The ultimate low-carb swap for chips is pork rinds. Keto can feel restrictive if you are unsure of the alternatives to traditional foods on a standard American diet, especially in social settings where you’re surrounded by high-carb temptations.
Most varieties of pork rinds are 0 carbs, and they still satisfy that crunchy, salty craving. Pork rinds are perfect for dips, and they make the best keto nachos.
Pork rinds are fried pork skins. The fat is removed, and then the skin is fried in the fat or another oil. Pork cracklings are similar to pork rinds, but the fat is not removed before frying, so the end result is much crispier and higher in fat. I enjoy using cracklings as croutons or in chili to replace corn chips.
Pork Rind Nutritional Value
These delicious keto chips are a great source of collagen in the diet as well. However, they are not a significant source of all 9 essential amino acids. The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Pork rinds lack in most of the essential amino acids, so they should not replace a significant portion of your protein throughout the day.
Collagen is composed mostly of the amino acids glycine and proline. Pork rinds have significantly higher amounts of these two amino acids compared to an egg. Eggs have a complete amino acid profile, meaning they contain sufficient amounts of the 9 essential amino acids. Pork rinds, on the other hand, only contain optimal amounts of valine and threonine. Essential amino acids are amino acids that cannot be produced by the body and they must be consumed by foods. So, pork rinds should not be a primary source of protein in the diet but they are still a great keto chip alternative.
|Pork Rinds (1/2oz serving)||mg/g||1 Large Egg||mg/g||Optimal mg/g|
|Glutamic acid (NE)||1068mg||122.8mg/g||838mg||133.0mg/g|
*NE = non-essential
The table above displays the amino acid breakdown for one serving of pork rinds and compares it to a single large egg. Seven of the nine essential amino acids are below the optimal level for pork rinds, but several non-essential amino acids are significantly higher than the optimal level. Source.
The Best Pork Rinds
As with most packaged products, some are better than others. In general, pork rinds fried in anything other than pork fat (lard) should be avoided. The alternatives are usually inflammatory vegetable oils that should not be consumed on any diet. To know if the pork rind was fried in anything other than lard, check the ingredients. If it contains vegetable oils, they will be listed. If they were fried in pork fat, that may or may not be listed on the ingredients.
Some pork rinds are seasoned to give them additional flavor. If they are flavored, check the ingredients to make sure there is no maltodextrin or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Some may contain small amounts of sugar, but if the total carbs are 1g or less, then the sugar content is insignificant.
Depending on the use, some brands of pork rinds are better than others. If you are going for a snack with no dips, flavorful pork rinds are the best option. For nachos or dipping, plain pork rinds will do the job, and they will often be more affordable and less likely to contain unsavory ingredients.
For a plain snack with no dips, 4505 has the best pork rinds available. Their seasonings have been perfected and the pork rind is fluffy and crunchy all at the same time. There is a small amount of sugar in the pork rinds, but it is minimal and will not have a significant impact on blood glucose.
4505 Meats sells their pork rinds in 3 flavors: BBQ, Jalapeno Cheddar, and Chili & Salt. They also have two varieties of pork cracklings: Green Chili Lime, and Sea Salt. The cracklings are much smaller and crunchier. I like to use these in chili because they do not get soggy as quickly. Also, they make a great replacement for the Fritos that traditionally accompany chili.
4505 pork rinds are available online on Amazon, or in several stores across the country. I have found a large bag of the Chili & Salt variety at Costco, which is by far the best deal.
4505 Meats is originally a BBQ restaurant in San Francisco. If you are in the bay area, stop by for some fresh pork rinds and delicious meats!
Epic Pork Rinds
Epic Provisions sells fried and baked pork rinds. Their pork rinds are not quite as good as 4505 Meats in my opinion, but they are still a great option for flavored pork rinds that don’t contain nasty ingredients. Their flavors are Jalapeno, Cinnamon Churro, Sea Salt, Texas BBQ, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, and Chili Lime. They also have Maple Bacon cracklings.
Epic Pork Rinds are available in most health food stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Natural Grocers. They can also be purchased online through Amazon.
Epic Provisions also sells other keto-friendly snacks, like their Venison Sea Salt and Pepper bar and their Chicken Siracha bar. Most of their other bars contain high amounts of sugar, but these two are only 1-2 net carbs per bar. They also have bone broth and animal fats, Personally, I use their beef tallow for cooking because it comes from grass-fed cows and I can cook at high heats, unlike olive oil or coconut oil.
Utz Pork Rinds
For a delicious plate of keto nachos, I opt for Utz pork rinds. They are available at my Sam’s Club and they come in a massive container. They are unflavored and are fried in pork fat, instead of vegetable oils. This makes them the best pork rinds for keto nachos.
Keto nachos are a quick, easy, and delicious snack or meal. I love loaded keto nachos with plenty of cheese, sour cream, salsa, olives, and pulled pork or ground beef.
In my experience, the Utz pork rind containers that I have purchased in the past have plenty of large flat pork rinds, which are the perfect nacho chip size and shape. Some brands regularly have pork rinds that are too small, not flat enough, or super crunchy. Utz pork rinds provide the optimal surface area for toppings, and I’m all about optimization!
Mac’s Pork Rinds
Mac’s pork rinds are sol in several flavors including, Original, BBQ, Salt and Vinegar, and Spicy Buffalo. They also have cracklin’ curls, which are pork cracklings, in spicy, original, and chorizo. Their original variety of pork rinds, as well as pork cracklings, are made only of fried pork skins and salt. Unfortunately, their flavored varieties contain MSG, which has been shown to negatively impact the gut microbiome.
Mac’s pork rinds are the best pork rinds for traveling because they are so widely available. I have found Mac’s pork rinds in gas stations and grocery stores across America! They’re a perfect snack for a road trip as a substitute for the Gardettos and Bugles that traditionally accompanied (at least our family) on many long car rides.
Where Can you Buy Pork Rinds?
Pork rinds are widely available now in most grocery stores. For example, Kroger has their own store brand of pork rinds, 4505 sells their pork rinds in several Costco stores, and my Sam’s Club carries Utz pork rinds. Keto is gaining in popularity in the mainstream, so many low-carb snacks like pork rinds are becoming more available in non-specialty stores.
Amazon carries several of the brands of pork rinds mentioned in this article. If you have never tried pork rinds before, I would suggest getting a small bag or sampler pack to try them out. They are dryer than regular chips, and I personally cannot eat a lot of them plain, as I could with traditional tortilla chips, unless they’re the 4505 Meats brand.
Pork rinds are also often sold at local farmer’s markets. Butchers want to sell as much of their animal as possible to ensure there is minimal waste. It might be worth it to ask your local bacon provider if they make and sell pork rinds! Just be sure to ask about the ingredients in case they put heaping amounts of sugar or other undesirable ingredients in them.
Pork Rinds in Restaurants
Several BBQ or Mexican restaurants have pork rinds as a side dish or appetizer option. After all, 4505 Meats pork rinds originated from their BBQ restaurant in San Francisco!
The pork rinds may be listed on the menu as “Chicharrones”, which is translated to “Crackling”. Sometimes they are offered as an alternative to corn chips and they are served with several dips like queso, salsa, and guacamole. Other times they are available as a side dish, and you can swap out your order of fries.
How to Use Pork Rinds
Pork rinds are an easy alternative to chips, but they are so much more versatile!
Keto nachos made from pork rinds is one of the first ways I incorporated pork rinds.
To make keto nachos, I begin by picking the pork rinds that are large and flat and lay them in one layer on a microwave-safe plate. Then I will sprinkle on some shredded cheese, olives, and whatever protein I have on hand and microwave for 20 seconds, or until the cheese is melted.
My favorite toppings are salsa and sour cream, but you can get creative with any other keto-friendly topping, like guacamole.
Most chili contains beans, corn, or tortilla strips, all of which are not keto. However, beans can be subbed for more meat, corn can be omitted altogether, and the tortilla strips can be replaced with pork rinds. The pork rinds will provide the crunch and saltiness that the tortilla strips or corn chips added, without the extra carbs. I prefer to use pork cracklings for chili because they don’t get soggy as quickly and they keep their crunch.
Parmesan crusted chicken, green bean casserole, meatloaf, you name it. Anything that traditionally uses bread crumbs or french fried onions, you can replace with crushed up pork rinds.
Pork rinds can be purchased pre-crushed as pork panko, or you can get your anger out and crush them yourself. I prefer the latter option because it is more cost-effective and slightly therapeutic.
Pork rinds are a great substitute for bread crumbs because they absorb moisture similarly and they will create the perfect crispy crust, especially if used in the air fryer. There are tons of recipes out there specifically for low carb pork panko dishes. However, any recipe that uses breadcrumbs as a binding agent, breading, or crunchy top layer can be modified to use pork rinds instead and it will be just as delicious, without the excess carbs.
ch and saltiness that the tortilla strips or corn chips added, without the extra carbs. I prefer to use pork cracklings for chili because they don’t get soggy as quickly and they keep their crunch.
What to Avoid
Pork rinds are a great alternative to chips if you are following a low carb diet. However, not all pork rinds are created equal. Pork rinds should be fried in their own fat, and should not contain vegetable oils. These inflammatory oils will not interfere with a state of ketosis, but they are not optimal for the body and can have negative impacts on the gut microbiome. Ideally, the only ingredients in plain pork rinds are pork skins and salt.
Things can get tricky when the pork rinds are seasoned. Many brands add maltodextrin, MSG, or sugar to their seasoning blend. None of these should be consumed regularly. If you are going to opt for flavored pork rinds, check the ingredients beforehand. That being said, flavored pork rinds with some maltodextrin are still significantly better than a bag of tortilla chips. At the end of the day, it’s about sustainability and enjoyment. Eat the pork rinds that make you feel the best and that keep you far away from the Doritos in the pantry.