There’s a reason so many people love the ketogenic diet: It considers indulgence healthy. Unlike many restrictive diets, the principle behind keto is to put your body into ketosis, or a state of burning fat for fuel. To trigger this metabolic process, followers are advised to load up on healthy fats, protein and certain types of vegetables—a move that, for many, circumvents having to sacrifice favorite foods.
Avoiding carbs is relatively easy, but keto dieters might need to tweak a few of their favorite meat dishes.
“If your dishes have starch in them, that needs to come out,” says Gerard Viverito, a chef based in New York’s Hudson Valley who follows the keto diet with his own family. Luckily, because keto promotes eating healthy fats, many delicious pork dishes like pulled pork, bacon and meatballs are fair game. “Too lean of a protein will kick you out of ketosis,” Viverito continues, “and then you will not burn fat but store it instead.” To prevent that from happening, he suggests getting creative: Start by cutting carbs in your favorite pork dishes, or seeking recipes that don’t require them.
When Viverito missed the crunchy exterior of a breadcrumb-crusted pork tenderloin, for example, he developed a clever workaround: “I discovered that I could mimic the effect by using pork rinds pulsed in the food processor as breading,” he explains. “I use a double egg-and-pork-rinds dipping sequence and then pan fry as normal.” He also uses those shattered pork rinds as breading for fried chicken sandwiches.
Because pork is such a mild protein, it can take on the versatile flavors from nearly any type of cuisine and is an ideal protein for group gatherings. Viverito suggests hosting an “around-the-world” meatball night, making various types of pork meatballs inspired by the spices and seasonings from Vietnamese, Malaysian and Italian cooking. Most spices are fat soluble, meaning the ground meat will readily absorb their flavors.
Simmering pulled pork or a pork butt roast in a slow cooker also helps the meat absorb the spice and seasoning flavors. Keto followers can still enjoy the experience of a pulled pork sandwich by eliminating the buns and creating crunchy lettuce wraps instead, or they can use the meat as a topping for taco salad.
Sausage can also be leveraged in keto diets. Too often, Viverito says, people only think about sausage in link form. Patties are an underrated ingredient for grilling and frying, while sweet Italian ground sausage adds depth to tomato sauce and a spicy-savory kick to cauliflower-crust pizzas.
From chops to sausage and every cut in between, pork’s versatility makes it a perfect protein for keto palates.“ All are great sources of fat in relation to protein and can be cooked in so many different ways,” Viverito says.“I can braise or cook them in the oven for a while unattended while I do other things.”