Sugar-free jerky

Jerky is a great low-carb snack / travel food. However, it’s almost impossible to find commercial jerky that doesn’t contain sugar. But – good news! You can make your own, and you don’t even need a dehydrator. I’ve made jerky many times in my oven, both for gifts and to take on trips, with great results.

This recipe gets saltiness from the soy/tamari, a touch of sweetness from the onion powder, and a complex, layered heat from the red pepper flakes and the freshly ground black pepper.

Note: Because of the long drying time needed, plan ahead. I usually put it in the oven early in the morning, or last thing at night. You don’t want to be getting up at 3:00 a.m. to check your jerky!

A few simple ingredients
Marinate status is GO!
All patted dry with paper towels and ready to go in the oven
You want to prop the oven door open just a *little* bit — the  interior light should not come on

Sugar-free jerky

  • Difficulty: moderate
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Portable, meaty, and delicious!


The meat:

  • 2 lb baron of beef or other fairly lean cut, thinly sliced. Ask your butcher to slice it for you, or if doing it yourself, put in the freezer for about 45 minutes to make it easier to slice thinly.

The marinade:

  • Large ziploc-type bag(s)
  • 3/4 cup sugar-free soy sauce  (e.g., Kikkoman brand) or tamari
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder. Note: Onion powder, not onion salt – if it’s lumpy, sift it.


  1. Slice the meat thinly.
  2. Put it in a large ziploc plastic bag (or a couple of smaller bags) and marinate it in the fridge for 2 – 4 hours, turning once or twice. The longer you leave it, the stronger and saltier the taste.
  3. Take it out of the bag, drain it, and pat it dry with lots of paper towels. If you like, you could try saving the marinade to use as a gravy (add heavy cream or coconut milk).
  4. Spread the meat on racks over cookie sheets, taking care to spread each piece of meat fully open – any folds will cause that piece to dry more slowly.
  5. Place in the oven on the lowest setting (my oven’s lowest setting is 170 degrees F / 75 C).
  6. Dry in the oven for 8 -12 hours with the oven door propped partly open. I use an oven mitt or folded tea towel jammed in the door. You want air to circulate, but you don’t want the oven door to be open so much that the interior oven light comes on, because this means the oven will try to heat further and the jerky may bake rather than dehydrating. The timing is variable because it depends on the moisture content of your meat and of the air, the temperature of the air, your oven heat, and the thickness of the slices of meat.
  7.  The jerky is done when it cracks, rather than bends; it may have beads of fat on it.
  8. Cool the jerky on racks, then store in freezer bags or food storage containers. It will keep at room temperature for 2- 3 months, or longer in the freezer.

Bobotie num num

With a few tweaks, this hearty South African classic of mildly spiced ground beef topped with a savoury custard becomes 100% low-carb.

Raisins or other dried fruit are traditional, but they trigger my sugar addiction, so I replaced them with chopped apple.

I made this for a recent international potluck dinner with friends — I was proud to represent my South African heritage.

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At the potluck (photo taken by the hostess). The menu cards were fun!

The dish on its own is perfect for strict low-carb or keto diets, while adding side dishes of your choice makes it work for moderate or liberal low-carb.

The dish was originally inspired by the recipe at Foodie Goes Primal, but I’ve changed up the spices, removed the dried fruit (as described above) and made the dish larger to feed a crowd.

PS The title of this post references a certain classic movie. If you know which one, comment and let me know!

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Ready to go in the oven


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My favourite curry powder enjoying an early summer afternoon on our deck

Low-carb Bobotie

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Mildly spicy and close to zero carbs


For the meat mixture:

    • 3 tbsp of one of the following: coconut oil, olive oil, lard, butter or ghee
    • 1.5 large onions, finely chopped
    • 1.5 tbsp curry powder (I use Sun Brand Madras curry powder, which gets high ratings from Cook’s Illustrated)
    • 1.5 tsp turmeric
    • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 3 lb / 1.5 kg ground beef (free-range, if possible)
    • 1.5 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup apple, finely chopped
    • 3 eggs (free-range, if possible)

For the custard topping:

    • 4 large eggs plus one egg yolk (free-range, if possible); the extra egg yolk gives the topping a lovely golden colour
    • 1 cup heavy cream or creamy coconut milk
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • Freshly ground pepper to taste, approx. 1/4 tsp
    • 3 bay leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 325 F
  2. Heat the coconut oil over medium-low heat in a large pot
  3. Add the onions and spices, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden and translucent
  4. Add the ground beef and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is no longer pink.
  5. Stir in the chopped apple.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the 3 eggs together until they’re well combined, then pour over the meat mixture. Stir well.
  7. Put the meat and egg mixture into a large baking dish and pat to distribute evenly.
  8. Now make the savoury custard: In a separate bowl, use an egg-beater or a whisk to combine the eggs, egg yolk, cream or coconut milk, salt and pepper.
  9. Pour the custard evenly over the meat
  10. Position the bay leaves decoratively on top.
  11. Bake for about 45 minutes, carefully rotating the dish once after about 25 minutes to ensure even browning
  12. Bobotie num num!

Sloppy Joes on Low-Carb Buns

Mmmm, Sloppy Joes! The warm richness of the tomato-y ground beef served over a pillowy hamburger bun — pure comfort food!

The standard Sloppy Joe recipe, however, contains a ton of sugar. For example, 3/4 of a cup of ketchup (i.e., tomato-flavored sugar), plus 3 teaspoons of brown sugar.

Continue reading “Sloppy Joes on Low-Carb Buns”

Paleo Tacos

I was lurking in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store, surreptitiously photographing packages of taco mix. At any moment, a store employee might tap me on the shoulder and ask me to leave.

My goal? To create taco-seasoned ground beef that had the deliciously gummy texture and slight sweetness  of the packaged taco mixes, but with no added sugars. To stay Paleo, which means avoiding grains, I planned to serve the spiced taco meat in lettuce leaf cups.

After a bit of experimentation, I had something pretty close to the original. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Continue reading “Paleo Tacos”