What to Eat When You're Sticking to a Low-Carb or Keto Diet on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving can be intimidating for those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, but you don't have to cook a separate feast to stay healthy. Our collection of low-carb Thanksgiving recipes caters to the masses delivering big flavor, so you can stay on track without feeling like you're missing out on traditional holiday dishes. From entrées and appetizers to side dishes and desserts, we've got everything you need to prepare a low-carb feast for Thanksgiving Day.
Rosemary-Orange Roast Turkey
We like to give the bird a pretty finishing sheen by brushing on savory-sweet marmalade glaze. If you don't like the slightly bitter flavor of marmalade, you can substitute currant jelly for tart, bright flavor. Fresh rosemary brings the flavors of the turkey to life and will make your kitchen smell amazing. With a splash of citrus, this turkey is anything but bland, without being doused in high calorie glazes and sauces.
Brown Sugar-Spiced Nut Mix
This recipe comes from the kitchen of Cooking Light Senior Food Editor Cheryl Slocum who said a bowl of nuts in their shells was a coffee table staple for Thanksgiving snacks when she was young. "Operating the nutcracker was a real draw for us little kids," she says, "but our tastes have evolved to this sweet-hot crispy mix." Achieve a bronzelike patina on these candied nuts by keeping a close watch near the end of their roasting time. Too long and they'll overdarken and take on a bitter flavor.
Broiled Shrimp with Buttermilk Rémoulade
If preboiled shrimp and cocktail sauce is a standard starter at your holiday gathering, try these quick broiled shrimp with a spicy rémoulade dipping sauce—a homemade alternative that takes minutes, tastes much better, and is much lower in sodium. Like cocktail sauce, the rémoulade gets a pungent kick from prepared horseradish, though you could also try Creole mustard. We leave the tails on the shrimp for easy handling. Keep a small bowl next to the serving plate for discarded shrimp tails.
Gram's Clam Dip
Your guests can snack on this dip, while you put the final touches on your inspiring dishes. There's plenty for a crowd as this recipe serves 18. This lower-fat version uses reduced-fat Greek yogurt and cream cheese for a creamy result that does this dish justice. Precut crudités will hold up well if you'd like to prep them the day before. Wrap trimmed and cut veggies in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a zip-top plastic bag for the crispiest texture.
Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball
The sweet-savory combo of dates, walnuts, and blue cheese, topped with the earthiness of fresh flat-leaf parsley, brings your regular cheese ball up a notch. Prepare this retro-chic snack up to two days ahead, and serve with crackers, bread, or veggies. Rolled in minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, this cheese ball is festive enough for the most discerning of holiday crowds and with 5.3g of carbs, 229mg of sodium, and 4.8g fat, it's just right for diabetic diets.
Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Orange and Caraway
These slow-roasted wedges will make a cabbage convert out of anyone and are a beautiful first source sub for the usual appetizer salad. Leave the core intact so the wedges hold their shape. Caraway has an earthy, anise-like flavor, almost like a combination of cumin and fennel seed. Use a mortar and pestle or small heavy skillet to crush the caraway seeds, or pulse in a spice grinder.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts
This staff favorite adds color and texture to your buffet and makes a splash on the Thanksgiving table. For a bit of showmanship, bring the whole cauliflower to the table, and then "carve" and dress with the vinaigrette, pomegranate arils, pine nuts, and parsley. While most holiday dishes are designed to be delicious warm or at room temperature, this is one dish that's worth saving until the end of your prep and serving straight out of the oven.
Bacon and Brussels Sprout Slaw
Slaws aren’t just for summer; their crunch and creamy, tangy dressing is a welcome contrast to the heartier dishes of fall. You can make it ahead or at the last minute, and it won’t take up valuable oven space. If using a mandoline to shred the Brussels sprouts, hold each by the stem end and slice whole, being careful not to get your fingers too close to the blade (you can also use a sharp knife). Try shredded Brussels sprouts as your salad base all season long, dressing at least 10 minutes before you plan to serve to soften the leaves.
A simple side of perfectly roasted carrots is the breather a crowded Thanksgiving table needs—a bit of palate relief (and ease for the cook) that still looks elegant. Sweet, slightly firm, and tossed with fresh parsley and cilantro, these carrots would fit here and all season long.
For a twist on cranberry sauce this year, try this sweet, tart, and earthy beet-and-cranberry condiment. Toasted whole coriander and brown mustard seeds add warmth and take the chutney into savory territory. The chunky texture is part of the charm here, a great contrast to the mashes and casseroles on the table.
Herb, Lemon, and Garlic Turkey
Instead of a wet brine, this bird uses an overnight dry salt and sugar cure, which concentrates flavor. If you want to leave the skin on, it will add 25 calories and 1g of sat fat per serving. Hard herbs (fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme) hold up beautifully while roasting, imparting a woodsy, savory note to the meat. Soft herbs (parsley and chives) garnish the turkey and perk up the finished gravy. The wine in the roasting pan will keep the bird moist as it roasts and flavor the pan drippings used for the gravy.
Double-Stock Turkey Gravy
If you prepare stock up to a week ahead, you can make the gravy in just a few minutes. Simmering the turkey wings in chicken stock makes the resulting liquid twice as meaty tasting as it would be if you used plain water.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Cauliflower mashed potatoes are a lower-carb, lower-fat mash that’s perfect for all your healthy holiday side dish needs. For deeper flavor, roast the cauliflower first, and then puree until creamy. Fold into your potatoes, and round it out with whole milk, a touch of butter, and a sprinkle of seasonings.
Loaded Cauliflower Soup
If you love the flavors of a loaded baked potato—think cheddar cheese, crisp bacon, and the bright bite of chives—but are on a low-carb diet, then this soup is for you. We swap out the spuds for cauliflower and swirl the whole thing into a soup that has just 12g of carbs per serving—not bad for a hearty meal.
Smoky Spatchcocked Turkey
Grill a spatchcocked turkey for a smoky, robust bird that's ready in half the time. We remove the backbone and roast the turkey flat so that every part has access to the heat at the same time. The turkey won't have grill marks (it cooks flesh side up over indirect heat) but will absorb that chargrilled flavor. A smoky spice rub of paprika and ancho chile powder seems fitting for the grill, but you could use any spice combo or minced fresh herbs combined with a couple of tablespoons oil.
Extra Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Casserole
This fresher take on the traditional casserole is loaded with vegetables and comes together with a homemade sauce instead of sodium-heavy canned soup.
Nothing says autumn like a hearty casserole—something you can make on a weekend afternoon, and have for leftovers over the next couple days. Here, rich Gruyere cheese marries with the bright acid of a dry white wine (try a Sauvignon Blanc) to bring a touch of elegance to this yummy comfort food.
Pumpkin Soup With Almonds and Sage
This fast recipe delivers slow-cooked flavor. Pumpkin is one of the few vegetables whose canned version is quite good, saving you lots of time and effort. Just be sure you don't accidentally grab pumpkin pie filling, which contains added sugar and spices.
Green Bean Casserole with Caulifower Cream
Once simmered in milk and pureed, cauliflower transforms into a silky, luscious cream sauce—a dead ringer for the classic yet with a much better profile, saving nearly 500mg sodium and 4g fat per serving. We intensify the mushroom presence by using meaty cremini and shiitake mushrooms and roasting them first to cook out the excess liquid. If you can’t find shiitakes, use 2 (8-oz.) packages of cremini mushrooms. Skip the fried onions and use torn whole-wheat bread for a rustic, crunchy topper.
Lower-Sugar Sweet Potato Casserole
The classic sweet potato casserole often straddles the line between side and dessert (indeed, we've enjoyed the leftovers both ways). Our delicious version has 5 fewer teaspoons (20g) of added sugar per serving than traditional recipes.