The Ultimate Guide to Oil-Free Cooking: Why You Should Ditch Oil and How to Cook Without It
Why You Should Stop Cooking with Oil and What to Use Instead!
How did you react when you read the words “Stop Cooking with Oil?”
It probably sounded impossible. Oil is everywhere in our diets, and it’s hard to imagine life without it. For that matter, you might not want to imagine a world without French fries.
What surprises people is how possible it actually is – and how much there is to gain by leaving oil behind.
First, it’s going oil-free is half of the formula in a powerful health transformation. Many people already know that embracing a whole food plant-based way of eating leads to happier, healthier life, but they may not know that combining oil-free food prep with 100% whole food plant-based recipes has a powerful impact on heart health.
Second, it’s not only is it possible to cook without oil, it’s often preferable. Turns out, cooking without oil makes your food taste better!We can feel your skepticism through the screen here, but read on. Oil only pretends to be your best friend, and you’ll be surprised what’s possible without it.
Why cook without oil?
There’s a ton of debate out there about the healthiest kind of oil to cook with. Some people claim olive oil is better than vegetable oil but coconut is healthier than olive. The confusion and comparisons never end, but the fact of that matter is that NO oil out there is actually healthy for us.
While some oils are touted as health foods, the truth is that all oils carry health risks around your calorie count, cholesterol levels, or levels of unwanted toxins in the body.
Cooking without oil, on the other hand:
- Cuts extra, unnecessary calories that lead to weight gain and obesity-related health risks.
- Eliminates most of the saturated and trans fats that raise cholesterol.
- Avoids the damage oils cause to the arteries. In fact, an oil-free whole food plant-based diet has a proven ability to regress heart disease.
What makes oil so bad for us?
How bad can oil actually be, right? I mean, we’re talking about food, not cigarettes. There are so many reasons why embracing oil-free cooking, especially as part of a whole food plant-based lifestyle, is the best thing you can do for your health.
Oil is not a whole food
No matter what food philosophy one subscribes to, it’s common knowledge that the healthiest kind of foods to eat are unprocessed whole foods.
Oil, in contrast, is a highly processed substance!
While some believe oils contain valuable fats our bodies need, anytime we extract the nutrients from a whole food like an olive, most nutrients are stripped away along with crucial fiber and phytonutrients.
In place of oil, whole foods like nuts and avocados are a great source of healthy fats.
Oil contains a lot of excess calories and fat
Simply put, why waste calories when you don’t have to? Oil is the most calorically-dense food out there; most oils pack around a whopping 125 or so calories per tablespoon and around 14 grams of fat.
While one certainly doesn’t need to track calories or macros to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s eye-opening to see how the nutritional stats of oils stack up to other, less processed foods.
Oil is NOT heart-healthy
It’s been a common misconception for quite some time that some oils are actually part of a heart healthy diet, but more recent research is showing us that that’s simply not the case. There is some evidence that high consumption of oils in one’s diet may lead to chronic inflammation, an underlying factor in heart disease as well as arthritis, cancer and diabetes.
Even experts in the field like Dr. Dean Ornish, who once to touted the benefits of certain types of oil to reduce and even reverse heart disease, have since determined that there is no oil that is beneficial to heart health.
Other health benefits of an oil-free meal plan.
If heart health isn’t enough for you to consider ditching oil from your diet, there are even more benefits to be gained by cooking oil-free.
1. Improved digestion
Too much oil in your diet leads to pain, nausea, bloating, and even diarrhea. Instead, cutting back can help improve your gut health.
2. Healthy skin
A surplus of omega-6 fatty acids, which is found in oils, contributes to chronic inflammation and can even contribute to acne! Oil-free cooking helps you maintain healthier skin and a clearer complexion.
3. Weight loss
As we mentioned earlier, oil contains huge amounts of calories and fat. Swapping out oil for subs like broth or applesauce helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
4. Easier clean up
Ok, this one isn’t health related, but it can be a real pain cleaning the kitchen after cooking with oil. It splatters. It spills. It bakes onto pans, and we’re not sure how, but it even manages to coat the walls. Why wouldn’t you want to make clean up a little easier while taking care of your body at the same time?
How can I cook a meal without oil?
Here’s a not-so-fun-fact. In addition to not being a healthy ingredient, oil actually masks the natural tastes of your food!
However, embracing oil-free cooking unleashes flavors you’ve never experienced before. It’s simply a healthier and more joyful way to eat!
Here’s a handy guide of different methods and tips for oil-free cooking to help you get started.
1. Sautéing and stir-frying
You might be thinking, how on Earth can you sauté without oil? Simple! There are so many things you can substitute for oil when sauteing. Water works for a start, but you can also try vegetable broth, cooking wine, vinegar or soy sauce. Not only are you eliminating harmful oils with these options, you’re also infusing your food with additional flavor!
It’s so common to see oil listed in baking recipes, but it’s absolutely not your only (or best) option. In lieu of oil, try no-oil nut butter, fruit puree, or even tahini! If you’re worried that your goodies will stick to the pan without oil or butter, parchment paper or silicon baking mats are an easy and easy to clean option.
3. RoastingYou may think oil is the only way to crisp up potatoes or keep the seasoning on your veggies in the oven, but it’s just not true. Food doesn’t need flavor-masking oil to crisp up in the oven. In fact, it does perfectly well without it. Many vegetables also already contain enough moisture on their own for seasonings to stick, but if you think they need a little help, vinegar, broth, juice, or water does the trick just as well.
4. FryingWhile this is an obvious job for your beloved air fryer, pan frying breaded favorites gets the crispiness you’re after. Although it’s not technically frying, you can also achieve crispy success by baking food in the oven after breading.
It may seem intimidating to dive into no-oil cooking if you’re used to using oils on a regular basis, so don’t be afraid to take the transition one step and one meal at a time. Start by going oil-free once a week and build from there.
When it comes to living your best life, every healthy choice you make is a win, even the small ones.
Give it a try with these oil-free recipes!
Here are just a couple of easy oil-free recipes to help you get started.
It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken’s Everyday Oil-Free Salad Dressing
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
Add all the ingredients to a jar or small bowl and shake well or whisk to combine. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
The Garden Grazer’s Chipotle Taco Hummus
- 15 oz can of chickpeas or 1.5 cups if you're cooking your own
- Aquafaba (the thick liquid found in canned chickpeas) or cooking liquid from your beans if cooking from scratch in place of olive oil
- 2 tbsp Taco seasoning either storebought or homemade
- 1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (add adobo sauce to taste)
- 3 tbsp Fresh lime juice
Simply blend all ingredients in a food processor adjusting amounts to desired consistency
The Garden Grazer’s Easy Vegan Lasagna with Chickpea Ricotta
For the lasagna:
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles* (gluten-free if desired)
- 1 medium zucchini
- 8 oz. mushrooms
- 5-6 oz. fresh baby spinach
- Two 26 oz. jars marinara sauce (or at least 6 cups homemade)
For the chickpea ricotta:
- 15 oz. can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
- 1/3 cup almond flour (super-fine, natural)
- 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or garlic cloves or roasted garlic)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup water (more/less to desired consistency)
- Optional: fresh basil, dried basil, Italian seasonings
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Make the ricotta:
Add all ricotta ingredients to a food processor and blend. I start with about 3 Tbsp. water, then add more 1 Tbsp. at a time to achieve desired consistency. (It should be creamy, but very thick.) You will need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times between blending. Taste and adjust flavors if desired.
Prepare the veggies:
Dice mushrooms and zucchini.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté mushrooms for 3 minutes in 3 Tbsp. water/broth for no-oil sauté method, adding more as needed.
Add zucchini, and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add spinach, stirring often, until slightly wilted. Turn off heat and set aside.
Layer the lasagna:
In a deep 9" x 13" casserole dish, spread 1.5 cups marinara sauce on bottom. Then add 4 noodles.
Add half of the ricotta in small dollops, then half of the veggies, then 1.5 cups marinara.
Place 4 more noodles, then the rest of the ricotta and veggies, and 1.5 cups sauce. Finish with 4 noodles, and top with 1.5 cups marinara. Be sure noodles are covered in sauce.
Cover dish with tin foil. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes.
Then remove foil and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
It’s hard to learn new tricks, but oil-free cooking is worth it!
If it still feels daunting to completely remove oils from your whole food plant-based lifestyle, don’t worry. There’s help out there!
At Whole Harvest, we offer a wide variety of recipes that are both whole food plant-based AND 100% oil-free.
Our chef-prepared plant based meals are delivered fresh to your front door. Nothing is frozen, ensuring you receive the best-tasting, healthiest food possible.
Many of our meal delivery customers use our service to bring delicious variety to their week and ease the burden of cooking oil-free every day. They spend part of the week exploring new recipes and cooking on their own, and they use our meals on the busiest days of the week to free up more time.
Our chefs lead the meal delivery industry in innovation and creativity in oil-free, whole food plant-based cooking. Featuring a mix of reimagined comfort foods and international flavors, we provide our members with incredible variety and vibrant flavors throughout the week.
Best of all, everything is ready to eat! There’s no cooking, just enjoy right away or heat-and-eat. We’re passionate about making it easier for people around the nation to enjoy the benefits of WFPB with absolutely no oil involved.
Whole Harvest is based out of North Kansas City, Missouri and Denver, Colorado, and we ship to almost everywhere in the U.S. for your convenience.
Check out our weekly menu and get started with Whole Harvest today!