Originally published in the Huffington Post
Before I finally took the plunge and went keto a couple of months ago, I wrestled with a serious question: Could I handle life without the occasional sandwich? While the wildly popular high-fat/moderate-protein/restricted-carb diet does allow for certain indulgences ― hello, cheese! ― I knew that on keto, a lot of my favorite foods were going to be strictly verboten. And that meant waving goodbye to pizza, pasta and my beloved bread.
Or so I thought.
In an attempt to keep some semblance of sandwich-y goodness in my life, at first I turned to the lettuce wrap. And while some of these quasi-sandwiches were legit delicious ― egg salad with olives is a standout ― I needed more than that. Because the fact is, when you get hit with a serious craving for bread, a lettuce wrap is just not going to cut it.
The good news is that the Internet is loaded with recipes for all kinds of keto-friendly versions of bread. Some are dead easy, while others are more labor intensive. I discovered that picking the right keto bread for your needs really depends on what you’re craving at the moment. A quick-and-simple bread isn’t going to have the crumb or structure of a more labor-intensive one. Some recipes are great for grilled cheese, but would fall apart if subjected to the juicy heft of a burger.
And let’s be real: You’re never going to recreate the complexity of a sourdough or the crisp crust of a ciabatta with no-carb baking. Bottom line? Yes, Virginia, you can have your keto sandwich and eat it too ― as long as you know the trade-offs and manage your expectations.
Let’s break down five keto-friendly breads to figure out which make the best sandwiches:
The most foolproof: 90-second mug bread
Google “90-second keto mug bread” and you’ll get heaps of hits for this foolproof recipe (over 7 million, to be precise). At its most basic, it’s just a combination of baking powder, oil, salt, egg and coconut or almond flour, mixed together and nuked for 90 seconds.
This bread tends to be a bit spongy straight out of the mug, but it crisps up nicely when you toast it. (See the grilled cheese, above.)
Megha Barot, along with her partner Matt Gaedke, are the recipe creators, bloggers, YouTubers and cookbook authors behind Keto Connect, and she’s a big fan of mug bread. “It’s easy to whip up, slice in half and toast in a hot skillet. You can make sandwiches for everyone, even when you’re short on time,” Barot tells HuffPost
If you’ve been missing grilled cheese on keto, this is your ticket to keto sandwich nirvana.
A little bit fiddly: Cloud bread
I was excited when I first read about cloud bread (aka “oopsie bread”), a carb-free, four-ingredient concoction that took the internet by storm a couple of years ago. This recipe involves whipping egg whites and carefully folding them into a yolk and cream cheese “batter.” It sounds simple enough, but it can be tricky to perfect. If you don’t whip the whites to the proper stiffness, the batter may spread out and liquefy while baking; if you’re too aggressive when folding, you could end up with flat, eggy sponges; if you cook them for too long, they can get brittle like Pavlovas.
Cloud bread is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it recipe. Carolyn Ketchum, the recipe developer and cookbook author behind the low-carb blog All Day I Dream About Food, thinks cloud bread is “tasty,” but correctly points out that because of its flimsy texture, “it doesn’t hold up well to juicy fillings like burgers.” Keto Connect’s Barot, on the other hand, says, “Nothing has ever tasted worse!” That said, it’s worth giving it a try for yourself, but stick to making cold sandwiches with cloud bread ― think deli meats or tuna salad.
The most versatile: Fathead dough derivatives
Every keto dieter knows that fathead dough ― a blend of melted mozzarella, cream cheese, almond flour and egg ― is the holy grail of keto-friendly pizza dough. It’s also a very versatile recipe that can be turned into rolls, breadsticks and even keto calzones or sausage rolls.
Ketchum came up with a fathead-inspired bagel recipe as the result of a happy accident, and it’s nothing short of the answer to your keto breakfast-sandwich prayers. “I was trying out the keto gnocchi, which is just eggs and mozzarella, and I couldn’t get it to hold together,” Ketchum explains. “So I added coconut flour. But I still couldn’t get it to hold together when being boiled or pan-fried, so I baked the gnocchi for a bit. And then I realized it would make really good bagel dough!”
These aren’t big fat chewy New York bagels ― it’s not possible without bread flour and yeast ― but they are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and the perfect vessels for eggs, sausage and cheese.
The most sliceable: “Amazing bread” and Keto Connect’s coconut loaf
Nutritionist, cookbook author and keto blogger Maria Emmerich says she spent about nine months and several 25-pound bags of almond flour to perfect her “amazing bread.” And boy, does it show. This stuff rises like real bread, has a nice crumb, and can be used as a hearty sliceable loaf, sub rolls or hamburger buns. Be warned, though: Follow her recipe to the letter, weigh your ingredients and make no substitutions if you want perfect results.
If you have a nut allergy ― or just want to try something different ― Keto Connect’s rosemary garlic coconut loaf is sturdy and sliceable, not overly coconut-y, and works great as toast. Because this bread doesn’t rise particularly high, it’s more suitable for a knife-and-fork style open-faced sandwich.
Most convenient, but at a price: Store-bought keto bread
If you just want convenience, you can always opt for one of the many pre-made keto (or even paleo) low-carb breads on the market. But know that you’re going to pay for that convenience, as most low-carb breads are super-spendy.
And, unless you make it yourself, you can’t control what’s in it. “I am distrustful of the pre-made breads because they have some dodgy ingredients and they are higher carb than I would like,“Ketchum points out. “A lot of them rely on adding tons of fiber to get the net carb count down, and that really isn’t going be very keto-friendly.” I tried a $14 store-bought coconut loaf, and in my own (unscientific) taste test, the (far less pricey) Keto Connect coconut bread recipe won, hands down.
But however you slice it, when it comes to keto sandwiches, Barot and Gaedke are definitely on to something: “Our favorite way to eat a sandwich is however we can get it into our mouths the quickest!”