• By Jessica DeGore
  • In Uncategorized
  • February 19, 2020

Beer: A Flavorful Ingredient in Healthy Cooking


By: Libby Mills 


You don’t have to drink craft beer to know that its loaded with flavor.  But have you ever wondered how that flavor might play out in your next salsa, flat bread or roasted carrot soup?

The skillet is hot; the onions, garlic and maybe peppers are golden, the optional meat is seared and lovely golden-brown caramelized bits cling to the bottom cook surface.  We think nothing of adding a splash of wine to lift the rich flavors…Glug, glug from the bottle, and we feel like Jacques Papin or Julia Childs or maybe Giada De Laurentiis from the next generation.

As the brown frond bubbles off the skillet bottom, we know with certainty that the flavor will make the dish.  We may take this important cooking step for granted, but it is the step that builds and intensifies flavor without needing extra fat or more salt.

But cooking with beer feels more like whimsy, lacking the elegance of wine.  One may be cooking and sipping a beer, when a lightbulb of “why not?” and “tee-hee” inspire the creative protagonist in you to splash in a drizzle or two.

In the moment of “splshhh!!!” with steam mushrooming from the pan, you feel a little rogue, spontaneous, even bad-ass in a world full of wining cooks.

And then with certainty of your culinary prowess, you taste the foundation of your sauce and your confidence is horrified by an over whelming bitter taste of hops. Tail between your legs, you face a common miscalculation in the behavior of beer when exposed to heat.

How could your buddy, beer, become your antagonist?

First of all, using beer in healthy cooking is a flavorful idea!  Yes, it adds bitterness and acidity from the hops.  But the malty sweetness in beer can counter-balance the bitter…up to a point.

It helps to know a thing or two about the beer.  Each style of beer has it’s own characteristics. A lager will be crisps and dry while an ale more smooth with hints of fruit, herbs or spice. Stouts will be dark with heavier malt, cocoa and coffee flavors.   Then add the craft-factor that introduces peppers, ginger, peanut, coconut and bubblegum flavors to beer and it’s clear that you’ve got to taste your beer.

On a local level– always the MOST fun, you won’t want to miss a Reception and Networking Event for dietitians hosted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Maggiano’s King of Prussia from 4:30-7:00 pm.  The event raises money for PAND-PAC and is the perfect place for you and your buds to test out your beer and food tasting!   And there will be a wine and BEER pull with emphasis on PA BEERS.  Best of all, tickets to the reception are 50% off for those attending the Annual Meeting Exhibition Conference (AME) Friday March 27, 2020 from 7am-4:00 pm at the Crowne Plaza King of Prussia (6 CEU credits).

BTW, if you haven’t signed up yet, you will after checking out the MUST SEE speakers including Patricia Davidson, DCN, RDN, CDE, LDN, FAND presenting Personalized Nutrition Based on the Gut Microbiome and Lauren Pincus MS, RDN, presenting The Low FODMAP for IBS from Evidence to Implementation.



To help with your tasting experience, you can download my Beer Notes tasting form posted on my website digineatup.com for free.  Let’s face it, trying to remember what you tasted in a beer an hour later, can be sketchy and the next day virtually impossible unless you write it down.  And your notes are key to guiding through the creative use of beer in healthy cooking.

While there are no rules beyond your personal preferences, here are a few tips to better assure a success.

  • IPA or overly hopped beer aren’t the best choice for deglazing. With the heat and reduction in liquids, the beer will only become more bitter.  It may help if you can find the IBUs on the beer.  IBUs—the International Bitterness Units, is how bitter the beer is on a scale of 1-100.  You may not always be able to taste the bitterness if the malty sweetness balances it out.
  • Choose a lighter less hopped beer like an English ale or hefeweizen for deglazing. This works best when the deglazing is for a flavorful sauce that will be spooned over seared meats, poultry, mashed potatoes and grain dishes.
  • Heating food with beer can cause some of the more fragile flavors to be driven off.
  • Start with small quantities and techniques that will contribute in nuances verses transformations.


If you would like to exlpore further the how-tos of getting the most out of tasting beer and how to use those flavors  to complement, enhance and contrast flavors in healthy cooking, I will be presenting Craft Beers: Sustainability in Healthy Kitchens as part of the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE) within Villanova University’s College of Nursing. My talk, first heard at FNCE Philadelphia 2019 will be the grand finale in day of health education that has relevance to everyone!  Nurses and registered dietitians will get professional continuing education, and everyone including non-healthcare attendees will see the future through a different lens with the day’s transformative lineup. Come for the day or just my talk, or attend online.  Learn more at COPE’s Nutrition Future Forward and email Rebecca Shenkman for registration help and to get a reduce rate for attending just my program.


Beer-Curried Vegetable Stir-Fry

Serves 2

Total time: 20 minutes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes



  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon curry
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium crown of broccoli, cut apart into flowerets
  • 4-6 ounces of lager beer
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes
  • Pinch of salt


Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil.  When the oil is warm, add the diced onion and stir until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the curry and red pepper flakes and cook an additional minute or so until the aromas bloom.  Add the broccoli and 4 ounces of beer. Cover to cook an additional 4-6 minutes until the broccoli is just tender, but still firm.  Be sure to check the tenderness and amount of liquid after the first 2 minutes.  If the liquid is evaporating too quickly, add a couple more ounces of beer.  This is a good time to give the broccoli a stir.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook an additional 2-3 minutes without the lid to reduce the liquid.  Season to taste.