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Is Doenjang Keto-Friendly?

Doenjang on a kitchen counter

Embarking on a ketogenic diet can often lead to a culinary exploration of discovering what foods are keto-friendly and which ones are not.

A common question that arises during this exploration is, "Is Doenjang Keto-Friendly?" In this article, we dive deep into understanding the carbohydrate content of Doenjang, a traditional Korean fermented soybean paste, and its compatibility or lack thereof, with a ketogenic lifestyle.

We examine the concept of net carbs, their importance in a keto diet, and analyze the net carb content in Doenjang.

We also discuss the health implications of consuming Doenjang while following a keto diet and how to avoid it in your keto meal plan.

Moreover, we explore a variety of keto-compatible alternatives that provide similar depth and complexity to your meals without the high carbs.


  • Doenjang, with its high carbohydrate content, isn't generally considered keto-friendly.
  • Despite its health benefits, such as being a rich source of protein and probiotics, Doenjang's high carbs could knock you out of ketosis.
  • Keep scrolling to discover keto-compatible alternatives that offer depth and complexity to your meals without jeopardizing your keto diet.

Is Doenjang Keto-Friendly?

So, we're addressing the big question: Is Doenjang Keto-Friendly? The short answer is, sadly, no. But let's unpack that a bit more for a clearer understanding.

The Keto diet, as most of you likely know, is a nutritional plan that focuses heavily on fats, moderate on proteins, and extremely low on carbohydrates. The goal is to get your body into a state of ketosis, where it's burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. Generally, this means keeping your daily carb intake between 20 and 50 grams.

Now, let's bring Doenjang into the picture. This delicious Korean paste is made from fermented soybeans. It's rich, savory, and adds a delightful depth of flavor to any dish it graces. But here's the catch: Doenjang contains approximately 19.97g net carbs per 100g.

To put that in perspective, a moderate serving of Doenjang could eat up nearly your entire daily carb allowance on a keto diet. It's a significant chunk, and that's why, despite its numerous potential health benefits and culinary appeal, Doenjang doesn't fit neatly into the keto-friendly food group.

Can Doenjang be Incorporated into a Strict Keto Diet?

Alright, we've established that Doenjang is not considered keto-friendly, but is there any way it could be incorporated into a strict keto diet?

When we're talking about a strict keto diet, we're referring to a nutritional plan with an almost uncompromising stand on carb intake. It's all about keeping those carbs as low as possible to maintain the body in a state of ketosis. We're talking 20 to 50 grams per day low. This rigid approach leaves little room for foods with high net carb content, like Doenjang.

With approximately 19.97g net carbs per 100g, Doenjang is quite the carb heavyweight. Even a small helping could take a significant bite out of your daily carb allowance if you're following a strict keto diet. Simply put, it's just not feasible to include Doenjang in such a diet without going over your carb limit.

However, we understand the desire to not let go of our favorite foods completely. Therefore, it's all about making informed choices and keeping a keen eye on your daily carb intake. Tools like carb counters and food tracking apps can be incredibly handy for this. They allow you to log your food intake, keep track of your macros, and ensure you're not unintentionally sneaking in extra carbs that might take you out of ketosis.

Delving into the Carbohydrate Content of Doenjang

As we venture further into our Doenjang exploration, it's important to get an even clearer understanding of its carbohydrate content and how this impacts its compatibility with the keto diet.

To start, let's revisit the concept of net carbs. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates in a food item. This is crucial for individuals on a keto diet because net carbs, not total carbs, are what affect your blood sugar level and insulin response, impacting ketosis.

Now, Doenjang's carbohydrate content is quite substantial. The average serving size of Doenjang is around 1-2 tablespoons, which equates to approximately 20 to 40 grams. So, if we take the mid-point of 30 grams, that's roughly 6g of net carbs in just one serving of Doenjang. Given that a strict keto diet typically recommends a daily carb limit of 20 to 50 grams, you can see how a single serving of Doenjang could take up a large part of that allowance.

Let's also consider the context of a full meal. If you were to enjoy a meal that includes a serving of Doenjang, plus other ingredients that contain carbohydrates, you can quickly reach or even exceed your daily carb limit. This is why, despite its pleasant taste and potential health benefits, Doenjang's high carb content makes it a tricky food to incorporate into a ketogenic lifestyle.

Nutritional Snapshot of Doenjang

Doenjang, a Korean soybean paste, offers a wide range of nutritional benefits. For a 100g serving, it contains 198.0 kcal of energy, mainly deriving from the 19.97g net carbs, 6.01g total fats, and 12.79g protein.

One notable feature of Doenjang is its high sodium content of 3728.0mg per 100g. This characteristic makes it a significant contributor to maintaining fluid balance and supporting nerve and muscle function. However, it's critical to moderate intake because of potential implications for blood pressure.

Carbohydrate-wise, Doenjang provides 25.37g per 100g, with an additional 5.4g of dietary fiber that supports digestive health. The protein content of 12.79g per 100g denotes it as a good plant-based protein source. It also contains beneficial fats: 1.02g saturated, 1.12g monounsaturated, and 2.88g polyunsaturated fats.

In terms of micronutrients, Doenjang is rich in multiple vitamins and minerals. It offers an assortment of B vitamins, including Thiamin (0.1mg), Riboflavin (0.23mg), Niacin (0.91mg), and trace amounts of Vitamin B-6 and B-12. These nutrients play key roles in various bodily functions, including energy production, DNA synthesis, and maintaining nerve health.

Doenjang also contains a variety of essential minerals. The most abundant is sodium, but it also provides Potassium (210.0mg), Magnesium (48.0mg), Calcium (57.0mg), Copper (0.42mg), Iron (2.49mg), Phosphorus (159.0mg), Selenium (7.0ug), and Zinc (2.56mg). These minerals are crucial for several physiological functions, like bone health, nerve transmission, and immune function.

Additionally, Doenjang is a source of some fat-soluble vitamins. It contains Vitamin A (4.0ug), Vitamin E (0.01mg), and Vitamin K1 (29.3ug), which are necessary for vision, antioxidant protection, and blood clotting, respectively.

Finally, the presence of Beta-carotene (52.0ug), an antioxidant precursor to vitamin A, and total Choline (72.2mg), a nutrient necessary for nerve signaling and lipid transport, further enhances its nutritional profile.

Nutrient NameAmount and Unit per 100g
Net Carbs 19.97g
Carbohydrate, by difference 25.37g
Fiber, total dietary 5.4g
Total fats 6.01g
Protein 12.79g
Sodium, Na 3728.0mg
Potassium, K 210.0mg
Magnesium, Mg 48.0mg
Calcium, Ca 57.0mg
Vitamin A 4.0ug
Vitamin B-6 0.2mg
Vitamin B-12 0.08ug
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.01mg
Vitamin K1 29.3ug
Copper, Cu 0.42mg
Iron, Fe 2.49mg
Phosphorus, P 159.0mg
Selenium, Se 7.0ug
Zinc, Zn 2.56mg
Beta-carotene 52.0ug
Thiamin 0.1mg
Riboflavin 0.23mg
Niacin 0.91mg
Folate, total 19.0ug
Choline, total 72.2mg
Calories 198.0kcal
Water 43.02g
Fatty acids, total saturated 1.02g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 1.12g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 2.88g
This data was provided by the US Department of Agriculture's FoodData Central system.
'Doenjang' was not found in FoodData Central, so nutritional data for 'Miso' was used instead under Cast Iron Keto's editorial and research standards.

Health Implications of Doenjang on a Keto Diet

As we continue our deep dive into Doenjang and the keto diet, it's time to examine the potential health implications of this fermented soybean paste for those following a ketogenic lifestyle.

The primary challenge that Doenjang poses for a keto diet revolves around maintaining ketosis. As we've highlighted, Doenjang's substantial carbohydrate content can easily tip you over your daily carb limit if you're not careful, pushing your body out of the state of ketosis. This can derail your progress and potentially lead to what is commonly known as the "keto flu," a series of unpleasant symptoms like headache, fatigue, and nausea that can occur as your body adjusts to burning fat instead of carbs for fuel.

On the flip side, it's important to note that Doenjang does have some nutritional properties that contribute to overall health and wellness. It is rich in proteins and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, due to its fermentation process, Doenjang is a great source of probiotics, which can positively impact gut health by promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria. These probiotics aid in digestion, help boost the immune system, and may even contribute to improved mental health.

However, while these health benefits are noteworthy, they don't negate the fact that Doenjang's high carb content makes it a challenging food to incorporate into a keto diet.

Avoiding Doenjang in Your Keto Meal Plan

Navigating the culinary landscape while on a keto diet can be tricky, especially when it comes to avoiding high-carb foods like Doenjang. But don't worry, we're here to provide you some practical tips and methods to help keep your keto journey on track.

One fundamental strategy is to always be aware of the ingredients in your meals. This is particularly important when dining out or enjoying pre-made meals, where Doenjang might be included in sauces or marinades without your knowledge. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to ask about the ingredients. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to maintaining your keto lifestyle.

Another tip is to find low-carb alternatives for your favorite meals that typically include Doenjang. For instance, if you're fond of Korean dishes like Doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew), consider experimenting with other keto-friendly, umami-rich ingredients to mimic the taste of Doenjang without the extra carbs.

Cravings for Doenjang might also be a hurdle. If you find yourself longing for the savory depth that Doenjang provides, try incorporating other flavor-packed, low-carb foods into your meals. Options could include mushrooms, cheese, or even certain types of seafood, which can provide a similar umami kick.

Remember, the goal of a keto diet is to maintain a state of ketosis, which requires a strict limit on carbohydrate intake. While Doenjang offers a unique flavor profile and potential health benefits, its high carb content makes it a challenging choice for those on a strict keto diet.

Keto-Compatible Alternatives for Doenjang

For those following a keto diet and seeking to replicate the unique flavor of Doenjang without the carb load, finding suitable alternatives can be a game-changer. Let's explore some keto-friendly substitutes that can help keep your meals exciting and flavorful while staying within your carb limits.

Firstly, Miso, a Japanese fermented soybean paste, may be a viable alternative. While it also contains carbs, its net carb content is slightly lower than Doenjang, coming at around 14g per 100g. In small amounts, it can contribute a similar depth of flavor to your soups and marinades.

Another alternative could be Tamari sauce. This gluten-free soy sauce is rich in umami and can be used in a variety of dishes. However, it's liquid, not paste-like Doenjang, so it works best in marinades and sauces. Tamari has approximately 7g net carbs per 100g, which is significantly lower than Doenjang.

A non-soy option could be nutritional yeast. This deactivated yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor that can provide an umami punch to your dishes. It's often used in vegan cooking and is an excellent source of vitamins, particularly B-vitamins. Nutritional yeast contains about 5g net carbs per 100g, making it an even lower-carb alternative.

Remember, while these alternatives have lower carb contents than Doenjang, they still need to be used in moderation to maintain ketosis. Be sure to adjust the portion sizes according to your daily carb allowance and the other ingredients in your meal.

Concluding Thoughts on Doenjang and Keto

As we round off our exploration of Doenjang in the context of a ketogenic lifestyle, there are several key points to underscore.

Our journey has demonstrated that while Doenjang comes with a host of potential health benefits due to its rich protein content, essential vitamins, minerals, and gut-friendly probiotics, its high carbohydrate content makes it a challenging fit for a strict keto diet. Incorporating Doenjang into your meals could push you over your daily carb limit, potentially knocking you out of the coveted state of ketosis.

But this doesn't mean you have to forego flavor. We've explored several keto-friendly alternatives such as Miso, Tamari sauce, and nutritional yeast that offer a similar depth and complexity to Doenjang, albeit with a lower carbohydrate footprint. These options, while not an exact match, can help cater to your umami cravings and diversify your keto meal plan.

An interesting perspective that we haven't yet touched upon is the opportunity to experiment with spices. Many spices are virtually carb-free and can add a wonderful array of flavors to your dishes. Experimenting with combinations of spices can provide an additional avenue to add complexity and richness to your meals, making the absence of Doenjang less noticeable.

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Cast Iron Keto's Editorial and Research Standards

Certain rare or exotic food items may not have nutritional profiles in the FoodData Central database. If an exact match is not found in the FoodData Central database, then, the Cast Iron Keto team utilizes a three-prong approach to provide readers with the closest relevant nutritional data, where possible.

First, in the event that nutritional profiles for a rare or exotic food item is not available in the FoodData Central database, we investigate alternative names for that particular food item and use that data, when possible. Second, in cases where no alternate names exist, Cast Iron Keto will use nutritional data for a close relative or similar food item. Finally, if no close relatives or similar items exist, we refrain from publishing nutrient data tables.

When making dietary or health decisions based on FoodData Central's data, we suggest readers consult with a nutritionist or other health experts, particularly if the food in question has a significant role in your diet or if you are using the food item to treat any health disorder(s).

Furthermore, it is important to note that even if a close relative or similar item is used to approximate the nutritional data, different food items can have varying levels of nutrients due to factors such as soil quality, farming practices, and regional differences.


The information on this website is only intended to be general summary information for public use, designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. This information does not replace written law or regulations, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions about a medical condition or are seeking to evaluate the health merits of certain food items for the treatment of any medical condition, you should seek the advice of a doctor or other qualified health professionals.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Doenjang contains approximately 35g of carbs per 100g, which is considered high for a keto diet.

Due to its high carb content, Doenjang isn't typically included in a strict keto diet as it could potentially interrupt ketosis.

Yes, there are several options like Miso, Tamari sauce, and nutritional yeast that offer similar depth of flavor with fewer carbs.