Keto Friendly, Low Carb Hot & Spicy Meal Ideas
Spice is a great way to add flavour to a dish, plus spicy dishes can help with your weight loss goals! Learn how to incorporate spice into your life with this article.
Spicy food is incredibly healthy and delicious. Don’t worry if you aren’t a fan or don’t think you can handle too much heat – there is a huge range of spice levels and you can work your way up as your tolerance builds.
The chemical that causes those burning, spicy sensations in our mouths is called capsaicin. It is found in different variants of chili peppers, ranging from mild bell peppers all the way to the infamous Carolina Reaper pepper! Heat levels are often measured according to a system called the Scoville Scale, which assigns Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) to each type of chili pepper. At the bottom of the scale, you will find bell peppers (0 SHU). In the middle range, you will find peppers that most people would find intensely spicy such as Thai chilis (50,000-100,000 SHU) all the way up top, where pure capsaicin sits at more than 15,000,000 SHU! You should not consume pure capsaicin, ever.
The History of Spice
Chilis originally came from Mexico, and it wasn’t until later that global trade brought the heat to other parts of the world such as Asia and Africa where it has now integrated itself into traditional cuisines of those regions.
There are various theories as to why people have eaten spicy food for centuries. Some claim that since spicy food makes you sweat which helps you cool down; it became popular in warmer areas of the globe. Other theories say that the more probable reason was for spice’s anti-microbial properties; it could be used to prevent food from spoiling or tasting rancid. However, with modern food safety standards, it seems that the proliferation of spicy food has more to do with culture than anything else. The resources and mix of people that introduced spicy food to different cultures seemed to have played – and still play – an important role in the spread and enjoyment of spicy food. Now we’re here to spread some of that culinary wisdom to you!
Benefits of Spicy Food
Spice is a mysterious – some might even say magical – element of food due to its painful yet vitalizing sensations and many surprising health benefits. It is also one of the 4 pillars of taste that make food enjoyable: salt, fat, acid and heat. A dish with all of these elements is perfectly balanced and highly satisfying.
But besides adding a unique element to dishes, spice has several health benefits, as well:
- Spicy foods can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
When you eat spicy food, chemical reactions occur in the body that can switch your metabolism into fat-burning mode and help you burn more calories at resting. Normally when people try to lose weight, they reduce the number of calories that they consume in a day to achieve a caloric deficit. However, this can actually slow your metabolism down over time as your body gets used to doing less work on a daily basis. Eating spicy food stimulates your gastrointestinal system and speeds up metabolic processes, specifically the metabolism of fats. In turn, this can help you burn fat by up to 16% more than normal and prevent further accumulation of fat cells. On top of that, capsaicin has also been found to increase satiety as it blocks the transmission of certain signals from the gut to the brain (probably for good reasons, too – eating too much spicy food can have less than pleasant effects on your bowels! That’s your body looking out for itself).
- Capsaicin can prevent cancer.
Due to its high antioxidant chemicals, capsaicin found in spicy foods has been shown to protect cells from harmful free radicals known to cause cancer. It can also inhibit the growth and spread of already present cancerous cells by blocking the activation of a protein that causes these cells to proliferate and form tumors.
In general, eating a diet high in antioxidants is important. Adding spice to your meals is just one way to achieve this!
- Spicy food has been shown to elevate moods.
Eating foods high in capsaicin causes your brain to release endorphins, a neurochemical that works as a natural painkiller and mood elevator. Think about the feeling of relief that you get after you eat something really spicy and your mouth finally stops burning. It almost feels like you’ve just run a marathon! In the same way that exercising can produce “happy chemicals” in the brain, so can eating spicy foods. Over time, increased levels of endorphins can reduce stress levels and decrease your risk for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Try drinking a glass of water in the morning with lemon and cayenne pepper to boost your mood, and your metabolism!
Spicy Low Carb Recipes
Luckily, chili peppers are low in carbs – especially since you don’t have to use a lot to get a powerful flavour punch, so they are perfect to incorporate in low carb or keto diets. Along with fresh herbs, they are a great way to flavour bland or boring dishes without adding unnecessary carbs to your meals.
Try out these hot and spicy low carb recipes:
This is a great recipe for low carb dieters, because cauliflower is a perfect low carb substitute for traditional white or brown rice. An entire head of cauliflower has 15g of net carbs, so choose your portion accordingly. If you have never made cauliflower rice before, try out this ready to use Dry Riced Cauliflower from Keto And Co. This recipe also includes peas and shredded carrots, which can be substituted or omitted, depending on how many carbs you can tolerate.
You can also modify the heat level in this recipe according to your taste preferences. While the recipe calls for sriracha sauce (1,000 – 2,500 SHU) you could also use chili paste – especially since sriracha typically contains sugar. Simply slicing a raw serrano or Thai chili pepper will also give you a nice dose of heat that will be distributed a bit less uniformly than using a sauce or paste.
If you have ever been to an American Chinese restaurant, Szechuan beef is usually breaded, deep fried or slathered in a sweet glaze – which are low carb no-no’s! For the spice, this recipe uses Szechuan (or Sichuan) peppercorns, that are mild in taste, but the real heat comes from the Szechuan chili peppers. You might be able to find these in the Asian food section of your local grocery store, or at an Asian supermarket.
Since there is still a sweet element to Szechuan-style beef, we recommend using Swerve Brown Sugar Replacement for best results. This recipe also calls for a thickener; they used cornstarch, but Xanthan Gum may be a better low carb alternative. You can also try this recipe with chicken, pork or tofu!
- Loaded Keto Nachos
Here’s a recipe we came up with ourselves with ingredients from The Low Carb Grocery!
Ingredients for Homemade Low Carb Nacho Chips:
Ingredients for Nacho Toppings:
- Ground beef
- Mayacamas Taco Seasoning
- Desert Pepper Salsa (flavours range from just 1-3g net carbs per 2 tbsp)
- Fresh jalapeño peppers
- Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Fresh lime juice
- To make the nacho chips for this recipe, cut the low carb tortilla or wrap into small triangle shapes with a pizza cutter or large knife. Lay the pieces flat on a baking sheet. Coat with coconut oil or olive oil and season with sea salt. Let these bake at 400˚F, until crispy golden brown.
- While the nachos bake, heat a large saucepan. Dice the onions and garlic and cook these in oil until golden brown and tender.
- Add the ground beef to the pan with the taco seasoning. Cook until browned all the way through.
- Build your nacho platter! Layer the beef, salsa, cheese, sliced jalapeño peppers, and cilantro over the nacho chips. Toss the platter back in the oven if you want to let the cheese melt further.
- Finish with mashed avocado, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro.
Also From The Low Carb Grocery
In case you wanted to add some heat to your own recipes, try incorporating these other high-heat sauces and spice rubs from The Low Carb Grocery:
- Sinai Gourmet’s Vinegar-Free Hot Pepper Coulis – this line ranges from mild jalapeño to hot, hot, hot habanero!
- Hot Mamas Pepper Jellies, Spice Rubs and Splashes
- Crazy Mooskies Crazy Hot and Island Spice BBQ Sauces + Spicy Sugar-Free Ketchup made with scotch bonnet peppers imported weekly from Jamaica. Watch out – these range from 80,000 to 400,000 SHU!
If you tried any of these spice-filled recipes, we’d love to know! Share your hot and spicy experience with us on Facebook or tag us on Instagram. We also love to stay connected with our Weekly Newsletters for updates on the latest products and special sales. And please leave us a Google Review with your Low Carb Grocery experiences!