Frying Foods on the Kidney Diet

To switch up any diet routine, it’s good not only to change the foods you eat, but how you cook them. One cooking method to try is frying. Because a kidney diet is so specific, it is best to eat meals you’ve prepared yourself, especially when including fried foods. That way you can control the ingredients and make certain your meal contains the healthiest fats and is low in sodium, potassium and phosphorus.

Fried foods are a great choice for kidney patients who have difficulty getting enough calories or gaining weight. One tablespoon of oil adds 135 calories! But if weight control is your issue you may want to limit how often you fry foods. Large amounts of fried foods are generally not recommended as part of a healthy diet for anyone, whether a person has chronic kidney disease (CKD) or not. When you have CKD or are on dialysis, be sure to talk with your dietitian about how much fried foods you can have so that you maintain a healthy weight but aren’t deprived of the foods you love. 

How do I fry kidney-friendly foods?

There are four different methods you can use to fry foods: 

  • Sauté
  • Stir-fry
  • Pan-fry
  • Deep-fry

Sautéing

Sautéing is a quick way to prepare many kidney-friendly foods. Suggested items include lower potassium vegetables such as celery, garlic, mushrooms, onions, peppers, leached potatoes; firm fish, shrimp or scallops; boneless chicken breast or thighs or thin sliced turkey breast; and tender cuts or small, thin-cut pieces of red meat such as beef tenderloin, lamb, pork or veal.

To sauté these foods:

  1. Pour 1-3 tablespoons of oil into a sauté pan (about 1/8-inch deep).
  2. Place over high heat and when the pan is hot, add food.
  3. Move the pan to flip or toss the food a few times to ensure even, fast cooking.

Some sautéed foods, like fish, are dredged in flour and then sautéed in butter or oil. The flour or other bread coating adds flavor and crispness, prevents sticking, holds fish together and gives an even, brown color. If using this technique with meat, flour the pieces immediately before cooking and remember to shake off any excess flour. Stick with all-purpose white flour which is lower in sodium and phosphorus compared to self-rising or whole grain flour.

After sautéing meats, deglaze the pan by adding a liquid such as low sodium broth or wine to dissolve the flavor-packed particles of cooked food on the bottom of the pan. Use the deglazed liquid to make a sauce for the cooked meat. Sautéed foods are best when served immediately after the food is cooked.

Stir-frying

Your favorite Asian restaurant may come to mind when you think about stir-frying. Foods cook quickly due to the very high heat and small amount of oil, similar to sautéing, but the pan stays in place as the food is stirred. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Prepare all the stir-fry ingredients first by cutting into bite-sized pieces and measuring sauce.
  2. Heat 1-3 tablespoons of canola oil in a wok or large frying pan.
  3. Add ginger or garlic and stir until you smell it cooking.
  4. Add meat and stir to be sure it cooks evenly. When done, remove and set aside.
  5. Add vegetables according to approximate cooking time. For example, carrots take a couple of minutes longer to cook than mushrooms.
  6. When vegetables are partially cooked, add fruit, seasoning sauce and cooked meat.
  7. Continue to stir-fry to desired doneness.

Try beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or turkey along with egg or egg whites to add high quality protein to a stir-fry meal. Stir-frying helps maintain the texture and flavor in vegetables. Vegetables such as asparagus, bean sprouts, bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, snow peas and spring onions are kidney-friendly, low-potassium choices. Add sweetness with mandarin oranges, pineapple or grapes. For seasoning, use ginger, garlic, sesame oil or hot chili oil, hot chili peppers, reduced sodium soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire sauce, low sodium stock or broth, lemon juice or lime juice. If using a commercial sauce, find the lowest sodium product and use only a small amount.

Pan-frying

Pan-frying is the frying method most often used by home cooks. It works best for cooking larger pieces of meats or vegetables that take longer to cook. Pan-frying calls for more oil and less heat than sautéing or stir-frying.

  1. Fill a pan or skillet with 1/4-inch of fat or oil.
  2. Heat until hot, and then add food. Do not overfill the pan because the temperature will drop too low and food will not cook evenly.
  3. For meat or chicken, brown on the presentation side first, turn, then brown the other side.
  4. Reduce to a moderate heat and finish cooking until brown and crisp. Time varies with the meat thickness and cut. For example, bone-in chicken pieces take anywhere from 20-40 minutes to cook by pan-frying.
  5. When cooked to doneness, remove from the pan and drain on paper towels to soak up extra fat.
  6. Serve immediately. If not, keep warm in an uncovered pan until serving time.

Some meats and vegetables are dredged in flour or breaded before pan-frying. Breaded veal or pork cutlets, fried chicken, sliced eggplant or zucchini, fried okra and hash browns made from leached potatoes are all kidney-friendly examples of pan-fried foods.

Deep-frying

Deep-frying requires a deeper pan and more oil so that the food is completely immersed in the hot oil, and often breaded or battered. Usually deep-frying kidney recipes requires the following steps: 

  1. Dry the food; dip in white, all-purpose flour seasoned with pepper or other low sodium seasoning; thinly coat the food, shaking off excess flour.
  2. Coat food with egg white or other type of liquid mixture and let it drain off.
  3. On a separate plate, place liquid-coated food onto bread crumbs or crushed reduced-sodium crackers. Gently press on crumbs, cover completely, and shake off the excess crumbs.
  4. Submerge coated food into a deep fryer or deep pan of hot oil using tongs or a wire mesh spoon. Do not overload the fryer.
  5. Remove food from hot oil when food begins to turn golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  6. Serve immediately or keep warm in an uncovered pan.

Placing food on a plate lined with paper towels after removing it from a deep-fryer will allow the excess oil to drain away. Eliminating excess oil should cut down on the calories and fat in your food if you are watching your calorie intake.

Batters made from flour, liquid and egg may be used instead of the above method. For your kidney diet, be aware that batters may contain milk, baking powder or salt which add extra sodium and phosphorus. Breading and battering deep fried foods helps retain moisture and flavor and protects the food from absorbing too much fat.

It is important to use good quality oil and to heat it to the proper temperature. This will vary depending on the recipe but in general 350-375°F is ideal. Maintaining a proper frying temperature will minimize the amount of oil absorbed by the food you’re cooking. As food is added, it will lower the temperature of the oil. It is suggested that you allow food to reach room temperature before frying it. This will minimize the temperature reduction of the oil when the food is placed in a skillet or fryer and reduce splattering.

Examples of foods to deep-fry for a kidney diet are protein sources such as small, whole fish, fillets or fish sticks; calamari, shrimp or scallops; and chicken.

Deep-fried vegetables low in potassium include onion rings, mushrooms, stuffed jalapeno peppers and zucchini. The most popular fried vegetable is the potato, a high potassium food. Kidney patients who follow a low potassium diet can leach cut-up potatoes. A small portion is recommended to help keep potassium in check.

Various kidney diet recipes require different oils, which include:

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Vegetable oil

Along with different oils that you need to cook with, recipes can also require certain pieces of kitchenware to fry foods. Frying equipment necessary to execute some recipes includes:

Cast iron skillet – Heats food evenly and can last a long time. However, it is a heavy piece of kitchen equipment and may require two hands to lift it.

Wok – There are many different types of woks. Woks come in all different materials, from cast iron to aluminum. Some woks are placed on an oven burner while others are freestanding electric models.

Deep-fat fryer – While you can deep-fry in a large pan or a large wok, stand-alone fryers are also available. Many are electric and allow you to maintain a precise temperature.

Deep-fry thermometer – Temperature is important when frying. If you are not using a deep-fryer with a thermostat, you’ll need a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the food.

Tongs – A pair of metal tongs will allow you to keep your hands away from the oil while frying. Tongs also make it possible to remove the food while leaving most of the oil in the pan.

Wire mesh spoon – Sometimes referred to as a “skimmer,” a wire mesh spoon can be used instead of tongs. It allows you to place food directly into the oil without splashing and acts as a strainer by removing oil from the food as it’s taken out of the fryer.

Fried recipes for the kidney diet

DaVita.com/Recipes lists meals that you can fry from time to time. Below are a few you may want to try.

Breakfast

Lunch 

Appetizers

Dinner

Dessert

Summary

Although there are healthier ways to cook food instead of frying, this way of cooking can be an occasional treat if you stick to kidney-friendly recipes and use proper preparation techniques. For kidney patients who need to gain weight, frying is an easy way to add calories to food. Talk to your dietitian to make sure your diet conforms to healthy guidelines.

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