I’ve been working on meal plans for Low Carb and Slow Carb diets this fall and winter, and while main dish proteins and vegetables are pretty easy to modify, low carb desserts are challenging. Most meal plans that are developed with health and diet in mind will veer towards fruit desserts, and berries are the best of the fruits when considering low carb recipes.
While it’s true that most fruit has more nutritional value than sugary candy bars or prepared foods, for the most part fruit is very high in sugar (fructose). And, as our sweet tooth has grown stronger over the past years, the seed companies have kept up with the demand, hybridizing fruits and vegetables to be sweeter and sweeter.
Berries (and some citrus) give the biggest bang for the buck on a low-carb diet, meaning they have the most nutritional value (high in antioxidants) and the least amount of sugar. I’ve included a chart at the end of this post listing the popular fruits relative to the amounts of carbs in them.
But first the promised low carb dessert.
Acknowledging berries as the go-to fruit to work with in a dessert, the next challenge is to make it rich in flavor without adding much sugar. Heavy cream and yogurt have very little lactose (milk sugar) so I was intrigued with a recipe that I found in a cookbook called “Farmers’ Market Desserts”. The Panna Cotta was made with yogurt and heavy cream, neither of which have much lactose, and it used very little sugar.
I modified it a bit and it was perfect! Lots of great flavor, low in carbs (for a dessert) and easy to make. It does have 1/3 cups sugar in a recipe that serves 4 so be aware if you are being really, really strict).
The only tricky thing is getting the panna cotta out of whatever you use for molds or ramekins, but the strawberry sauce can cover up any cosmetic breaks. And who cares about cosmetics anyway when it tastes this good!!
Low Carb Dessert Recipe:
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I like the FAGE brand)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/3 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp
- 3 cups strawberries (frozen is OK)
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- In a small bowl add the water and then sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let it sit undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the cream, 1 cup yogurt, the vanilla and the salt. Let the yogurt mixture sit while you heat the remaining 3/4 cup cream and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just starting to bubble gently (not boiling).
- Remove the pot from the heat and scrape in all of the gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved (no granular texture, it should be smooth). Then add this gelatin-cream mixture to the yogurt mixture and whisk together thoroughly.
- Ladel mixture into 6-ounce molds (anything works; small bowls or ramekins). Refrigerate until set (4 hours or up to 3 days). Only cover with plastic wrap after they are cold to avoid condensation.
- About an hour before serving, make the strawberry sauce by first slicing up 2 1/2 cup strawberries (I used frozen berries that were thawed) and placing them in a medium bowl. In a food processor puree the remaining 1/2 cup berries with 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp lemon juice. Add the puree to the sliced berries and stir in 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp pepper and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
- When ready to serve, dip ramekins or molds into hot water for a few seconds, Run a thin, sharp knife around inside of mold and then invert panna cottas onto individual dessert plates. Shake to loosen, or tap bottoms of mold and then lift off ramekins or molds. Spoon strawberry sauce over each panna cotta. Serve immediately.
If you don’t care for the balsamic topping with the strawberries, I’ve posted another low carb dessert recipe that uses red wine with the strawberries instead and buttermilk instead of greek yogurt. Click here to see that recipe.
Now, I’ll end the post with a list of low, medium and high carb fruits that comes in handy when you are making decisions on a low carb diet. If you want more hands on help I do provide online diet coaching on a platform called coach.me. Click here if you want to see more about the diet coaching.
Low Carb Fruit Quick List (for use in Low Carb Desserts)
Serving Size: 1/4 cup.
Fruits Lowest in Sugar:
- Lemon or lime
Fruits Low to Medium in Sugar
- Casaba Melon
- Honeydew melons
Fruits Fairly High in Sugar
Fruits Very High in Sugar:
- Dried Fruit