Cooking Without Oil Tips (with Video)

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Choosing a plant-based lifestyle is a huge step toward improving your health. Besides avoiding meat and dairy, eliminating oil is an essential component of a truly healthy diet.

photo collage for cooking without oil

Healthy cooking requires learning some new methods in the kitchen. These oil-free tips will be instrumental in maintaining a healthy weight and regaining health.

I have even included an 8-minute cooking demo of How to Saute using vegetable broth. In it, I make a vegetable stir-fry with onions, red bell pepper, mushrooms, broccoli, and brown rice. See for yourself how simple it really is! I’ve written more about this for T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies.

Our plant-based starter kits are a great way to begin your new journey because they include a book, a set of DVD lectures from Dr. Neal Barnard, and a folder full of helpful literature from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Surprising nutritional facts about oil

  • All oil--whether from an animal or a plant– causes insulin resistance.
  • Gram-for-gram oil has the same number of calories as beef fat.
  • Coconut oil is 90% artery-clogging saturated fat, and lard is 40%.
  • One tablespoon of oil has 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.
  • A 130 lb woman would have to jog nearly 2 miles to burn off 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • Within hours of ingesting oil–even plant oil–arteries stiffen and their ability to dilate is impaired.

Keep in mind that a plant-based diet does not mean a fat-free diet. Our bodies need dietary fat to function properly, and plants have all we need. Even broccoli, kale, beans, and quinoa have fat in small but perfect amounts.

Even more nutritional information can be found in our article, Is Olive Oil Good for You?

Learning to cook without oil

At first, it might seem a little crazy or scary to think of cooking without oil. Thankfully, learning to cook delicious oil-free recipes is not difficult. It might take a little practice to get things just right, but soon you’ll wonder how you ever tolerated the greasy taste and texture of oil-drenched foods!

Choose the right cookware

Consider investing in some non-stick cookware. Though there is an initial cost, if taken care of properly, it will last forever. Some good-quality options are heavy-bottomed stainless steel pans, Enamel-coated cast iron, or ceramic titanium pans. Be sure to hand-wash so the coating doesn’t wear off prematurely.

I am often asked about which nonstick pan I use, and my favorite is the 12″ Stone Earth Ozeri Fry Pan. There are actually two of them in my kitchen, and I use them daily.

Silicone ovenware is great for easy release when roasting vegetables or baking preparing oil-free desserts. Parchment paper is also a great option to line baking sheets and casserole dishes.

Here’s how to replace oil depending on the cooking method:

I’ve broken this down into categories to make it more simple to follow and understand.

Sautéing and stir-frying

Believe it or not, when sautéing vegetables, water and broth do just as well as oil. The trick is to use small amounts, adding just 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time.  Do this as often as needed to cook and brown the food. Remember to keep the veggies moving so they don’t burn. Check out our short Sauteing Without Oil video clip that shows how easy it can be. If you are using an ad blocker, it might need to be turned off for a minute to watch this video. YouTube version for sharing is available on our channel.

Baking

Making moist and delicious cookies, cakes, and other oil-free baked goods is actually quite easy. Some of my favorite substitutes include applesauce, mashed bananas, and puréed dates or pumpkin. In my Glazed Carrot Cake, I use both applesauce and banana to keep it moist, and the results are deliciously amazing!

vegan carrot cake loaf with 3 pieces sliced carrots and milk in background
Glazed Vegan Carrot Cake. Click the photo to see full recipe.

Roasting

Vegetables will brown on their own in the oven if you cook them low and slow. I like to lightly mist vegetables with water or veggie broth using a bottle sprayer, then sprinkle with spices and herbs for seasoning before roasting. For something super crispy like French fries or Crispy Oven Roasted Zucchini & Squash, finish the last few minutes by popping them under the broiler. Make sure to use parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet to prevent sticking.

sliced brussels sprouts in cast iron pan on wooden table with wooden spoon
These Roasted Brussels Sprouts are absolutely delicious and completely oil-free!

Deep Frying Alternatives

There is a secret weapon for achieving that extra-crispy texture without using oil. It’s called an air fryer. Though this is not a required piece of equipment for a plant-based kitchen, I will say that I absolutely love mine. Some of the recipes I have been able to make are Asparagus, Mushroom, and Tofu Tempura, Jo-Jo potatoes, French fries, and more.  I am happy to have all those crispy fried foods back in my life only, this time, they have zero oil and won’t be clogging my arteries or causing inflammation.

vegan air fryer recipes photo collage
Air Fryer Recipes. Click photo to see full recipes.

Once you try out some of these cooking techniques, it will become apparent how easy oil-free cooking can be. The food tastes delicious, and your arteries will thank you!

Healthy Cooking Recipes

Other great plant-based cooking tips

For those of you new to the whole food plant-based lifestyle, we’ve created a FREE 7-Day Plant-Based Menu Planner to help you get started!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

If you try this recipe, please let us know how you like it by rating it and leaving a comment. We love to hear from you!

baked onion rings on baking sheet with parchment paper
4.67 from 3 votes

Crispy Baked Onion Rings

Absolutely oil-free and delicious, these Crispy Baked Onion Rings are a much healthier take on the classic greasy version. These will keep you coming back for more!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper to prevent sticking and set aside.
  • Peel the outer skin from the purple onion and cut into 1/2" slices. Separate the slices into rings. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • In a shallow bowl, combine the oat flour, chickpea flour, almond milk, and vinegar, stirring to blend well.
  • In a separate shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, bread crumbs, nutri­tional yeast, Savory Spice Blend, and paprika, mixing well.
  • In a row, line up the bowls of onion rings, batter, breading mixture, and the prepared baking sheet. Dip an onion ring into the batter, coat­ing it all over. Transfer the onion ring to the breading, tossing to coat. Use a clean, dry hand to sprinkle the breading onto the onion as needed.
  • Place the coated onion ring on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients, arranging the rings in a single layer. Use a second baking sheet, if needed. You should have enough batter and breading for about twenty onion rings.
  • Bake for 10 minutes; then remove from the oven and carefully turn over the rings. Bake for about 10 minutes longer, or until crisp and nicely browned. Serve hot.

Video

Notes

Tips & substitutions
  • Onions- Other types of onions can also be used such as yellow or white onions.
  • Gluten-free- For those that are avoiding gluten, simply substitute the bread crumbs for something like these made by Appel Foods.
  • Bread crumbs- Dr. Greger says to use whole-grain, oil-free, and salt-free bread crumbs. I honestly have not been able to find any. The best option I can see is to make your own by toasting your favorite whole-grain bread and then pulsing it in your blender or food processor until you get the right consistency.
  • Almond milk- Any plant milk can be used in place of the almond milk.
  • Spice blend- This recipe calls for Dr. Greger’s Spice Blend, and you really need to give it a try. It’s delicious for seasoning many other recipes and foods as well. It’s super easy to make.
Excerpted from the HOW NOT TO DIE COOKBOOK by Michael Greger, M.D. with Gene Stone. Copyright © 2017 by Michael Greger with Gene Stone. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Recipes by Robin Robertson. Photography by Antonis Achilleos.

Nutrition

Serving: 5rings | Calories: 183kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2.5g | Sodium: 158mg | Fiber: 6.2g | Sugar: 2g

Disclaimer

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

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About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…

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8 Comments

    1. Cheri, the video is down towards the bottom of the article. The paragraph above it says, “Here’s how to replace oil depending on the cooking method:
      Sautéing and stir-frying–Believe it or not, when sautéing vegetables, water and broth do just as well as oil. The trick is to use small amounts, adding just 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. Do this as often as needed to cook and brown the food. Remember to keep the veggies moving so they don’t burn. This is a short Sauteing Without Oil video clip shows how easy it can be.” If you have an ad pop-up blocker, it might need to be turned off to view it. Hope this helps!

  1. Terri, I couldn’t make the audio work on your video despite trying to click the audio button. Question for you: If you use parchment paper to line a baking pan, can you put that pan under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up veggies? I thought the temperature would be too hot at that point for parchment paper. Would love to know if I don’t have to worry…

    1. Denise, so sorry that the sound wouldn’t work for you. I wonder if trying to watch it on a different device might have a better outcome? Not sure. For the parchment paper, you are correct. I believe the temperature limit for cooking with parchment paper is 400 degrees.

  2. Oh Terri, I would love to show this video to my group, is there a way? I am so thankful for all that you have to share. My group is, Plentiful Plants.

  3. Great video! I coincidentally made a stir fry last night *before* seeing your video, but I put way too much water. So, the vegetables were very mushy and tasted overly steamed. I understand what I did wrong and can’t wait to try again. I think I was attempting to make a flavorful sauce that could drip into the rice, but that was not the outcome. I get it! Thank you.

    1. I love that you had a ‘light bulb moment’ and now understand how to do it! Thank you for letting me know that the video was helpful, and I’m betting your next attempt will be an awesome success.

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