Keto vegetables – the best and the worst

What vegetables are good on a keto diet? There’s a simple rule:

  • Vegetables growing above ground are lower carb and can be good keto options.
  • Vegetables growing below ground contain more carbs, so you’ll have to be more careful with them (especially potatoes).

Like any rule it is not perfect, so have a look below.

Above ground

All numbers are net carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).1  
 
LC-BG-veggies_new

Below ground

Keto vegetables growing below ground

All numbers represent percent of net carbohydrates.2 This means that a hundred grams (3½ ounces) – the weight of an average tomato – of any vegetable will contain this number of grams of carbs.

E.g. an average tomato has about 3 grams of carbs. A whole cauliflower head weighs perhaps ten times more, and may thus contain about ten times 4 grams, i.e. 40 grams of carbs.

Please note the difference between above-ground and below-ground vegetables.

Vegetables on keto

All foods are comprised of macronutrients – carbs, protein, and fat. While meat and most dairy are primarily made up of protein or fat, vegetables contain primarily carbs. On a strict ketogenic diet, with fewer than 5% of calories from carbs, it’s important to know which veggies are the lowest in carbs, particularly if your goal is to consume fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day.

Vegetables with less than 5 percent carbs may be eaten relatively freely on keto. If you’re on a not-too-strict low-carb diet (more than 20 grams per day), you can probably eat all you want of all these low-carb vegetables.

If you’re on a keto diet (below 20 grams a day), you may need to be a bit careful with some of the vegetables. You should be especially careful with peppers or tomatoes – these carbs quickly add up towards the 20 grams-a-day limit. Just one medium-sized pepper may contain 6-8 grams of digestible carbs.

More helpful guidelines

Here are two more general rules that can help you choose lower-carb vegetables:

  • In general, keto friendly veggies are those with leaves — all types of lettuces, spinaches, etc. are good ketogenic options.
  • Green vegetables tend to be lower in carbs than veggies with a lot of color. For example, green cabbage is lower in carbs than purple cabbage. Green bell peppers are also somewhat lower in carbs than red or yellow peppers.

Vegetables and fat

Use vegetables as a vehicle for fat by seasoning cooked vegetables with butter or ghee. Better yet, sauté or roast them in lard, coconut oil, avocado oil, or ghee. If you eat dairy, you can make a cream sauce with heavy cream, cheese, and/or cream cheese. Another excellent way to add fat to vegetables is by dipping them in salad dressings or other dipping sauces.

 

Top 10 keto vegetables

Low-carb veggies top 10

Here are the ten greatest keto vegetables, tasty and nutritious but with very few carbs. They’re sorted by how popular and useful they are in keto cooking.

All numbers are net carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).3

  1. Cauliflower – 4 g. The most classic and iconic of all keto vegetables. The base of cauliflower rice and cauliflower mash. Check out our top 18 cauliflower recipes
  2. Cabbage – 3 g. Another great keto vegetable. Who doesn’t love butter-fried green cabbage or the truly addictive Asian cabbage stir-fry? For more, see our top 21 cabbage recipes
  3. Avocado – 2 g. Not just keto, but also full of nutritious fat. Avocado can be eaten in all kinds of ways, including on its own, perhaps with some mayonnaise, or it can be used to make guacamole. But that’s just the start, here are more awesome avocado recipes
  4. Broccoli – 4 g. Another great option that can replace pasta, rice or potatoes. Just fry it in butter or add some cheese for great-tasting side dishes. More recipes
  5. Zucchini – 3 g. Try our zucchini fries or zucchini chips. Zucchini can also be used to make keto pasta, like in this keto carbonara. More recipes
  6. Spinach – 1 g. An extremely low-carb keto vegetable, that can be used in many ways. Check out our very popular keto frittata with fresh spinach or any of our many other spinach recipes
  7. Asparagus – 2 g. Tasty and nutritious and very low carb. Top recipes
  8. Kale – 4 g. Recipes
  9. Green beans – 4 g. Recipes
  10. Brussels sprouts – 5 g. Recipes

Vegetable sticks and dip

Low-carb snacks: vegetable sticks

 

Numbers are digestible carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).

Vegetable sticks are relatively low carb and keto friendly, except for carrots that have slightly more carbs.

Dip: Add cream cheese or any really low-carb and high-fat dip sauce. Here are our top recipes:

More

 

 
 

Peas, corn, beans, lentils, quinoa

Carbohydrates in peas, corn, beans, lentils, quinoa

Peas, corn, beans, lentils and quinoa are not vegetables and contain more carbohydrates than vegetables. Be careful with them on a keto diet, eating them in very small amounts or not at all.

Most of these plant foods are not classified as vegetables but as grains or legumes. They are not good keto options.

Grains and pure sugar

Grains, sugar, starches.

Wheat is not a vegetable, it is a grain. And anything made with wheat flour contains lots of rapidly digested carbs. Avoid this as much as possible when on a keto diet. Whole-grain products are just less bad – it’s like cigarettes with filter.

Bread, pasta, rice, cookies etc. are not vegetables, and they are full of carbohydrates.

High fructose corn syrup – the sugary nutrient in soda – comes from plants (corn), but it is not a vegetable and it most certainly is not keto.

 

 

Keto vegetable recipes

Top cauliflower recipes

Cauliflower may be the most popular keto vegetable of all. Here are our top cauliflower recipes:

 

Top cabbage recipes

Cabbage is another very versatile keto vegetable. Here are our top cabbage recipes:

Food for thought

A ketogenic diet and fewer vegetables
 

Similar keto guides

Meal plans

Get lots of weekly keto meal plans, complete with shopping lists and everything, with our premium meal planner tool (free trial).
 
  • Keto Asian cabbage stir-fryMon
  • Keto flying Jacob casseroleTue
  • Keto meat pieWed
  • Keto pesto chicken casserole with feta cheese and olivesThu
  • Keto pizzaFri
  • Keto hamburger patties with creamy tomato sauce and fried cabbageSat
  • Keto chicken Garam masalaSun

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A ketogenic diet for beginners
Ketogenic diet food list – what to eat
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  1. Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber.

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

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