Keto fats, sauces and oils – the good, the bad and the ugly

Many foods taste better with a little something — a buttery sauce, a spicy dip, a flavourful relish, a savoury marinade. And a keto diet should be high enough in fat so that you feel satisfied after every meal.1

What fats, oils, sauces and dips can you add to your food and stay keto? What’s best for your health?

Here’s a simple guide, with the lowest-carb (keto) choices to the left:

Low-Carb Fats and Sauces

The numbers are the average amount of net carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces).2 To the left, in the green zone, are choices with less than 5 grams of carbs. Choices in the red zone, to the right, have a lot more carbs and likely need to be avoided even in small amounts to stay in ketosis. See our best tips for getting into ketosis

Beware: Read all labels. Manufacturers often add sugar to many products.3 Carb amounts can differ among brands, so make sure to check. Learn how to use the nutrition facts label

See all the 61 different names for sugar or sweeteners in products

 

Condiment clash

In a keto contest between mustard and ketchup, who wins? Mustard, hands down. Ketchup is full of sugar; mustard often has little or (occasionally) none.

But again, read labels carefully as some mustard brands do sneak in sweeteners. For example, traditional Dijon mustard has zero carbs while some “honey” mustard brands may have 10 grams or more.

 

Ribs, BBQ sauce and carbs (sugar)Barbecue basics

Feasting on tasty baby back ribs or a seared steak fresh off a hot grill is one of the great pleasures for many on the keto diet. However, beware of store-bought barbecue sauces, which are often high in sugar. Eat them with full knowledge of their carb hit, or try instead a savory, sugar-free rub or just season with salt, pepper, and powdered or minced garlic.

See our low-carb & keto BBQ guide

fat-rounded800Fat is fab!

Most of us start out understandably fat phobic after 40 years of being encouraged to eat low fat.

On keto, make sure to embrace the fat. Eat the butter, and stir coconut oil into tea and coffee.4 Drizzle on olive oil. Fat tastes great, it satisfies, and it helps make your keto diet sustainable.5

How much to eat? If you are hungry between meals, eat a bit more fat. See our guide on how to eat more fat

A word about oils

What about vegetable, nut and seed oils? This is a bit more complicated. Natural oils that have been around for thousands of years are generally safe and should be embraced on a keto diet.

Feel free to use pure olive oil, ghee, avocado oil, almond oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, fish oil — anything for which it is easy to extract the oil with simple pressing, grinding, churning or low heat separating.

We do recommend minimizing the use of industrial seed or vegetable oils created within the past 60 years, such as corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil. These oils are created by chemical extraction and high heat industrial processes.6 Since it’s not clear what kind of effects this might have on health, we feel that sticking with traditional, less processed fats makes sense.

Learn more here: Vegetable oils: are they healthy?

Similar keto guides

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Get lots of weekly keto meal plans, complete with shopping lists and everything, with our premium meal planner tool (free trial).

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  1. Studies have shown that people who eat high-fat keto meals typically feel fuller and less hungry:

    Obesity Reviews 2015: Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis [strong evidence]

  2. Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber.

  3. In a review of more than 40,000 products at a large Canadian grocery retailer, 66% were found to contain one or more added sugar:

    Canadian Medical Association Journal Open 2017: Added sugar in the packaged foods and beverages available at a major Canadian retailer in 2015: a descriptive analysis [ingredient analysis study; ungraded]

  4. Are you concerned about saturated fat? In all likelihood, you may not need to be. Although still somewhat controversial, several recent systematic reviews of randomized trials have failed to show a connection between eating saturated fat and increased heart disease risk:

    Open Heart 2016: Evidence from randomised controlled trials does not support current dietary fat guidelines: a systematic review and meta-analysis [strong evidence]

    Nutrition Journal 2017: The effect of replacing saturated fat with mostly n-6 polyunsaturated fat on coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials
    [strong evidence]

    Learn more here: A user guide to saturated fat

  5. In a recent study lasting two years, nearly 200 people followed a keto diet that allowed them to eat as much fat as they needed to feel satisfied:

    Frontiers in Endocrinology 2019: Long-term effects of a novel continuous remote care intervention including nutritional ketosis for the management of type 2 diabetes: a 2-year non-randomized clinical trial/strong> [non-controlled study; weak evidence]

  6. Chemical Engineering Transactions 2017: Recovery of vegetable oil from spent bleaching earth: state of-the-art and prospect for process intensification [overview article; ungraded]