Any fan of the ketogenic diet likely has an affinity for an abundant charcuterie board overflowing with savory meat and cheese options—and with good reason; they're delicious!
Often brimming with olives, roasted red bell peppers, and other low-glycemic veggies or fruits, it may seem as if charcuterie is a surefire keto-friendly option, but that's not always the case.
As always, ingredients, especially hidden sugars, are something to look for when browsing nutritional labels. Double-check to ensure that your salami wasn't cured in unwanted sugar, possibly derailing your efforts to see success while eating a low-carb, high-fat diet.
With that said, there are few other limitations to the sugar-free food to add to your appetizer (or anytime) savory platter. Experiment to discover your favorite food combinations and keep a tray on-hand during the week for on-going noshing (#mealprephack).
Plus, packing a perfect picnic basket of meats, an assortment of cheeses, and keto-friendly beverages makes for a fantastic social distancing outing with a friend in your backyard, at a local park or on your terrace.
Food grazing throughout the day may be a reality now, especially if you're working from home or otherwise homebound and snacking more often. Here are some general tips and ideas to consider as you create or source processed meats or cheeses:
- Avoid nitrates and nitrites. Deli meats are often affordable and accessible, but many brands of processed meats from deli-thin turkey to bacon brands contain harmful ingredients like nitrites and nitrates, associated with increased instances of ailments.
- Read the food labels carefully. Products may display a low carb count on their packaging. Still, it's essential to read the ingredients as many cured types of meat contain hidden sugars, sometimes included under phrases like "natural ingredients."
- Opt for low-glycemic fruits and veggies when making a charcuterie board. Most charcuterie boards are brimming with cured meats and a myriad of cheeses, so yummy. But in addition to prosciutto: olives, pickles, and berries are often an excellent complement to incorporate to balance the flavor dynamic of your charcuterie platter.
- Enjoy brined or aged cheeses. Brining cheese creates a hardened coating on aged cheeses and helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Also, the brining process enhances the complexity of a cheese's flavor over time.
For instance, some varieties of cheese, like those noted below, receive their distinct flavor via a brine solution (primarily salt and water) which also helps preserve the cheese as it ages:
Along with the tips mentioned above, there are some ideal meats, cheeses, or charcuterie fare to add to your keto meal plan. Here are some of our favorite platter additions to consider:
Salami - A popular deli option, salami usually consists of ground beef or pork combined with animal fats and many different seasonings.
Plus, salami is excellent to snack on with a heaping dollop of herb and chive cream cheese—so delicious and easy to toss together on a whim.
Prosciutto - This salty and fatty Italian-style cured meat derives from the hind leg of the pig. Also, prosciutto is both salt-cured and air-dried, which makes it entirely safe to eat without cooking—perfect for snacking!
Bacon - If you've followed a keto diet for any length of time or are at all familiar with the eating style, you know bacon is a hallmark for most people living a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle.
Bacon boosts the flavor of any dish. The combination of its smokey, savory, and salty flavor are delicious and can even help you get your kids to eat asparagus when wrapped in this irresistible cured meat. Just make sure to cook bacon as the curing process isn't long enough to kill possibly harmful bacteria.
Pancetta - While it's sometimes mistaken for prosciutto, pancetta is more like bacon. While both types of meat come from pork belly, pancetta is prepared without the smoking process, unlike bacon.
Also, similar to bacon, it's essential to cook pancetta before eating it—possibly paired with cubed zucchini to create a tasty keto hash—to avoid bacterial contamination.
Capicola - This cured meat comes from the pork shoulder, seasoned with garlic, red wine, and a variety of other seasonings.
This cured meat is fatty and delicate in texture, which is why it tends to be pricier than other Italian cured meats. However, those who love this option would likely say it is well worth the cost.
Lardo - This decadent cured meat is similar to bacon, but the cut of meat used is the pig's back as opposed to the belly.
This fatty cut of meat is often sliced very thin and served on a charcuterie board or atop a slice of low-carb, high-fat bread.
Soppressata - We owe a great debt to Italy for its abundant sausage options; there are so many varieties and flavors to enjoy.
This delectable Italian-style sausage contains cured ground meat. The cuts of meat used usually vary based on the region, so if for instance, you're partial to pork thighs you'll want to stick to the variety produced in Calabria, Italy, as opposed to the meat curated in Tuscany which will likely contain a variety of scrap cuts of meat.
Saucisson - Along with brie, this French import is a rich and tasty food that's perfect for a tasty charcuterie layout or as a quick and easy keto snack.
This cured French version of salami offers a salty and savory flavor and even comes in varieties that include cheese, nuts, or dried fruits.
Andouille Sausage - Originally from France and often featured in savory stews like gumbo; andouille sausage is one of the most popular sausages in the United States.
Andouille sausage is synonymous with Creole and Cajun cooking and seasoned with garlic, peppers, onions, and wine, creating a distinct smoky flavor which is perfect as the main protein source for meals or an ensemble ingredient in hearty stews.
Pepperoni - Whether pork or turkey-based, pepperoni is fantastic finger food and the perfect topping for a cheesy keto pizza. This cured meat, loved by children and adults alike, is made from finely ground pork and beef along with a variety of seasonings.
Enjoy pepperoni out of the pack or roast it to enhance its unique, slightly spicy flavor.
Chorizo - Whether you opt for the Spanish or Mexican types, chorizo is savory and decadent, perfect for a simple stir-fry, stew, or casserole. This pork-based cured meat adds a fantastic depth of flavor and is affordable and highly accessible in-store or online.
Mortadella - Emulsified sausage of pork, garlic, and spices
Guanciale - Often used as a star ingredient in traditional carbonara dishes, this Italian-style cured meat comes from the pork jowl (cheek) and is so good thanks to its high fat and salt content.
Bresaola - Air-dried, salted lean beef eye of round
Cervelat - Dry-cured smoked pork, bacon, and beef sausage
Coppa - Spice-rubbed, dry-cured pork neck
Culatello - Air-cured, dry-aged select boneless cuts of ham
Finocchiona - Dry-cured salami, pork shoulder, and cheek
Lonzino - Salted, dry-cured pork loin
Soujouk - Fatty beef sausage, heavily seasoned with garlic and spices
Blood Sausage - Known around the world by various names, blood sausage, is primarily pig blood, rice (or cauliflower to keep it keto), seasonings, and salt stuffed into an inner casing and boiled, then hung and cured.
Whether you're in the Caribbean and call it blood sausage or hail from Spain or another part of Latin America and call this sausage morcilla, all there is to know is that it's delicious. This savory fare works perfectly with sautéed dark leafy greens or faux cauliflower mash and a large dollop of grass-fed butter.
Kielbasa Sausage - A staple in Polish cuisine, kielbasa sausage is always in abundance at special regional occasions, like baby showers and weddings.
Plus, there are more than a dozen types of this savory sausage, from turkey sausage to smoked sausage or air-dried varieties. Also, kielbasa pairs perfectly with sautéed cabbage and onions, an excellent option if you're eating a low-carb, high-fat diet.
Pastrami - Cabbage or keto sourdough bread and sauerkraut, with a variety of mustards, paired with pastrami, is a perfect match.
Jamón Serrano - An everyday staple in many a charcuterie board, this dry-cured Spanish ham dates back to the days of the Roman Empire.
Jamón Serrano is made from many different types of pigs, using a variety of different cuts. The texture and flavor of the meat will vary based on where and how produced.
Jamón ibérico - The sister to jamón serrano, this ham is very similar but comes exclusively from black Iberian pigs, which produces a fattier and more luxurious end product—the reason that it's usually the priciest element on a well-appointed charcuterie board.
This tangy and savory meat consists of beef brined for an extended period, dried, smoked, and steamed to create this delicious and popular deli meat.
In addition to the cured meats and sausage mentioned above, there are some other popular deli meats to enjoy on a ketogenic diet. Here are some affordable options to consider incorporating into your low-carb meal plan:
- Roast Beef
The meat options noted above are the perfect fit for any keto-friendly sandwich and are easy on the budget. Just make sure to avoid deli meat options that are honey roasted, maple glazed or those that contain teriyaki sauce as all may compromise ketosis.
In addition to the keto-friendly meats available, there are many creamy or firm kinds of cheese to incorporate into your keto plan that works well when making a charcuterie board.
There are seven main categories of cheeses, and you can enjoy all on keto. Cheese is either considered fresh (no rind), aged-fresh (wrinkled white to grey-blue rind), soft white rind, semi-soft rind (fuzzy white rind), semi-soft (fine to thick grey-brown rind or orange and sticky), hard (crusty, grey often polished, waxed or oiled, blue gritty, rough, sometimes sticky rind), or flavor added (herbed cheese varieties).
Here are some of our favorite keto-friendly cheeses to consider adding to your keto plan:
- Aged White Cheddar
- Herbed Chevre
- Whole Mozzarella (fresh and cubed or sliced)
- Blue Cheese
- Goat Cheese
- Swiss Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese Crisps
- Yellow Cheddar Cheese
- Herbed Ricotta Cheese
- Feta Cheese
- Monterey Jack
- Parmesan cheese
The culinary party doesn't stop with the cheeses and cured meats. However, it's essential to keep those elements the centerpiece if making a charcuterie board or any tray containing processed meats and cheeses.
Here are some other foods to pair with keto-friendly cured meats and cheeses:
- Dill Pickles
- Pili Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
- Fire-roasted Bell Peppers
- Pickled Red Onions
- Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries
- Fresh Strawberries
- Fresh Blackberries
- Stuffed Green Olives
- Pickled Jalapeños
- Kalamata Olives
- Pickled Asparagus
- Pickled Radishes
- Pickled Artichokes
- Marinated Mushrooms
- Low-carb Crackers (or parmesan crisps)
- Stone Ground Mustard
- Avocado Hummus
There are many other ways to enjoy cured meats and cheeses aside from on a charcuterie board. There are many recipes to explore whether it's a savory sandwich containing meat and cheese, or you choose to bake those same ingredients into a casserole.
Here are some delicious and keto-friendly dishes to enjoy:
- Keto Reuben Chaffle
- Keto Corned Beef with Cabbage
- Butter Believe It Keto Pizza
- Ham & Gruyere Keto Casserole
Plus, you can create an endless amount of meal options with the aid of a simple keto sandwich wrap. Mix and match various meats and cheeses to discover an infinite amount of tasty combinations.
As a general rule, select the highest quality organic cured meat or cheese you can afford. Avoid meats that contain nitrates or nitrites, and keep a close eye on food labels to ensure you're not unwittingly sabotaging your efforts to achieve or maintain ketosis.
As long as you follow a few best practices when it comes to sourcing cured meats and cheeses, you'll get to enjoy a significant variety of keto-friendly food options.
Whether you decide to experiment with the endless variety of charcuterie board variations, incorporate some tasty and savory sausage or sharp cheese in a gooey casserole, or snack on some salami and herbed goat cheese for a satiating treat, the variety and possibilities are virtually endless.
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