Bread machines make it possible to bake delicious loaves of bread in your own kitchen, saving you money and giving you control over exactly what's in your food. If you're watching your carbohydrate intake, though, you know that traditional bread is off-limits (or at least very tightly restricted) on many low-carb and ketogenic diets.
That doesn't mean you have to put your bread machine back on the shelf, however. It just means you'll need to make some adjustments to the ingredients you use and the quantities you're consuming. Here are some tips and simple recipes for making low-carb bread at home.
Bread Machine Tips
Before you do anything else, read through the instruction manual of your bread maker. You'll want to add ingredients in the order suggested (this varies by machine), and make sure the liquid you're using is at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Red Star Yeast. This ensures your yeast proofs properly, which is necessary for rising. King Arthur Flour notes that instant yeast is stronger and faster acting than active dry yeast, which helps it perform particularly well in bread machines.
Don't be afraid to check on your dough when it's mixing or rising. Add dry or wet ingredients as needed to get the consistency you're looking for: Soft and tacky. If using perishable items in your recipe — such as eggs or cottage cheese — don't use the delayed baking feature, warns King Arthur Flour. Instead, bake the bread right away. Bacteria may grow if these ingredients are left at room temperature for too long, ruining your entire loaf.
Baking with Low-Carb Flours
To make a low-carb loaf of bread, you'll need to sub out traditional wheat flour with something higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates. Common low-carb flours include almond, soy or coconut flour.
Almond flour has the least number of carbs, according to the USDA, with just six grams of total carbohydrates — and three grams of net carbs — per 1/4 cup. (Net carbohydrates is a measure of the total grams of carbohydrates minus dietary fiber and sugar alcohol; many low-carb diet plans recommend counting net carbs rather than total carbs.)
Soy flour has eight grams of carbs and coconut flour has nine per quarter-cup, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. When baked, a slice of low-carb bread can have anywhere from three to six grams of net carbs.
Low-carb flour may be a bit pricier than your usual wheat flour, and some types should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain quality, according to Bob's Red Mill. (Always follow storage and use instructions on the packaging.) And like all flours, it should be stored in an airtight container.
It's also important to note that low-carb flour can't be substituted one-to-one for wheat flour in traditional bread recipes. "If you were to lay two bowls on your counter and you look at the difference between, say, a nut flour and a wheat flour, you'll see they have very different texture and very different volume," says Suzanne Ryman-Parker, RD, founder of the gluten-free Powerhouse Bakery at Nutrition Matters, Inc., in San Antonio, Texas.
For this reason, it's important to make sure you're following a recipe created specifically with a low-carb or gluten-free flour in mind. "When you take away the volume of a wheat flour, you usually have to replace it with more than one ingredient," says Ryman-Parker.
Vital wheat gluten, yeast, baking powder, salt and sugar substitute are also common dry ingredients found in a low-carb bread recipe. Ready-made low-carb bread mixes are available as well — from companies like Bob's Red Mill — and contain a blend of low-carb flours, along with some of the other dry ingredients.
Getting Creative With Ingredients
Bread machine recipes also include wet ingredients, which add flavor and color and activate the yeast. Some of these ingredients are fine for low-carb diets — including eggs, butter, almond milk, whipping cream, water and sour cream.
Other wet ingredients — like honey, brown rice syrup, applesauce, or bananas—are high in carbohydrates. Yeast does need fuel, like the simple sugars these ingredients provide, in order for bread to grow. However, if you're watching your carbohydrate intake, ingredients that are high in sugar and low in fiber should be limited, says Ryman-Parker.
Adding one tablespoon of honey, a 1/2-cup of applesauce or sliced bananas to a bread machine adds between 12 and 17 grams of net carbs to an entire recipe, according to the USDA. Depending on how many slices you get from a loaf of bread, that's about one to two extra grams of carbohydrates per slice.
Read more: Why Isn't White Bread Good for You?
Just like in traditional bread baking, you can add other ingredients to your low-carb bread to change the texture and flavor. "We have some really popular breads made with a nut flour blend as well as either sour cream or eggs—one is egg-free and the other is dairy-free, so they work for different special diets." says Ryman-Parker. For other ideas, she recommends searching Pinterest for low-carb or keto bread recipes.
Feel free to get creative, too: Herbed bread made with naturally carb-free rosemary or basil makes a nice savory loaf that goes well with chicken salad. Or make a loaf of Parmesan cheese bread to cut up and make into croutons for your salad. (An ounce of Parmesan cheese has only about 1 gram of net carbs, according to the USDA.)
If you want bread with a little crunch, add chopped walnuts, which have only two grams of net carbohydrates per 1/4-cup, according to the USDA. Toss in some chopped black or green olives, then serve the olive bread as an appetizer or snack, with a little dish of olive oil — a good source of monounsaturated fat — for dipping.
- Red Star Yeast: "Bread Machine Yeast"
- King Arthur Flour: "Bread Machines & Ingredients"
- King Arthur Flour: "Bread Machine Basics"
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service : "Almond Flour"
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service : "Whole Ground Soy Flour 35% Protein"
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service : "Organic Coconut Flour"
- Bob's Red Mill: "Storing Whole Grains"
- My Food Data: "Nutrition Comparison of Applesauce Canned Unsweetened Without Added Ascorbic Acid (Includes USDA Commodity), Bananas, and Honey"
- USDA Food Competition Databases: "Cheese, parmesan, hard"
- USDA Food Composition Databases: "Chopped Walnuts"
- Bob's Red Mill: Coconut Flour
- King Arthur Flour: Almond Flour