Snacks that are low in calories AND pack a ginormous flavor punch?
June 7, 2012 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Snacks that are low in calories AND pack a ginormous flavor punch?

I like my seltzer so fizzy it brings tears to my eyes. I like my food roasty, extremely spicy, umami, buttery, pungent, or sour. I have a passion for hot sauces of all kinds. I love roasted kale. I like Marmite. There can never be too many olives around. I make my own sauerkraut.

So, guys, what else should I be trying for snacks or drinks (non-alcoholic)? I'm open to really weird stuff as long as it fits my two requirements: low-calorie and savory (as in, not sweet or desserty). I love to snack and want to have lots of ideas on hand. In a perfect world, I'd dine on triple cream brie all day, but that's not really an option.

posted by cymru_j to Food & Drink (64 answers total) 206 users marked this as a favorite
Those sheets of seaweed? Dried squid? When I lived in S.Korea, there were many pre-packaged snacks that might fit your description. Do you have access to International/Asian-based food stores?
posted by bquarters at 6:58 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Roasted broccoli with gobs of lemon juice drizzled on.
posted by mittenbex at 6:59 PM on June 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Trader Joes Wasabi Seaweed Snack Sheets

(I call them "snack sheets")
posted by arnicae at 6:59 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

A shaker of cayenne goes a long way: cayenne buttered popcorn. Cayenne salted peanuts. Farmer's cheese with kosher salt and cayenne, deviled eggs and cayenne, cayenne on garlic bread, etc. Good stuff!
posted by doreur at 7:01 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

posted by oflinkey at 7:02 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chili pickle. Oh yes.
posted by unSane at 7:05 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came in here to suggest Trader Joe's seaweed snacks, and especially the wasabi ones, so I agree with that suggestions!

Also: pickled ginger (the stuff you put on sushi).
posted by insectosaurus at 7:10 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wasabi peas!
posted by MadMadam at 7:12 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I like gobo - Japanese pickled burdock root. Tons of umami and salt, bit of acidity, and a distinctive flavor. Awesome in sushi, but also good in small bites on its own.
posted by WasabiFlux at 7:18 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by zippy at 7:21 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Raisins, in small quantities.
posted by LarryC at 7:21 PM on June 7, 2012

Furikake on popcorn
posted by oneear at 7:23 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

kimchi and other Korean banchan
chinese/taiwanese preserved eggs: thousand-year eggs, iron eggs, braised eggs, tea eggs...
doufugan (pressed marinated tofu) with hot sauce
posted by acidic at 7:25 PM on June 7, 2012

pickled ginger!
full sour kosher dill pickles
peppadew peppers
miso soup
cheese-stuffed jalapenos (not really low-cal, but... yknow. They're good!)
Cauliflower roasted with a little bit of olive oil, cumin, garlic, chili. (I eat these like popcorn!)
Canned chickpeas, roasted with a bit of olive oil and any herbs/spices you want (sometimes i do an italian-ish herb blend, sometimes curry powder, sometimes middle eastern spices)
posted by Kololo at 7:35 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, i also like a baked potato with hot sauce, when you want a bit more than a small snack
posted by Kololo at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jerky, turkey or beef.
posted by uans at 7:44 PM on June 7, 2012

I slice jicama into french-fry like shapes and then squeeze lime juice ALL over it and cover in salt and cayenne pepper. Sometimes add a bit of smoked paprika. It's refreshing, crunchy, can be as spicy as you like, and super low calorie.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:48 PM on June 7, 2012 [14 favorites]

I've been doing this quest lately and I've found that there are lots of varieties of borscht that are super tasty and have basically no calories. You can stick horseradish in it for even more *pow* And bonus: pink pee!
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like to season the hell out of can of chickpeas and roast them at 350 until they're crunchy. I've used wasabi, jerk seasoning, and a bottle of "Thai spices" (whatever the hell that mix was, it was sweet and spicy and awesome)...basically, whatever you can coat them in, it'll probably work.
posted by smirkette at 7:51 PM on June 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

Gardiniera, italian hot pickled veggies (usually cauliflower, carrots and celery).

Sardines with mustard on crackers.

A little labor intensive, but you could batter and fry slices of jalapeno.
posted by elizeh at 7:51 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thai papaya salad, or virtually any kind of sliced sweetish vegetable with a similar lime-based dressing.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:02 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wasabi peas!
Carrots and Celery dipped in salsa!
Bison jerky (I make it in a cheapo dehydrator)
Quesadillas made with lots of hot sauce
posted by Ostara at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2012

Herring fillets in wine (basically pickled but the jar will say "wine" not "pickled.")
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by 4ster at 8:13 PM on June 7, 2012

My latest is small peppers sautéed in olive oil. Usually I do sweet but they're great mixed. I've found a Spanish padron which are sweet with the occasional (and unknown) hot ones. Usually I just saute them to "blisters", sometimes to "crisp". Tasty and pretty healthy. Coarse/kosher salt is a great addition.
posted by uncaken at 8:16 PM on June 7, 2012

I have had bottled kombucha (a fermented tea drink) that is very strongly flavored and low calorie. It tastes sour and sweet and funky, but even sweet commercial brands have very little caloric content.
posted by grobstein at 8:21 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite snack is umeboshi, Japanese pickled plums. Salty, sour, intense, incredible. Cannot. Get. Enough. Supposedly has health benefits, but I don't care. It also comes in a paste form, which I've been known to eat with a spoon. There's also ume vinegar;same flavor in liquid form.
posted by theperfectcrime at 8:30 PM on June 7, 2012

anchovies stuffed in pickled peppers (cherry peppers are great)
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:02 PM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: These answers are making me swoon. Jicama, roasted chick peas, tiny salty fish, unusual pickles, seaweed, borsch...yowza yum! Thanks, guys, and keep the suggestions coming.
posted by cymru_j at 9:08 PM on June 7, 2012

Tapenade. Olives, anchovy, garlic, capers, basil, lemon juice and oil.
posted by unSane at 9:09 PM on June 7, 2012

Patum Peperium, aka Gentleman's Relish. Introduced to me by The Honorable Somebody or Other. You feel like an aristo eating it.
posted by unSane at 9:11 PM on June 7, 2012

In the same vein, Scotch Woodcock (which has the same amount of Woodcock in it as Welsh Rabbit has Rabbit, ie none).
posted by unSane at 9:16 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Smoked salmon or herring (kippers).
posted by fshgrl at 9:30 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talk of Texas okra pickles (hot, naturally)
Pretzel sticks dipped in a fiery mustard.
Sardines, mentioned upthread, may be one of the most nutritious snacks you can have!
And I also recommended olivada.
posted by missmobtown at 9:44 PM on June 7, 2012

Trader Joe's horseradish hummus.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:23 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nori crackers.
Sundried or oven-dried tomatoes.
Cucumber refrigerator pickles--I do them with slivers of red onion, vinegar, a little sugar, a ton of kosher salt and fresh-cracked and/or red pepper, fresh dill, any seasoning you'd like. HEAVEN.

P.S. This is my dream thread and is making my mouth water like nobody's business. I want ALL THE SAVORY THINGS!
posted by anonnymoose at 11:57 PM on June 7, 2012

You like tiny little salty fish? Oh god, you're in for a treat. Dried anchovies. I first ran across them in Guatemala, but in the US you see them at Asian groceries sometimes and it's basically the same thing. Pull their little heads off, toast the bodies on a hot dry skillet and eat them whole. SO GOOD.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:50 AM on June 8, 2012

Pickled radishes. Slice 'em thin, add a bunch of salt, put 'em in a jar in the fridge. Add a bit of chopped onion if you're into that. They should make enough of their own brine just by giving up water. If not, add a little extra.

Preserved lemon. I've never made it myself, but I hear you can.

Candied ginger. Or ginger tea, which is ridiculously easy to make.

Capers are too small to really count as a snack, but it's wonderful to have good ones around. I recently learned that you can deep fry the ginormous ones and they open up like little blossoms and get all crispy and wonderful. It's seriously impractical for snacking, but it's worth trying at least once.

Fernet Branca is an Italian digestif that tastes like dirt and dark beer and mouthwash but in the best possible way. If you're not really drinking, add a few dashes to a glass of soda water. It sort of grabs you by the uvula on the way down and then suddenly everything is wonderful.

And I can't vouch for this one myself, but a friend of mine recently informed me that he'd just eaten a Nutella-and-raw-onion sandwich and rather enjoyed it. So there's that.

Quesadillas made with lots of hot sauce

Let's get serious here. BLUE CHEESE quesadillas with hot sauce.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:01 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Spicy peanut sauce. Not in itself low-calorie, but great for enlivening stir fry or raw fresh veggies. I don't include brown sugar in mine, and use lemon instead of vinegar. You can add hot chili oil, etc. and customize to focus the flavor to suit your taste.

Another highly flavored, delicious ingredient for me is arugula/rocket. I use it like a madwoman... in salads, as a bed of fresh greens for just about anything, toss it into soups and stews, cook it like regular greens. I even use it in great quantities, along with basil, for pesto. Heaven.

Living in Greece, we also go through a few tons of feta a year, and I tell myself it's less calorific than other cheeses. Goat feta is the best.
posted by taz at 1:07 AM on June 8, 2012

cook it like regular greens

I should amend that; I cook it like regular greens are cooked here: briefly, mostly steamed, just until they are bright green and fork-tender (which is something you can't really do with tougher greens), then dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon. I also usually do a sprinkle of powdered garlic.
posted by taz at 1:18 AM on June 8, 2012

I'm like you, if it isn't super flavorful I'm bored.

I'm of the opinion that most usually boring things are better with balsamic vinegar (or balsamic vinegar glaze!) than without.

If you're hungry for an entree and not a snack, I suggest:

Put a chicken breast in a pan, with a can of artichoke hearts, some olive oil, a lot of lemon juice, and more garlic than you probably think is needed. Roast at 350 for 30 minutes or until it's cooked completely.

I'm not a sweets person at all, but I've found that I'm a fan of frozen fruit. Strawberries, raspberries and peaches can be sort of sour frozen, and are supposedly healthier than their fresh counterparts.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:43 AM on June 8, 2012

Pickled onions, pickled gherkins, pickled cauliflower, beetroot, raw carrots or blanched broccoli with lemon juice... I find acetic acid hits that sharp, sour, satisfying salty spot with minimum calorie impact.
posted by Hugobaron at 2:35 AM on June 8, 2012

Oh - I forgot pickled chili peppers - sublime.
posted by Hugobaron at 2:36 AM on June 8, 2012

Adding to the list of pickled things, spicy pickled green beans are awesome.
posted by Fig at 5:35 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Crunchy veg dipped in Japanese-inspired salad dressing.

Smoked almonds? Not really low-cal, but full of good things. A shop near me sells tamari almonds, they are also very yummy.
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:39 AM on June 8, 2012

A tasty low-cal drink is to make an Italian soda mixing Torani Syrup with seltzer water. There are a ton of non-sweet flavors (almond, hazelnut, etc) and the sugar-free varities have no calories!
posted by jabes at 6:17 AM on June 8, 2012

posted by koucha at 7:01 AM on June 8, 2012

Meatballs. Little ones. You need mince (ground meat), egg, breadcrumbs (or the equivalent - something that will bind the ingredients together), finely chopped onion, garlic, seasoning and any other flavours that you want. Tomato based things with oregano and rosemary and basil. Asian inspired things with hoisin sauce and oyster sauce. Every time I make meatballs I do something different. They are a savoury lovers dream.
posted by h00py at 7:17 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Alton Brown has a curried pickled cauliflower recipe you might like.

teriyaki mushrooms
Cajun blackened chicken livers (livers are not high calorie)
smoked oysters
caramelized onions with curry powder
Homemade sweet potato chips with cinnamon and cayenne, or curry powder
whole head of garlic, roasted
Caeser salad
homemade ginger beer
mustard greens with garlic
pickled mushrooms
pickled garlic
posted by Surprised By Bees at 7:26 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ajvar and other vegetable condiments are usually low in fat and high in flavor. You can spread something like a poppyseed wafer with fromage blanc and top with that.

If it is summer where you are, find some sour cherries and eat them fresh of top of lowfat Greek yogurt. Amazing!
posted by BibiRose at 8:02 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Turkey pepperoni
posted by pyjammy at 9:12 AM on June 8, 2012

Primal Strips (Vegan Jerky Brand) I think fits the bill here. Particularly the Lime flavor which is about the most flavorful thing I've ever ingested.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:55 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be too insubstantial for what you're looking for, but when I'm hungry and want a [very] low-calorie snack, I greatly enjoy shaking a few drops of Tabasco Green/Jalapeno or Chipotle sauce onto my tongue.

They are both considerably less "hot" than the original. The green/jalapeno sauce is nice and bitey, with a vinegary taste. The chipotle sauce is savory and smokey and not as heavy on the vinegar.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2012

Raw vegetables, any kind, in truly huge portions, are my favorite low-calorie snack. I'm not at all hungry after eating an entire bag of pre-cut broccoli or snap peas. Bonus: it makes other food taste better.
posted by sninctown at 6:09 PM on June 8, 2012

Watermelon chunks sprinkled with tajin.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:49 PM on June 8, 2012

Pickled mustard greens with soy sauce and chilies. Yum!
posted by travelwithcats at 6:34 AM on June 9, 2012

Blue cheese! Doesn't have to be too expensive. At my local supermarket the generic domestic blue (which is not transcendent but totally fine) is 3.something for a decent wedge.
posted by threeants at 11:33 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

strawberries with a tiny sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper. They don't taste peppery exactly, but it certainly makes the strawberry flavour way more pronounced and gives a little zing.
posted by peppermind at 6:22 PM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Indian mango relish (like this) is not particularly low-cal, but really packs a punch.
posted by puddleglum at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2012

I too share your love for interesting and/or intense flavors. I recommend pomegranate, frozen kiwi (peeled), edamame and dark chocolate (as dark as possible is preferred). Also, try the Korean dish bibimbap with traditional Gochujang sauce. It's very pure and flavorful, but the gochujang sauce makes it pleasantly spicy.
posted by bibliophilia at 4:10 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Traditional popped popcorn with whatever kinds of seasonings you like liberally applied. I am big fan of ground chilli pepper mixes. If I feel crazy I add a teaspoon of olive oil. I am also a big fan of ground pepper and truffle salt. When in North America cheese powder like what comes with Kraft Dinner is also great but really really messy.

Popcorn is the ultimate snack food in my opinion because it soooo filling, it is a great vessel for seasoning due to all the nooks and crannies and best of all it is stupid cheap if you buy bags of kernels and pop them on the stove. ( I once made some during a party and a gathering of people in their thirties who had never seen popcorn being popped on the stove formed! )
posted by srboisvert at 4:54 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

All sorts of aged cheese are good for this. Parmagiano-Reggiano is famous for this. Sepcifically I recently had an aged gouda that was quite flavorful, but I'm sure there are hundreds of other options.
posted by NotPayingAttention at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2012

I totally know exactly what your craving feels like! I want all the flavors of rich foods, but I can't eat a medium-rare steak whenever I'm snackish. Oh how I wish I could...

Whenever it hits me, I reach for Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop popcorn (it has my favorite flavors of popcorn without the greasiness) and then I proceed to microplane as much Parmaggiano-Reggiano on it as my arm muscles can take. Sometimes I also add cayennne.

Other times I take plain sheets of nori (not the salted kind!), dip the very edge straight into soy sauce, then cram the whole thing into my mouth.

Another good soy sauce (umami!) delivery system is making an easy dressing out of it. Some combination of soy sauce, maybe rice vinegar, mashed garlic, maybe sugar, ginger + a little sesame oil. You could just eat plain romaine tossed in this stuff and it will be flavor overload. Or dip baby carrots into it. Or cucumber slices. It doesn't really matter what it is as long as it's a fresh veggie + this dressing.

I love this thread!
posted by dede at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a big proponent of seasoned, pan-fried tofu. I cut it into little bits for adding to salads (in place of croutons and/or chicken or whatever), in larger slabs for sandwiches, or cut into "fries" or wedges for dipping. Marinating overnight is probably the best way, but I can never muster that kind of foresight, so I usually do it like this:

Cut tofu (firm or extra-firm, ideally pressed or "compressed"—I buy mine pre-pressed, but you can also do that at home. You can also freeze and thaw whole blocks of tofu for a more substantial texture) into desired shapes.

Mix your after-the-fact "marinade." My tack is to whisk together a solid glug (idunno, a scant quarter-cup? I never measure anything) of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of brown sugar, a squirt of dijon mustard, and whatever else I feel like adding (adobo, paprika, soy sauce, liquid smoke, etc.).

I fry the tofu pieces in a bit of peanut oil (any high-temp oil is fine), salting liberally, tossing to coat, and cooking on high/med-high, stirring regularly, until the tofu appears dry and starts to blister a little. Turn the heat down (or not, if you're feeling dangerous) and then throw on your marinade, tossing and cooking until the pieces look dry-ish again. You can optionally deglaze once or twice with water or more vinegar (I recommend it, lest all that burnt-ish goodness from the pan go to waste).

They're as flavourful as you care to make them, high-protein and pretty low everything else (well, except salt, which you could of course omit but why?).

I say that I make the little ones for salads, but really I just eat them in handfuls.
posted by wreckingball at 2:23 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

« Older Ever owned an ant farm?   |   How can I want to make plans Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.