Top chefs share their favorite recipes for nutritious late-night nosh!

By Tiffany Tse
January 13, 2012

You might follow the perfect healthy diet all day long, but when late-night hunger strikes, a bad snacking decision is a quick way to throw your hard work out the window. These famous chefs reveal what they cook to satisfy their post-dinner hunger pangs, while still keeping calories in check.

Christine Avanti: Butternut Squash Soup


If you're hungry right before bedtime, whip up this creamy soup recipe by Christine Avanti, Health Consultant on Food Network's new show Fat Chef and author of Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food. Using low-fat Greek yogurt and sweet corn, she reinvented this classic comfort food so it's only 190 calories per serving.

"Butternut squash provides dietary fiber, which is essential for losing weight," Avanti says. "This soup is a great way to boost your fiber intake if you did not get enough throughout the day. Although it has a subtle hint of sweetness, it's low in sugar. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for reducing water retention."


1 strip bacon, diced small

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 med. onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/4 lbs. butternut squash, cubed

4 c. chicken stock or broth

2 tsp. chipotles in adobo, minced

14 oz. white sweet corn

4 tbsp. low-fat Greek yogurt

1 bunch fresh sage

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


In a large soup pot, fry bacon pieces and remove with a slotted spoon, leaving remaining bacon grease. Next, add olive oil and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent. Add squash, broth, and chipotles in adobo and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes. Add corn and continue to boil for 5 more minutes. Using an immersion blender or an upright blender, puree soup leaving some chunks or until you reach your desired consistency. Garnish with a teaspoon of Greek yogurt, a few bacon bits, and fresh sage.

Makes 8 1 1/2 c. servings.

Photo by Neil Hazle.

Jennifer Iserloh: Chocolate Avocado Milkshake


Indulge your late-night chocolate cravings with this 169-calorie milkshake, which is so rich you can hardly tell you're slurping up a serving of veggies! Chef and health expert Jennifer Iserloh of Skinny Chef sneaks in a surprise ingredient-avocado-to give the dessert-like drink its smooth texture, plus a boost of essential vitamins and nutrients!

"Avocado in a milkshake might sound unusual, but in Vietnam it's a traditional treat that you can order in local restaurants," Iserloh says.


1/2 ripe Hass avocado

2 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. skim milk


Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend on high until smooth and serve over ice.

Makes 2 servings.

Todd English: Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwich


Todd English

, author of Cooking In Everyday English: The ABCs of Great Flavor at Home, falls back on protein-rich eggs to satiate his appetite.

"The simplicity of this egg salad makes it perfect for late night snacks," English says. "Choose a delicious multi-grain or homemade wheat bread and toast it for extra crunch."


1/2 c. mayonnaise

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. red onion, finely diced

3 celery ribs, finely diced

3 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled and chopped

2 bacon slices, thick, cooked, and coarsely chopped

4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted


Dijon mustard

2 large leaves romaine lettuce


Stir together first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in onion and celery. Add eggs and bacon; stir gently. Spread toast slices with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Top each of toast slices with about 3/4 c. egg salad, a lettuce leaf, and another toast slice.

Wolfgang Puck: Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Guacamole


You can customize these hearty quesadillas, an easy recipe from Wolfgang Puck, by adding lean chicken and your favorite veggies to the mix. Topped with fresh, heart-healthy guacamole, this cheesy dish makes a delicious savory snack.


For quesadillas:

4 12-in. flour tortillas

1/2 c. cheddar, grated

1/4 c. mozzarella, grated

1/2 c. queso blanco, grated

Olive oil

For guacamole:

3 med. fully ripe avocados

1/4 c. lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/3 c. cilantro, freshly chopped

1 med. shallot, minced

1 tbsp. roasted garlic

1 sm. jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 tsp. salt


For quesadillas:

Lay out 2 of the flour tortillas on a flat surface. Top with the cheeses, spreading evenly over the tortillas. Top with remaining tortillas and press to seal. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the other quesadilla. Let cool for 5 minutes. Slice into 8 or 10 pieces. Serve with the guacamole.

For guacamole:

Halve one avocado, remove pit and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Repeat with remaining avocados. Pour lime juice over avocado flesh. Using a fork or potato masher, mash lightly until mixture is still a little chunky. Stir in cilantro, shallot, roasted garlic, jalapeno, and salt. Guacamole can be made ahead and covered with plastic wrap and kept refrigerated for up to 8 hours. Return to room temperature before serving.

Jesse Schenker: Broiled Cauliflower with Olive Oil and Sea Salt


After long shifts in the kitchen, Jesse Schenker, chef and owner of Recette in New York, noshes on his favorite healthy snack: broiled cauliflower! Drizzled in olive oil and a smattering of sea salt, this crunchy, vitamin-packed veggie is far more nutritious than potato chips.

"I love having a bunch of cauliflower in my kitchen," Schenker says. "It's quick and easy, yet so satisfying and healthy even in the midnight hour. I never go to sleep guilty after eating this dish."


1 head cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces

1.5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated

1 tbsp. pine nuts

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cauliflower in olive oil. Bake cauliflower in oven for 10 minutes until soft. After 10 minutes, turn oven to broil. Sprinkle parmesan and pine nuts on cauliflower. Watch for 3-5 minutes until cauliflower is almost burnt. Remove from oven and place in bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon and add sea salt to taste.

Jose Andres: Apples and Fennel Salad


Leave it to Jose Andres of The Bazaar by Jose Andres in Beverly Hills to create a light midnight snack that's both elegant and healthy! His refreshing salad recipe won't leave you feeling overstuffed, but the combo of cheese, apples, and fennel is packed with flavor.


2 oz. Manchego cheese

1/2 bulb fennel

1 Granny Smith apple

Olive oil

Sherry vinegar



2 ea Fennel fronds

Chopped chives


Cut the Manchego into batons about 2 in. x 1/4 in. Slice the fennel thinly, preferably using a mandolin. Cut the apple in half. Cut one half into 1/4 in. dice. Thinly slice the second half, preferably using a mandolin. Combine olive oil and vinegar with a little salt to make a simple vinaigrette. Toss the cheese, fennel, apples, and walnuts with the vinaigrette. Garnish with fennel fronds and sprinkle with chives.

Michael Ferraro: Egg White Omelet with Spinach and Feta Cheese


Recently recognized as one of Zagat's "30 Hottest Chefs Under 30", Michael Ferraro of New York hotspot Delicatessen throws together a wholesome egg white omelet, with the added zing of feta, as a late-night treat. The chef's basic recipe takes only minutes to prepare, so you're not slaving over a stove at midnight!


4 egg whites

Handful baby spinach

1 tbsp. feta, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste


Use a non-stick pan coated with non-stick spray. Gently pour in and cook the 4 egg whites over medium heat. Add a handful of baby spinach, cook in eggs until wilted. Add one tbsp. crumbled feta cheese and fold omelet or simply serve scrambled. Salt & pepper to taste.

Makes 1 serving.

Cat Cora: Trail Mix Popcorn


Celebrity chef Cat Cora's tropical-tasting popcorn is studded with raw nuts and dried fruit, adding vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to this salty sweet treat.

"Air-popped popcorn is naturally loaded with fiber," Cora says. "It's sugar-free, low in calories and fat, and contains no sodium. This tropical pop uses agave, which gives a little sweetness but is less refined and lower on the glycemic index than white sugar or corn syrup."


1 bag (2.9 oz.) microwave popcorn, cooked according to package directions

1 c. raisins

1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped

1/2 c. dried cranberries and/or cherries

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. light corn syrup, honey, or agave nectar

2 tbsp. butter or butter soft spread

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 c. pecans, walnuts and/or peanuts, finely chopped

1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds

1 tsp. ground cinnamon


In large bowl sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, combine popcorn with all dried fruits, and set aside. In medium saucepan over low heat, combine sugar with corn syrup, and once melted, stir in butter, baking soda, all nuts, cinnamon, and sunflower seeds and stir until well combined. Carefully drizzle mixture over popcorn and fruit, stirring constantly, until popcorn and fruit are coated. Cool completely before serving.

Makes about 10 cups.

Ming Tsai: Midnight Ramen Soup


Though Ming Tsai, chef/owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and host of Simply Ming, no longer lives in a college dorm, ramen with eggs remains one of his go-to late-night snacks.

"It doesn't take much effort to make a store-bought soup mix healthier," Tsai says. "I add whatever fresh vegetables I have on hand. Spinach, cabbage, mesclun, and slaw mix are ideal since they don't take long to cook. I find meat to be too heavy late at night. Eggs are a lot easier to digest and a great source of protein."


1 pckg. instant ramen noodle soup

Big handful vegetables*

2 eggs

Hot sauce to taste


In a large saucepan, prepare ramen noodle soup according to directions on package. Halfway through cooking the noodles, add the vegetables. When noodles are cooked through, reduce heat to low, add seasoning packet and stir. Then carefully crack eggs into pan. Gently simmer until egg whites are cooked through and yolks are still runny, about 3-4 minutes. Add hot sauce to taste. Gently ladle soup into serving bowl and garnish with sliced scallion greens if desired.

*Use whatever vegetables you happen to have in the refrigerator, such as baby spinach, mesclun mix, grated carrots, sliced red bell peppers and sliced scallions.

Makes 1 serving.

Jeff McInnis: Southern Edamame


For a light bite, Jeff McInnis of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach, Florida, steams English peas and eats them straight from the pod like edamame! The Top Chef alum uses a seasoning of chili powder and sea salt to flavor the peas, which are a rich source of protein.


3 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder

20 pods (6 oz.) English peas in pods

Coarse sea salt


In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chipotle chili powder and let it sizzle in the oil for about 20 seconds, stirring gently. Turn off the heat and let it infuse the olive oil while you prepare the peas. Simply blanch the peas in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes and toss in hot pan with the chipotle-infused olive oil.

Heather Christo: Homemade Snack Mix


Bursting with sweet, spicy, salty, and sour flavors, this snack mix from chef and entertaining expert Heather Christo is addictive! Thanks to fiber-loaded cranberries and heart-healthy almonds, it's also a nourishing option to store in your pantry.

"Even just a handful is incredibly satisfying with its crunchy texture and wide varieties of flavor," Christo says. "Plus, because you are making it from scratch, you see everything that goes into it, making it a lower-sodium, high-quality snack you can feel good about."


1/2 c. popcorn

1/4c. oil

3 tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. kosher salt

4 c. Asian rice crackers

2 c. cranberries

1 c. Marcona almonds

1 c. wasabi peas

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 c. sesame seeds


In a large pot, combine the popcorn and oil over medium heat. When it begins to simmer, put a lid on it and cook until the popcorn is all done popping. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the popcorn and toss. Put the lid back on the pot and let it sit for a minute. Empty the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the Asian rice crackers, cranberries, almonds, and wasabi peas. Toss everything together with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the snack mix and toss well.

Makes 16 cups.

Eddy Rocq: CLT Sandwich


Rocq Catering's celebrity chef Eddy Rocq tosses together this high-protein, low-calorie sandwich featuring chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes. The simple combination provides a quick fix for your late-night hunger pangs.


2-3 slices wheat bread

Rotisserie chicken or grilled (prepared during the day or left over from earlier meal)

Fresh spinach

Heirloom tomatoes

Hard-boiled eggs (avoid the yolk because of the fat content at this time of the day)


Lay your slice of bread and top it off with the hard-boiled egg, then spinach and tomatoes. Make sure to keep the moisture away from your bread in order to not make your sandwich soggy, especially if you prep it a few hours prior to consumption. Add the rotisserie chicken. If you just came back from the gym and you want something a little more caloric, spread 2 tbsp. unsalted peanut butter on your bread.

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