Ah, fried foods. They’re crunchy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and definitely not good for your body. While healthy fats — monounsaturated and omega-3s, in particular — are a necessary part of a healthy diet, the oils used for frying tend to be lacking in health value.
What’s a fried-food lover to do? Wouldn’t it be great if you could capture the mouthfeel and texture of deep-fried foods, but have the dish actually be healthy (or, at least, healthier)? Good news: You can!
Instead of submerging the food in a pool of less-than-healthy oil, baking it can yield similarly crunchy results. But, the real secret to mimicking the crackly, savory crust of a chicken tender, for example, is in the breaded exterior. You can coat the outside of a piece of chicken with a number of different things to get that crunchy bite — crushed corn flakes, crackers, or panko breadcrumbs will do the trick. But, we recommend trying more healthful options (see below).
We include two techniques: breading (dredge food into beaten eggs then coat it with seasoned flour, bread crumbs, or crackers), and battering (a liquid mixture of one or more flours). The whole-food flours we recommend below are widely available at large grocery stores nationwide.
How to Make Breaded Fish Fillets With Almond Flour
Almond flour is made by grinding whole, blanched almonds and, thus, has the same nutrient profile as the raw nuts. It’s rich with monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, and provides a good source of protein and gut-healthy fiber. Almond flour is easy to use as a breading alternative, and because it contains protein and fat, helps you have a feeling of fullness similar to something fried.
To replicate the bread-crumb effect, whisk two whole eggs together in a dish. In another dish, mix one cup of almond flour with salt and pepper and any dried herbs you like. Dip fish fillets into the beaten eggs then into the almond flour until the fish is completely coated. Roast the fillets in the oven at 400°F for 10 minutes for thin fillets, and up to 15 minutes for thicker ones.
How to Make Breaded Zucchini Fries With Flax Meal
Flax meal is a gluten-free flour alternative that is sold as golden or a mix of golden and dark; I prefer the golden unless you’re after a heavier rye-like flavor. It is one of the richest sources of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, and it contains antioxidant lignans and a good source of protein, insoluble fiber, and calcium. Since it’s high in fiber, it’s best consumed with water, so the high water content of veggies make the two a natural pair.
Mix one cup of flax meal with salt and pepper, whisk two eggs together, then dip veggies — such as zucchini strips or rounds — in the egg mixture, then in the breading. Bake until golden and crispy at 375°F for 25–30 minutes.
How to Make Battered Coconut Shrimp
If battering is more your game than breading, coconut flour is a sound choice. It contains medium chain fatty acids, which can help you to feel satiated. It also provides magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, as well as approximately five grams of fiber and two grams of protein per two tablespoons.
To create a coconut flour batter, mix half a cup of the flour with one egg, one and a half teaspoons baking powder, and salt and pepper. Dip shrimp (this recipe can coat 20–24 pieces of shrimp, depending on how large) into the batter and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.
How to Make Battered Chicken Fingers With Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour provides a high-protein and high-fiber replacement for wheat: One cup contains approximately 11 grams of protein and seven grams of fiber. When ground into flour, brown rice maintains its phenolic compounds, which exert potent antioxidant activity.
To make chicken fingers: Mix half a cup of brown rice flour with one egg, one and a half teaspoons baking powder, salt and pepper. Add extra flavor with either smoked paprika or cayenne pepper, if desired. Dip chicken pieces in the batter, and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes for a delicate, crispy, kid-pleasing meal.
These suggestions are springboard ideas. Go forward and create whatever combination of flour alternative plus protein or vegetable best suits your needs.