Is Corn Keto-Friendly?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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When starting keto, you’ll usually have many questions regarding whether certain foods are keto or not. Corn is one of those foods that gets most people wondering about its carb content. 

While it is a vegetable, it is also high in carbs. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you must avoid it altogether. You just need to be careful with the portion size.

This article addresses everything related to this delicious food and the ketogenic diet, from macronutrients and micronutrient composition to how much you can have and what kind you can eat. You’ll also learn what to eat with it and more keto-friendly alternatives.

What is corn?

This plant originated from South and Central America. While you find it in popular traditional Latin American dishes, it is now a typical food in cuisines worldwide.

There is a debate when it comes to this food. Is it a vegetable, whole grain, or fruit?

The kernels are considered whole grain. This means that when you have popcorn, you have whole grains. However, it can also fall in the vegetable category since it is a plant that is grown for an edible part.

The USDA lists it as both a grain and vegetable. Finally, it can be considered a fruit since it comes from a plant’s flower.

It is still a high-carb food packed with essential nutrients, no matter which definition you decide to use.

Corn nutrition facts

Since it is considered a grain, we know that it might be high in carbs. But exactly how many carbs does it contain? 

And let’s not gloss over the fact that it also has a good portion of fiber, and it contains essential nutrients and minerals.

Here is the nutritional information of one small ear, around 5.5 to 6.5 inches long.

Serving size: 1 small ear of corn (89 g)

  • Calories: 85 kcal
  • Fat: 1.3 g
  • Net carbs: 16.6 g
  • Total carbs: 18.7 g
  • Fiber: 2.1 g
  • Protein: 3 g

As you can see, one small ear provides 16.6 g of net carbs, which is a lot for keto. While it might be a suitable number of carbs to add for some people, it might be too much for one food for others that follow a stricter ketogenic approach.

Although it doesn’t contain much protein, it still has a good amount to offer. One small ear has 3 g, which is almost the same as half a medium-sized egg. Remember that vegetable protein sources don't contain all 9 essential amino acids, so it's important to get a variety in daily to make sure you meet your needs for the day.

Besides being high in carbs, this food is a good source of thiamin and folate. Additionally, it has traces of phosphorus, manganese, and vitamin C.


Are you allowed to eat corn on keto?

Yes, you can eat it on keto, but in moderation.

Although it is high in carbs, you are allowed to eat it on a ketogenic diet as long as you are very careful with the portion size. By thoroughly measuring and controlling the amount you eat, you can ensure that you won’t exceed your total carb limit.

As long as you keep it within your daily budget, you can include certain high-carb food during the day. One recommendation, if you are going to have it, is to make sure that you keep other high-carb foods low for the rest of the day.

For example, if you have corn, avoid eating quinoa (another high-carb food) the same day.

How much corn can you have on a keto diet?

The amount depends on your total daily carb intake.

For example, if you are trying to stay below 50 g of net carbs per day, it’s probably best to have less than ½ a small ear. That way, you get only 8.3 grams of net carbs.

Whatever your personal macros are, make sure to weigh and measure the portion size to ensure that you stay within your carb budget.


What kind of corn can you have on keto?

There are different types of corn. When you are on a ketogenic diet, you can have any one of these, as long as you strictly limit the portion size.

  • Dent or yellow
  • Sweet
  • White
  • High-amylose
  • Popcorn
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Ornamental

They all have a similar nutritional content, which means that they are high in carbs. If you decide to occasionally include this food while on a low-carb plan, be very aware of the portion size and how many grams it will deduct from your daily carb intake.

Besides the type you can have, there are different ways to have it.

  • Flour
  • Tortillas
  • Chips
  • Kernels
  • Popcorn
  • Soup
  • Cornbread

Remember that all these ways are high in carbs, so you need to be careful about the portion size. You can mix almond or coconut flour into recipes for tortillas, cornbread, soup, and more to decrease the carb content. That way, you can make them more keto-friendly.

Corn oil has no carbs and is primarily fats, but it’s not recommended for keto or any diet because it is highly processed and may do more harm than good.



What can you eat with corn?

Since it is a high-carb food, you’ll want to combine it with low-carb food when you are doing a ketogenic meal plan. For example, here are some of my favorites:

  • Keto-friendly Mexican bowl. Mix cauliflower rice, corn, avocado, tomato, jalapenos, and chicken breast.
  • Keto corn pudding. Mix corn, erythritol, eggs, heavy cream, butter, and yellow squash in an oven-friendly pan. You bake it at 400 F (204 C) for 30 minutes.
  • Corn on the cob with butter.
  • Corn kernels with mayonnaise.

Remember to choose healthier fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts over saturated fats (butter, mayonnaise, heavy cream, and sour cream).

Keto-friendly corn alternatives

Depending on your carb intake, you might want to consume more than you are allowed to. Other keto-safe corn substitutes can help you replace it without adding too many carbs during the day.

Here is a list of the most common keto-friendly alternatives of popular starch replacements.

  • Cauliflower rice
  • Broccoli rice
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Spaghetti squash noodles


FAQ about corn on a keto diet

Do you still have some questions regarding corn and a ketogenic diet? Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding this tasty food.

No, you cannot eat this candy when you are doing a ketogenic approach. It is high in simple sugars, and you can easily overeat and increase your carbohydrate intake during the day. Try crunchy keto-friendly candies like hard candy made with stevia if you’re craving a sweet treat.

No, they are not very good for keto. You would need to measure the portion size carefully to avoid going over your allotted carbohydrate intake.

If you want to make ketogenic tortilla chips, try mixing almond flour, cheese, and seasoning.

Yes, you can have popcorn on a ketogenic diet, but you need to be careful about portion size.

One cup of plain popcorn has 5 g of net carbs. Measure out how much you want to eat and place it in a separate bowl so you’re not tempted to go overboard.

Technically, yes, because it has 0 carbs. However, it is highly refined and may replace more nutritious oils, like olive oil. Therefore, it is best to avoid corn oil, whether you’re on keto or not.

For frying, you can replace it with coconut oil. For cooking or using as a dressing, olive oil is a healthier alternative.

No, it is not keto-friendly.

It is high in sugar. If you are going to add sweetness to your baking foods, use erythritol instead of corn syrup.

Yes, you may be able to have a small amount, but they are carb-based. This means that they can be too high in carbohydrates, depending on how they are made, so check the label.
You can make tortillas mixing corn and almond or coconut flour to reduce the carb content.


Vegetables to eat while on a ketogenic diet