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The different types of low-carb sauces include white sauces made with alternate thickening ingredients and red sauces made with reduced amounts of sugar. Various recipes for syrups and marinades can also be made with a few specific ingredient substitutes. Although some brands of low-carb sauces are available in stores, many nutritionists advise that some of these sauces can have higher concentrations of chemical preservatives. Making low-carb sauces from scratch is generally not as challenging as some cooks may think, and the key to a good result is usually a basic understanding of how standard sauce thickeners work.
White sauces made with low-carb ingredients can include white clam and vegetable-based sauces that can be served over pasta, meats, or rice dishes such as risotto. Instead of high-carb cornstarch, recipes for white clam sauce typically call for pureed vegetables as a healthy thickening option. Some cooks report good results from pureeing cauliflower or zucchini and mixing this puree in with the rest of the ingredients. Clams and similar types of seafood contain zero carbohydrates and relatively low amounts of sodium even when canned. Other sauce ingredients that are good choices for a low-carb diet include mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.
Other low-carb sauces can also include no-sugar barbeque sauce, low-carb ketchup, and low-carb tomato sauce. Many manufactured versions of these sauces are known for their high amounts of sugar, disqualifying them from a low-carb eating plan. Recipes for these red sauces have similar vegetable ingredients and artificial sweeteners as replacements for the sugar. Cooks generally have several options for these types of sugar substitute products. Some recipes for low-carb ketchup and tomato sauce also include natural fresh ingredients, such as pureed tomatoes and eggplant.
Cooks who are interested in making low-sugar foods can also try recipes for sweet sauces as well as savory ones. Maple syrup, sweet and sour sauce, and cranberry sauce can all be made as low-carb sauces. They typically contain ingredients such as flavor extracts, artificial sweeteners, and certain thickening agents mixed in for them to have the correct consistency.
Thickeners commonly used in low-carb sauces are guar gum, xanthan gum, and egg yolk. Both guar and xanthan gums are fiber-based vegetable products that contain none of the complex carbohydrates found in starch-based thickening agents. Many cooks prefer these thickeners because it normally takes only a small measure of them to give a low-carb sauce a rich texture.
If you're just using a tablespoon or so of cornstarch, you're probably all right using that much in a sauce for an entire dish. If you want to do a low-sugar barbecue sauce, look for the brown sugar/Splenda mix, and use sugar free maple syrup or sugar-free corn syrup.
Most mustard based sauces are by definition low-carb since they don't usually include a lot of sugar, but are supposed to be tart and spicy.
Low-carb salad dressings are easy. Vinegar and oil is always a good choice, and if you're careful with your ingredients, a low-carb ranch or bleu cheese dressing will also work well. Anything that doesn't take a lot of sugar, like a French or Russian dressing, should be fine.
I do a sugar-free cranberry sauce every year. I just use the same amounts of Splenda as I do sugar. I usually add about a tablespoon of sugar, since that seems to take the "weird" taste out that you sometimes get with artificial sweetener.
I like to use the San Marzano canned tomatoes (that's the variety of tomatoes they are) for a red sauce. It's super easy. Just pulse the tomatoes in the food processor two or three times so they're chunky. Soften half a chopped onion in a pot, add half a stick of butter and melt it. Then add the entire can of the tomatoes, juice and all and some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. That's it.
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