Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken with Asparagus

One of the most important skills we’ve developed is how to modify a recipe to make it “cleaner” or cleanse-friendly, so today we wanted to share some of our process with you to make it easier for you to makeover your favorite recipes!

I (Jo) and my husband found this recipe for Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken with Asparagus on the NYT Cooking website and wanted to make it for our family, but before we could, we had to make some modifications to fit our dietary needs.

For this particular recipe, our process of “cleaning” it up was as follows:

  1. We cut the honey  by ⅓ – we often either eliminate or drastically reduce the amount of sugar or natural sweetner in any given recipe, or replace it with a natural sugar.
  2. We swapped out the Kosher salt for Himalayan pink sea salt, as Kosher salt can contain additives and preservatives we try to avoid.
  3. We swapped out the wheat flour for a gluten-free arrowroot powder to make this recipe totally gluten-free.
  4. We swapped the canola oil (which is refined and high in omega-6s) for olive oil or coconut oil, which are both less processed and higher in healthier omega-3s.
  5. We doubled the asparagus – we’ll typically double the amount of veggies any recipe we makeover, for this recipe, we doubled the amount of asparagus they called for to add some extra fiber and green goodness.

These modifications didn’t impact the taste and flavor and we were able to swap out all of the less clean ingredients for better options without a lot of extra effort. 

What I love about this recipe is that it’s full of flavor- it’s peppery and slightly sweet with a nutritional punch of turmeric. And it highlights asparagus, which is in season right now.

Our 6 year old was even a huge fan and it’s on our monthly rotation now.

When I first met my husband, he was skeptical about substitutions for the “real thing”, but now after 8 years of marriage, and 2 kids he’s a pro at making these substitutions himself. In fact, he does a lot of the cooking and these healthy swap outs come naturally to him. So if he can do it, so can you!

Here’s our process so that you can apply this formula to any of your favorite recipes. As you approach any recipe, simply keep these things in mind:

  1. Eliminate any gluten by swapping in a gluten-free option.
  2. Eliminate or reduce sugar and replace with a natural sweetener.
  3. Uplevel any refined oils to olive, coconut or avocado oil (depending on the heat).
  4. Eliminate dairy or swap out for non-dairy alternatives.
  5. Double the veggies, when applicable.

That’s it! We hope you have a great time making over your favorite recipes. If you have a recipe you’d like some extra help making over, let us know in the comments below so we can help out.

With love,

Jo & Jules

A blue skillet filled with turmeric-seasoned chicken and green asparagus with a bright red napkin

“Cleaner” Turmeric Black Pepper Chicken with Asparagus

Yield: 4 servings


  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 TB. honey
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp. Himalayan sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 TB. arrowroot powder 
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 TB. olive oil 
  • 2 bunches of asparagus (or about 24 oz), trimmed and thinly sliced on an angle
  • 1 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together water with the honey, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt; set honey mixture aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the arrowroot powder, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and toss until coated.

In a medium skillet (we prefer cast iron), heat the oil over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook until the turmeric is fragrant and the chicken is golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add the asparagus, season with a pinch of salt, stir to combine and cook until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the honey mixture and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lime squeezed over top, if using.

Original NYT Recipe- https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020970-turmeric-black-pepper-chicken-with-asparagus

To find more clean-eating family-friendly recipes, check out our new cookbook, The Conscious Cleanse Cookbook.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Zach

    So good! We’ve done this twice and found that:

    Chicken Breasts work as a substitute for thighs.

    Millet Flour worked in place of Arrowroot Powder. I don’t know if its cleanse approved, but I bet it is at least 80:20.

    • Jo and Jules

      Hi Zach, thank you for your comment! We’re glad to hear that you found such great substitutes. Millet flour is both cleanse and 80:20 approved, so feel free to keep using that sub whether you’re cleansing or not! Let us know if you have any questions about substitutions for this or any other recipe by emailing us at connect@consciouscleanse.com. XO, The Conscious Cleanse Team

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Jules with son drinking smoothie, Jo with daughter drinking smoothie