I’m in full Christmas prep mode now, which includes continuing my experiments with low-carb versions of traditional Christmas food and drink favourites, to make sure I can eat what I want come the big day. This recipe for a lovely light Christmas Pudding – low-carb, gluten-free, and free of added sugar and artificial sweeteners – is made so quickly that you can easily whip one up on Christmas Day itself!
I like to indulge food and drink-wise over Christmas. But actually I like to do that all the rest of the year as well! So I take the same approach to making traditional Christmas recipes low-carb friendly, as I do to the things that I eat all the rest of the time.
That sometimes involves making up my own recipes completely from scratch. Or other times I research several existing recipes created by others, and then adapt what I consider to be the best of them, and add my own twists, to make my own version (a bit like Felicity Cloake’s approach in the UK Guardian newspaper in her ‘How to Cook the Perfect…..’ column). And on this occasion I’ve adapted this low-carb Christmas pudding recipe from one by Sugar Free Londoner.
You’ll see below that the carb savings from this recipe are really significant, achieved in part by straightforward substitutions that I use in many of my low-carb recipes. These include using zero-carb natural sugar substitute erythritol instead of sugar, and ground almonds instead of flour.
But dried fruit provides more of a challenge. To make a low-carb Christmas pudding, pretty much all of the recipes out there – including this one – swap higher-carb fruits like raisins and sultanas for some combination of lower-carb berries and cherries. Frozen fruit works better than fresh as it’s already collapsed in the way that dried fruit has, and so doesn’t fill your pudding with juice puddles. And what I particularly liked about Sugar Free Londoner’s recipe was that she had also added grated carrot – as of course you would use in carrot cake – for extra bulk.
Made from scratch in only 15 minutes in total, you could get the ingredients ready for this Christmas pudding before sitting down to Christmas lunch, and have it ready to go for cooking in the microwave whenever people want pudding. Or save the expense of a Christmas pudding that no one might eat by assembling the ingredients only if and when someone actually says they fancy some!
This recipe retains the ballpark Christmas pudding flavours you know and love, but is much lighter – both in colour and eating quality – than traditional versions. It feels grainier in the mouth and a little more cakey than regular Christmas puddings, and the orange zest gives it a predominant citrusy note in the flavour mix. You might well find that anyone – low-carber or not – who usually complains that Christmas pudding is too heavy or sticky, will prefer this lighter version.
I’d love to hear in the comments if you make this and what you think of it. Sign up to follow me by email via the link on my homepage if you don’t want to miss all my upcoming Christmas recipes, including one for rum/brandy sauce which goes fantastically well with this pudding!
Nutrition Count: Regular Christmas Pudding vs. Low-Carb Christmas Pudding
I’ve used UK supermarket Tesco’s own-brand Classic Christmas Pudding as a ballpark comparison for how many carbs you’re saving with the low-carb recipe here. And the savings are actually enormous – 66g of carbs per serving, and 40 calories!
The higher fat and protein content in the low-carb version results from e.g. sugars from flour in the regular Christmas pudding being swapped for healthy fats from almonds in the low-carb version.
|Per ¼ Pudding||Tesco Classic Christmas Pudding (454g, serves 4)||Low-Carb Christmas Pudding*|
|Net Carbs (fibre counted separately)||72.4g||6g|
* Figures calculated using verified nutritional info on MyFitnessPal
Health Impact of the Main Ingredients
Many of the ingredients for this Christmas pudding are becoming old favourites in my low-carb recipes. I’ve written before about the health impacts of eggs, cream, cherries, blueberries, almonds, and erythritol, for example – so you may well be familiar with them by now. The bottom line is that, overall, this pudding gives you much greater health benefits than carb-laden versions.
So just let me tell you a little bit here about carrots, which haven’t cropped up in my recipes until now. That’s partly because they’re a bit higher carb than most vegetables (along with e.g. onions, both with around 8g of carbs per 100g). So while I certainly include carrots in my regular low-carb diet, I keep an eye on portion sizes (whereas with vegetables like mushrooms and spinach, with only 1g and 2g carbs per 100g respectively, I eat as much as I like without counting).
Carrots are a famously rich source of carotenoids – from which obviously they derive their name (other good sources of carotenoids are yellow-orange fruits like peppers, pumpkins and tomatoes, and dark green leafy vegetables). The most recent scientific evidence suggests that carotenoid-rich foods can provide various health benefits through their roles as provitamin A and antioxidants that e.g. protect cells from free radical damage, and the cancerous effects of sunburn; enhance the immune system; and delay the onset of certain types of cancer.
There’s also a small amount of walnuts in this recipe, which I haven’t talked about before either. A scientific review in 2017 neatly summarised their nutritional properties – including in particular their essential fatty acid content and role as a vegetarian source of omega 3, of which most people just aren’t getting enough.
Walnuts also contain significant vitamin E, which promotes healthy eyes, skin and immunity. And they are one of the most important dietary sources of polyphenols. If the full-on science interests you, then the main polyphenol in walnuts is an ellagitannin called pedunculagin. But the take-home message is that ellagitannin polyphenols have well-evidenced anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity in the body, with several studies suggesting their potential for protecting against the initiation and progression of diseases including: degenerative diseases of the nervous system, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Recipe for Low-Carb Christmas Pudding
Time: 15 mins (plus soaking time overnight for the fruit if you wish)
Serves 4-6 (¼ of a pudding is a good size serving; 1/6 would be an adequate small portion for those people who always say they don’t want much pudding!)
- 100g (1 US cup) ground almonds
- 1 egg
- 100g (¼ cup) mix of your choice of 2 or 3 different types of frozen lower-carb fruits i.e. choose from cranberries; roughly chopped cherries; and/or blueberries. (Strawberries and raspberries will also keep the carb count low, but don’t taste ‘Christmassy’ enough).
- 100g (½ cup) carrot, grated
- 10g (about 4 halves) roughly chopped walnuts
- 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled a little
- 1 tbsp double (heavy) cream
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp raw natural cacao powder (gives it colour)
- 2 tbsp (to taste) erythritol icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar substitute e.g. Sukrin (UK) or Swerve (US)
- 3 tsp mixed spice/pumpkin spice (or create your own blend – I used ½ tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp ground ginger, and 1½ tsps cinnamon)
- Zest of one orange
- 30ml (¼ cup) brandy or dark rum (optional)
- Mix together all the dry ingredients with the carrot, fruit and orange zest. Then add the egg, melted butter and cream, and mix well.
- If you’re going to use it, add the brandy/rum at this point and and stir again (I find this loosens the mixture nicely for easier transference to its cooking receptacle). Taste for sweetness, and if you think it’s needed, add a little more erythritol and stir once more.
- Grease a microwaveable pudding bowl with butter, and transfer the mixture to it.
- Microwave, covered, at 800W for 8 minutes.
- Leave the pudding to rest for a minute. If any sogginess remains in the middle, then return the pudding to the microwave for one more minute.
- Once firm in the middle, place an inverted plate on top of the pudding and turn upside down to get it upright onto the plate.
- Serve immediately if you want it hot, but it’s also lovely cold. To keep it low-carb when serving, simply pour over double/heavy cream, or my low-carb rum/brandy sauce (recipe coming later this week). For non-low-carbers who just fancy this as a lighter healthier pudding, you can of course serve it with regular custard or ice cream (vanilla ice cream goes great – and if you’re in the UK, then Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal’s Marmalade on Toast Ice Cream from Waitrose supermarket goes fantastically well!).