broccoli helps prevent certain types of cancers, including lung cancer, colon cancer, and stomach cancer. Broccoli also strengthens bones and reduces cholesterol.
You make broccoli rice like you do many other types of rice substitutes. You’ll want to turn your large head of broccoli into a pile of rice-size pieces. You can do this with a large knife, a food processor, or a blender. Just make sure you don’t over blend and turn your broccoli into mush. Our favorite way to cook broccoli rice is to sauté it with a little butter for about 2 minutes. You can also steam the broccoli or simply add it to a casserole and bake. If you have a recipe that calls for a bed of rice under a seasoned chicken breast, this is the rice substitute to try.
Shirataki rice is made from Shirataki noodles. If you want to skip the produce section when making a rice substitute, this is the recipe for you. Shirataki noodles are made from water, konjac flour, and calcium additive. There are no crazy ingredients you need to worry about.
We know what you may be thinking. Won’t a noodle made from flour pack on the carbs? Not in this case. Konjac flour is a fiber made from the Konjac plant. Because it’s not a traditional white flour, you don’t have to worry about tons of carbs. In fact, substituting the noodles in your favorite pasta dish with Shirataki noodles will cut the carb number by 99%. As a bonus, Shirataki noodles contain prebiotics for gut health and plenty of fiber.
To make Shirataki rice, you’ll need to purchase a bag of Shirataki noodles. Drain the water the noodles are packed in and rinse with cool water. Drain again and immediately place in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove the noodles, place them in a skillet, and cook for a few minutes over low heat. This will help to remove excess water and help sauce stick to the noodles. At this time, you can cut the noodles into smaller pieces to resemble rice. But here’s a nifty trick. You can also buy Shirataki rice ready to make, saving a few steps. If you’re in a hurry for a rice substitute, this is your best option.
Fried Plantain Rice
Have you been on keto for a while and seriously craving fried rice? We have the solution. Plantains are the perfect ingredient to get the taste and texture you’re after. Though they look similar to bananas, there are several differences between the two members of the genus musa family fruit.
Bananas are known for their sweet profile while plantains are drier and denser. They’re also not nearly as sweet but their flavor is still delicious. They offer up plenty of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
To make the fried rice, use a paring knife to cut the plantain peels. Gently remove them. Then make plantain noodles using a spiralizer. Chop the noodles into smaller pieces so they look like rice. Then heat some olive oil in a wok. This is where you’ll customize your fried rice dish. Add veggies, like onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and peas. Once you’re happy with your vegetables, cook for a few minutes and then add the plantain rice. Cook for several minutes before stirring in a couple whisked eggs. Once the eggs are cooked, add your preferred seasonings (make sure to use a keto-friendly soy sauce) and enjoy.
Butternut Squash Rice
Butternut squash has such sweet flavor, you’ll wonder how it can be considered a healthy and low-carb food. This tasty winter squash offers plenty of health benefits. It surprises many to learn that butternut squash offers up more potassium than bananas, along with plenty of vitamin A and fiber. It aids with digestion, blood pressure, and healthy hair and skin.
You can actually buy butternut squash rice that’s ready to cook but if you’re making your own, you know the drill. Peel and cut the flesh into smaller chunks and use a food processor to make rice-size pieces. Then, heat a bit of butter in a skillet and once melted, add the butternut squash rice. Stir as it cooks, for about 5 minutes. Season as desired and serve. Butternut squash is an excellent substitute for a keto-friendly risotto.
It may not sound appealing at first, but cabbage is an excellent rice substitute. The vegetable is an excellent source of fiber, folate, manganese, and vitamin B6. One serving provides nearly all of the body’s daily requirement of vitamin K. Cabbage also includes some of the most powerful antioxidants found in vegetables and research has shown these compounds help prevent breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
Shred a head of cabbage and toss with melted butter and desired spices. Cayenne or ginger are great options. Place in a vegetable steamer over boiling water and steam for about 10 minutes. Sift the cabbage as it cooks so it cooks evenly. Cabbage rice is great for stir-fry dishes along with Lo Mein and fried rice.
If you’ve been putting off giving keto a try simply because you were nervous about giving up your favorite carbs, like rice, we hope these substitutes have opened your eyes to new options. It may take a bit of time to find the perfect substitute but once you do, you’ll see how easy it is to stay low-carb without feeling like you’re missing out.
Here are a few final tips. When you’re seasoning or flavoring your keto-approved rice substitute, make sure you’re using ingredients that aren’t high in carbs, which would cancel out the effort. Also, many of these vegetables can be used to make potato dishes as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit on your own and create your own recipes. Keto is always a journey and trying new foods is just one of the benefits.