This Low-Carb Keto Cheesecake Will Satisfy Your Sugar Cravings
The keto diet isn't just an emotional journey (because isn't every diet an emotional journey?) but a physically grueling one to boot. Just ask anyone who has ever endured the so-called keto flu—the period of insanely intense cravings, fatigue, and irritability. And if you aren't already living the keto lifestyle, you might be wondering, what exactly is the appeal of this low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet?
"The idea behind keto is to keep your fat-accumulating hormone, insulin, low by keeping your blood sugar low," explains Vincent M. Pedre, M.D. "In doing so, you turn on fat-burning genes while suppressing the abdominal-fat-amassing machinery."
If you know anything at all about the basic food groups, your brain is probably conjuring up images of high-fat, low-carb avocados, coconuts, chicken thighs, and salmon—and a total dearth of breads, cakes, and other delicious comfort foods. But as unbelievable as this might sound (considering the basic definition of keto we just gave you), you can integrate comfort foods into a keto-friendly lifestyle. To prove it, we have a delicious keto cheesecake recipe that will absolutely knock your sugar-craving socks off.
The ingredients: What makes a cheesecake recipe keto?
You're probably wondering: How can a keto cheesecake be a thing that exists? Well, it's all about making small tweaks and swaps to the traditional cheesecake ingredients. For this particular cheesecake (scroll to the bottom for the full recipe) from the cookbook Southern Keto by Natasha Newton, it all starts with the crust.
The cheesecake crust.
Traditional cheesecake crusts are made with graham crackers, which are tasty and delicious but high in carbs and sugar. This crust, on the other hand, is made with almond flour and pecans. Almond flour hits a lot of nutritional high points, making it a perfect substitute. Almond flour is gluten- and grain-free and high in monounsaturated fats, which work to decrease your risk of heart disease. It's also packed with antioxidant-rich vitamin E and is a great source of the essential minerals magnesium and potassium.
Often underrated, pecans are great too. "Pecans are chock-full of nutrients—containing about 19 different vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants," explains registered dietitian Britni Thomas, R.D. "The monounsaturated fats in pecans may help improve your cholesterol profile." What's more, pecans also contain three times as many flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) as almonds, which makes them as impressively healthy as they are deliciously tasty.
When it comes to adding a splash of sweetness to the crust, this keto cheesecake recipe relies on erythritol, a natural sugar alternative that tastes almost exactly like the real thing—all without the massive amount of calories or blood sugar spike.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. Unlike many other sugar-free sweeteners, which usually have zero calories, sugar alcohols do contain up to 3 calories per gram. The minuscule number of calories in erythritol is worth it, though, as zero-calorie artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet), and saccharin (Sweet N' Low) often come with a slew of unhealthy effects that you definitely want to avoid: "These chemical sweeteners actually change the bacterial makeup of your microbiome. This can be a trigger for autoimmune problems, diabetes, and metabolic disorders," according to William Cole, D.C., IFMCP, functional medicine expert and mbg Collective member.
It's important to note, however, that sugar alcohols aren't a great option for everyone. They are known to have a laxative effect if consumed in high quantities and can cause major flare-ups of digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and SIBO. Since your body does not completely absorb sugar alcohols, they're left to ferment in the large intestine, which can cause gas and bloating. If you suffer from IBS, SIBO, or other digestive problems, this keto cheesecake recipe might not be for you, as erythritol is also a key ingredient in the keto cheesecake filling.
The cheesecake filling.
Now, onto the filling. Here's some great news: The cream cheese needs no substitution. One of the reasons that cheesecake is such an ideal dessert to get a keto makeover is that cream cheese is a pretty keto-friendly food already. This versatile (and tasty, of course) ingredient is used in quite a few keto and low-carb recipes due to its macronutrient breakdown. A 2-tablespoon serving of cream cheese contains just 1.6 grams of carbohydrates, along with a good dose of fat (10 grams) and a moderate amount of protein (1.8 grams), which is key to its keto-friendly status. Cream cheese also contains small amounts of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
The cheesecake filling also calls for four eggs, which helps explain why this dish works so well with a keto diet. Eggs are, after all, a rich source of protein and healthy fats. They're also a good way to get more choline, selenium, and vitamin B12 in your diet, according to experts. "Eggs can be a highly beneficial food for women. [They] are an excellent source of vitamin A, which allows your cells to use the thyroid hormone, which affects your weight, mood, energy, and digestive health. They are also full of biotin and choline, which is crucial in fertility and pregnancy," Jolene Brighten, N.D., a women's health expert, explains.
How to incorporate this cheesecake into your keto diet.
Even though we just thoroughly explained why this cheesecake is keto-friendly, it should still be considered a treat that's consumed on special occasions. This keto cheesecake shouldn't take the place of healthier fare like low-carb, fiber-rich vegetables, nuts and seeds, and quality meats and seafood. "If you're using ketosis for weight loss, you may see initial results, but eating too many calories from any food can stall fat loss or make you gain weight," explains gut health specialist and best-selling author Vincent M. Pedre, M.D.
Leaning too heavily on keto-approved treats can definitely have this effect and undermine your success (as they tend to be calorie dense and low in fiber), but using them strategically—to help you avoid an all-out sugar binge—might just help keep you on track.
And remember, deciding whether or not the keto diet is right for you is a personal decision and one that you should discuss with your health care provider. The diet brings with it a lot of potential benefits, including the ability to reduce insulin levels, reduce inflammation, and aid in weight loss, but it also has potential drawbacks that must be considered.
If you do decide that trying the keto diet is right for you (or if you're just looking for a healthier alternative to a regular, high-sugar cheesecake), you'll want to bookmark this drool-worthy keto cheesecake recipe created by popular keto-blogger Natasha Newton for her new cookbook Southern Keto. "Cheesecake is one of the easiest desserts to convert to low-carb," says Newton. "This is a base cheesecake recipe so you could add flavors or change the crust. You could even make it crustless and save a few carbs. The possibilities are endless!"
Keto Cheesecake With Pecan Almond Crust
- 1 cup finely ground blanched almond flour
- 1 cup raw pecan halves, finely crushed
- ½ cup granular erythritol
- ¼ cup (½ stick) salted butter, cubed
- 5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1½ cups confectioners'-style erythritol
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the bottom and side of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with butter, or line it with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan and grease the sides.
- Place all the crust ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with a fork until well-combined. The mixture will be crumbly. Press the crust mixture into the prepared pan.
- Par-bake the crust for 12 to 15 minutes, until brown around the edges.
- Remove the crust from the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 325°F. Let the crust cool completely, then make the filling.
To make the filling:
- Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy.
- With the mixer still on medium speed, gradually blend in the erythritol.
- Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Beat in the sour cream, then add the lemon juice and vanilla extract. At this point, the batter will be very thick and creamy.
To bake the cheesecake:
- Wrap the bottom of the cooled springform pan in aluminum foil (this will protect the cake when it sits in the water bath).
- Pour the filling over the cooled crust, then set the springform pan inside a roasting pan.
- Pour hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the side of the springform pan.
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour, 30 minutes or until the center is firm and the top is slightly browned.
- Remove the springform pan from the water bath. Let the cheesecake cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Before serving, run a knife around the rim of the pan to loosen the cake, then release the side of the pan. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Based on excerpts from Southern Keto by Natasha Newton, with the permission of Victory Belt Publishing. Copyright © 2018.
Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. She earned a B.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She covers culture, entertainment, and health and has written for several notable publications including Elle, Marie Claire, and The Atlantic.