5 Easy Ways to Make Fried Food Healthy

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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] O[/dropcap]f all the cooking techniques, deep frying would have to be the one that comes to mind when we think of food that is ‘bad for us’.

As Elvis knew, deep fried things can taste super delicious.

But here’s the thing…

Fried foods don’t have to be super unhealthy. The deep fryer, or at least a large pot of oil, can have a place in a healthy kitchen.

You just need to follow these 5 guidelines…

5 Easy Ways to Make Fried Food Healthy

1. Do it yourself

Here at Stonesoup HQ, I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan’s philosophy that ‘junk food’ is fine to eat as long as you make it yourself. So much so that these days, if I feel like something indulgent, I’m much more likely to cook it at home than to head to a ‘fast’ food place.

When you cook yourself you know exactly what’s going into your food. You’re in control of the quality of your ingredients. Also, there’s only so much you can make yourself which means there’s a natural limitation on how much you can indulge.

2. Use correct temps
Frying is a bit like Goldilocks in that the temperature needs to be ‘just right’. Too cool and the food is likely to soak up excess oil and be super greasy. Too hot and your oil can start to break down, releasing nastys into your food.

I highly recommend investing in one good digital thermometer for the kitchen. We have one that I use for everything from testing meat for doneness, to deep frying, to making yoghurt and even checking the temp of Fergal’s bottle.

3. Use good oil
Different oils have different stability at higher temperatures. Also called the ‘smoke point’. Basically the higher the smoke point the more stable your oil and the better suited it is to cooking at high temperatures. Meaning the less ‘nasties’ released into your food.

I use rice bran oil because it’s readily available where I live, it isn’t hideously expensive and it has a high smoke point.

4. Use fresh oil
The more oil is exposed to high temperatures, the more readily it breaks down and releases free radicals etc into your food. Another reason to avoid your local take away joint.

I do reuse my oil but tend to start afresh after about 3 times. It does make frying more expensive, but for the sake of our health, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

5. Fry healthy ingredients
This is my favourite way to make fried foods more healthy! Although we do make home made potato fries from time to time, and I adore a wicked onion ring, I’m really getting into frying other vegetables.

Cauliflower would have to be my favourite. Brussels sprouts are also pretty tasty when fried. And I haven’t even started with the world of tempura veg…

fried cauli with chickpeas-2

‘Addictive’ Cauli with Chickpeas

Inspired by the clever boys at Porteno where my Irishman and I had our wedding feast!

If I can’t convince you to try deep frying your cauliflower, there’s no need to miss out on this dish! You can easily roast the cauli instead (about 1/2 hour at 180C / 350F). Just remember to be generous with the oil!

enough for 2
oil for deep frying (I use rice bran oil)
1/2 cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz), drained
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bag baby spinach
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a high heat.

2. While the oil is heating, warm a little more oil in a frying pan and add chickpeas and cumin. You just want to warm them through.

3. When the deep frying oil reaches 180C (350F), fry cauli in batches for 3-4 minutes or until deeply golden. Drain on paper towel.

4. Add spinach to the chickpeas and allow to wilt slightly.

5. Serve spinach and chickpeas with fried cauli on top, lemon juice drizzled over and lots of salt and pepper.

carnivore – serve with super finely sliced prosciutto on top.

paleo / chickpea-free – just skip the chickpeas or replace them with roasted almonds or cashews. I’m also thinking it would be delicious with meatballs instead of the chickpeas.

more substantial – serve with crusty bread and butter or pita bread and extra virgin olive oil. Or serve as a side dish to roast chicken or pan fried chicken breasts. Also a great side with lamb cutlets.

tiny person-friendly – don’t let on that cauliflower is healthy! For more family meal ideas check out www.theyellowbench.com.

different spices – cumin is really lovely but you could use coriander seed, smoked paprika or a spice blend like garam masala or baharat (lebanese 7 spice).

different veg – brussels sprouts are amazing fried or you could try broccoli, pumpkin or sweet potato.

more decadent – serve with a big dollop of your favourite mayo or aioli (home made of course)

With love,
Jules x
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  • My husband refuses to get a deep fryer, but I think some things just taste better deep fried… Maybe I should show him this to convince him it’s not all that bad!

    Sammi Sunshine
    A Food Blog

  • A while back I decided to fry some onion rings. I consulted Stonesoup and found what oil to use. I looked around for a batter recipe and eventually settled on one that used rice flour. I prepared my onion rings, sliced mushrooms, and prepared other vegetables. I used my largest saucepan which isn’t all that large but the next pot up was 4 liters. I got out my thermometer, put the peanut oil in and started heating. I kept watching the temperature and when it got to the right temperature I popped 2 or 3 veggies in. I would check the temp and it was too hot so I would turn the heat down. Then it would go down too much and I would turn the heat up. Meanwhile I was taking a done veg out and put another in, trying to get them cooking at the right temp. As the process was taking so long I figured if I waited until it was all done, they would be cold. I was eating them as soon as they were cool enought to put in my mouth. I was glad when I finished the last veg. The oil had popped everywhere and it took an hour too clean up afterwards. What’s worse I didn’t like the quality of the finished product. I thought I’m never going to do that again.

  • I don’t generally eat fried foods, but my all-time favorite fried food is butternut squash. When done right (with batter), it has an amazing crispy texture outside and the inside soft and creamy. I haven’t tried fried cauliflower or chick peas yet, but it does sound delicious. I love that, as usual, you gave alternatives – this time even an alternate cooking method.
    Just curious, how long would you say this takes? I seem to remember fried foods being pretty time-consuming.

  • I’ve read your blog a few times since you wrote about how to make vegetable stock. I always come back to it :) Keep up the wonderful blog, I love your recipes and you take great photos! Would be nice if you had an instagram

  • I have never deep fried anything, but this looks like a good place to start. I love cauliflower! I’m wondering if there are other types of oil that would work well? If I switch out the oil, do I then adjust the temperature and cooking times as well?

  • hi Jules,
    what type/brand of food thermometer do you have? I’m getting married soon and want to add one to my registry… also can you sell the used cooking oil? One of my parent’s former neighbors had converted his vehicle to run on bio-diesel… not exactly sure how it works tho ;)

  • Deep-fried foods can never be classed as ‘healthy’, however good they taste! There is a strong association between cancer and the consumption of deep-fried foods. Carcinogens are formed at high temperatures in animal foods (heterocyclic amines and polycyclic hydrocarbons) and plant foods (acrylamide). Two good links here:

  • Wow I loved your blog it is really good and encouraging to make fried food easily and in a healthy way thank you for this amazing blog.

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