Three Secret Ingredients for Cutting Fat, Not Flavor

There’s little worse than a healthy item that “tastes healthy”, and for low fat baked goods, this is especially true. Many personal and private chefs may think low fat means low flavor.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Avoid the gummy texture and the bland flavor and pull out these “secret ingredients” to create lower fat, full flavored food that will please.

Secret Ingredient: Bananas

Bananas are quite possibly the most versatile fruit, and they also happen to be the cheapest, averaging about two dollars a bunch. Not only does their creamy and luxurious texture act like an oil would, it also adds potassium and fiber to your dish.

Where to Use: Baked Goods, of all kinds. There’s the iconic banana bread, when, done correctly, needs very little oil; but also much less obvious selections. For a more elegant twist, there’s vegan creme brulee, deep chocolate cake, or even German apple cake. For simpler fare that places the bananas front and center, there’s one ingredient ice cream .

What you Need to Know: The big downside to using bananas to substitute for all or part of the oil and butter in baked goods is that it’s limited. For one, there will be some element of a banana flavor, so recipes that embrace, rather than mask that flavor work best. Bananas, of course, would not work well in main dishes as a fat substitute.

Pick it Right: Bananas are at their best when they’re ripe. Chose bananas that are lightly speckled, and steer clear of ones whose skin is still green.

Secret Ingredient: Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has exploded in popularity since its entrance in the American marketplace several years ago, and for good reason. It’s full flavored, creamy, and packed with healthful protein. Fat free and low fat versions of Greek yogurt have the tang and texture of sour cream, and a fraction of the fat.

Where to Use: For savory dishes, sour cream can be swapped with Greek yogurt without making an impact on flavor or taste. It can also be used to enhance mashed potatoes, a sophisticated take on Mac& Cheese, and even creamy dressing, like this caesar Greek yogurt dressing recipe. On the sweeter side, Greek yogurt is excellent in quick breads, cakes, and muffins. It’s especially excellent for frozen and cold desserts, like cheesecake, ice cream, and even fudgsicles.

What you Need to Know: Don’t go all in, especially if it’s a dessert like cheesecake, where the main ingredient (cream cheese) is there for a reason beyond flavor: it also needs some fat. Follow recipe guidelines, sub half the fat component, and know that plain Greek yogurt may make the product a bit more tart (you can either add a bit more sugar if it’s too tart, or use a flavored vanilla Greek yogurt, as needed).

Pick it Right: Don’t be too cheap. Go with name brands here; store brands run the risk of being grainy in texture. On the label, there should be only some form of milk and cream and live active cultures. Some Greek Yogurts, to cut cost, add thickening agents instead of straining the yogurt. This is not “real” Greek yogurt, and will not have as good of a taste, or texture.

Secret Ingredient: Spices, Extracts & Natural Flavors

The final secret ingredient personal and private chefs need to know about is in a different category. While seasoning has always been a way of enhancing flavor, it can help slash fat in dishes too.

How? Extracts and seasonings like cloves, cinnamon, and allspice bring out naturally sweet components, while fresh citrus and herbs like sage, herbs de provence, and basil complement savory (and sweet) notes.

Where to Use:  The key here is not, as it is with the other secret ingredients, to literally replace fat, but to make up for some of the flavor that can be lost when fat is reduced. A favorite ingredient to replace fat in baked goods, for instance, is applesauce, which may work but can also reduce the luxurious flavor. Adding more extract and spices help complement the apple sauce and add a new component. If the fat is not replaced but simply reduced (using less oil in a stir fry, etc), spices and herbs can help enhance meats and vegetables so the flavor from the fat will not be as missed.

What you Need to Know: This is by no means a substitute for fat in any recipe. It is only meant to add flavor and interest. Also, add spices and flavors slowly, taste testing often, to make sure not to overdo it.

Pick it Right: If going fresh (herbs, citrus) make sure it’s ripe and stored properly. Select flavors to complement, not fight the flavors already present.


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