Low calorie beef stroganoff? Low fat beef stroganoff? Is that even possible? Isn’t beef stroganoff high in calories? Isn’t beef stroganoff known as a high fat comfort food? The traditional recipe is. But not our Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle beef stroganoff. Read on to see how we make this recipe healthier, with fewer calories and better macros (more protein!)…
How many carbs are in beef stroganoff?
The first ingredient change that reduces calories and makes beef stroganoff healthier is to reduce the amount of starchy carbs. Egg noodles are a traditional choice for the carb portion of this meal. Now, I realize some health foodies or rigid dieters might be thinking, “But Tom, noodles are processed foods aren’t they? Aren’t those bad carbs?”
Yes, egg noodles and pasta are processed foods. However, carbs are not fattening. Excess calories are fattening. Also, the bleached white flour noodles are the more processed kind. Whole grain pastas and noodles are less processed and more nutritious. They even have a little fiber. I took it a step further. I shopped around until I found a brand of egg noodles that only had two ingredients: 100% whole wheat and egg whites. They’re even lower in calories than the noodles made with egg yolks.
Even better, since egg noodles are made with whole wheat and egg whites, it increases the protein content of the recipe. When you add a cut of beef that is very lean, this is not only a low calorie recipe, it’s a high protein recipe. Even more good news is that egg noodles are super cheap. You can find some kinds for around a buck for a 12 ounce bag.
The first time I made this, I used 8 ounces of (dry) egg noodles for the whole batch. That was two-thirds of the 12 ounce bag. (Most classic recipes call for 8 or even 10 ounces of noodles). For both calorie reduction and practical reasons, I decided to cut the amount of noodles to the 6 ounces you see in this recipe. This worked out better for practical purposes because it was exactly half of the 12 ounce bag. That left the other half of the bag (the remaining 6 ounces) for the next time.
Six ounces of (dry) whole wheat egg noodles have 540 calories and 111 grams of carbs. Split into four servings, thats only 28 grams of carbs per serving. In the event you’re an athlete or you’re a bodybuilder on a muscle building phase, you might want to go ahead use more noodles because you’ll need more calories.
If you want to try a different (starchy) carb, you could serve the beef and sauce on top of mashed potatoes instead. If beef stroganoff is comfort food, and if mashed potatoes are comfort food, then this combination is comfort food squared! Worried that mashed potatoes are fattening? Not ours. Check out the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle mashed potatoes recipe here:
What cut of meat is best for beef stroganoff? What’s the best way to cook it?
The type of beef used most often in classic stroganoff recipes is boneless sirloin. Other traditional cuts include sirloin tips, boneless rib eye (sometimes called scotch fillet), or beef tenderloin.
I sometimes use top sirloin and that is pretty lean, but more often I choose top round steak. I do this because it’s one of the leanest cuts of beef you can find. Round steak may be slightly tougher, and it’s used more often with slow cooking (because it gets fall-apart tender after a whole day in the crockpot)…
But for me, it’s worth it to get the lower calories and lower fat. All my recipes are created with health, plus fitness and body-building macros in mind, which is why I modify traditional recipes so much. I want the calories lower, the macros better and the dishes healthier. If you want to use a different more traditional cut of meat, go right ahead, just remember the calories and fat will be slightly higher than what I have posted.
(Burn the Fat Inner Circle members have access to our meal planner software, which is not only great for meal planning, but also recipe creation and customization. Click here and learn more)
If you want to be a real low calorie rebel, try chicken breast. You can follow the same recipe to make super low calorie chicken stroganoff.
For best flavor, the ideal way to cook the beef is to get a quick sear on it first. With the heat on medium high, add the beef to the hot skillet and leave it untouched for about a minute to get that nice browning before you flip it and stir another couple minutes for even cooking. Remember that if you slice the beef in very small, very thin strips, it will take less time to sear than larger chunks.
Three more tips: One, pat the meat with paper towel to remove moisture because dry meat will sear better. Two, for best results, season the beef directly with salt and pepper before cooking. Three, avoid overcooking. If it’s still a little bit rare in spots, that’s okay because it will cook for several minutes more after you add the mushrooms and liquids.
I like to use cast iron for searing beef, but you can use any skillet you want as long as it’s big enough to handle this whole batch of ingredients. Some people, including myself, like to stir the noodles right into the sauce at the end, others serve the noodles on a plate and spoon the sauce on top. If you do the former, you need a big skillet with room for the noodles. I use 12 inch wide by 2 inch deep cast iron. Below is a link to the one I use (this is our Amazon affiliate link):
Beef stroganoff recipes usually call for anywhere between one pound (16 oz) and one and a half pounds (24 oz) of beef. I use the meal planning software at Burn the Fat Inner Circle to calculate macros per batch and per serving in each recipe and I tweak certain ingredients (including the protein) to get the exact macros I want. The goal is usually to get between 30 and 50 grams of protein. For my own meals, I like to get at least 40 grams (I would call that a high protein meal). To make a batch of high-protein, low calorie beef stroganoff that serves four, I used a pound and a quarter (20 oz) for this recipe.
Quick note about cooking the beef. Many traditional beef stroganoff recipes call for cooking the beef first, then removing it from the skillet and then putting it back in at the end. This technique is often done with stir Frys, because you don’t want the beef to overcook and often different ingredients (meat, various veggies) call for different cooking times. I did that at first, but then I found it worked just as well cooking the onions first, then adding the beef, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. The beef won’t overcook in this case because we reduce the heat to medium low when we add the sauce ingredients.
How else can you make beef stroganoff lower in calories?
When I’m developing healthier, lower calorie recipes, I like to look at the regular version first so I can see how it is traditionally made. Once I’ve seen that, I can look for places to make ingredient substitutions or to alter the cooking method.
I discovered that the traditional way to prepare beef stroganoff is to cook the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a whole lot of butter! In the bodybuilding and fitness circles I travel in, olive oil is considered the healthier fat. That’s largely due to the higher monounsaturated fat content in olive oil compared to the high saturated fat content in butter.
There’s little harm in using some butter occasionally if it’s a must-use ingredient for a certain recipe. But trust me, you do not need butter in this recipe. A little bit of olive oil is all it takes. You can get away with as little as 2 teaspoons of olive oil and it gets the job done.
Another trick for reducing calories, or I should say, reducing calories per serving (lower calorie density) is to use a lot of vegetables – even more than the traditional recipes call for.
I use an entire cup of chopped onions. That’s a lot, but onions are awesome, and using a lot of them bumps up the food volume per serving while adding minimal calories. If you’re not a huge onion fan, that’s fine, you could easily get by with only half a cup.
I use a lot of mushrooms as well, because this is another vegetable low in calorie density but high in volume. At my local grocery stores, the mushrooms usually come in 8 ounce boxes. I use the whole box because I want a lot of veggies in my low calorie beef stroganoff and also use that amount for practical reasons. If I use the whole box I don’t have to worry about leftovers going bad. (Fresh sliced mushrooms don’t last long in the refrigerator). Use even more mushrooms if you wish. (It will hardly add any calories but bump up the food volume).
Use white, baby Bella, cremini, or any other kind of mushroom you like. Also, slice them thin, or chop them them up into smaller pieces if you prefer. You could use canned mushrooms in a pinch, but fresh is better.
What is the sauce in beef stroganoff made of?
Beef stroganoff sauce is made with sour cream, beef broth, dijon mustard, Worcestershire, flour and an additional thickener like Xanthan gum is optional.
I know that some people in the health and fitness space omit the flour, but flour is one of the ingredients that helps thicken the sauce. Getting a thick sauce that sticks to the meat and noodles is the ultimate result you want. There’s only two tablespoons of flour for the whole batch. But if you want to leave out the flour, because you’re aiming for ultra low calories, it’s your dinner.
Some classic beef stroganoff recipes also usually use wine, but we keep our Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle recipes alcohol free, so we skip that.
You don’t see Worcestershire sauce as part of the sauce in all traditional beef stroganoff recipes, but unless you don’t like it, I highly recommend including it because it enhances the flavor a lot.
Now here’s another way we get some substantial calorie savings: Most beef stroganoff recipes use full-fat sour cream. For our low calorie beef stroganoff we use low fat sour cream, which saves us even more calories. I know that fat free sour cream is available, but I took the middle ground on this one. You can make this even lighter if you use the non fat sour cream, but it won’t be as rich.
It’s the sour cream that adds most of the thickness and creaminess to the sauce, so you can’t skip it and expect anything like the real thing. In traditional recipes, I’ve seen anywhere from a half a cup to one cup of sour cream. A half a cup to two-thirds a cup is most common.
Now on one hand, I want to use less low fat sour cream to keep the calories down. But on the other, I never want to be short on sauce or have a sauce so thin it doesn’t coat the meat and noodles and just drains to the bottom of the plate. (This isn’t supposed to be like soup or stew). So what I did is to use three quarters of a cup. If you want even more sauce and thickness go ahead and bump the low fat sour cream up to one full cup. It adds a little more calories, but per serving it doesn’t add that many more.
One more tip. You’ll notice in the instructions it says to turn the heat down when you add the sour cream. The reason is because if it boils, it may curdle (especially the low fat variety). This also presents the meat from overcooking.
In the fitness and bodybuilding nutrition space, a common substitute for low fat sour cream is low fat (or non fat) greek yogurt. Yogurt is certainly an option and nonfat yogurt will bump the protein even higher, but I strongly prefer the low fat sour cream both for taste and texture.
How do you make beef stroganoff sauce thicker?
My first couple of attempts at beef stroganoff were not completely successful. They tasted great, but I was just not satisfied with the sauce. (I was following other people’s ingredient amounts and ratios at first and I didn’t like them). I came to my own conclusion that the key to getting the perfect thick sauce is to get the right ratio of sour cream to beef broth.
At first I was following classic recipes that called for two cups of broth. The sauce was plentiful, but way too watery and adding thickener didn’t help. I scaled down to 1.5 cups of broth. Still too watery. If you skip the broth, you’ll probably feel like there is not enough sauce. The broth stretches your sauce without adding any more calories. When I reduced to one cup of broth that was better. But I finally figured out that a 1 to 1 ratio of sour cream to broth was ideal. If you want to stretch it a little more, use 3/4 cup of sour cream and 1 cup of broth at most. Alternately, if you don’t mind the extra calories, and you wanna really generous amount of sauce, use 3/4 cup to 1 cup of broth and 1 full cup of sour cream.
In early iterations of this recipe, when I thought the sauce was a bit too thin, I tried using a corn starch slurry as a thickener. It sort of worked, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. Later I tried using Xanthan gum. With only one teaspoon, it did the trick beautifully. This ingredient is optional, but if you want the thickest sauce possible, give it a try.
What herbs are used in beef stroganoff?
Most traditional beef stroganoff recipes don’t use any additional herbs. However, the first time I ever made stroganoff, I made it with chicken (because I usually eat more of the leanest meats possible). Since thyme is a great match with chicken I included it and it was great. I decided then to keep including thyme in the beef stroganoff and it was great with beef as well.
I also rarely see garlic in beef stroganoff, but in my opinion, you can never ever go wrong some extra garlic. Plus, since this recipe is lighter /low calorie, I like to offset that with lots of aromatics, seasonings and any other flavoring that I can. So don’t forget the garlic either.
How long does it take to make beef stroganoff?
When I was reading several traditional cookbook recipes, I noticed that some said this takes 50 to 60 minutes. With my method, it has never taken that long. I never found it necessary to let it simmer long on medium low (though if it’s done early, it is okay to leave it on low until you’re ready to eat).
Also when you’re efficient and use two burners (you start on the beef in a skillet at the same time your pasta is boiling in the pot), you can whip this up in as little as 30 to 35 minutes and it could easily be an easy weeknight meal. If you only have one burner and you have to cook the pasta first, and then do the beef and sauce, then allow for at least 45 minutes.
Here’s one final tip to keep cooking and prep time to a minimum: Mise en place. This is a French culinary term that means be sure to read the recipe instructions and be familiar with the cooking method before you start. It also means have every ingredient out and in place before you even turn the stove on.
How many calories are in beef stroganoff? How many servings are in this recipe?
This is the best part. If you divide this whole batch into four, that’s only 477 calories per serving, and those are very generous and filling servings. Also, let me make something clear – that’s the calorie count for the whole dish, including the beef with sauce and the noodles! An equivalent amount of traditionally made stroganoff could easily have 600 to 800 calories.
Using the ingredients listed below, this will make four large servings. If you’re a light eater or on a low calorie fat loss diet, you could easily stretch this batch to five servings. That would be only 382 calories. If you’re an athlete or a bodybuilder on a muscle gaining diet, then expect this batch to be about 3 servings. (Unless you want to use more noodles, which is another option for people with high calorie requirements).
Give this one a try because I swear the healthier modifications don’t compromise the taste at all. The only thing better than beef stroganoff is healthy, low fat, low calorie beef stroganoff with high protein that tastes every bit as good as the classic recipe.
PS. You can get access to the entire Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle recipe collection (nearly 300 recipes) when you become a member of the Burn the Fat Inner Circle Members area (click here for details)
About Tom Venuto, The No-BS Fat Loss Coach
Tom Venuto has been a trusted natural bodybuilding and fat loss expert since 1989. He is also a recipe creator specializing in fat-burning, muscle-building cooking. Tom is a former competitive bodybuilder and today works as a full-time fitness coach, writer, blogger, and author. In his spare time, he is an avid outdoor enthusiast and backpacker. His book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is an international bestseller, first as an ebook and now as a hardcover and audiobook. The Body Fat Solution, Tom’s book about emotional eating and long-term weight maintenance, was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom is also the founder of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community with over 52,000 members worldwide since 2006. Click here for membership details
Low Calorie Beef Stroganoff
- skillet cast iron
- 170 g whole wheat egg noodles (dry) (6oz)
- 567 g top round steak (or lean sirloin) (20oz)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 227 g mushrooms, sliced or chopped (8oz)
- 142 g onion, chopped (5oz/about 1 cup)
- 1 Tbsp garlic, finely diced (approx 3-4 cloves)
- 2 Tbsp flour, all purpose
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1.5 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 3/4 cup low fat sour cream
- 3/4 cup beef broth (or stock)
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley (optional for garnish)
- 1 tsp Xanthan gum (optional for thickening)
- Get the water started for the pasta. (Optional: Salt water 1 to 2 tsp). Get all ingredients in place.
- Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cut the beef in thin strips or small bite-size pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the egg noodles to the boiling water and cook according the package instructions. (usually 6 to 8 minutes depending on how firm you like it). Remove it to a colander when it's done.
- Meanwhile, as the noodles cook, heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron, but any large deep skillet will do) on medium high. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sauté the onions for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until they begin to soften, stirring regularly.
- Add the beef to the onions in the skillet. Allow to cook at least a minute or so without stirring so the beef gets a good sear, then flip / stir and cook about about 2 more minutes or until it's cooked, stirring occasionally. (It's ok if it's still slightly rare in spots)
- Add the garlic and stir. Add the mushrooms and cook about 2 to 3 more minutes, or until the mushrooms soften, stirring occasionally.
- Sprinkle the flour over the beef, mushrooms and onions and stir.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, low-fat sour cream, and beef broth/stock then stir until it all mixes together.
- 9. Add additional salt, pepper, and herbs to taste, and stir. Let it all simmer for about 3 more minutes or until all ingredients are thoroughly and evenly heated.
- Stir the cooked egg noodles right into the beef and sauce mixture, or serve a portion of noodles and spoon the sauce on top.
- Optional: Garnish with fresh parsley.
- Optional: add 1 tsp Xanthan gum to thicken.