Low-carb vegetables – the best and the worst

What low-carb vegetables are good? There’s a very simple rule:

  • Vegetables growing above ground are low carb and can be eaten freely.
  • 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

Low-carb vegetables

Below ground

Low-carb 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 a lot more though, 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 with less than 5 percent carbs may be eaten relatively freely. 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 low-carb diet (below 20 grams a day), you may need to be a bit careful with some of the vegetables. You should probably 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.
 

Top 10 low-carb vegetables

Low-carb veggies top 10

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

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

  1. Cauliflower – 4 g. The most classic and iconic of all low-carb vegetables. The base of cauliflower rice and cauliflower mash. Check out our top 18 cauliflower recipes
  2. Cabbage – 3 g. Another great low-carb vegetable. Who doesn’t love butter-fried green cabbage or the truly addictive Asian cabbage stir-fry? For more, here are our top 21 cabbage recipes
  3. Avocado – 2 g. Not just low carb, 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 low-carb pasta, like in this low-carbonara. More recipes
  6. Spinach – 1 g. An extremely low carb vegetable, spinach is full of vitamins and minerals and can be used in dozens of ways. It pairs beautifully with eggs, such as in our popular frittata. Check out that spinach recipe, and and many more
  7. Asparagus – 2 g. Revered as both a food and medicine – and aphrodisiac – by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans up to medieval times, asparagus is one of the world’s oldest cultivated vegetables. Nutritious and delicious! Try it wrapped with prosciutto and grilled, or in other tasty recipes
  8. Kale – 4 g. Hardier than spinach, less watery, but just as nutritious, kale can stand up to mincing, sautéing, baking, and much more. Cut into ribbons, it makes a great noodle substitute for zesty sauces. Recipes
  9. Green beans – 4 g. Frenched, diced and tossed in a salad, fricasseed and more, green beans taste great especially with added fats like butter, an olive-oil vinaigrette, or bacon. Recipes
  10. Brussels sprouts – 5 g. Nutty, filling and nutritious, they are especially good roasted with olive oil and garlic, or with bacon. Or steam and serve with a cheese cream sauce. 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, 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:

 

 
 

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 strict low-carb 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 low-carb 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 low-carb 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 low carb.

 

 

Low-carb vegetable recipes

Top cauliflower recipes

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

Top cabbage recipes

Cabbage is another very versatile low-carb vegetable. Here are our top cabbage recipes:

Food for thought

A ketogenic diet and fewer vegetables
 

 

 
 

Q&A

Here are a few common question about low-carb vegetables. For all kinds of questions, have a look at our full low-carb FAQ.

Can you eat tomatoes on a low-carb diet?

Yes. Tomatoes contain about 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams (about 6 grams per cup). But if you’re eating a strict keto low-carb diet (below 20 grams per day) it’s worth keeping in mind that the carbs do add up, and you can only eat a moderate amount of tomatoes to stay under that limit.

Are cucumbers low in carbs?

Cucumbers have about 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams, so they are fairly low carb – as you can see in the visual guide above. You can absolutely eat cucumber on a low-carb diet.

Are carrots OK on low carb?

Carrots contain about 7 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. On a strict low-carb diet (below 20 grams per day) you may want to avoid carrots completely. But they can be OK on a moderate or liberal low-carb diet (if you’re aiming to stay below 50 or 100 grams of carbs per day).

 
Full low-carb diet FAQ

 

 

Visual low-carb guides

Meal plans

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

 

More

A low-carb diet for beginners
Low-carb foods
 
14-day low-carb diet meal plan
  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.