Starbucks Made a Low-Carb Menu Item But
CarbSmart Made It Healthier and Even Lower Carb
Anybody who knows and loves Dana Carpender knows she rarely goes to Starbucks, partly because she only occasionally drinks coffee and partly because they don’t have many menu choices for a low carber. But that may be changing.
Few people go to Starbucks looking for low-carb foods. Low-carbers know how to order low-carb versions of many of their drinks, and we even make our own versions at home—see Dana’s “Better Than Coffee Shop” Mocha. But now there are a couple of lower-carb items on their menu: Sous Vide Egg Bites, in both Bacon & Gruyere and Egg White & Red Pepper.
Sous Vide Egg Bites are lower carb than Starbucks’ other offerings, but they’re still higher carb than what many of us want. Let us present a healthier version we call Dana’s Low-Carb Gluten-Free Bacon and Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites—or as Dana calls them, “Eggums.” And ours won’t cost you $4.45 plus tax!
Why Did Starbucks Create Sous Vide Egg Bites: Bacon & Gruyere?
Egg Bites are a response to customers ordering breakfast sandwiches and discarding the bread—including their most popular croissants, English muffins, wraps, buttery buns, croissant buns, and artisan rolls. Research showed that customers wanted healthier items with better ingredients, no gluten, and higher protein. Starbucks hit the test kitchen.
How Good Are Starbucks’ Sous Vide Egg Bites?
Although Starbucks doesn’t seem to have set out to make a specifically low-carb menu item, their Sous Vide Egg Bites are not super-carby, and they certainly are tasty. Each Starbucks Bacon and Gruyere Egg Bite (2 Egg Bites per serving) has strips of bacon on the bottom (or top depending on how you hold them). They come pre-formed and are then warmed in a Convection Microwave oven.
The problem with Starbucks Egg Bites is the unnecessary additives and fillers found in the ingredients. For instance, according to Starbucks’ ingredients list, their cottage cheese contains maltodextrin, while their Monterey jack and Gruyere cheese both contain potato starch and powdered cellulose, usually used to keep packaged shredded cheese from clumping. They’ve also included rice starch, probably as a thickener. This explains why the Bacon-Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites have 9 grams of carbohydrate per serving – and the serving is modest. Also, their uncured bacon contains cane sugar and rice starch.
So they’re an improvement, especially compared to the rest of the menu, but I knew we could make them better, So I asked Dana to cut the carbs and improve the flavor. And boy, did she. Dana’s “Eggums” have a velvety-smooth texture and a flavor very similar to Starbucks, but with far fewer carbs.
What is Sous Vide Cooking?
According to Wikipedia:
Sous-vide is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (usually 1 to 6 hours, up to 48 or more in some select cases) at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.
Sous Vide cooking was developed in the late 18th century, then rediscovered and expanded in the mid-1960s in France. In conventional stove or oven cooking, food is exposed to heat much higher than the desired final temperature. If the food it is removed from the heat too early, it is undercooked, and if it is removed too late, overcooked. By placing food in a sealed bag in a water bath set at the desired final temperature, it is assured that the food cannot get hotter than the water bath and therefore cannot overcook. The use of precise temperature control for the water bath allows the food to cook to an exact temperature without overcooking no matter what the shape or thickness of the food.
In restaurants around the world, sous vide cooking (technically “cooking sous vide”) is considered cutting edge. But duplicating the technique at home has been difficult. Recently, over a dozen manufacturers have created sous vide cooking appliances. There are two varieties: The water bath and the immersion circulator. We’ll explain:
|First is the Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven developed by low-carb experts Drs. Michael R. Eades and Mary Dan Eades, authors of Protein Power. Theirs was the world’s first home water oven. Cooking vacuum-sealed food in the self-contained water bath locks in the juices and flavor and preserves the nutritional quality of the food for amazing taste and texture.|
|Immersion circulators are cheaper and take up far less space than the water oven, and are therefore more popular. An immersion circulator attaches to the inside of a stockpot or 12-quart or larger plastic food bin (the low temperatures don’t melt plastic), turning the container into a sous vide water bath. Immersion circulators like the top selling Anova Culinary Precision Cooker are easy-to-use, lightweight, and can even connect to your smartphone by bluetooth or wi-fi to allow you to cook the perfect meal with the touch of a button.|
|Dana found yet another way to cook sous vide: She owns and uses a Nu Wave Induction Burner. Using magnetic currents to vibrate the molecules in iron or steel cookware, an induction burner allows very precise heat control—indeed, that’s why one has a permanent place of honor on Dana’s counter. She uses her induction-burner-friendly stockpot, sets the burner for 170° F, adds the Eggums, and covers the pot for perfect results every time.|
How Do You Make Sous Vide Egg Bites?
Technically, the term “sous vide” means “under vacuum,” and refers to the fact that food to be cooked this way is sealed in a cooking-grade plastic bag with a vacuum sealer. Dana puzzled about this; putting a bag of raw egg mixture into a vacuum sealer seemed guaranteed to make a huge mess. A quick Google search showed that the Starbucks Egg Bites are originally cooked in little disposable molds custom made for the process. We don’t have those but we have a great solution.
|A little more Googling turned up the blog Adventures of a Nurse. The blogger, Carla, who has some amazing Instant Pot and Sous Vide recipes, had come up with her own version of Sous Vide Egg Bites, cooking them in 4-ounce canning jars. Genius! Although lower in carbs, her recipe didn’t line up with the ingredient list of the Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites. Dana borrowed the canning jar idea, but developed her own recipes, taking cues from the Starbucks list of ingredients – minus carby additives, of course.|
- Serves: 8
- Serving size: 1 Egg Bite
- Calories: 238
- Fat: 20g (74.6% calories from fat)
- Carbs: 2g
- Sugar: 0g
- Sodium: 485mg
- Fiber: trace
- Protein: 13g
- Cholesterol: 229mg
- Anova Culinary Precision Cooker or Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven
- 8 4 oz. Ball Mason Jars with Lids and Bands
- 4 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
- 6 slices sugar-free, uncured bacon, cooked and crumbled into bacon bits
- 8 cage-free, pasture-raised eggs
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¾ teaspoon salt, or Vege-Sal
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼-½ teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum, optional
- 2 dashes hot sauce
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease, melted
- Set sous vide to 170° F.
- Coat 8 4-ounce Mason jars with non-stick cooking spray.
- Put ½ tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) of crumbled bacon bits into each jar.
- Divide the shredded cheese into two batches. Now divide one batch between the bottoms of the jars.
- Put the eggs, cottage cheese, cream, salt, pepper, paprika, xanthan gum or guar gum, and hot sauce in your blender, and start it running. As the mixture becomes well-blended, pour in the butter and bacon grease. (Might as well melt them together.) Take the lid off and let the blender run for a couple of minutes, to incorporate air.
- Divide the egg mixture evenly between the jars. Divide the remaining cheese among the jars, placing it on top of the egg mixture. Screw the lids on tight.
- Place the jars in the sous vide, and cook for 90 minutes.
- Remove from the water bath and let them cool a little before refrigerating.
- I find that 45 seconds on high in the microwave is about right for warming one of these if it’s straight from the refrigerator, but microwaves vary in power. And, of course, if your Eggum is at room temperature, it’ll take less time to warm it.
We’re shredding our own cheese for two reasons: One, my grocery stores don’t carry shredded Gruyere. And two, if they did it would have the same anti-clumping additives as Starbucks’. Just run your cheese through your food processor’s shredding blade. The cheese is easier to handle if you use the fine shredding blade of your food processor, but regular-sized shreds also work.
Starbucks uses a combination of Gruyere and Monterey Jack cheeses. I like all Gruyere better — I find it more flavorful — but Monterey Jack is cheaper.
Also even cheaper — Swiss cheese, which is a reasonable substitute for Gruyere if the budget is tight.
If you wish, you can use packaged bacon bits — I’ve tried it with Oscar Mayer bacon bits, which are, indeed, made of real bacon. This is certainly far easier than cooking and crumbling bacon, a plus for what is, after all, supposed to be a convenience food. However, if you want to use nitrate-free bacon*, you’ll have to cook and crumble your own.
* Nitrate-free bacon uses celery juice instead — which is a natural source of nitrates.
Most cottage cheeses have additives. Of the grocery store brands, Daisy is the “cleanest,” containing only cultured skim milk, cream, and salt. Unsurprisingly, this also makes it lower carb than many brands, with only 3 grams of carbohydrate per half-cup rather than 5 grams, like most brands.
The xanthan gum or guar gum and butter bring these very close to the texture of the Starbucks version. You can skip the xanthan gum or guar gum if you like; your Eggums will be slightly less velvety and slightly more custardy.
Our Egg Bites do not have picturesque strips of bacon on top (which would, of course, be on the bottom in a jar). Problem? Or no? Bacon bits, especially packaged bacon bits, will be far easier. Pretty sure that to do strips people would need to par-cook them, which is kind of a pain. Though I could try it with uncooked bacon and see how it comes out some day.
Comparing Starbucks Nutrition Facts vs CarbSmart’s Nutrition Facts
|Calories from Fat||200||178|
Comparing Starbucks Ingredients vs CarbSmart’s Ingredients
Based on these two ingredient lists, what version of Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites would you rather have?
|Starbucks Ingredients:||CarbSmart Ingredients:|
|Cottage cheese (cultured skim milk, skim milk, milk, cream, contains 2 % or less of: whey, lactose, salt, maltodextrin, guar gum, citric acid, carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, locust bean gum, xanthan gum, carob bean gum, potassium sorbate, carbon dioxide [to maintain freshness], natural flavor, vitamin a palmitate, enzymes), eggs (eggs, citric acid), monterey jack cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, potato starch, powdered cellulose, natamycin [a natural mold inhibitor]), unsalted butter (pasteurized cream, natural flavors), gruyere cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, potato starch, powdered cellulose, natamycin [a natural mold inhibitor]), uncured bacon – no nitrites or nitrates added except as naturally occurring in sea salt and celery juice powder (pork belly, water, sea salt, cane sugar, natural flavors), rice starch, hot sauce (distilled vinegar, red pepper, salt), salt. contains: egg, milk. (Source)||Gruyere cheese (rennet, salt, milk, culture), bacon, eggs, cottage cheese (cultured skim milk, cream, salt), heavy cream (cream, milk, carrageenan, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, polysorbate 80), salt, pepper, paprika, xanthan gum, hot sauce, butter, bacon grease.|
Are Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites Convenience Food?
Of course, the biggest difference between Starbucks Egg Bites and Dana’s Egg Bites is that you make them yourself, rather than grabbing them with a cup of coffee on the way to work. How are these convenience food? Dana explains:
These Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites had a learning curve—the first time I tried them, it took me two to three times as long as on subsequent trials. I had to do everything right then: shred the cheese, cook the bacon, work out the recipe, all that stuff. It was sort of a production, I’ll admit. But both That Nice Boy I Married and I were so enamored of the results—super-tasty, velvety egg-bacon-cheese food that could be grabbed from the fridge and warmed up in less than a minute—that I stuck with it.
Here’s the trick: Buy at least 8 ounces of Gruyere, maybe even a pound, shred it, and stash it in a snap-top container in your fridge. Cook and crumble your bacon, too, and stick that in another snap-top container. Or use packaged genuine bacon bits.
Once you’ve done this, you can get an assembly line going. You can even eyeball the quantities—unless you’re keeping strict count of calories along with carbs—a pinch of bacon, a bigger pinch of cheese, pour in the egg mixture, another pinch of cheese, cap ‘em, and get ‘em in the water. Set your timer and go do something else for an hour and a half.
Come the next morning, you can grab a jar or two out of the fridge—we’ve found that one is quite satisfying, but perhaps you’re hungrier than we are—and head for the door. The Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites jars fit nicely in a good-sized purse or briefcase. Since they were cooked with the lid on, so long as it hasn’t been loosened, my husband and I are unworried about these sitting at room temperature for an hour or two. They’re not canned, but they’ve been heated through, and the lid is on tight.
For this reason, too, we’re unworried about Eggums sitting in the fridge for 4-5 days. We’d try it for longer than that, but we always eat them up first.
I will admit, these are more convenient if you own a dishwasher. You do have those jars to wash. They can go on the top or bottom rack; the lids and bands can go in the silverware basket. Since we’re not counting on the air-tight seal needed for canning, I don’t feel it’s necessary to use new lids every time, which would get pricey. I don’t have a degree in food safety, but so long as they’re clean and undamaged, I’m assuming they’re fine.
Oh, and my Ball jars came in a flat of 12. So why a recipe for 8? Because that’s what would fit in my stockpot. Feel free to scale the recipe up if you can fit more.
Another convenience: If you also make your own coffee, you can skip the stop on the way to work. And the savings may mean you don’t have to work quite so many hours.
One final grace of making your own: Those jars aren’t going into the waste stream, making our homemade Egg Bites (Eggums!) not only lower carb than Starbucks, but easier on the environment.
We hope you enjoy these. Please rate the recipe and leave any comments below.