HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Delicious Recipes for Diabetic Chowhounds???

After years of cooking a range of foods from around the world and relishing in assorted cooking techniques and a plethora of cooking styles and ingredients, I may soon be moving to a new home in which I will share responsibilities for cooking-- for a diabetic. I was looking forward to a new cooking challenge, until I just read the diabetic food rules in a Health Department brochure.

Suddenly, I've realised that my cream and butter based sauces, marinades including honey and salts (soy sauce), and other "go to" picker-uppers for food appear to be "no-no's". Looks like a lot of meats are off of the menu for the most part. Chicken is cost-prohibitive where I live (six thighs cost twenty dollars). Fish could work a couple of nights a week, but it is costly too. I think wine in recipes would have to go, not sure. Can't even replace wine with grape juice- sugar...

I've perused "diabetic" recipe books and online sources only to find their suggestions for meals, frankly, a bit bland and uninspiring. Is it possible that I am just looking for 'diabetic-friendly-recipe-love' in all the wrong places?

Last night, I dreamt that I was delighting in the camaraderie of my fellow Chowhounders here and you led me to the light! Why had I not thought of my beloved Chowhound before?

I ask in all humility and earnestness... is there such a thing as truly delicious diabetic main courses, side dishes, or even "football game" snacks that a cook like me would enjoy preparing and serving for friends? If so, would you please share them? This possible move to the world of dry and bland is a bit overwhelming and I need someone to kick-start my creativity in the diabetic dish department!

Thank you in advance for any suggestions, particularly specific winner recipes!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Our household has had 2 Type 1 diabetics for more than 15 years. We don't cook very differently from any other household that adheres to a healthy low fat diet. We mostly use olive oil and canola oil in our cooking but we use butter in moderation too. Not sure where you live; on sale I can get boneless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb and there's lots you can do with that. Do you have a Trader Joes near you? They have good quality frozen fish at moderate prices -- I've been buying their salmon fillets and cod fillets frequently.

    As to reducing the carb/sugar content of meals, again moderation is the watchword. For some recipes -- like marinades or dressings -- I just omit the sugar entirely and it tastes fine. For others, if its only a small amount, I'll just use the sugar; 1 or 2 tbs of sugar distributed into a dish with multiple servings is not that significant. For other dishes I'll substitute Splenda or use a 1/2 & 1/2 sugar/splenda mixture. The extent to which you need to eliminate carbs in food does depend in part on whether the diabetic uses insulin (which all Type 1s and some Type 2s do), or whether they control their blood sugar exclusively through diet and exercise.

    1. Diabetic friendly meals include loads of fresh veggies, whole grains, and legumes. If you are indeed inspired by the cuisines of the world, you should have no problem here. If you are starting from fresh, there is a lot more to work with, and the sodium isn't such a great concern, as you totally control it. It's not that you can't have honey or salt, or whatever, it's a matter of how much you're having, and what it's combined with. You want to load up on fiber. Wine can be substituted with home made stock or acids like lemon as appropriate. Herbs, particularly fresh, can bring much more to the table than cream and butter-based sauces. There are loads of great Indian, Thai, and Mediterranean inspired dishes. The flavor is out there -- you just need to look to the right cuisines. Snacks diabetic DH loves are homemade hummus with whole grain pita, olives, and veggies; fresh guacamole with jicama, sliced apples with nut butter. Favorite entrees include curries, lentil soups, veggie chili, rice noodles with vegetables and peanut sauce, summer rolls, stir frys....There is a lot to choose from. Think about what you can use, rather than what you can't. It opens a whole new world of possibilities.

      1 Reply
      1. re: maxie

        I actually avoid a legume based dish because they end up being pretty high in carbs. One cup of chickpeas ends up having 45 grams of carbs (although with 12 grams of fiber). Think about making starches the supporting player and beefing up the other components of a dish. Instead of spaghetti and meatballs, I do turkey meatballs in a tomato sauce that's beef up with grated zuchinni and carrot and served on one slice of ciabatta and light sprinkling of parmesan. Thicker sauces really help cut down on the need for starches. So for Indian, add eggplant to your curry as something to beef up the curry and eat half the amount of rice as you normally would use (like 3/4 of a cup).

      2. I have been type 1 for 25 years and I don't cook any "diabetic" meals. I have to monitor my carbs (carbs=sugar) and make sure I take the right amount of insulin to "process" the food without letting my blood sugar get too high. Things like fat and protein affect how the carbs "process," In and of itself, people with diabetes do not need any different intake or salt or carbohydrates than anyone else. (however, diabetes can lead to heart disease, so some people with diabetes are also on heart friendly, low cholesterol plan. but not everyone). learning things about carbs--how fast they "process" has an effect on how many someone with diabetes can eat at one time, but it really depends on the person.

        In short, a lot is going to depend on the particular condition of the person you are cooking. In general though, "dry and bland" is absolutely not required to cook for someone with diabetes. I have never seen any limitations on types of meat, for instance. I often cook with wine. and drink wine (again, knowing how it affects blood sugar and planning accordingly). I don't think you need to throw any of your current recipes away!

        3 Replies
        1. re: cocktailhour

          The very worst place to look for diabetic meals is in a diabetic cookbook; they're all loaded with foods that require boatloads of meds to control bg and restrict the foods that don't budge blood glucose in type 2, fat and protein. Grains are not diabetic friendly in any way, they're high caloric, promote dylsipidemia and fat does not.

          I was an undiagnosed diabetic for many years, during which I developed severe peripheral neuropathies and kidney damage. Both reversed quickly on a high fat and protein, veggie loaded very low carb diet. I take no meds and my A1c is always under 6.

          If you want your limbs, kidneys and vision to last the rest of your life, control your blood glucose with diet and activity, not with meds unless of course, you're insulin dependent. But you want to keep insulin requirements modest, too, to avoid complications from it as well.

          Here's a great diabetes resource: www.phlaunt.com/diabetes it addresses diet among other things. Also, Gretchen Beckers "The First Year, Type 2 Diabetes is a good book to check out.

          There's also a small group of diabetics who post to alt.food.diabetic on usenet. We're all pretty much folks who use our meters to keep a tight watch on which foods spike our bg and which ones keep us in non diabetic numbers even without medication, though some do use it. Some folks are uber low carb as I am, and some a bit looser with their carbs.

          1. re: cocktailhour

            Cocktail, you said much better what I was trying to say. The main area where I cook differently is for desserts, although we don't serve dessert typically unless we have guests or it's a special meal. And, I steer away from recipes that are loaded with sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc -- e.g, cole slaws, salads, sauces for meats.

            1. re: cocktailhour

              Agreed! As a type 1 I don't eat any differently than anyone else who eats a healthy, responsible diet. Of course I maybe pay a little bit more attention to carbs than the average joe, but other than that...

              I guess if the person the OP is referencing is a Type 2 diabetic, well then, they need to watch their fat & caloric intake more so than a type 1. But other than that, we don't need special accomodations.

            2. Here's the Mayo Clinic's listing of recipes for a diabetic diet. Lots of delicious ones in there. I know everyone's health situation is a little different, but this might be at least a starting point. Good luck!



              6 Replies
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                The Dairy Queen, have started browsing recipes here, all seem doable... I didn't think potato skins would be "allowed" because of the starchiness... am anticipating learning more on cooking for diabetics. Thank you for the link!

                1. re: ideabaker

                  That's fantastic! I hope that most of the recipes will fit your roomie's particular dietary needs, and will be delicious! It might even be fun if you reported your epxeriences back in this (or another) thread as a resource for posterity.


                  1. re: ideabaker

                    Ideabaker, the potato SKIN contains fiber and nutrients, not starch, I'm pretty sure (the starch is in the flesh)...potatoes eaten by themselves may be high glycemic, but eaten with another protein lowers the glycemic quality....here's my source:


                    1. re: Val

                      That hasn't been my experience. Even a bite or two of white potato shoots my blood glucose up in a mixed meal with fat and protein, same as any other starch.

                      1. re: mcf

                        mcf, do you know if this is different for each diabetic person or mostly this is just how it is for diabetics, period? Thank you!

                        1. re: Val

                          It's true for all diabetics; starches and sugars raise blood glucose. What's highly individual is which ones affect each of us the most, though wheat and white potatoes are pretty much universally bad.

                          The single most important thing any diabetic can do for him/herself is to follow this advice to find one's own post meal peaks (usually between 45-60 minutes) and to reduce or eliminate foods/meals that raise them above 140:



                2. To answer your question more specifically and on topic, some of the substitutes/changes I've made that enable me to keep tight glucose control without meds and that reversed long standing kidney and nerve damage:

                  Soft cooked, pureed cauliflower with butter, salt and pepper as a substitute for mashed poatoes.

                  Boiled and pureed rutabaga or white turnip for same. Yellow turnip/rutabaga is great as a bed for braised short ribs or pot roast and gravy, and turnip chunks serve well as a potato substitute in stew, too.

                  For stuff I used to serve over pasta, I now use a bed of whichever works best with the food: French style string beans, spaghetti squash, sauteed spinach, sautted zucchini ribbons

                  Ratatouille and grilled veggies make great side dishes hot or cold and are also great omelet fillers with some cheese

                  In summer, many of our meals consist of grilled meat, chicken or fish over mixed baby greens with nuts and other salad veggies.

                  Berries or rhubarb baked together with some sweetener and topped with cream whipped or unwhipped make a great dessert that's high in fiber, low in sugar.

                  Any cheesecake or flourless chocolate cake recipe will adapt really well to a mixture of xylitol and liquid sucralose (Splenda has nasty high glycemic bulking agent maltodextrin) combined, too. Dark chocolate is healthy and low in sugar, the darker the better.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: mcf

                    MCF, I can definitely do the pureed cauliflower to substitute mashed potatoes... how much butter is allowed ( thought we had to limit fats )... I have a "recipe" of steam/boiling cauliflower slowly with chicken broth, and a bit of butter with a lid on the pot. Cooking it until it is soft. Delicious, and sounds like I can keep it on the menu for my diabetic flatmate.

                    Is a yam (the white one, looks like a potato) too starchy? Dark chocolate is allowed??

                    Thanks for your help and please excuse my extreme ignorance on this matter!

                    1. re: ideabaker

                      I posted a thread on fauxtato salad, having realized that cooked dried large lima beans (aka butter beans) have a texture and taste that is extremely close to potato, much more so than cauliflower. If the heat ever subsides I will try them prepared like home fries, au gratin potatoes, etc. Beans are excellent for diabetics. By the way, I have read that cooked potatoes which have been cooled first, then reheated, are gentler on blood sugar levels than just-cooked.

                      1. re: ideabaker

                        Dark chocolate is definitely allowed. In fact the intensity of dark chocolate makes it easy to regulate. I usually can't eat more than half a bar myself.

                        1. re: Dcfoodblog

                          I'm satisfied with much less than half a bar. A few squares and I'm good to go. Sometimes I have it melted over some natural peanut butter.

                      2. re: mcf

                        "berries or rhubarb"

                        ^That phrase is actually very awesome advice. When I started bringing my mom gift-foods to help with her diet, I was shocked at how pretty much everything was loaded with carbs (no milk, mangoes, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, or oranges!) and got a lil discouraged. I'm not sure why, but a lot of berries (delicious, sweet ones) have only a few carbs.

                        Here's a list of the grams of carbohydrates in 1 1/2 cups of frozen berries/rhubarb:
                        33 Mango (for contrast)
                        27 Blueberries
                        23 Blackberries
                        22 Apricots
                        21 Strawberries
                        18 Rasberries
                        05 Rhubarb

                        I make a panna-cotta-esque pie with this list for reference. The pie has 3 - 7 grams of carbs per slice, depending on which fruit you go with:

                        For the Crust:
                        1/2 cup almonds, ground to powder
                        3 tbsp. butter
                        For the filling:
                        2 cups heavy whipping cream
                        1 cup splenda
                        1 tsp. vanilla extract
                        1 packet gelatin
                        1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
                        1 1/2 cup frozen fruit
                        1 tsp. lemon zest

                        For the Crust:
                        1. Preheat oven to 350.
                        2. If using sliced or whole almonds: grind into meal with a food processor.
                        3. Mix 3 tbsp. butter into the almonds. Stir into a paste, and spread across
                        the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan.
                        4. Bake for 8-15 minutes. (just until brown)
                        5. Cool in the freezer until ready to make the filling.

                        For the Pie:
                        1. Mix the cream and splenda in a small sauce pan. Heat on low until the
                        splenda dissolves and the mixture is warm.
                        2. Empty the gelatin packet into a large mixing bowl. Mix slowly with a few
                        tablespoons of cold tap water until dissolved.
                        3. Stir a tsp. of vanilla into the sauce pan, pour the cream mixture into
                        the mixing bowl, and stir the dissolved gelatin into the cream mixture.
                        4. Set frozen fruit (if you're using strawberries or apricots, you can thinly slice them, to keep the carbs low and improve the texture of the pie.) in the finished pie crust. Sprinkle lemon zest over the top.
                        5. Pour the cream mixture over the fruit and let set in the refrigerator for at
                        least 4 hours.

                        1. re: Altarbo

                          Sounds delicious. One suggestion; if you buy liquid sucralose (from sweetzfree.com), you avoid all the maltodextrin high GI carbs from the Splenda granular. I used almond flour, Diabetisweet brown sugar sub and butter to make a crust for cheesecake, works great.

                          1. re: mcf

                            Thanks for the url. I've been considering trying some of the liquid sweeteners, but haven't used up my last big bag of splenda yet. Your crust sounds quite awesome; I don't have a place near where I live that sells almond flour, so I haven't experimented with it yet.

                            1. re: Altarbo

                              Though I've never tried doing so, I believe you can grind your own almond flour: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2820...


                              1. re: Altarbo

                                Most natural food stores carry Bob's Red Mill almond meal, or you can order it online from a lot of sites, netrition.com is a very good resource, I've found. Also, King Arthur flour web site has various nut flours, including both toasted and untoasted almond.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Trader Joe's has it for the best price.

                                2. re: Altarbo

                                  @ TDQ: Hi. That's actually close to what I do. Of course I don't add the sugar, so I have stop before the grains get small enough to call flour. My first batch came out something close to grainy peanut butter. I was a little bit disappointed, until I added some toasted hazelnuts and pieces of ghirardelli. Homemade Nutella was awesome. So much more chocolate and nut flavours bursting out. (Although not at all low carb, especially when you spread it on toast.)

                                  @mcf: Sorry for late reply. How close to wheat flour is Bob's Red Mill? The stuff that I'm concocting in my kitchen is a great substitute (dare I say improvement?) for graham cracker crumbs. I could never imagine trying make a traditional pie crust (apple, quiche, etc.) or bread loaf or muffin with it though. If Whole Foods has it for close to the price of sliced almonds, I'll def. try it.

                                  @greygarious: Thank you much. Sadly where I'm staying now is 25 min. from a small town and 45 min. from Baton Rouge (louisiana). Plenty of nice produce in town: water melon guys, tomato/veg guys, produce market, wal-mart (like their mangoes/artichokes), farmer's market, cajun family run grocery, vietnamese family grocery. Trader's Joes: not so much. :( Two dollar wine that tastes pleasant . . . If you have crawfish where you live, I may have lost some kind of food lottery.

                                  1. re: Altarbo

                                    "@mcf: Sorry for late reply. How close to wheat flour is Bob's Red Mill? "

                                    It's not as fine or really anything like wheat flour, but it's an excellent substitute for crumb crusts, not pastry crusts. You could try experimenting with white carbalose flour for the other. A fabulous restaurant I go to makes a wonderful flourless chocolate cake that's not the usual dark, dense truffly bomb, but instead is almond flour and shavings of dark chocolate, so it's tan, not brown, very rich, great texture. Some folks make muffins and cookies with it, but I haven't.

                                3. re: mcf

                                  Speaking of almond flour, its makes great low-carb pancakes. I don't even use sugar free syrup. I just sprinkle some berries on top and I am good to go. Nigella Lawson's clementine cake uses almond flour and you can sub in your choice of sweetener.

                                  1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                    Yes, I've made that cake, though clementines are not at all kind to my bg, so haven't made it since. A lot of low carbers make cookies and muffins and pancakes from almond flour, with or without carbalose, and pancakes with ricotta.
                                    As for syrup; I've found that if I add some natural maple extract to sf syrup, it tastes much, much more like the real thing.

                                    Mostly, though, I just stay away from sweets, starches and sweeteners,period.

                            2. Pardon the interruption, folks, but we've deleted some posts that focus more on medical matters and nutritional questions, rather than recipes and deliciousness. Please limit your replies in this thread to discussing recipes: medical matters and nutrition issues are considered off-topic for our forums.

                              Thank you for your understanding.

                              1. I know you are looking for main courses but meringues and pavlovas are easily made with splenda without any discernible change in texture or taste. And cooking with wine should be fine. It's the alcohol in the wine that affects blood sugar and that gets cooked off.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                  For some folks. I get a horrid aftertaste and mouthfeel from Splenda, plus the bulking agent really ups the carbs per cup. If I cut liquid sucralose 50/50 with xylitol or erythritol, the bad attributes disappear, though.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    Do you have any issues with latent bg spikes with the xylitol? Mr. Geeky's Type 1 and he avoids the sugar alcohols because they muck with his bg hours after consumption and it's much harder to anticipate the spikes.

                                    1. re: geekyfoodie

                                      I don't, but I don't doubt it. Some folks seem to metabolize them (those of us who don't get the gastric reactions) and some folks don't (trots). Xylitol has 40% less carbs than sugar, so it's not negligible when used in quantity, not like zero calorie sweeteners. It has to be accounted for in the overall carb count of a meal or dessert. I think they are metabolized later, in the lower gut, so expecting that might help him with his insulin dosage. He might do better with erythritol (not any good for creamy, dairy type desserts) since most folks don't metabolize it, but he'd have to test it for his individual results. I know of one IDDM who gets a spike from it.

                                      Blending it with sweetzfree might help him out, too. Better taste with blending, too.

                                2. I recommend Martha Rose Shulman's new VERY BEST OF RECIPES FOR HEALTH. Not a diabetic cookbook per se, but includes nutritional info for each recipe. These flavorful, easy recipes center upon veggies and whole grains; about 80% are carb-friendly for diabetics.