This topic is one of several guides on how to cook. This is the place to start if you’re new to cooking or want to learn some new cooking skills. This isn’t about recipes, it’s about learning how food works so you don’t need recipes anymore.
If you care about your health (or impressing your hot Tinder date), you’re going need to know how to throw down in the kitchen. This is especially true for us ketoinians. Since most restaurants use carbs like they’re going out of style (which they are), it’s important that we know how to make our own keto-friendly chow.
Cooking is an essential skill, but if you’re new to the cooking arena, there’s a cacophony of information. Tons of gadgets, plenty of complicated recipes, and lots of stupid opinions. Fortunately, cooking isn’t all that hard. With a little know how and some basic equipment, you’ll be making amazing keto food in no time.
In this topic, we’re going to look at building flavor combinations. Learning this skill will help eliminate a dependence on recipes and keep you from getting bored. If you understand flavor combinations, even a cheap simple protein like eggs can be made in dozens of novel ways.
Another major benefit is that you will begin to understand how recipes work. This makes it possible to “keto-fy” a recipe and retain the same flavor profile. So buckle up and prepare to learn about flavor combinations.
Food as a Formula
I like to think of all dishes as a formula. (because I’m a nerd) At it’s most basic level, you have the following:
seasoning/flavoring + material + technique = a dish.
salt & pepper + ribeye + grilling = tasty steak
(tarragon + shallots + salt) + eggs + frying = omelet
Each of these parts of the formula can get complicated, but this is the basic template. For the flavor component, you can break it down even more.
salt + herbs / spices / peppers / aromatics (ex. onions, garlic, etc…) + acid = flavor profile
salt and pepper - works on: (steaks, eggs, roast beasts, damn near anything really)
salt, lemon (acid), basil (herb) - works on: (eggs, chicken, fish)
salt, cumin (spice), ancho (chili) , lime (acid) - works on: (chicken, fish, beef)
salt, cinnamon (spice), ancho (chili), apple cider vinegar (acid) - works on: (pork)
The best way to learn is to experiment with different combinations. I recommend getting a cheap protein like eggs and cooking them using different flavor combos. Start with simple combinations and work your way up. Eggs are a perfect canvas for flavor testing because they are a cheap flavor canvas. Personally, I’m a big fan of curry eggs (salt, chili, curry spice, sriracha sauce). You could also experiment by making flavored mayos. Eventually, you will be able to build the flavor combinations in your head without having to actually cook anything.
Additionally, when you read recipes, look for the flavor combination used in the recipe. I find that curries and other indian recipes have complex flavor combinations I wouldn’t otherwise think of. When I lean a new dish, I’ll look at a bunch of different recipes to figure out what flavor combos are at the core of the dish.
What’s missing from most home cooked food is salt and acidity. If your food is tasting a little flat, try adding a little salt or an acid to punch it up. I keep a decent stock of vinegars for this purpose.
Flavor Compound List
Mix and match these liberally and learn what works for you. Don’t feel obligated to buy everything on this list. Just get a few things and experiment.
kosher salt - irregular crystals make this taste better than standard table salt
sea salt - also a good choice.
French Sea Salt (flour de sel) - this is a wet sea salt that’s really tasty
Himalayan pink salt
herbs - basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro, tarragon, dill
spices - cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika
aromatics - garlic, shallots, onion, scallions
peppers - ancho chili pepper, chipotle peppers, cayenne pepper
curry (which is actually a mix of spices, but I digress)
Add these if you want a more “meaty” flavor:
soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
lemon, lime, orange (I like using True Lemon and extracts for this purpose)
apple cider vinegar
white wine vinegar
red wine vinegar
side note - avoid balsamic vinegar. It’s tasty, but it’s also loaded with pesky carbs
If you want to build an ever expanding number of dishes, master flavor combinations. With some basic ingredients, dietary novelty is yours for the taking.