- There are more than 10 custom keto-friendly Starbucks orders floating around on social media that are perfect for anyone working their way through the diet.
- Keto-friendly Starbucks orders need to be low in added sugar and in overall carbohydrates, which are hiding in syrups and milks across the menu.
- A nutritionist explains that heavy cream and the chain's sugar-free syrups are best for keto dieters.
Both newcomers and diehard fans of the keto diet will tell you that eating out can be quite a challenge at first, as choices are limited to avoid sugars and carbohydrates so your body can maintain a state of ketosis. The keto diet is especially challenging for those who can't live without a daily caffeine fix, since nearly all coffee chains are notorious for ingredients with plenty of added sugar. Caffeine isn't totally off-limits for keto dieters, but there's a very good chance that your favorite iced coffee or tea is loaded with ingredients that contain sugars and carbohydrates... especially if Starbucks is your go-to coffee hotspot.
Unless your go-to order in the morning is a simple cup of black coffee, you'll have to hack your way through Starbucks' menu to enjoy something sinfully sweet while being completely devoid of sugar. While there are thousands of creative videos found on sites like Instagram (#KetoStarbucks racks up 35,000 posts alone!) and more on TikTok, there's nothing better than being reassured by a professional on which keto-friendly drinks are 100% safe to enjoy.
Enter Brierley Horton, MS, RD, a registered dietitian who has spent quite a bit of time decoding the keto diet. "When you're following the keto diet, you need to be consuming less than 20g of carbohydrates — and nearly any of Starbucks' ingredients, from whole milk to plant-based milk, contain carbs," Horton says, adding that you should consult Starbucks'master nutritional list before ordering. "While you can look at how much sugar each syrup or beverage contains if you'd like, keep in mind that sugars also factor into your carbohydrate count, so you don't need to obsess over sugars as much as you do carbs in this case."
Horton has a few tips for ordering any beverage at Starbucks that all keto dieters should know; plus, a few drinks that are well-established favorites for all keto lovers.
How to order a keto-friendly drink at Starbucks:
It shouldn't come as a big shock, but black coffee is your friend at Starbucks, Horton says, and should be the base of every drink you order. You'll want to ask for the Pike Place Roast, which is free of carbohydrates altogether and is the best option for any keto dieter at the coffee chain.
"The boring answer to anyone looking for keto coffee drinks at Starbucks is black coffee, mostly because carb allowance is so limited, you want to be eating carb-rich items that also have a strong source of fiber and other nutrients," Horton says.
Regardless of whether you choose a mixed drink or black coffee, Horton says it's best to keep the ratio of dairy in your cup less than (or equal to) coffee or espresso.
The fat content in whole milk is more substantial than alternative milk, you'll want to rely on substitutions like coconut milk or soy milk, as these add-ons have fewer carbohydrates than traditional milk. "A short Café Misto, for example, has 3g of carbs when made with almond milk—that bumps up to 5g when made with whole milk, which is about a 10% difference in your daily allowance when on keto," she says.
Since the keto diet is all about eating as much fat as possible — which is where most of your protein will come from, according to Horton — you should feel free to substitute heavy cream for other dairy options, which contains a significant amount of fat with fewer carbohydrates in any given serving.
Lastly, you'll need to swap your sweeteners and syrups for low-sugar varieties instead, Horton says. Starbucks offers three different sugar-free syrups (including vanilla, Cinnamon Dolce, and Skinny Mocha) that do not contain additional carbohydrates and are made with sucralose, which is also known as Splenda. If you're angling to add a touch of sweetness to any drink without adding actual syrup, reach for stevia, which Starbucks' offers to customers as a custom drink option.
What is the Starbucks 'White' Drink?
It's a tea-based drink that social media users keep reinventing as Starbucks' tea offerings continue to evolve over time. Once made with Peach Citrus White tea, it's now made with a blend of the brand's Peach Tranquility tea or a simple iced green tea base. Per Starbucks influencer and TikTok user @secretmenudrinks, you'll remove water from the iced drink but substitute equal parts heavy cream and a sugar-free syrup of your choice.
There are some sugar substitutes used within components of this drink, but Horton says that the amount shouldn't mess with your body's ability to maintain ketosis.
"In larger amounts, those sugar-free syrups could still be contributing a small amount of carbs towards your daily limits. Be sure to find the lowest threshold of sweetness that you enjoy — no more than two or three pumps — and keep it light as possible," Horton explains. "Plus, when you're eating keto, you'll notice that you've reset your taste buds and are cleaning your palette overall; a drink with six pumps of flavoring will taste very different than it used to, and you'll be satisfied with less sugar as it is."
Best Starbucks keto drinks and orders:
With Hortons' tips in mind, you can decode many of the pre-made beverages at Starbucks and replace individual ingredients with keto-friendly supplements. Here are some nutritionist-approved options to try now:
- Iced café mocha: Swap heavy cream for milk, and ask for a light mocha drizzle, which only adds about 1g of extra carbohydrates overall, Horton says.
- Skinny macchiato: This idea became popular on Reddit after one user suggested that Starbucks' secret menu hack of asking the barista to make the drink "skinny" could be an easy on-the-fly order. A grande iced "skinny" macchiato can be made with almond milk and no caramel drizzle, but still come in way below keto-appropriate carbohydrate levels, Horton explains.
- Iced chai tea latte: Made with heavy cream and 2 to 3 pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup, this espresso-enhanced tea drink is a great way to switch things up.
- Venti Americano: Since it's a dark coffee, you can add heavy cream and certain Starbucks-ready spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, as these flavorings are free of sugar.
- A keto Frappucino: Even "light" blended Frappuccino drinks contain upwards of 20g of carbohydrates, whereas a classic tall vanilla Frapp clocks in at a whopping 48g. If you can't live without a Frappucino, Horton says to order a tall "skinny" vanilla Frappuccino made with almond milk or heavy cream, which should contain just under 15g of carbohydrates, the most any keto dieter should be having in a day to maintain ketosis.
If you're looking for more keto drink inspiration, TikTok has any Starbucks fan truly covered. This spring, many keto dieters have been ordering a keto-spin on the chain's fruity Pink Drink. As Melissa of @keto_wonder_woman explains, keto dieters don't actually order a Pink Drink directly, but a Passion Iced Tea base instead, with an optional scoop of dried strawberries and a heavy cream infusion. Sugar-free vanilla syrup sweetens the deal.
Elle Valenzuela, the genius coffee influencer behind @secretmenudrinks, frequently releases videos recapping some of the most exciting keto-friendly orders at Starbucks. Valenzuela breaks down each ingredient by walking viewers through a custom mobile order of the drink, making it super easy to understand what ingredients (and any potential sources of sugar!) end up in your drink. The videos below are some of her most-watched; be sure to follow along, as you may learn a few tricks about making Starbucks' favorites into a keto-friendly option!