Condiments for the Low-Carb Pantry

Stock your shelves to boost the flavor of your low-carb meals

Shopping for Condiments
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For people on a low-carb diet, the list of foods you can't eat can seem endless. However, by focusing on fresh produce and lean protein, your cravings for starches and grains may diminish. Also, people on a low-carb diet will want to incorporate a variety of flavors to keep food interesting and tasty. This is where pantry items come in.

Healthy Fats for Cooking

People on a low-carb diet should incorporate healthy fats into their cooking and recipes.

Some have higher nutritional value than others. These include: 

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Ghee (clarified butter, which does not include the milk solids)

Most low-carb diet authors say to avoid oils that are high in omega-6 fats (soy, corn, most safflower, and sunflower). Partially hydrogenated oils should always be avoided as they contain trans fats.

Adding Flavor

Many condiments are riddled with all forms of sugar. Before you start reading labels, get familiar with sugar's many disguises. Keep the following condiments on hand to bring flavor to your food:

  • Mustard (except sweetened mustards, especially honey mustard)
  • Cider and wine vinegars: You can also explore many infused vinegar, but be sure to check for carbs for any fruit vinegar.
  • Dried herbs and spices: except for some mixtures that have added sugar, all are acceptable.
  • Fresh herbs such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley
  • Seasoning salts and peppers
  • Coconut milk
  • Nut and coconut flours for baking and breading
  • Most bottled hot sauces (such as Tabasco)
  • Most salsas
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Mayonnaise: look especially for brands high in monounsaturated fat, rather than polyunsaturated fat e.g. avoid soy oil if possible.
  • Sugar-free salad dressings, preferably brands high in monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil (check labels carefully).

Snacks on the Go

Eating a low-carb diet doesn't have to mean constant food preparation and cooking from scratch. There are many commercially available snacks you should keep on hand, in addition to fresh produce, to satisfy hunger in a pinch. For all of the following, read food labels carefully to spot added sugar and starch:  

  • Some nutrition bars
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Some jerkies, such as beef, turkey, or salmon
  • Nuts and nut butter

What to Toss

Knowing what not to eat is as important as knowing what you can eat. Some unlikely suspects of hidden sugars include balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Also, you'll want to keep things simple for yourself by ridding your pantry of the following low-carb no-nos: 

  • Regular ketchup
  • Tomato-based chili sauce and cocktail sauce (unless sugar-free)
  • Salad dressings with sugar
  • Tartar sauce
  • Plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, oyster sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Steak sauce (most)
  • Many sauces, including barbecue, have a lot of sugar 
  • Jams, jellies, preserves


USDA Food Composition Databases. USDA.

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