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How to Upgrade a Recipe



What if your recipe has less than ideal ingredients? For more information on what to look out for, see “Top 3 Things to Watch Out for in a Recipe.”


Refined flours. Use flours made with a whole food like whole grains or beans.

You can always make oat flour by putting whole rolled oats in your food processor or blender and blending them until flour consistency. If baking, you will want to be careful which flours you choose. It might be worth it to find a better starting recipe or if you are brave, experiment until you find a combination that you like!


Oil. Oil is actually fairly simple to swap out or leave out.

For baking, there is a well-known strategy that my grandmothers knew. Swap out puréed fruit for equal parts oil. Try to match the flavor, for example, with pancakes I like to use bananas because they are light and sweet. For something richer you might want to use puréed dates. Other options might include apple sauce, puréed prunes (a classic), or any other kind of fresh fruit that can be blended.


For sautéing, use vegetable stock or water in place of oil. For roasting, do the same, but use the vegetable stock as a basting liquid. Veggie stock and water are the standards, but you can use any kind of liquid you like. Just watch out for ingredients! To prevent items from stick to the pan in the oven, use parchment paper or silicone mats or muffin cups. Parchment paper is my favorite because I love how beautifully it helps to brown foods.


Sugar. Your healthiest sweeteners come straight from nature in an ideal package.

My two favorites are dates and bananas. Plenty sweet, and even sweeter when cooked. My second choice is a small amount of maple syrup. It has no fiber which means that it will be absorbed very quickly by your body so make sure the rest of your recipe has plenty of healthy fiber!


Salt. Just leave it out. Most recipes really do not need it.


Sauces. Caution here. Use lower sodium and unsweetened versions wherever possible.

Here, let’s try upgrading this one:


Chocolate Peanut Butter Hummus


• 1 15-ounce can low-sodium or no salt added chickpeas

• 1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter

• 1/4 cup maple syrup

• 1/4 cup cocoa powder

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 2 tbsp. water or aquafaba

• Pinch of salt

• Dairy-free chocolate chips for topping (optional)


Which ingredients are worrisome in this recipe? Three pop to my mind right away, plus one that is sort of optional.


Let us begin with the sweetener. Does maple syrup contain fiber? No. What could we use instead? Dates! They work great in this recipe. I will share my upgraded version further down.


Salt. Just leave it out. You don’t need it. There is plenty of flavor in this recipe without it.


Chocolate chips. Whether dairy-free or not, these are a highly processed food.


What about the peanut butter? As long as your peanut butter contains nothing but peanuts you are good. But nuts, and especially nut butters, are a calorie dense food. If you are working at releasing excess weight, you might consider using a powered peanut butter (that contains nothing but peanuts) or leaving it out altogether. I have never added peanut butter to this recipe, and it is plenty delicious.


Here is my upgrade:


Healthier Chocolate Hummus

• 1 15 oz can or 1 ½ cups chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)

• 6 medjool dates, soaked in warm water

• ¼ cup cocoa powder

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• ¼ cup bean water (aquafaba)


Here’s one more!


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