Are you new to the Paleo diet and feeling confused or intimidated about what cooking staples to keep on-hand? If so, then here’s our guide to six key ingredients you’ll need for delicious, Paleo-friendly meals. They’ll help you craft dishes with tons of flavor, plus you’ll reap their health benefits too.
Ghee, pronounced \’gē\, is a type of clarified butter that has been used in Indian cuisine for thousands of years. Clarified butter is the milk fat that’s left behind when butter is cooked and the milk solids and water are removed. It has a sweeter, nuttier flavor and a higher smoke point than butter, which makes it a great choice for searing, sautéing and baking. Be sure to purchase the grass-fed variety at your supermarket—it’s rich in conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), a saturated fat that’s been linked to long-term weight management and may help prevent against cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Related Recipe: Pork Medallions with Lemon-Thyme Sauce
A great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocado oil is made from the flesh of the avocado and not the seed. It’s neutral flavor and stability at very high cooking temperatures makes it an excellent choice to use in everything from salad dressings and homemade mayonnaise to roasted and grilled items.
Related Recipe: One-Pan Roasted Salmon and Vegetables
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconuts and has a slightly sweet flavor and distinct coconut smell. While it may be mostly saturated fat, it contains a high amount of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that may help to increase “good” HDL cholesterol. Look for pure virgin coconut oil and steer clear from the hydrogenated oil. The virgin variety is free of trans fat, which increases “bad” LDL cholesterol. Use it for sautéing and baking.
Coconut oil comes in jars and is not a traditional oil like you’d expect. The consistency is similar to shortening or ghee. You’ll need to melt it before sautéing or brushing it onto meats.
Related Recipe: Coconut-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Pineapple-Ginger Sauce
Made from the sap of a coconut tree and sea salt, coconut aminos soy-free sauce has a similar taste and appearance to that of soy sauce but is lower in sodium and free of soy and gluten. It’s delicious in Asian-inspired dishes as well as dressings and marinades.
Related Recipe: Stir-Fried Pork and Carrot “Noodle” Bowls
Raw, local organic honey is a healthy, natural sweetener that may boost the immune system and help with seasonal allergies. When you shop for honey, you’ll see that some are lighter in color than others. Select one of the darker options because it will contain more polyphenols (heart disease and cancer-fighting antioxidants). As with any sugar, you can overdo it, but a small spoonful is all that’s needed to add sweetness to beverages like tea and coffee or balance the flavor in sauces, dressings and marinades. It can also be used to replace regular sugar in Paleo baked goods.
Related Recipe: Chicken, Strawberry and Avocado Salad
Sweet and tangy apple cider vinegar adds a lot of zing to salads, cooked greens, marinades and even soups. But not all versions are created equal, and the unpasteurized, unfiltered variety wins over the filtered one in the health-benefits category. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains the “mother” of the vinegar (a cobweb-like substance formed from proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria) and may help lower blood sugar, protect against LDL oxidation and improve insulin sensitivity and satiety.
Related Recipe: Broccoli Slaw with Dijon Vinaigrette
Interested in learning more about the Paleo diet or want to give it a try? Check out our Paleo meal plans—breakfast, lunch and dinner!—and let eMeals’ Paleo recipes and handy smartphone app help you reach your health and mealtime goals.
Andrea Kirkland is a Registered Dietitian and culinary expert on a quest to teach people how to make good-for-you food taste amazing. Her passion for healthy cooking began early in life while helping loved ones who followed special diets find ways to make delicious and satisfying meals. She develops weight-management and specialty-diet recipes as part of the eMeals team.
– Photos by Beth Branch